More than 30,000 badgers were killed in a government-backed cull in 2021, according to new estimates, causing outrage among animal rights activists.
According to official statistics released on Wednesday, at least 33,687 badgers were slain in England through shooting and cage trapping in an effort to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.
According to animal rights advocates, this brings the total number of badgers slain since 2013 to 175,000, and warns that badgers may become extinct in some parts of the country.
According to the Badger Trust, which has opposed the cull, the figure represents roughly a third of the badger population.
“The results are shocking,” said Peter Hambly, executive director of the organisation. “The badger attack is intensifying.
“With scant evidence that badgers spread bTB to cattle, this assault on a much loved wild animal is reaching catastrophic proportions and needs to stop now.”
Badgers can carry the disease and some farmers believe they transmit it onto cattle.
Those opposed to the cull have argued it is not effective in preventing the transmission of bovine TB.
A study published in the Veterinary Record earlier this month claimed it “cost a fortune and saved nothing”.
But publishing the figures, Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “I anticipate that intensive culls, if they continue to be effective, will continue to see similar benefits of reduced disease incidence in cattle over their licence periods.”
Natural England licensed “badger disease control operations” across southern and middle England – including in Avon, Berkshire, and Cheshire.
The culls took place between August 31 and November 2.
Defra has argued the measure has led to “significant reduction in the disease” but it aims to phase out both supplementary culling and culling under new licences by 2025.
The majority of the badgers were killed by being shot which activists have claimed leaves the badgers at risk of dying slow, painful deaths.
But Dr Tim Hill, Chief Scientist at Natural England, said: “The level of accuracy of controlled shooting compares favourably with previous years and with other wildlife control activities.”
Outbreaks of bovine TB can cause devastating effects on farmers’ livelihoods with cattle being required to be put down.
This article by Josh Salisbury was first published by The Evening Standard on 1 April 2022. Lead Image: Badger / PA Archive.
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