The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire is deeply concerned about the application to begin culling badgers, a protected species, in Northamptonshire. The application came less than two months after the Government indicated a move away from culling in their strategy for controlling TB in cattle and in a separate consultation are proposing not to issue new culling licences after the end of 2022.
The Wildlife Trusts do not believe that culling badgers is an appropriate or effective way to address TB in cattle. TB spread initially from cattle to badgers, and can be transmitted from badgers now to cattle. However, control of cattle movements and management to keep badgers away from cattle feeding areas (referred to as “biosecurity”) are the most important elements to control the spread of TB. These controls can be supported by vaccination of badgers in specific areas if necessary.
In February Natural England, the Government’s advisory body, consulted on the potential impacts of allowing a cull in Northamptonshire. The consultation specifically refused to consider comments opposing badger culling, but the Wildlife Trust raised a number of concerns relating to the impact of “perturbation”. When culling takes place there is an increased risk of TB spreading to the surrounding area as infected badgers move out of the cull zone. This can have a significant impact on the management of cattle farms, and nature reserves, across a much wider area.
The Wildlife Trust BCN Chief Executive, Brian Eversham, said: “The Government is consulting on an approach to TB control that doesn’t rely on culling badgers. To approve an application to extend culling to new counties at the same time defies belief. We hope the Government will see sense and refuse to allow a cull that could see thousands of badgers killed unnecessarily in Northamptonshire.”
The Northamptonshire Badger Group are discussing with the Wildlife Trust whether a vaccination scheme for badgers, as an alternative to culling, could be used in Northamptonshire. Unfortunately, the government’s financial support for vaccination, the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) isn’t currently running.
We are waiting to hear if a further round of BEVS funding will be made available.
Read more on a suite of measures to help tackle bovine TB