Licences have been issued for badger culling in 11 new areas in Devon, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset and Cheshire.Culling is part of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB, but opponents say there is no evidence it is effective.A badger vaccination programme to stop the spread of TB is restarting.The Badger Trust condemned the policy as “politically motivated’ and an “insult to the nation’s intelligence”.The new licences have been granted by Natural England.It follows a decision to extend culling in areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset.The government said it will launch a new advisory service for farmers in high risk areas this autumn advising them how to limit the spread of the disease.Farming Minister George Eustice said: “Bovine TB not only has a devastating impact on our beef and dairy farms, but causes harm and distress to infected cattle.”Vaccination is just one part of our comprehensive strategy, which also includes tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where bTB is rife, to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife.”‘Political aggression’The government’s chief vet Nigel Gibbens said: “Proactive badger control is currently the best available option and the licensing of further areas is necessary to realise disease-control benefits across the high risk area of England, rather than at local levels.”Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said 32,247 badgers could be killed under these new licences in the next six weeks. “The government is simply pandering to its core voters in the farming sector,” he said. “No credible scientist has ever suggested that culling badgers will make any significant impact on lowering TB in cattle and there is now clear evidence the policy is failing badly. “The government is simply imposing its will in an act of political aggression against both science and the will of the people.”The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that in 2016, operations in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Herefordshire and Wiltshire were all successful in meeting their targets for culling badgers.In total, culling will be carried out in 21 areas in the south-west, west and north-west of England this year.
Source: BBC Somerset