Wildlife Trust 'angry and saddened' as badger cull licences confirmed as being granted in Northamptonshire

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The trust says thousands of badgers are being killed unnecessarily

Northamptonshire’s Wildlife Trust says it is angry and saddened to learn that badger culling is now officially licensed and has been under way in parts of the county for several months.

The badger cull licences that have recently been published are dated from August 26, meaning that anonymous landowners who obtained the licences have been culling badgers for two months already.

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The Government announced last year that it would stop allowing badger culling from 2025 and instead push for vaccination of badgers and cattle in a drive to eradicate bTB in England by 2038.

Badger culling licences have been granted in NorthamptonshireBadger culling licences have been granted in Northamptonshire
Badger culling licences have been granted in Northamptonshire

However, new cull licences have been issued.

Conservation director for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust Matt Jackson said: “It is beyond frustrating that the Government has issued a licence for badger culling in Northamptonshire when their approved strategy was to move away from culling to alternative control methods for TB, including cattle vaccination.

"TB is an awful disease for cattle and badgers, and infections have a major impact on farmers: unfortunately culling doesn’t provide a solution to the problem, and thousands of badgers are now being killed unnecessarily.

"Vaccination, if properly supported, is a viable and humane alternative to deal with the low level of TB in badgers in high risk areas.

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"It remains the case that most transmission of TB to cattle comes from other cattle, not from wildlife, and this is where the focus has to be.”

There are 11 new areas of the country added this year with culling now taking place in 69 places.

The trust says information published alongside the new licences states that, to achieve the 70 per cent reduction in badger population that Defra wants to see in cull areas, up to 68,000 badgers could be shot this year.

Back in 2021 the Government indicated a move away from culling in their strategy for controlling TB in cattle and had been proposing not to issue new culling licences after the end of 2022.

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By last month, with reports of culling taking place in the county, there was still no official confirmation from Natural England that a cull licence has been granted, despite requests for confirmation.

The Wildlife Trust does not believe 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, The Wildlife Trust says control of cattle movements and management to keep badgers away from cattle feeding areas (referred to as “biosecurity”) can be used to control the spread of TB.

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These controls can be supported by vaccination of badgers in specific areas if necessary.

A Defra spokesman told this newspaper: “Bovine TB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that the livestock sector in England faces today, causing considerable trauma for farmers and costing taxpayers over £100 million every year.

“Our bovine TB eradication strategy has led to a significant reduction in this insidious disease.

"As a result of the progress made, we have issued badger control licences for the last time.

"We are now moving onto the next phase of the long-term eradication strategy, including steps to expand badger vaccination alongside improved cattle testing and a possible cattle vaccine.”