No new badger culling licences after next year

No new badger culling licences will be issued after next year, the government has confirmed.

It comes just months after a licence was granted in Shropshire to help tackle tuberculosis in cattle.

Wildlife campaigners have warned that tens of thousands of badgers will be killed over the next four years before the programme is halted in 2026, and accused ministers of ignoring calls from the public to end the culls immediately.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) reacted angrily to the change in policy, warning it would jeopardise the ability to control the disease, which led to 27,000 cattle being slaughtered in England in the last year.

Environment Secretary George Eustice 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 £100 million every year.

"The badger cull has led to a significant reduction in the disease but no one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely.


"That is why we are now building on this progress by accelerating other elements of our strategy, including cattle vaccination and improved testing so that we can eradicate this insidious disease and start to phase out badger culling as soon as possible."

But Dr Jo Smith, chief executive of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said tens of thousands of people had responded to a badger cull consultation and written to their MP calling for an immediate end to it - and the government had failed to listen to them.

"If a further 130,000 animals are killed within the next five years, we could lose 60 per cent of England's badgers.

"This is desperately sad and will also have repercussions on the health of natural habitats because badgers are a keystone species, vital to a thriving ecosystem."

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: "It is incredibly disappointing and frustrating that the Government is pressing ahead with its proposals to abandon badger culling, a hugely successful element of the strategy."

After the Shropshire cull licence was announced last September, a Shropshire Badger Group spokesman said: "Badgers can catch bTB from cattle, so the best current option is to trap badgers and inject them with BCG vaccine before releasing them back into the wild.

"We urgently need a national badger vaccination strategy to fund training, equipment and communication of the scientific effectiveness of badger vaccination to farmers and landowners.

"The badger cull has proved costly, cruel and scientifically ineffective."

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