Badger cull begins
A CONTROVERSIAL cull of badgers is underway.
In an open letter to the farming community, National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall said the first pilot badger control operations had begun, in a move he described as "very important’’ for beef and dairy farmers.
No information was given on where the shootings had begun, but licences have been given for two pilot culls in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, with around 5,000 badgers set to be killed in a six-week period across the two areas.
If the culls are judged to be effective and humane, culling could be rolled out across TB "hotspot’’ areas.
Farmers and the Government insist culling of badgers, which can spread TB to cattle, is needed to stop spiralling rates of the disease in herds.
But opponents say culling the protected animal will have only a small effect on infection rates in cattle and will lead to badgers suffering. They want the emphasis to be on vaccines and tighter on-farm and cattle movement measures.
Demonstrators turned out in large numbers at the two pilot sites last night to protest against the cull and animal welfare campaigners reacted angrily to news the shooting of badgers had begun.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: "It is with a heavy heart that we today hear the news that the first shots have been fired at badgers in the pilot cull zones.
"It is now that the realities of the cull may become clear. As we speak, thousands of innocent animals are being culled in our countryside - and we do not know the extent of their suffering or how humane the methods being used to kill them are.
"It is very likely that many of them are lying injured, suffering a painful death. We fear we could well receive an influx of calls to come to their rescue.
"The most tragic thing is that this suffering is so needless. Science has shown that this cull is not the answer to bovine TB in cattle. In fact, it could make things a lot worse.
"Vaccination and better bio-security are the only sustainable and true ways forward.’’
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