Ministers expand England’s culling area by 70% to try to curb TB in cattle as scientists dispute programme’s effectiveness
'The controversial badger cull in England has been hugely expanded into 10 new areas, with up to 42,000 animals now due to be shot in an attempt to curb tuberculosis in cattle, up from 32,500 last year.
The farming minister George Eustice claimed the cull is starting to show results in Gloucestershire and Somerset, with drops in tuberculosis incidence, but did not highlight a rise seen in Dorset.
Scientists say a lack of statistical analysis in government documents means there remains no concrete evidence that the cull is working. The Badger Trust condemned the expanded cull as “largest destruction of a protected species in living memory”.
The 10 new cull zones are in Cornwall Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Staffordshire, and represent a near 70% rise in the area affected. A separate new zone has also been approved in Cumbria, which is in the low-risk part of England for the disease. Cull zones now cover vast swathes of many counties: 68% of Devon, 63% of Dorset and 54% of Cornwall.
Ministers and many farmers argue the badger cull is a vital part of curbing bovine tuberculosis (bTB), which led to 33,000 cattle being slaughtered in England in 2017 at a cost of £100m. The government is offering £700,000 over four years to help groups vaccinate badgers, although it spent £6.6m on culling in 2017 alone and the total culling cost to date is estimated at about £40m.
Scientists say culling could actually spread the disease even further by disrupting badger populations. They say a more rigorous testing regime and further restrictions on the movement of at-risk cattle, along with badger vaccination, are the key to ending the epidemic.'
Read more: Huge increase in badger cull will see up to 42,000 shot