Badger culling to be rolled out in 11 new areas across England
Badger culling will be rolled out in 11 new parts of England after ministers gave the green light to expanding a crackdown on the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.
The Government has issued new licences for culling to cover parts of Devon, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset and Cheshire.
It has also given permission for more culling to take place in areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset which have already completed four years of pilot culls.
The announcement by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has sparked fury among animal rights campaigners who said the decision to expand the cull was “flying in the face of science”.
The Government argues the culls are necessary to curb TB in cattle as badgers can transmit the disease to livestock, but opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective.
Ministers have also set out their intention to restart a badger vaccination programme in a bid to stop bovine TB from spreading to new areas.
George Eustice, the Farming Minister, said: “Bovine TB not only has a devastating impact on our beef and dairy farms, but causes harm and distress to infected cattle.
“We have a clear plan to eradicate the disease over the next 20 years and this year we are restarting the government-backed Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme to stop the disease spreading to new areas.
“Vaccination is just one part of our comprehensive strategy, which also includes tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where bTB is rife to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife.”
Nigel Gibbens, the Chief Vet, said: “Taking action to prevent bovine TB infection of cattle from the reservoir of disease in local badger populations is an essential part of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease in England.
“Proactive badger control is currently the best available option and the licensing of further areas is necessary to realise disease control benefits across the High Risk Area of England, rather than at local levels.”
Defra said that operations undertaken in 2016 in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Herefordshire and Wiltshire had all been successful in meeting their targets for culling badgers.
In total, culling will be carried out in 21 areas in the south west, west and north west of England this year.
The Wildlife Trusts expressed concerns about the extended roll out.
Steve Trotter, the Trusts’ director, said: "Badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bTB in cattle: the primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact.
"The Government's badger cull is flying in the face of science.
"It should be putting more resources into speeding up the development of an effective cattle vaccine, amongst other measures."
But Minette Batters, National Farmers' Union (NFU) deputy president, welcomed the move.
"We must have every option available to us to tackle bTB - including cattle testing, cattle movement restrictions, biosecurity advice, vaccination and control of the disease in wildlife," she said.
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