An unprecedented expansion in badger culling will see 64,000 animals slaughtered this autumn after ministers approved culling in 11 new areas.
Farming minister George Eustice has officially authorized badger culling in 43 areas to curb the spread of bovine TB.
The cull zone now covers spans from Cornwall to Cumbria and includes Avon, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Devon, Dorset, Herefordshire and Wiltshire.
Eustice said: “Bovine TB remains the greatest animal health threat to the UK, costing taxpayers over £100m every year as well as causing devastation and distress for hard-working farmers and rural communities.
“There is no single measure that will provide an answer to beating this disease. That is why we have always been committed to a multi-pronged approach including proactive badger control, as well as other tools such as tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger vaccination.”
Experts have opposed the move based on official data obtained under Freedom of Information laws, which showed that TB in cattle soared by 130 per cent in key cull areas last year, indicating that culling is not an effective means of control.
Conservationists and animal activists have warned that increasing killing to an “unimaginable scale”, with the number rising from 42,000 last year to up to 64,000 this autumn, could disrupt the ecological balance.
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said it would end up ‘pushing the species to the verge of local extinction in areas of England which it has inhabited since the ice age’.
“The public costs of the badger cull are estimated to exceed £60m by the end of 2019, yet the government has provided no evidence to prove this cruel slaughter is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB,” he added
He called culling “an unforgivable act of ecological vandalism and a national disgrace”.
Speaking to The Guardian, Arthur Thomas, campaigns manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “The expansion to the badger cull is not only a tragedy for British wildlife, but also for our farmers. The government’s decision flies in the face of scientific evidence.”
Prof Rosie Woodroffe, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London, added: “I cannot understand why the government has permitted this massive expansion of badger culling, when it has not yet responded to the Godfray Review it commissioned and received nearly a year ago.
“The review concluded the government and farming industry were paying far too much attention to badger management, and far too little attention to cattle-to-cattle transmission, which is responsible for the majority of TB incidents in cattle.”
The review also suggested the government considered badger vaccination as a non-lethal alternative to culling.
Woodroffe added: “Ministers regularly call for the conservation of wildlife in other countries, but refuse to invest in helping their own farmers to coexist with wildlife.”
Why is the Government persisting with badger culling when other methods are available? Share your thoughts in the comment sections below!
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