If you were to have read several of the newspaper reports following the announcement by the Secretary of State, George Eustice, around the badger cull earlier this year, you may be forgiven for thinking that the future for badgers is bright and the end of culling is near.
This sadly isn’t true.
The announcement included the launch of a Government consultation on a proposed exit strategy from intensive badger culling, which includes a transition to badger vaccination; the deployment of a cattle vaccine (in five years); and other cattle disease control measures.
It all sounds promising, until you focus on the dates.
The Government is proposing to stop issuing cull licences at the end of 2022. With each licence lasting four years, this means culling won’t end until 2026 and could lead to the death of another 130,000 badgers. The total number of badgers culled since the legal shooting began in 2013, is already around 140,000 badgers. The overall badger population in England and Wales is estimated at somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 (the most accurate figure puts the number at around 485,000 badgers). So, by the time the cull is finished over 50% of the badger population may well have been killed.
What does it all mean?
What are the ecological consequences of removing such large numbers of a (‘protected’) mammal? We really don’t know.
How many of the badgers shot get tested for bovine TB? The answer is sadly, virtually none.
Given the twin climate and biodiversity crises, and commitments that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has made about addressing nature’s decline it is truly shocking that one of the few remaining large mammals we have in the UK – one that is legally protected – has been treated in this way. Allowing another four years of Government-sanctioned badger shooting sits at odds with the narrative for nature’s recovery that we are led to believe this Government wants to see happen.
What’s the alternative?
To truly honour its commitments to achieving nature’s recovery, whilst tackling bovine TB, the Government must:
1. Stop issuing badger cull licences immediately. This will bring an end to the badger cull sooner than proposed, saving tens of thousands of badgers.
2. Implement a cattle vaccine. Cattle vaccination offers the best long-term way to reduce bovine TB in the cattle population.
3. Review how cattle are transported around the country and ensure measures are in place to prevent infection spread from cattle to cattle.
4. Fast track the transition from culling to badger vaccination.
You can help – and badgers need you more than ever before.
The Government consultation ends on 24 March 2021 and is open for the public to engage. We urge you to stand up for badgers and respond: you could bring an end to the badger cull sooner. wtru.st/stand-up-for-badgers
Consultations can be a bit daunting, so we've made it really easy to follow your way through the process with a simple form – plus you can also add personal views if you wish to do so.
Thank you. From The Wildlife Trusts, and from the badgers.
Tim Birch is Director of Nature's Recovery at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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