Hundreds protest against planned Devon badger culls

Image caption The Badger Trust says the cull has so far cost £22m

Hundreds of people have taken part in a protest in Devon against badger culls planned for the summer.

Campaigners claim there is no evidence that killing badgers is reducing the level of TB in cattle.

About 200 protestors gathered in Plymouth to oppose the cull, which could start in Devon and Cornwall this year, the Badger Trust said.

But the Government insists the strategy is working and expects more than half of England to be free of TB by 2019.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it is taking strong action as England has the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe.

More than 2,000 badgers have been killed since the cull started in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, said: "I'm sympathetic to farmers, but culling badgers simply won't work.

"To date three years of badger culling in west Somerset, west Gloucestershire and Dorset has cost the tax payer over £22 million, or £5,563 per badger killed, the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record.

"Defra's own data suggests 85% of badgers killed are likely to have been completely TB free."

Defra says the 25-year strategy will eradicate the disease and protect the future of the country's beef and dairy industries.

Image copyright Dominic Dyer
Image caption Protestors opposed to the badger cull gather in Plymouth

A Defra spokesperson said: "This includes tighter cattle measures, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where the disease is rife.

"Our approach of dealing with the disease in cattle and wildlife has worked overseas and is supported by the Government and Defra chief scientists and leading vets.

"We are on track to deliver TB freedom to more than half of the country by the end of this Parliament."

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