Badger cull set to start next month across Oxfordshire and Warwickshire reveals leaked document

Despite the government saying in March that culling would move to vaccinations the badger cull is set to come to Oxfordshire and Warwickshire next month.

Sunday, 16th August 2020, 10:18 am
Updated Sunday, 16th August 2020, 10:22 am
Badger photo taken by Alex White, wildlife photographer with the Oxfordshire Badger Group charity.

Leaked information has shown that Natural England will be licensing 11 new badger culling areas including Oxfordshire from September 1.

Oxfordshire Badger group, (OBG) are very saddened and disappointed to learn that there will be badgers culled under licence in Oxfordshire this autumn.

Julia Hammett, chair of Oxfordshire Badger Group said: “We believe in the 100 per cent safe, no kill alternative of vaccinating badgers against Bovine TB and will continue our positive work to protect wildlife. We offer this service at no cost to landowners and maintain complete confidentiality.

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"If the government were to invest in our programme instead of investing millions of pounds in culling we could expand this service to more landowners who have expressed an interest in vaccinating badgers on their land.”

The Oxfordshire Badger Group (OBG) has already written to all district and county councillors and MPs asking for them to speak out against the practice and has appealed for funding to increase its work on their vaccination project.

Trained volunteers from the group have been vaccinating badgers in the county this summer against bovine tuberculosis.

The vaccination project is funded by the group, and they have launched a Just Giving web page to help raise much needed funds to continue the project.

A badger being trapped for vaccination in Warwickshire (photo from the Warwickshire Badger Group)

Anyone who would like to contribute to the vaccination project can use the following web link: OBG contends funds used by the government to kill badgers in Oxfordshire could be put into this voluntary scheme instead.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust said: “In March, the government talked of an imminent end to the badger cull policy in favour of badger and cattle vaccination, a view largely accepted by politicians and the public.

"In reality the government is now pressing ahead with the largest destruction of a protected species in history, which could result in up to 65,000 badgers being killed across 54 areas of England stretching from Cornwall to Cumbria in the next few months.”

Oxfordshire Badger Group urges its members and the public to contact their MP and call for culling to be replaced with vaccination in Oxfordshire, a service that has already been started.

The leaked document from within the government and published on the Stop the Cull Facebook page shows that there are 11 new badger cull zones this year, including Warwickshire.

The Warwickshire badger cull is set to start from September 14.

The document also lists the kill targets for each zone and start dates. Warwickshire is included in this list which means badgers in Warwickshire are at risk of being killed from the September 14 onwards. Warwickshire has been set a minimum of 1640 badgers to be killed and a maximum 2223 badgers to be killed.

Dr Denise Taylor, chair of Warwickshire Badger Group, said: "The news makes a mockery of the government's claims, widely publicised earlier this year, that it plans to reduce culling in favour of vaccination.

"We know from a Defra-backed road-kill autopsy survey we contributed to that the county's badgers are virtually disease free. They make no measurable contribution to the spread of bovine TB. This is a politically driven cull not one based on sound science.

"The public have been deliberately misled about a so-called change in government policy. This is an extension of a senseless, vindictive slaughter of an iconic animal and we are urging everyone who cares about our wildlife to protest in the strongest terms to Defra, their MPs, and directly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"Yes, bovine TB is a serious respiratory disease. But the name spells it out: this is a disease spread by infected cattle to other cattle. Badgers and cattle rarely if ever come into close contact. Transmission between the two has yet to be scientifically proven. Badgers are not the problem and slaughtering ever increasing numbers will not solve a problem that has been with us since before World War II.

"We know, and Defra does, too, that the main fault lies with the cattle testing system which relies heavily on the 'skin' test. By Defra's own admission it is often only 60 per cent effective.

"In a big herd it fails to detect large numbers of infected cattle. They stay in the herd and infect others. That has been happening for decades but the Government has turned a blind eye and prefers to grossly exaggerate the supposed contribution of badgers to TB spread.

"It's a scandal that must be stopped. We urge everyone to protest in the strongest terms."