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article imagePlans unveiled for badger cull in England

By Lynn Curwin     Sep 15, 2010 in Environment
The government has revealed plans for a badger cull in England, even though it has been shown that culls do not stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
Under the proposals the government put forward on 15 September, farmers in England would be able to get licences to cull badgers. They would be required to cull at least 150 square kilometres to ensure the animals are simply not fleeing the area to safety.
It has been ruled that gassing and snaring the badgers is inhumane but shooting them is allowed.
The cull has been suggested as a way to reduce TB in cattle
The Guardian quoted farming minister Jim Paice as saying: “There is no doubt that badgers are a significant reservoir for the disease and without taking action to control the disease in them, it will continue to spread. No country in the world has eradicated bovine TB without dealing with the reservoir in wildlife.”
Studies have found that a cull would not be effective.
A major study by the Imperial College London, published in February, looked at the disease in areas where there had been trial culls and found that they did not have a long-term effect.
“Our new research also suggests that the savings that farmers and the government would make by reducing bTB infections in cattle are two or three times less than the cost of repeated badger culls as undertaken in the trial, so this is not a cost-effective contribution to preventing bTB infections in cattle," Professor Christl Donnelly, senior author of the study, said in a news release.
In 2009, about 25,000 cattle were affected by tuberculosis in England, but this is a decrease of seven per cent from the year before – and no cull took place.
The Badger Trust reported that the incidence of TB in cattle has dropped in Wales, without a cull taking place.
The organisation stated that bovine TB was reduced from 16,000 cases in 1961 to 628 in 1979, through efforts which did not include killing wildlife.
“No other industry could get away with killing huge numbers of wildlife for such transient benefits when so many other proven techniques are again yielding results, as now seems to be the case,” David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said in a press release earlier this year. “We simply do not understand why the farming industry has been so obsessed with killing wildlife.”
The Labour government had been developing a vaccination programme for badgers in six areas, but in June the Conservative government reduced it to just one location.
The RSPCA said that is believes a vaccine for badgers, combined with increasing the level of cattle testing, improving biosecurity and imposing stricter controls on the movement of cattle are the ways most likely to provide sustainable effects in reducing bovine TB.
The organisation is asking people opposed to a cull to express their opinion by sending letters to their MPs and by signing their online petition.
A cull proposed for Wales earlier this year was halted.
Badgers live throughout much of the UK. Their diet includes earthworms, beetles, wasps, bees, mice and fruit.
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