Stop the cull poster © Simon Chapman/LNP/REX/Shutterstock© Simon Chapman/LNP/REX/Shutterstock

Animal rights protestors have pledged to step up their fight after a Defra decision to extend badger culling to seven new areas.

Seven new licences have been granted for badger control measures to combat bovine TB in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

The licences are in addition to three existing cull areas in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.

See also: Badger culling extended to seven new areas

A Defra announcement on Monday (30 August) confirmed that the new licences had been granted and culling was underway.

Jay Tiernan, of the Stop the Cull group, suggested that protestors would refocus their efforts to disrupt the culls in the wake of the announcement.

“We have spent the last three years just in the fields,” Mr Tiernan told The Guardian.

“We haven’t ever once stood outside a farm with a banner or blockaded a road or put locks on to a business’s gates to stop their business from working.”

Disrupting culls

To date, the campaign had focused on disrupting culls by discovering where the shooting was due to take place and by breaking traps.

Mr Tiernan said: “We are going to change that to specifically look at policing costs… We are going to start looking at making the culls expensive.”

Animal welfare groups and some scientists insist that culling badgers will have little long term impact on curtailing bovine TB – and could even spread the disease.

A YouGov survey commissioned by Humane Society International suggests that 67% of people would be concerned if badger culling went ahead in their counties.

Call for rethink

The organisation is calling for the government to rethink its cull strategy.

HSI executive director Claire Bass said it was “both shocking and sad” that the government was expanding badger culling to more counties.

“Badgers are being needlessly killed as scapegoats, part of a ‘smoke and mirrors’ attempt to appease farmers and detract attention and resources away from an effective long-term solution.”

Ms Bass said HSI was calling on members of the public to show their opposition to the cull by “shooting selfies, not badgers” and sharing the pictures online.

‘Huge threat’

But farm leaders welcomed the Defra decision to extend badger culling to seven new areas, saying bovine TB remained a “huge threat” to dairy and beef farmers.

The NFU said more than 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year because of bovine TB, which had infected nearly 4,000 herds previously clear of the disease.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Bovine TB remains a huge threat to beef and dairy farmers in large parts of the country.

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

The number of areas that had expressed interest in carrying out badger culling showed the industry’s continued commitment to tackle the disease, said Mr Raymond.