Fury as Tory Government waves through massive extension to ‘disgraceful’ badger cull


30 August by Dan Bloom
Up to 14,000 of the animals will be shot dead in a slaughter the RSPCA claimed was “killing badgers for the sake of it”

Brian May at badger cull protest rally, Westminster

Queen guitarist Brian May said the decision was a “disgrace” (Image: Dan Kitwood)

Animal rights groups reacted with fury today as the Tory government revealed it has massively extended its badger cull.

Up to 14,000 of the animals will be shot dead in 10 English areas – up from 1,500 in three areas last year – in a six-week spree that began without fanfare on Friday. The government said the cull was vital to fight Bovine TB that costs taxpayers £100m a year and led to 28,000 cattle being slaughtered in 2015. But campaigners said it was a “costly distraction” – because a study showed badgers transmit just 6% of cases and they are not tested for the disease after they’re shot.

Queen guitarist and badgers’ rights campaigner Brian May accused the government of “morally indefensible cruelty” that has misled farmers and wasted taxpayer cash.

“This decision is a disgrace,” he said. “As evidence accrues, it becomes more and more certain that badgers have very little to do with the spread of Bovine TB. History will show that this whole sorry business was entirely due to infectious cows being undetected by the pitifully inadequate TB test.”

David Bowles, assistant director of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “The government has moved away from using scientific evidence as a basis for the scheme and are now killing badgers for the sake of it. The government is fixated on the idea that killing badgers will solve the problem of bovine TB but it is a costly distraction that is not helping anyone. As culling can’t be selective, many healthy badgers have been slaughtered as collateral damage.”

Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Rachael Maskell said the cull “flies in the face of the government’s own evidence”. She added: “The government must make it a priority to create a vaccine for cattle that works and will not impact on the valuable export market for UK beef.”

Brian May

Brian May said: “Badgers have very little to do with the spread of Bovine TB” (Image: Getty)

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – led by fox-hunt-backing Brexit Tory Andrea Leadsom – authorised the cull for 10 areas in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall, Devon and Herefordshire. Marksmen are due to kill between 9,841 and 14,213 badgers in an operation that will cost millions of pounds to monitor and police. Costs to the taxpayer of monitoring the cull fell from £6.29million in its first year, 2013, to £1.78 million in 2015. Policing costs to stop activists or saboteurs also fell from £3.5million in 2013 to £1.8million last year.

The cull was welcomed by the National Farmers’ Union, Tory Farming Minister George Eustice and Chief vet Nigel Gibbens, who said: “Proactive badger control is currently the best available option.” Mr Eustice added: “Bovine TB has a devastating impact on farms, which is why we are taking strong action to eradicate the disease, including tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control measures in areas where the disease is rife.”

But Chris Pitt, deputy director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Instead of shooting badgers, we need to be looking to Wales as an example, where no culling takes place. Rigorous TB testing, strict cattle movement control and tight biosecurity have been more successful in preventing the spread of TB in cattle.”