Badger culls to quadruple

There will be five new badger cull trial areas active this winter, following DEFRA backing of the farming community.

The BBC reported that areas in South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall, West Dorset and South Herefordshire will join the existing zones in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset. This means the cull trials have effectively quadrupled in scale since they were first established in 2012.

Devon will see the most culling taking place with a minimum target of 3,358 badgers controlled – while Somerset need only cull 75 to meet its target. Bovine tuberculosis continues to have a devastating effect in farming in the UK. In 2014, there were 4,720 new herd incidents of bovine TB recorded, with 4.2 per cent of tests resulting in farms’ TB-free status being withdrawn.

Bovine TB has been described as “the greatest threat to our beef and dairy industry, endangering our food security.” Thousands of infected cattle were slaughtered in 2015, costing £100m in compensation for farmers.

Meurig Raymond, the NFU president, said: “Farmers facing a daily battle against bTB in those areas that have been granted licences for badger control operations this year will welcome the news that finally action is being taken to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife in these areas.

“Today’s announcement means that badger control will now be taking place in 10 per cent of the area where cattle are at the highest risk of contracting bTB.”

Farming minister George Eustice said: “Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England is delivering results, with more than half the country on track to be free of the disease by the end of this parliament.”

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