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The Government today announced a further expansion to its failed badger cull policy. An additional 11 zones have been added as a measure to control the spread of bovine TB (bTB), alongside the 29 existing zones and three supplementary zones (where culling has been authorised to continue past the initial four-year licence). This expansion could result in nearly 65,000 badgers killed this year.
This shocking announcement comes just days after a group of vets and policy experts claimed that last year Gloucestershire, an area with one of the longest-running badger culls, saw a 130% increase in incidents of bTB – despite a declining badger population, highlighting how ineffectual the current policy is at controlling the spread of bovine TB.
By increasing the cull zones, the Government has sentenced as many as 64,400 badgers to die this year, which is set to bring the total number killed since 2013 to more than 130,000, at vast expense to the British taxpayer.
In recent months, IFAW has been working with a group of prominent NGOs to promote positive policy change that is not only humane, and won’t cost the lives of one of Britain’s best-loved species, but will provide meaningful support to farmers and help end bTB. We are calling for the introduction of precautionary cattle trading, which takes into account the bTB history of a herd, and improved cattle testing, as we believe the biggest cause of the spread of bTB is cattle.
Part of this new policy would involve a total end to all badger culling, and increased investment in badger vaccination programmes. We were encouraged to see that the Secretary of State has rejected a proposed badger cull in Derbyshire where significant investment in badger vaccination has taken place. We believe this shows the Government is aware that vaccination is a viable alternative to culling, but there now needs to be the will to make this national policy.
Today’s announcement of an 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 and is failing to meaningfully tackle the disease.
This is ‘Back British Farming Day’, and it is disappointing to see the Government expanding on a policy that doesn’t provide farmers with an effective disease control strategy. We believe that a humane and effective alternative to the cruelty of culling is possible, but there must be the political will to action it.
Despite some great gains for animals during this Parliament, today’s announcement is a catastrophic step backwards and reminds us how far we have to go until wildlife and people can thrive together.