First licence issued for badger cull pilot

 

A A A

The first licence for a pilot cull of badgers has been issued, in a step the Government hopes will pave the way for more widespread culling to tackle tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.

Government agency Natural England issued the licence to allow farmers in west Gloucestershire to kill badgers, a protected species, on around 300 farms covering some 300 square kilometres over the next four years.

As many as 3,000 badgers could be killed during the cull, which farmers say is necessary to tackle TB in cattle because the wild animal spreads the disease to livestock, costing livestock owners and the taxpayer millions of pounds a year.

The granting of the licence comes as the RSPB becomes the latest conservation organisation to announce a vaccination programme for badgers, which involves trapping and injecting them with vaccine, on its land at Highnam Woods in Gloucestershire, just outside the pilot cull area.

There is currently no oral vaccine available for badgers, and no vaccine for cattle.

Asked if he thought the first pilot culling licence was a positive first step towards a more widespread cull in England, new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: "I very much hope so."

He said TB was a disease that had to be taken very seriously.

"Until we get a vaccine, and we would all love to have a vaccine but we haven't got one, so for the time being we should use the measures used in other countries very effectively to bear down on the disease in wildlife and in cattle," he said.

Mr Paterson, who used to have two pet badgers, said he wanted to see a healthy badger population alongside a healthy cattle population generating money for farmers.

But according to the Environment Department (Defra) around 26,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2011 as part of TB controls, with almost a quarter of farms under movement restrictions last year in the South West, a hotspot for the disease.

Controlling TB in cattle has cost the taxpayer £500 million in the past decade, and costs could spiral to £1 billion over the next 10 years without action, Defra said.

An outbreak on a farm costs a farmer around £12,000 and the taxpayer £22,000, according to official estimates.

Farmers will foot the bill for free-running badgers to be shot in the cull, which Defra says will cost £300 per square kilometre a year. For the Gloucestershire cull this would be an estimated £360,000 over the four-year period.

The cull in Gloucestershire cannot start immediately as details need to be finalised, including the specific dates, who is authorised to shoot badgers, the number of animals that can be killed and confirmation that the funds are in place.

Farmers will be licensed to kill at least 70% of badgers in the cull area, with a maximum number set to prevent local extinction, Natural England said.

The agency is continuing to assess a separate application relating to a pilot cull area in west Somerset, and hopes to issue that licence as soon as possible.

A long-term study found that culling over a number of years on a large scale could reduce the incidence of TB in cattle herds by 16%.

But opponents of the cull say it will not have a significant effect on tackling the disease in livestock and are calling for other options, such as developing vaccines.

Animal welfare and wildlife campaigners lost their fight against the cull in the High Court.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said: "The Government is pressing ahead with a badger cull despite their own official advice that it will cost more than it saves, put a huge strain on the police, and will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disturbed by the shooting.

"Ministers should listen to the scientists and can this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife."

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said: "The dairy industry has endured terrible times while trying to cope with this devastating disease.

"However, we have never been convinced that the best way to help farmers is to force them to foot the bill for a contentious cull that is only expected to reduce outbreaks by about 16%.

"This is a lot of effort for a small gain. Bovine TB needs tackling properly and we believe vaccination offers the best hope for cattle, badgers and the industry."

The National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust have also embarked on vaccination schemes on their land, while the National Farmers' Union, which backs a cull, is working with the Badger Trust to run a trial to see if injecting vaccine in badgers is cost effective and practical.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition