A WILDLIFE conservation charity has slammed the government for extending the ‘immoral’ badger cull to Warwickshire and other parts of the UK, having pledged to phase it out entirely earlier this year.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust accused the government of a ‘staggering u-turn’ in authorising the largest ever badger cull for this autumn, and said it was ‘aghast’ that more than 70,000 healthy badgers will be shot.
The move comes despite the government’s promise just six months ago to support badger vaccination and move away from shooting the protected species, after a scientific review cast doubt on its effectiveness.
The cull will result in the deaths of badgers that have been vaccinated by volunteers in government-funded programmes.
Warwickshire is one of six new areas where culling has never previously taken place under government licences.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s CEO Dr Ed Green said: “This is a staggering government U-turn and one which will result in thousands of healthy badgers being shot across England this autumn.
“In March – following a review by Professor Sir Charles Godfray – the government promised to move away from lethal control. However, after seven years of badger culling, the government has failed to act on its own advice and is expanding its culling programme into new regions including Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Oxfordshire, and into what will be the biggest cull yet.
“We are at a critical turning point for our natural world and this latest U-turn should set alarm bells ringing – culling is an outdated policy that seeks to eradicate protected wildlife rather than addressing the real problem which is the main cause of bovine tuberculosis (bTB): cattle-to-cattle infection.
“Recent news that investment in a cattle vaccine is underway is welcome — but it is not enough. Moving the culling into areas where badger vaccinations have been taking place will also undermine this vital and under-funded work.”
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is asking people to write to their local MP to oppose the cull.
The Trust has written to MPs and published an open letter to farmers, expressing concern about the impact they face from bovine tuberculosis (bTB), but highlighting that culling badgers will not stop the spread of the disease.
The Trust said it had ‘huge sympathy’ for farmers affected by bTB and said they were being “seriously let down by continual u-turns on the policy – but so is our wildlife which is at a critical point itself”.
Ed Green added: “Culling does not address the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB which is cattle-to-cattle transmission, and it undermines our vaccination programmes.
“Culling is outdated, ineffective and immoral. This government has repeatedly said it will be guided by the science, yet it seems to be ignoring its own advice.”
The Wildlife Trusts’ latest campaign has resulted in over 14,000 people so far writing to their MPs to raise concern.
This autumn’s cull brings the overall total of badgers shot since culling began in 2013 to over 170,000 – around 35 per cent of the UK population.
The government said it still intended to phase out “intensive badger culling in the next few years, while ensuring that wildlife control remains a tool that can be deployed where the scientific evidence supports it”.
It recently announced long-awaited trials of a bovine TB cattle vaccine and awarded £500,000 in grants for projects to devise new tools to better diagnose the disease in cattle.
George Eustice, the environment secretary, 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 £100m 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.”
Visit https://tinyurl.com/y6l98hb8 to sign a petition opposing the cull.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/yxsxunwv to read the Wildlife Trusts’ open letter to farmers.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/y4lohnj4 for more information.