Chris Packham condemns 'cruel' badger culling extension

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The RSPCA said tens of thousands of badgers would be shot dead

TV naturalist Chris Packham has joined wildlife groups in condemning a decision to extend badger culling to 11 new areas in England.

New culls will take place in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire and eight other locations as part of efforts to tackle TB in livestock.

The government said the move would help to eradicate the disease sooner.

But Mr Packham, vice president of the RSPCA, said culling was "cruel and ineffective".

Government agency Natural England has issued licences for 11 additional areas, alongside re-authorising licences for 33 areas of the country where culling has already taken place in previous years.

The other areas where culls can now take place are Avon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Lincolnshire.

Image caption,
Chris Packham wants to see a vaccine developed for cows

Chris Packham said: "The badger cull is not the answer to stopping the spread of bovine TB amongst cattle.

"The RSPCA and myself have campaigned for many years against this cruel and ineffective method, which very sadly can result in badgers suffering unnecessarily."

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust - which runs a badger vaccination programme - described it as a "staggering U-turn" by the government, saying it had promised to move away from culling following an independent review into its bovine TB strategy.

The Badger Trust said most badgers being killed were TB-free and extending culling could push the species "to the verge of extinction" in some areas.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "Bovine TB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that the UK faces today, causing considerable trauma for farmers and costing taxpayers over £100m every year.

"No-one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely.

"That is why we are accelerating other elements of our strategy, including vaccination and improved testing, so that we can eradicate this insidious disease and start to phase out badger culling in England."

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