Western Morning News

End of badger cull licences after 2022

- EMILY BEAMENT wmnnewsdes­k@reachplc.com

THE badger cull has done its job in “turning the tide on bovine TB” and no new licences will be issued from next year, Environmen­t Secretary George Eustice has announced.

Mr Eustice, the MP for Camborne and Redruth, said intensive badger culling to tackle tuberculos­is in cattle will no longer get the go-ahead in new areas after 2022.

The controvers­ial cull has expanded to cover dozens of areas of England

and kills tens of thousands of the protected mammals a year since it began in the South West in 2013 to curb bovine tuberculos­is (bTB) in livestock. Most of Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset have seen culling.

But last year the Government signalled its intention to gradually phase out culling of the wild animals, which can spread the disease to livestock, amid efforts to deploy a bTB vaccine for cattle within five years.

New proposals have now been put out to consultati­on which include plans to stop issuing four-year licences to intensivel­y cull badgers in new areas of England after 2022.

Under the plans, new licences issued before then could be cut short after two or three years based on the latest scientific evidence.

Licences to carry out supplement­ary culling in an area, which are granted after the four-year intensive cull has taken place, would be restricted to two years and would not be reissued afterwards.

The Government said it also planned to support badger vaccinatio­n in areas that have completed culls, as an alternativ­e to supplement­ary culling, and accelerate the

deployment of a cattle vaccine.

It spells the beginning of the end of the controvers­ial policy of culling, which farmers have said is necessary to control the disease that devastates the beef and dairy industries but which has been criticised as inhumane and ineffectiv­e by wildlife and animal welfare groups.

Environmen­t Secretary George Eustice said: “Bovine TB is a slowmoving and insidious disease that causes devastatio­n for farmers as they suffer the loss of highly prized animals and valued herds.

“Our badger control policy has helped to turn the tide on this disease but no one wants to continue the cull of badgers for a moment longer than necessary.

“We are working to accelerate other elements of our strategy to improve diagnostic­s and develop a deployable cattle vaccine so that we can phase out the culling of badgers.”

Field trials for cattle vaccinatio­ns will get under way in the coming months, and Mr Eustice said work on developing a deployable cattle bTB vaccine was on track to be completed in the next five years.

The National Farmers’ Union said incidents of TB in cull areas had dropped 51% showing that the badger culls were working.

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