Somerset badger cull policing cost more than £550,000

Policing the badger cull in Somerset in 2015 cost £555,514, according to figures released by Avon and Somerset Police.

The third year of Defra’s pilot culls, as part of a package of measures aimed at eradicating TB, took place between 31 August and 12 October in west Somerset.

Government figures published in December showed that marksmen removed 279 badgers in Somerset last year, where 55 was the minimum target.

Therefore, based on the policing costs alone, it cost taxpayers £1,991 per badger culled.

See also: Brian May insists cattle vaccination is the answer to TB

The policing costs have been published on the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner’s website under its Freedom of Information (FoI) disclosure log. However, no details of a breakdown of the costs have been given.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: “We can confirm the costs for the badger cull last year were £555,514, which will be recovered from Defra.”

Last month, figures from Gloucestershire Police showed that policing the pilot cull in west Gloucestershire cost £425,598 in 2015.

Dorset Police has yet to release its figures on the cost of policing the culls after Defra extended its culling operation to the county last year.  

Figures released by the Badger Trust last year following an FoI request showed that culling badgers has cost more than £16m in Somerset and Gloucestershire, or £6,775 per badger killed.

Defra and the NFU insist that removing the reservoir of disease in wildlife is imperative if the country is ever going to eradicate bovine TB.

An NFU spokesman said: “Bovine TB continues to devastate beef and dairy farmers across large parts of the country and it is estimated the disease will cost the taxpayer £1bn over the next decade if nothing is done to tackle it.

“We believe the current comprehensive 25-year TB eradication strategy should be implemented in full as quickly as possible because it offers the best chance of wiping this disease out by dealing with it on all fronts, including the reservoir of disease in badgers which must be tackled if we are ever going to stop reinfection occurring.

“The cull operations are funded by farmers and landowners in the areas who have voluntarily committed their own money to meet the direct costs of the cull. Policing costs are a matter for government and are a reflection of the need to ensure unlawful acts are not committed by people who are determined to disrupt a legal and licensed activity being carried out as part of government policy.”

But opponents say the culls are ineffective and inhumane and are a waste of taxpayers’ money. Instead, they have called on Defra to focus on vaccination, greater biosecurity and tighter cattle movement controls.

Despite the opposition from animal rights activists, Defra secretary Liz Truss has vowed that her department will extend the culls to more counties this summer where bovine TB is rife.

FoI requests have shown that farmer groups in nine counties, including Cornwall, Devon, East Sussex, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire and Herefordshire have asked for culling to be extended to their counties.

Anti-cull group Stop the Cull has warned on its website: “Wherever people kill badgers, we will turn up, we are well equipped and we are very experienced at stopping badger killers. Respect existence, or expect resistance.”