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Vets back badger cull

British Veterinary Association | British Veterinary Association

3 min read Partner content

A planned badger cull in two pilot areas will allow for scientific evidence to be gathered, the British Veterinary Association has said.

The open season for shooting badgers begins on 1 June, and Defra's chief vet has said there is no doubt that badgers spread TB to cattle.

“If we do not maintain and improve our bovine TB controls and levels of bovine TB continued to increase, the risk of infection to other mammals and humans would inevitably increase,” said Nigel Gibbens.

Two culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have been apporoved. Up to 5,000 badgers could be killed.

The shooting of badgers is not expected to start until later in the season, but the BVAsaid it wants to respond to "activity amongst those who oppose the cull and appeal to them to allow the necessary scientific work to take place unhindered in the two pilot cull areas".

The BVApointed to the evidence base behind the policy – data from the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCTs) – which shows that bovine TB in cattle can be reduced by around 16% in areas where a targeted, humane badger cull has taken place.

The cost of compensation to farmers of cattle that have been slaughtered becase of TB is estimated at £100m last year.

The pilot culls will use different culling methods to the RBCTs and are therefore being monitored by the Independent Expert Panel made up of experts in veterinary pathology, animal welfare physiology, wildlife ecology, badger behaviour, wildlife management, ecological theory, statistics, and marksmanship.

More than 231,000 people have signed a petition on the gov.uk website, backed by former Queen guitarist and badger activist Brian May, calling on Defra to stop the cull and "implement the more sustainable and humane solution of both a vaccination programme for badgers and cattle, along with improved testing and biosecurity".

Peter Jones, President of the BVA, said:

“We have not taken the decision to support the pilot badger culls lightly; we have considered all of the scientific evidence, which supports the management of bovine TB in badgers in order to reduce the incidence of the disease in cattle.

“We accept that there is a gap in our knowledge, which is whether controlled shooting can deliver a badger cull humanely and safely, and to the same degree of effectiveness as cage trapping and shooting. That is what the pilots are designed to address and why is it important that they are allowed to go ahead unhindered.

“We understand that this is a highly emotional issue but we must be able to gather the evidence to enable future policy decisions to be based on science.”

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