The Wildlife Trusts will oppose any decision by Natural England to grant new licences for culling badgers and will call on the Government and the newly appointed Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, to overrule and reverse this decision immediately.
The BBC is reporting that badger culls will be carried out in five new areas: South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall, West Dorset, and South Herefordshire.
Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscapes, says:
“The Wildlife Trusts believe that the control of Bovine TB in cattle should be the main focus of everyone’s efforts to control this problem. The evidence shows that badgers are not the primary culprits in the spread of TB in cattle: the primary route of infection is via cow-to-cow contact. A vaccine for cattle should be a priority. The Government has failed to develop one for TB. UK Cattle are already vaccinated for up to 16 diseases* - why should TB be different?”
Paul Wilkinson continues: “Opinion polls clearly show that the public is overwhelmingly against the killing of badgers and it is an extremely costly for the taxpayer and poor value for money. The 2013-14 culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset cost the taxpayer more than £4.9 million in policing costs. This is equivalent to the annual salary costs of over 120 police officers over a two-year period.
“The results of the previous badger culls indicate that this policy is flawed and unsupported by the evidence. Culling has been shown to be more expensive, less effective than other Bovine TB (bTB) control mechanisms and the free-shooting of badgers has been shown to be an inhumane method of killing.”
The Wildlife Trusts call on the Government to abandon its failed culling policy. An evidence-based approach must be developed and Government must take immediate action to:
- Reduce cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine TB - the major cause of infection - by tightening movement controls on cattle even further
- Accelerate research into cattle vaccination
- Improve testing regimes for cattle
- Invest in more research into better techniques for early detection of TB in cattle
- Ensure higher standards of biosecurity on farms and link this to cross-compliance for subsidy payments
- Secure alternative sources of badger vaccine and speed up the approval process so that suspended vaccination programmes can resume as soon as possible