MPs to debate future of badger cull

MPs will discuss the future of the badger culls in England in a parliamentary debate scheduled for this Wednesday (11 December).

The culling company Gloscon agreed with Natural England to end the extended pilot badger cull in west Gloucestershire after it became clear that not enough badgers would be killed to meet government targets.

The pilot scheme was was halted three weeks ahead of schedule after marksmen culled 921 badgers, around 40% of the local population. The target was to remove 70%.

A similar cull in west Somerset ended with the removal of 940 badgers, an estimated 65% reduction in the badger population.

Shadow farm minister Huw Irranca-Davies has described the pilot culls as a “catastrophic, categoric and unequivocal failure”.

The Humane Society International UK said in a statement: “The cull has been a disaster. The government needs to cancel its killing plans once and for all and focus on improving cattle welfare, controlling cattle movements, increasing biosecurity, and developing badger and cattle vaccination.”

But despite marksmen falling short of their kill targets, DEFRA has insisted the culls were “successful” in removing a significant number of badgers.

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson is adamant that the culling is a four-year strategy and the government will not be “knocked off course” from its policy.

He said the government intends to roll out the culls in up to 10 new areas in England next year.

A panel of independent experts, which includes wildlife experts, will review how “safe, humane and effective” the pilots have been and report back to ministers early next year.

It findings will inform the government’s decision over the wider roll-out of the cull.

“The Future of the Badger Cull”, a cross-party parliamentary adjournment debate secured by MP Chris Williamson, will take place at Westminster from 2.30pm to 4pm on Wednesday (11 December).

A DEFRA spokesman said: “The culls were carefully designed and monitored to make sure there is absolutely no risk of local extinction to the badger population. 

“Nobody wants to cull badgers but scientific evidence shows that culling badgers in areas where disease is widespread helps reduce cases of TB in cattle.”

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Bovine TB and the badger cull