A PROPOSAL to extend the controversial culling of badgers into Warwickshire has been met with anger.
Farmers in the county have expressed an interest in obtaining a licence from Defra to extend existing culls prompting a call from Warwickshire Badger Group (WBA) for residents to oppose the move.
Group chair Denise Taylor said: “So far culls across England have resulted in almost 20,000 badgers being slaughtered, mostly shot at night by paid bounty hunters, men described by the government as marksmen.
“The culls are inherently cruel, and hugely expensive, some estimates put the cost of each badger killed at around £6000, and crucially so far no convincing evidence has been produced that they are working, despite government claims to the contrary.
“In fact the latest government figures show that the reverse is happening. Bovine TB is still increasing. That’s not surprising for the culls are not driven by good science but by pressure from the all too powerful farming unions and by prejudice, unsubstantiated claims that badgers are primarily to blame for disease spread.
“The slaughter used to be confined to areas of high disease levels – hotspots – and it is extraordinary that a county like Warwickshire, with such low levels of disease could even be considered for such action. The idea is a travesty. Defra should be ashamed to even consider such a move.
“A recent extensive survey carried out by consultants on behalf of Defra, of badgers killed by traffic in our county, has confirmed that effectively badgers are no threat.
“It remains the case that bovine TB is primarily spread from cattle to cattle, with the ineffective skin test – supposed to determine whether a cow has the disease – as the biggest contributor to disease spread. It misses so much disease in a herd that many infected cattle are given a clean bill of health. They remain in the herd and pass it on to others as they overwinter for months crowded together in barns, head to tail.”
WBA is urging county residents to write both to their MP and to Environment Secretary Michal Gove, challenging Defra’s claims the culls were working.
But a National Farmers Union spokesman said: “Bovine TB is a devastating disease for beef and dairy farmers in large parts of the country, with more than 30,000 cattle slaughtered because of the disease in England in the first 11 months of last year.
“Natural England is consulting with local people in potential additional areas to get an understanding of any local concerns about the possible impact of culling operations on their livelihoods or daily activities. Control of the disease in wildlife remains a key part of the Government’s TB eradication strategy and, following last year’s culls, the then chief vet said that proactive badger culling remains the best evidenced available option of achieving this.
“Previous trials, including the biggest scientific trial of its kind – the Randomised Badger Culling Trial – have shown that culling badgers can have a positive impact on controlling bTB in cattle in areas where the disease is rife.
“We must use every available option to tackle this disease – cattle testing, cattle movement controls, biosecurity, vaccination when available and where appropriate, and control of the disease in wildlife in areas where it is endemic. Only by employing this comprehensive approach will we stand a chance of achieving what everyone wants – a TB free England.”