A NEW badger cull has been announced for the region after the government decided to increase culling activity before the results of a review.

Farming Minister, George Eustice has recently announced the go-ahead to cull badgers in 10 new areas they consider at high risk of bovine tuberculosis, and these will include parts of the county, spreading from west Gloucestershire to north and south Cotswolds and moving further to north Wiltshire.

This latest announcement on badger culling is causing concern – and for good reason.

See below for five things you need to know about badger culling

Stroud News and Journal:

Bovine TB is spread between cattle and badgers and can affact the human food chain.

In the announcement of the latest culling zones, Farming Minister, George Eustice said that in the Gloucestershire and Somerset areas, where culling began in 2013, Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) incidence in cattle has fallen from 10.4% before the culling to 5.6% and from 24.4% to 12.0% respectively.

George Eustice said: “Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK.”

“There is no single measure that will provide an easy answer, which is why we are committed to pursuing a wide range of interventions to protect the future of our dairy and beef industries and eradicate the disease within 20 years.”

However, experts who conducted a 10-year trial on badger culling have said that the statistics cannot be trusted, and that the big drop in Gloucestershire, for example, happened only in year four of culling and might be a blip.

By 2017 a total of 19,274 badgers were culled, of which 11,638 were shot and 7636 were trapped and then shot, with the cost of killing a badger thought to be £1000 per badger.

Not only have these latest cull zones in the county been announced before the government commissioned review, but scientists now say culling may indeed spread the disease even further by disrupting badger populations, with experts calling for a more scrupulous testing regime coupled with further restrictions on the movement of at-risk cattle, along with badger vaccination to end the bovine TB epidemic.

Stroud News and Journal: David Drew MO, is opposed to the badger cullingDavid Drew MO, is opposed to the badger culling

David Drew MP, is opposed to the latest badger culling announcement

Opposition MPs are now backing the scientists on the culling debate.

David Drew Labour MP for Stroud and Shadow Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "I continue to oppose the badger cull, which lacks scientific evidence for its effectiveness."

“The Government must immediately halt this mass destruction of wildlife, and instead focus resources on improving testing, vaccinations and controls on the movement of infected cattle.”

Green party spokesman, Keith Taylor MP, said: “The scientific evidence and economic analyses have long told us the cull is an irrational and failed project.”

“Rather than condemning more badgers to long, painful and unnecessary deaths, Tories needs to refocus their efforts on humane and evidence-based controls.”

Concern is also growing for badgers being killed outside the official licensed cull zones – with police even being contacted as the cull zones in and around the county grow.

Lynn Sawyer of local action group, Gloucestershire Badger Office, said: “Outside the official cull zones no one knows if it’s illegal, so some people are calling the police.”

“People have recorded shots all over the place and now the culling is spreading from the A40 all the way down to Wiltshire.”

Stroud News and Journal:

Fox hunting is blaimed for blocking badger sets, which may be making the disease problem worse.

But not only is the official culling a concern, so too are the effects of fox hunting on badger sets.

Lynn said: “Fox hunts are blocking the badger sets - their homes.”

“They are saying that bovine TB is a problem, and that’s why they may block the sets, yet blocking up badger sets causes them to move about, but if bovine TB is such a problem, why are they blocking sets in the first place?”

David Bowles of animal protection group RSPCA, said: “We are appalled to learn that the government is to further extend this failed scheme.”

“While we agree action is needed to deal with bovine TB, we do not believe culling badgers is an effective way to achieve this.

This cull is inhumane and ineffective and costly to both animal welfare and farmers’ livelihoods.”

Five things you need to know about badger culling:

1. Badgers are being culled due to something called bovine tuberculosis (bTB), an infectious disease of cattle via bacteria, and this disease is transmitted not only between cattle, and between badgers, but also between the two species.

2. It is the cross-contamination that poses a risk to the human food chain and it’s that potential threat to our health that is reason why culling - when a species of animal is reduced for a specific reason – was piloted in a scheme that began in the UK in 2013.

3. As part of a government policy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in the UK by 2038, Gloucestershire was part of the first pilot study in 2013 with culls, with licences granted to by farmers to shoot or trap badgers, taking place across West Gloucestershire and West Somerset.

4. Badgers are protected under the 1992 protection of badgers act and are not allowed to be culled outside a designated cull zone.

5. Those for culling argue that it reduces the rates of bovine TB, whereas those against say not only is it inhumane, but it can often make the spread of bovine TB worse.