UK & World News
Badger Culls To Go Ahead In Two Areas
Two pilot badger culls to tackle the spread of bovine tuberculosis will go ahead in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset.
The culls, which will see 70% of badgers killed in each area, were authorised by Government agency Natural England after final licence conditions were met.
The two pilot culls were delayed last year following bad weather and the discovery that there were more badgers in the areas than previously estimated.
From June 1, up to 5,000 badgers will be killed across the two areas annually over a six week period for four years.
An area in Dorset will be prepared as a reserve in case one of the existing licensed cull areas cannot be used, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said.
He said tackling bovine TB had cost the taxpayer £500m in the past 10 years, and costs could reach £1bn over the next decade if the disease was left unchecked.
Speaking at the National Farmers' Union conference in Birmingham, he said: "Bovine TB is spreading at an alarming rate and causing real devastation to our beef and dairy industry.
"The authorisation letters issued today confirming culling can proceed this summer in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset is an important step towards taking the action we need to tackle the spread of this disease in wildlife.
"I am determined that there are no further delays this year."
The pilots are being carried out to test whether free shooting is an effective and humane way to remove badgers.
Mr Paterson said Britain had to learn from experience elsewhere that TB could not effectively be curbed without tackling the problem in wildlife.
He said he wanted to see effective and affordable vaccines deployed for both cattle and badgers as quickly as possible but it was likely to take another decade before the deployment of a cattle vaccine which is validated and legal under EU regulations could take place.
National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall welcomed the move which he said would help reduce the damage TB did to the country's food production base.
He described the 35,000 cattle which had to be slaughtered because of the disease in 2012 as a "scandalous waste".
But the measure has been criticised by Labour, which has consistently opposed a badger cull.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said 150,000 people had signed a petition against it last year and scientists had warned against the "untested and risky approach".
She said: "As incompetent Defra ministers stagger from one crisis to the next, the policing costs, paid by the taxpayer, will balloon to £4m while bovine TB will increase in the next two years as the shooting displaces badgers.
"Ministers should listen to the public and the scientists and drop this cull before any more public money is wasted."