Defra has extended the badger cull to 11 new areas as it steps up its efforts to tackle bovine TB, a devastating disease causing misery to livestock farmers and costing taxpayers £100m a year in compensation.
The announcement could see up to 42,000 badgers removed from TB high-risk and edge-area counties in England this autumn.
Farm minister George Eustice said extending the cull to new areas is justified as the latest figures show the number of new cases of TB in the original two zones – Somerset and Gloucestershire – had halved last year, the fifth consecutive year of culling.
Mr Eustice said Defra’s cull strategy is “delivering results” and on course to eradicate “the slow-moving, insidious disease” within 20 years.
But shadow Defra secretary Sue Hayman said the decision to extend the cull was “unjustifiable” and “betrays the government’s deep hypocrisy on animal welfare”.
She called on the government to stop the cull and “focus attention and taxpayer money on improving testing, vaccinations and on controlling the movement of infected cattle”.
Here are the latest statistics on bovine TB and the badger cull: