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Shock as the Badger cull comes to Cumbria

Badger release following vaccination. Photo Tom Marshall

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is shocked and disappointed by the Government’s surprise announcement that a badger cull is to go ahead in Cumbria. Cumbria Wildlife Trust is calling on Secretary of State, Michael Gove MP, to rethink the change in policy and stop the roll-out of the badger cull to Cumbria.

The Government has given permission for badger culls to go ahead in several areas of England and badgers are now at risk in one area of Cumbria.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust believes that the government’s strategy is flawed: bovine TB is primarily a problem of cattle and not wildlife. It makes no sense to extend the cull at a time when a review of the government’s strategy – the bovine TB eradication strategy – is still underway and due to report its findings in the next few weeks.

David Harpley, Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Manager says: “We really do understand the massive problems caused by outbreaks of TB in cattle – and I have real sympathy for the financial hardship and emotional impact that this awful disease has on farmers and their families in one part of the county. None of us want to see the slaughter of cattle or badgers and we all want to see an end to this serious disease. However, a cull of badgers is not the answer and risks making the situation worse.”

“The science shows that only 1 in 20 cases of bovine TB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers [1], the remainder arises from cattle to cattle transmission or other sources of infection.“

David adds: “There’s a serious risk that culling will actually make the situation worse. This may seem counter-intuitive but experience has shown that culling disrupts and unsettles the social structure of badger families. This disturbance causes them to move to new areas more frequently and over longer distances – which can result in increased bTB transmission by displaced individuals.”

“Our view is that Government needs to put its effort into fighting the disease in cattle through measures such as better detection of bTB in cattle, better cattle movement controls and on-farm biosecurity measures. The best and most cost-effective way of dealing with bTB in the badger population is by targeted vaccination. On top of this, the costs of killing badgers are much higher than vaccinating them.”

Collectively The 47 Wildlife Trusts have opposed badger culling for well over a decade and have recently written to Secretary of State, Michael Gove, to highlight the flaws of the badger cull and request that the cull be ended in favour of strategic and widespread badger vaccination schemes, and to invest in developing a cattle vaccine.

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager for The Wildlife Trusts says: “It is unacceptable that the government has not waited for the results of their own review – which we understand is to be published imminently – before forging ahead with another year of ineffective and expensive badger culling. The badger cull is a dangerous distraction from addressing the main route of bTB transmission in cattle which is between cattle.

“We’re calling on the government to invest in medicine, not marksmen. The costs of killing badgers are much higher than vaccinating them – it costs £496.51 to kill a badger compared with £82 to vaccinate a badger.”

The Wildlife Trusts are urging people to write to their MPs asking them to help stop the cull.

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