England

Badger culls costs taxpayer more than £16m

Badgers Image copyright PA
Image caption Badgers can transmit TB to cattle, and vice versa

Culling badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset to tackle the spread of bovine TB has cost the taxpayer nearly £16.8m.

Figures show that in 2012, when culling was postponed, the policy cost £2.5m. It then cost £9.8m in 2013 and £4.5m in 2014.

Anti-cull campaigners said the "disastrous" policy is now becoming "an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer".

Defra said operational costs had halved between 2013 and 2014 and additional costs were met by farmers.

Bovine TB, which can be passed from badgers to cattle, is one of the biggest challenges facing cattle farming.

Cattle are regularly tested are destroyed if they test positive for TB - 26,413 infected cattle were slaughtered in England in 2014.

But questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the culls in controlling the spread of TB and whether badgers, which are shot at night, are being humanely killed.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, were revealed by The Badger Trust days after the government announced it would be rolling out the cull to Dorset.

The Trust said the cost to the public of killing each badger is £6,775.

Dominic Dyer, head of the Badger Trust, said: "Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer."

But Defra said farmers were footing the bulk of the costs, with the costs to government related largely to policing the culls and monitoring protocols in the first year.

A spokesman said: "TB poses a huge threat to our farming industry and has cost £500m over the last decade.

"We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, badger vaccination and culling in areas where TB is widespread.

"Costs have been substantially reduced since last year and will be kept under review."

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