A second year of badger culling has begun in sections of Gloucestershire and Somerset in a bid to tackle bovine TB.
1,800 badgers were killed in the pilot areas of west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, and just fewer than 1,000 are due to be killed in the same areas this year.
The four year pilot has aims to cull 70% of the population of badgers in order to test how “effective, humane and safe” a cull can be. This has been backed by the government, who has insisted that culling is necessary but protesters have argued that shooting is neither “effective nor humane.”
Last year more than 26,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England last year because of the spread of TB.
Both ministers and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) all support the idea that culling badgers will curb TB in cattle. Andrew Guest, chairman of the NFU in Gloucestershire and spokesman for GlosCon, the company who are carrying out the cull in the county, said that culling infected cattle but not badgers would “leave the circle open for infection again and again”.
Environmental Secretary Elizabeth Truss claimed the government’s “comprehensive strategy” had the support of leading vets.
However there is still a campaign against the cull, with protesters being unhappy that independent monitoring was dropped. The move was rejected by judges, after which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We have always been clear that the independent expert panel’s role was to oversee the six-week pilots in the first year of the culls only.”
“This year we have made changes to monitor effectiveness and humaneness and the culls will be independently audited.”
Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said the culls were “ill-conceived and incompetently managed” and called the pro-cull arguments “discredited”.
He added, “Here we have a government and the National Farmers’ Union pushing ahead with a policy simply because they don’t have the guts to admit that it is wrong.”
How the pilot will work is that 1,000 badgers will be shot by marksmen in Somerset and Gloucestershire. It is believed that badgers passes on bovine tuberculosis (TB) to cattle through urine or droplet infection in farmyards or pastures. Marksmen will be shooting the badgers at night after putting their food outside their setts, ensuring that they can aim for the heart/lung area.