Badger cull could be extended to Shropshire
The controversial badger cull looks set to be extended to Shropshire following an application to include the county in the scheme.
The Government has announced a consultation to seek the public's views on extending the cull to eight more counties, including Shropshire and Staffordshire, in a bid to eradicate bovine TB.
Last year, more than 19,000 animals were killed in eight counties, including Cheshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
The proposed extension of the cull has been welcomed by cattle farmer Richard Yates, from Middleton Scriven near Bridgnorth, who said bovine TB had a devastating effect on farmers.
"This problem wanted dealing with 20 years ago," he said.
"We are totally in favour of extending the cull, and you will find that 99 per cent of farmers will agree.
"There is irrefutable evidence of a connection between bovine TB and badgers, and history tells us that the only way to deal with it is to cull the affected areas.
"We want healthy cattle."
Mr Yates, who has 300 cattle at his farm, said he had been subjected to an embargo on buying and selling cows and bulls other than for slaughter since three suspected cases of TB were found at his farm just before Christmas.
"After being clear for four years, we failed an inspection, and that means we are subjected to testing every 60 days, and we have to be clear for two successive inspections before we can trade again.
"Somebody who isn't connected with the industry can't imagine the trauma and distress caused by TB.
"We have lost 274,000 cattle in England over the past 10 years to TB, and since the start of this year there have been 3,156 herds with bovine TB in England."
However, the move has angered animal rights campaigners.
'Over 50,000 badgers could be killed this summer.'
Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer said: “This is rapidly becoming a badger eradication programme from large parts of the country where livestock farming is taking place.”
"With plans to extend the badger cull into eight new counties in 2018 from Avon to Berkshire and Oxfordshire to Warwickshire, over 50,000 badgers could be killed this summer.
“The badger cull has already cost taxpayers over £50million and is widely considered by leading scientists and conservationists to be cruel, costly and ineffective."
Shadow health secretary Sue Hayman said the cull was "ineffective and unscientific."
The cull was first introduced on a trial basis in 1998, which involved badgers being trapped in cages and then shot, but was suspended in 2008.
The scheme was reintroduced in 2013 under then environment secretary and North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, who allowed "free-shooting" in two licensed areas.
The last round of culling licences set a target of reducing the badger population in the affected areas by 70 per cent.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Bovine TB is a slow moving, insidious disease which can put farmers livelihoods at stake and causes a great deal of pain and suffering to cattle.
“Sadly there is no single measure to tackle it, which is why we are pursuing a wide-ranging, 25-year strategy which will be reviewed every five years to monitor progress.
“This includes cattle movement controls and a cull of badgers in areas where disease is rife, alongside other interventions such as cattle vaccination, improved diagnostics and a focus on genetic resistance, which will all play an important role in later phases of the strategy."
“We recognise that the culling of badgers is contentious, but the veterinary advice remains clear that it has a role to play in suppressing the spread of the disease.”
The consultation runs until March 19. To take part visit consult.defra.gov.uk/natural-england/8899f8e7