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Half of badgers could be killed before 2026, campaigners warn

Half of our badgers could be killed before 2026 if Government does not stop wiping them out before culling programme officially ends, campaigners warn

  • More than 140,000 badgers have been shot since the badger cull started in 2013
  • Experts fear another 130,000 or more will be killed by 2026 after cull expansion
  • Badgers carry bTB, which leads to farmers having to cull infected dairy herds 

More than half of England’s badgers will be killed if the Government does not stop culling before the programme’s official end in 2026, campaign groups warned last night.

The Government confirmed yesterday that it will not issue new licences for culling badgers to tackle tuberculosis in cattle after 2022. Culling will eventually cease entirely when licences expire in 2026.

Since the controversial badger cull started in 2013, to control bovine tuberculosis, more than 140,000 badgers have been shot.

Badgers carry bTB, which leads to farmers having to cull infected dairy herds, although the extent to which badgers infect cattle is disputed

Some experts predict 130,000 or more will be killed by 2026, after government officials gave the go-ahead to expand operations in ten areas.

Dr Jo Smith, chief executive of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said: ‘If a further 130,000 animals are killed within the next five years, we could lose 60 per cent of England’s badgers. This is desperately sad.’

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that it was ‘accelerating’ efforts to vaccinate badgers and cattle against the disease, as an alternative to culling.

The National Farmers’ Union said ending badger culling would undermine efforts to reduce bovine TB.

The government announced that new licences to shoot badgers would be granted in 2021 and 2022 and as licences last for four years, badgers will continue to be shot until 2026. A badger sow is pictured above in the forest with her cubs

While a vaccine would be a breakthrough in tackling bTB, Dawn Varley, acting chief executive of the Badger Trust, said that her group was underwhelmed by the government’s plans to test vaccinations.

She said: ‘We’re sceptical of the investment in badger vaccinations, as in reality this is a five-year pilot, in one area only, that just delays a more extensive roll-out.’

The pilot scheme is taking place in East Sussex and has been awarded £2.27m.

The government announced that new licences to shoot badgers would be granted in 2021 and 2022 and as licences last for four years, badgers will continue to be shot until 2026.

While the government argued that culling ‘effectively helped reduce bTB rates by half in certain areas’, the RSPCA called the practice ‘both inhumane and ineffective’.

The RSPCA added: ‘We welcome the statement that the licensing of new culls will be stopped after 2022 and could only last two years, but this will still result in the destruction of thousands more badgers.

‘We continue to look forward to the long-overdue end to culling and the move towards an effective and humane plan which will protect both cattle and badgers.’

Badgers carry bTB, which leads to farmers having to cull infected dairy herds, although the extent to which badgers infect cattle is disputed.

In the past year, at least 27,000 cattle in England were slaughtered to tackle the disease, according to the government.

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