Wed, 04 Apr 2018
NEWBURY’S Conservative MP Richard Benyon has said he would “reluctantly” support controversial proposals to extend the badger cull into West Berkshire.
The Government is considering an application to allow badgers to be shot in the district in a bid to curb bovine TB.
The Berkshire, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, an organisation protecting wildlife and enhancing iconic landscapes across the three counties, said it will not allow a cull to take place on any of its land.
BBOWT, which manages Greenham, Snelsmore and Padworth Commons, among others, says new evidence shows that many badgers in the area do not have the disease.
The licences allow badgers to be killed every year between June 1 and January 31.
Mr Benyon said: “There are a whole load of effective methods being used to end the surge of bovine TB – culling is just one of them.
“In every country that has successfully tackled bovine TB, it has been done through a combination of biosecurity measures and controlling the disease in wildlife.
“Everyone would wish that did not involve culling species such as badgers, but because of the numbers that exist now in areas like West Berkshire something is needed to control TB, which results in thousands of cattle being killed each year.
“I like badgers and have always enjoyed watching them since I was a child, but the number just on my farm at home alone have increased tenfold in the last 20 years or so.
“So it is something I would reluctantly support.”
Natural England, which issues the licences, said applications and expressions of interest had come from areas of “high risk”.
These nine areas include Hampshire and Oxfordshire, as well as Avon, Berkshire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.
In total, almost 20,000 badgers were culled in English counties last year.
The mammal project officer with BBOWT, Julia Lofthouse, said: “We do not believe the shooting of badgers is ever an appropriate way of controlling bovine TB in cattle.
“Along with other wildlife trusts around the country, we have proven that vaccination is a viable alternative.
“For the last two years we have collected badgers killed on the roads of Oxfordshire and Berkshire and sent them to the University of Surrey to be tested for bovine TB.
“None of the dead badgers collected in either county were infected with TB.
“These findings show there is no justification for a cull.
“We have proven that vaccination is a viable alternative.”
The Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs held a consultation this month on extending the badger cull.
Farmer-led groups are believed to have applied for licences to extend the badger cull into Oxfordshire and Berkshire.
The statement from BBOWT continued: “In 2014 BBOWT set up a programme to trap and vaccinate badgers on its own land and over the years, with the support of neighbouring landowners, this has expanded to include private estates and farms.
“Vaccinating badgers is only one of several effective ways of controlling the spread of bovine TB.
“We vaccinate every badger we trap; even if the animal is already infected the vaccination will slow the progression of the disease.
“Vaccination is a better solution than culling, even where there is evidence of TB in badgers.”
BBOWT recently received news that DEFRA is awarding the trust £66,000 to continue and expand the badger vaccination project over the next four years.
The statement from the trust added: “BBOWT remains steadfast that vaccinating badgers is only one of several effective ways of controlling the spread of bovine TB; other ways include increased biosecurity on farms, and an effective vaccine for cattle.”