Areas of the country that are introducing badger culling for the first time this autumn should deliver net benefits of more than £1m each, according to the latest cost benefit analysis conducted by Defra.
The figures are based on a comparison between the likely cost of badger culling – both to the government and to the farming industry – and the projected net benefits of a reduced incidence of bovine TB in cattle as the wildlife disease reservoir is reduced.
According to the report, Badger control value for money analysis 2017, the cost to government is expected to average £490,000 for each of the 11 new cull zones, over four years. This relates to the processing of applications, monitoring the outcomes and policing the culls.
Farmer-led companies will also incur costs of £340,000 per cull area, including surveying and planning the culls, as well as equipment and manpower.
But this combined cost of £810,000 is more than outweighed by the estimated £1.89m benefit derived from the net reduction in the level of TB in herds within and around the cull zones.
As such, Defra predicts a net benefit of £1.09m for each cull zone over an 11-year period, assuming that badger numbers continue to be kept stable once the four-year culls are complete.
That is equivalent to £12m across all 11 new cull zones.
The analysis has been used by Defra to justify the continued expansion of the badger cull.
“Taking action to prevent bovine TB infection of cattle from the reservoir of disease in local badger populations is an essential part of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease in England,” said chief vet Nigel Gibbens.
“Proactive badger control is currently the best available option and the licensing of further areas is necessary to realise disease control benefits across the high-risk area of England, rather than at local levels.”
The report’s findings run counter to the claims of anti-badger cull organisations, many of which have said the cost is unjustified by the results.
“It’s shocking that this year the kill quota is twice as high as the whole of the previous four years, despite the cull being cruel, ineffective and costing farmers and taxpayers a fortune,” said Humane Society executive director Claire Bass.