England

Badger cull 'met government targets'

Badger Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The government said it was considering extending the badger cull programme

Nearly 1,500 badgers were killed this year as part of the government's badger cull, Defra has announced.

The latest figures show 756 animals were killed in Dorset, 432 in Gloucestershire and 279 in Somerset as part of efforts to eradicate bovine TB.

The government said more than half of England was expected to be free of the disease by 2019.

However, campaigners said there was no evidence killing badgers was reducing the level of the disease in cattle.

It was the first year of culling in Dorset but the third for the other two counties as part of the government trial.

The minimum target numbers for Gloucestershire and Somerset for 2015 were less than those for 2014.

'Disease control benefits'

Environment Secretary Liz Truss told the House of Commons: "Our strategy to eradicate bovine TB is working.

"I'm pleased to report to the House today that the three badger control areas - Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset - all hit their targets this year.

"The chief vet is clear: this is delivering disease control benefits and it'll help us eradicate this terrible disease."

Ms Truss also said she was considering extending the badger cull programme.

"I'm pleased to say more than half of the country is on track to be officially free of the disease by the end of this parliament thanks to the strategy we put in place.

"And the chief veterinary officer is clear that licensing of future areas is needed to realise these disease control benefits, and I'm determined to follow through on that."

Dominic Dyer from the Badger Trust said: "Despite claiming all the cull contractors have met their targets for 2015, there is no evidence the killing of badgers is reducing the level of bovine TB in cattle.

"The claims by the NFU and pro-cull politicians that badger culling is delivering a significant reduction in bovine TB are looking increasingly bogus, and the exact opposite of the truth.

"Twenty million pounds of taxpayers' money has been spent killing thousands of badgers and yet cattle TB in Somerset is on the rise."

Culling took place from 31 August to 12 October in Somerset and Dorset and from 2 September to 14 October in Gloucestershire.

The number of animals killed in each cull zone fell within minimum and maximum targets.

Last year fewer than half the target number of badgers were killed in Gloucestershire, but the minimum target was met in Somerset.

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