Tue, 26 Jun 2018
ALMOST 10,000 people have signed a petition against controversial proposals to extend the badger cull into West Berkshire.
Culling is part of the Government’s strategy to eradicate the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) 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”.
The licences allow badgers to be culled every year between June 1 and January 31.
A petition opposing the extended cull was launched by West Berkshire Green Party chairman Steve Masters and has so far racked up more than 9,400 signatures.
The petition calls on the Government to abandon the extension of the cull into West Berkshire, to invest in better testing methods and to invest in badger and cattle vaccination as an alternative to shooting.
The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), which manages Greenham and Snelsmore Commons among others, said it would not allow a cull to take place on its land.
The trust also claimed that new evidence showed many badgers in the area do not have bovine TB.
West Berkshire Council has also backed the trust’s position.
In a letter, the council said that it “fully supports BBOWT’s approach to managing the badger population on this land: BBOWT strongly opposes badger culls and will not permit culling of badgers on its land.
“It promotes alternative methods of TB control, including vaccination.
“This programme of vaccination has been under way for some time and the results are being monitored.
“In addition, West Berkshire would not support badger culling on other land directly under its control.”
However, Newbury MP Richard Benyon has taken a different view.
Mr Benyon, whose family estate manages 14,000 acres of land in West Berkshire and North Hampshire, previously told this newspaper: “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.”
Mr Masters said: “It’s really good news about the council.
“I’m glad they have followed the trust’s lead.
“It’s welcome news and it’s refreshing to see them take a positive decision for once.
“I call on all local landowners, including our MP Richard Benyon, to follow the trust’s and council’s lead on banning the cull on their land.
“If any landowners want to meet with myself or fellow campaigners I would welcome that.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs held a consultation in March on proposals to introduce the cull.