Mon, 24 Sept 2018
AN application to allow the controversial badger cull to be extended into West Berkshire has been refused.
Campaigners fighting the proposals are celebrating the news, but have criticised the Government’s approach being rolled out elsewhere.
In March, the Government announced that it had received applications to shoot badgers in Berkshire.
Culling is part of its strategy to eradicate the disease in cattle, but opponents say there is no evidence it works.
Natural England, which issues the licences to kill the animals, said applications and expressions of interest had come from areas of “high risk”.
But last week Defra announced that no licences had been issued in West Berkshire.
Culling will take place in Cumbria and Staffordshire, as well as existing areas in Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
A petition against the cull, launched by Newbury Green Party chairman Steve Masters, was signed by more than 13,700 people.
Mr Masters said: “Having set up the petition and lobbied our MP publicly and privately to stop the cull, I am pleased that no licences have been issued locally.
“I remain angry that the Conservative Government and Michael Gove have chosen to ignore scientific studies and persist with the wanton murder of a protected species.
“The Government should still look at biosecurity and vaccination as the best methods of eliminating bovine TB.
“The public in West Berkshire have shown that there is little appetite for wholesale slaughter of a protected species. Once again nature pays the price for man’s excesses.”
The licences allow badgers to be killed every year between June 1 and January 31.
In total, almost 20,000 badgers were culled in English counties last year.
The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), opposed culling on sites it owns.
BBOWT, which manages sites in West Berkshire including Greenham Common, has been vaccinating badgers against bovine TB in the district since 2015.
The trust said it costs £496.51 to kill a badger compared with £82 to vaccinate.
Mammal project officer at the trust 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.
“Evidence shows there is low incidence of bovine TB among our local badgers.”
Defra said that reductions in new outbreaks of bovine TB had been recorded in Gloucestershire and Somerset, following the completion of their licensed four-year badger culls.
The data showed that there has been a decline in TB incidence in the first two cull areas with the rate of new confirmed breakouts now at about half the level they were before culling began.
Farming minister George Eustice said: “Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK.
“There is no single measure that will provide an easy answer, which is why we are committed to pursuing a wide range of interventions to protect the future of our dairy and beef industries and eradicate the disease within 20 years.
“No one wants to be culling badgers forever so the progress reported is encouraging.”