Government Announces Big Increase in Badger Cull Zones

The government has announced plans to scale up the badger cull in England by adding 11 new culling areas.

In a bid to tackle TB in cattle, Natural England has licensed and authorised the new badger control areas to begin operations this year.

The announcement means culls will now take place in new areas around Cornwall, Devon, Cheshire, Bristol, Dorset, Herefordshire and Wiltshire.

New zones

New control areas will be created in:

  • Avon
  • Cheshire
  • Cornwall
  • Staffordshire
  • Devon (x2)
  • Dorset
  • Herefordshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Wiltshire (x 2)

Steady spread

Natural England has also authorised licence holders to resume operations in 29 existing areas.

The cull began in Gloucester and Somerset in 2013, but has since spread to cover other counties across the country.

BVA review

In response to the news, the BVA has announced it will be undertaking an in-depth review of its position on bTB.

President Simon Doherty said: “Our expert bovine TB working group is considering all aspects of disease control, looking at cattle testing, removal of reactors, compensation and control in other farmed animals, as well as the culling and vaccination of badgers.

“In the meantime, we continue to support a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to tackling bTB, including the use of badger controls where there is a demonstrated need and where it is done safely, humanely and effectively as part of a comprehensive strategy.”

Substantial expansion

Mr Doherty went on restate the BVA’s position that targeted and managed badger culling should only be used in carefully selected areas where badgers are regarded as a significant contributor to the persistent presence of bTB in cattle.

He added: “The announcement of new licences this year represents a substantial expansion of the original strategy and we continue to call for proper oversight from Natural England to ensure standards are maintained when new and greater numbers of licences are issued. Any expansion must be combined with commensurate funding to ensure the capacity exists to provide full monitoring and audit of those licences.

“Halting the spread of bovine TB is essential and it is vital we continue to utilise every tool in the toolbox, including vaccination programmes, in our efforts to curb this devastating disease.”