7,000 more badgers could be killed in Shropshire as cull is extended

More than 7,000 badgers could be killed in Shropshire as part of a major culling programme to tackle Bovine TB.

Badger culls are to be gradually phased out, the Government has said
Badger culls are to be gradually phased out, the Government has said

Culling has been extended to two new areas of the county, which could see up to 2,668 badgers killed.

That is in addition to a zone already in place in which up to 4,649 of the animals could be culled.

Campaigners have branded the decision "an absolute disgrace", and that there is no evidence that killing thousands of badgers reduces Bovine TB levels.

Shropshire Badger Group chairman Jim Ashley said: "We're so frustrated by it. The support for badger vaccination is just not there. Defra announced that badger culling was being phased out. I thought that would mean the numbers going down, not up.

"They're doing it for votes at the next election from the farming and landowners community."

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, a former secretary of state for environment, farming and rural affairs, insisted it was good news for farmers.

"The badger culling programme has been a great success," he said. "We've seen a marked reduction in disease. Bovine TB is a terrible disease for cattle, and puts and intolerable toll on dairy and beef farmers.

"The programme has saved the British taxpayer a huge amount of money and saved farmers from a huge amount of trauma."

Nationally, culling has been extended to seven new zones, and could result in almost 76,000 badgers being killed altogether.

The extension of the zones comes after the Government announced in May that no new licences would be issued next year.

Trials are also under way in Hertfordshire for a cattle vaccine and new skin test for bovine TB.

It is part of a shift in strategy by the Government which aims to phase out intensive culling of badgers, a protected species which can transmit the disease to livestock, and to roll out a cattle vaccine by 2025.

Bovine TB costs taxpayers around £100 million a year, with more than 36,000 cattle slaughtered in the last year to tackle the disease.

The culling of badgers, which can spread bovine tuberculosis to cattle, was introduced in 2013 to curb the disease.

Dominic Dyer, of the Born Free Foundation, said: “The government has wasted an estimated £70 million of public funds shooting badgers across England from Cornwall to Cumbria but have produced no reliable evidence to show that this mass destruction of a protected species is having any impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones.

“It’s time to stop playing the badger blame game and focus on controlling the spread of bovine TB in cattle, which is better for farmers, taxpayers and the future of our precious wildlife.”

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