Farmers in England are being encouraged to cull badgers and receive a bounty of £50 (€ 57, US$?67) per head in a further bid to reduce the bovine TB disease that is widespread there.
Badgers have long been associated with spreading bTB among cattle but various programmes costing millions have failed to keep the disease under control.
In the past, since 2013, the British government has introduced various controversial culling programmes in bTB hotspot areas, and have now extended the scheme to encourage farmers to kill them too. Badger culling is currently permitted in 21 areas of England where the disease is proving very common. New guidance notes have been published by the government to assist farmers in the cull, which can also take place in areas that are at low risk to the spread of bTB.
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The UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced the new cull plan which is being licensed by Natural England and will be carried out by qualified shooters who will get up to £50 per dead animal. Farmers are now eligible to apply for the licences. Last year 19,200 badgers were killed to try and reduce the disease spread, which is down from a total of 39,364 that were killed in 2016. However, Dominic Dyer, head of the Badger Trust, said: “Gove is embarking on the most expensive and widespread slaughter of a protected species in memory.
“By 2020, 100,000 badgers will have been slaughtered across England and Wales at a cost to taxpayers of £100 million,” he said.
National Farmers Union president, Minette Batters, said: “TB is forcing us to slaughter thousands of cattle a year, and this costs farmers and the taxpayers a lot of money. It also destroys farmers’ livelihoods. “Badgers act as a wildlife reservoir. No one wants to kill them, but experience in other countries shows culls of cattle and wildlife are the only way to control the disease. TB is a threat to human health too, we have to get rid of it.”
Figures show that the number of cows that are being slaughtered because they have been infected with the bTB disease has significantly risen over the past 4 years. In 2017, over 42,000 cows were slaughtered prematurely because they tested positively for bovine TB, up from 27,474 in 2014.