Badger population at risk as Government orders cull of more than 50,000, campaigners say

The Government has reportedly decided to expand the cull that has taken place over the past three years

More than 50,000 badgers are to be culled in a dramatic expansion of Government’s efforts to protect cattle against tuberculosis, according to a report.

Over the past three years, just under 4,000 badgers have been killed in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset at a cost of more than £5m.

But The Times reported that the Government had now decided to expand the cull by killing more than 12 times that number at sites across the country, starting this autumn.

Animal rights activists have protested that culling is ineffective in controlling TB and complained that badgers are being killed indiscriminately, whether they have the disease or not.

And Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, warned that a significant proportion of England’s badger population was at risk.

“Hundreds of thousands of badgers could be killed over the next five years and that would worry us greatly because we believe the population as a whole is probably less than half a million,” he said.

“There is no evidence that the badger culls since 2013 have reduced the level of bovine TB in cattle.

“We would like to see the money wasted on badger culling spent on better TB testing systems for cattle and better fences and gates to reduce the risk of badgers getting into farmyards.”

Liz Truss, the Environment Secretary, last week said the cull had to be expanded.

“I want to see culling expanded across a wider number of areas this year. The chief veterinary officer’s advice is that this is the only way to secure the full benefits of our comprehensive strategy,” she told the National Farmers’ Union conference.

A trial of culling between 1998 and 2007 found that killing badgers could actually increase the spread of TB because infected badgers run off and spread the disease to other animals.

When asked if the culls since 2013 had reduced rates of TB in cattle, a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman told the Times that the Government was “waiting to see the impact”.