Possible government u-turn on UK badger cull

Fast-rising costs are thought to have caused government ministers to consider abandoning the controversial cull of badgers in England. The estimated number of badgers living in some areas has turned out to have far exceeded estimates, meaning that the cost of culling them will be higher than originally expected; in some regions the cost has as much as doubled.

The culls are aimed at curbing the rising infections of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, which is carried and spread by badgers. If a cull is to be successful, farmers must commit to killing almost three-quarters of badgers in the given zone, or else badgers trying to escape the area will spread the disease even further afield. Contractors will be paid per badger killed, which means the higher the number of badgers, the higher the cost of the cull.

Culling licences have been issued in Gloucestershire and Somerset, but the culls have not yet begun in these areas. If the cull is to take place, it will need to happen before winter sets in, when badgers retreat to their sets.

A spokesperson from the National Farmers‘ Union said that the union was not aware of any change in the government’s policy. Although the government’s environment secretary, Owen Paterson, today cancelled interviews, department officials have denied rumours of a turnaround saying, “there is no change to the badger cull policy. We want the cull to happen as soon as possible.”

There have been calls from scientists and animal rights protesters to halt the culls. Just this week, 32 leading scientists called on the government to reverse its decision. Labour MP Mary Creagh said, “The abandoning of the cull would be good news because we have always said the cull was bad for wildlife, bad for farmers and bad for taxpayers. The science is clear that it risks making things worse.” Direct action group Stop the Cull said they are “prepared” for the cull to begin in the next few days but hope it will not go ahead because of protests. More than 150,000 people have signed an e-petition to stop the cull.

Sources: The Guardian, The Telegraph

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