Gove under pressure to review badger cull policy

Animal welfare groups are pressing Defra secretary Michael Gove to review the badger cull – but the NFU remains convinced that the policy is working to reduce TB in cattle.

Defra is expected to release the results of the autumn culls on Friday (22 December), as well as updates on TB testing regimes.

The Badger Trust claimed that an official report assessing the results of the first four years of the culls was also due to be published imminently – but a Defra source dismissed the reports as “not true”.

See also: Analysis – is the badger cull in England working?

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said: “We also await publication of the data on TB testing results for badgers culled in the 2016 and 2017 pilots, which we know Defra has and is not releasing. We believe this data will show a low level of TB in badgers.”

Mr Dyer said the culls had led to the slaughter of more than 40,000 badgers and had cost taxpayers “more than £40m”. He insisted that culling had done little to reduce TB cattle rates.

He claimed that Defra officials had told him that Mr Gove had “already made up his mind” to review the culls. But a Defra source rejected his claims.

A full independent review of the scientific, animal welfare, ecological impact, costs and public safety aspects of the badger cull policy should be urgently undertaken, Mr Dyer added.

Wildlife vector

NFU deputy president Minette Batters said testing of roadkill badgers in Cheshire had shown that a minimum of 25% of badgers were infected with TB.

“We have gone above and beyond any country in the world to do this (culling) effectively, humanely and safely,” added Ms Batters.

“We are seeing individual farmers investing £15,000 to £25,000 to sign up. They would not be investing in it if they didn’t see change on the ground.

“We know there is a wildlife vector and it’s heart-breaking to think there could be anything that gets in the way of eradicating this disease.”