As I predicted more than a year ago, this Government is determined to cull badgers.
Bovine TB is a terrible disease, endemic to cattle in the UK. Around 25,000 cattle were slaughtered for TB control in England in 2010 with a total cost to the taxpayer of £87 million in testing and compensation for farmers. There were 2025 herd breakdowns in England in 2010.
I have consistently opposed a badger cull on 4 grounds: scientific, effectiveness, humaneness and cost. My view is supported by scientists and conservation groups, including Lord Krebs who is the leading expert in the field.
The government has now announced a trial cull in two areas. Their proposals are ineffective and will not tackle the problem of bovine TB. Their preferred option of ‘free shooting’ is not supported by the science, and may increase the problem by spreading TB.
Even on its own estimates, an extensive badger cull will only save £29 million over 10 years, out of an expected cost to the taxpayer of £1 billion.
Why is this important locally? Well, we have a good badger population spread around the area. Although many – perhaps most – local residents have never seen them, a number of local groups and individuals have been quietly ensuring that their habitat is protected. They are very concerned about these proposals and the potential impact on local wildlife.
I agree with them. I have already made my protest to the government and will continue to do so, as I believe the proposals are just wrong-headed and irresponsible. I hope that no landowner in the area will apply for a licence but, if you hear differently, please let me know.
This Conservative-led government is also committed to lift the ban on fox-hunting. What’s it got against our wildlife?