Nearly 8,000 badgers set to be shot in Staffordshire and Cheshire this autumn


Wildlife campaigners have condemned a government ‘U-turn’ on badger culling – with up to 7,963 of the animals set to be shot in Staffordshire and Cheshire this autumn.

Natural England has reissued licences for ‘badger control operations’ in three areas in Staffordshire and two in Cheshire, as part of the government’s national strategy for eradicating bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

Up to 5,515 healthy badgers will be killed in Staffordshire – up from 4,603 last year – while the maximum number in Cheshire will be 2,453.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) says the reissuing of licences flies in the face of the government’s pledging to move away from lethal control earlier this year – although ministers still insist this is their ultimate aim.

Badgers are culled to stop them infecting cattle with bTB, which the government describes as ‘greatest animal health threat’ in England. Up to 30,000 cattle are slaughtered each year due to infection.

But SWT says badger culling is not necessary for the control of bTB, and says the government should be focusing instead on the development of a cattle vaccine, along with DEFRA-funded badger vaccination and incentives aimed at improving biosecurity on farms.

Badger

The trust will not give permission for culling to take place on its land, and is currently undertaking a badger vaccincation programme at various locations in Staffordshire.

SWT chief executive Julian Woolford said: “This is another staggering and deeply disappointing government U-turn which will result in thousands of healthy badgers dying across the UK’s countryside this autumn.

“In March – following a review by Professor Godfray – the Government promised to move away from lethal control and expand measures including vaccination. However, after seven years of badger culling, the Government has failed again to move forward with its own advice and is continuing licensed culling in Staffordshire.”

Badger culling licences have been reauthorised for 33 existing areas across England, with 11 additional areas being licensed this year.

In its response to the Godfray review, the government said it planned to phase out intensive badger culling ‘in the next few years’, although lethal control would continue on a more limited basis ‘where the scientific evidence supports it’.

Environment Secretary George Eustice

The long-term strategy to eliminate bTB in England by 2038 also includes tighter cattle movement controls, regular testing, and badger and cattle vaccination.

Trials of a new cattle vaccine developed by government scientists are set to get underway in England and Wales, and it could be ready to be deployed by 2025.

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Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Bovine TB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that the UK faces today, causing considerable trauma for farmers and costing taxpayers over £100 million every year.

“No one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely. That is why we are accelerating other elements of our strategy, including vaccination and improved testing so that we can eradicate this insidious disease and start to phase out badger culling in England.”





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