Derbyshire cull

Farmers Weekly reported in mid-August that the badger cull could be extended to 10 new areas this autumn, including Derbyshire, as part of government efforts to tackle bovine TB.

Natural England has received 14 applications from prospective farmer-led culling companies to kill badgers in “high risk” and “edge area” counties of England, it writes.

If the government approves 10 of these areas, as expected, it would increase the number of cull zones stretching from Cornwall to Cumbria to over 40.

The cull zones have still not been officially announced as of 8th September 2019, although preparations are known to be well under way in some areas.

A decision to extend badger culling to Derbyshire has polarised opinions. And as of this week, it is understood that despite preparations having been made to begin in the county, the cull here has been shelved.

The NFU said the reservoir of disease in wildlife was “endemic” in the county.

NFU county adviser Andrew Critchlow told Farmers Weekly: “We have been working with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on badger vaccination in the original edge area. But culling is a tool in the box. One would think that there is a need for it [culling]. It has been endemic in wildlife for a long time on the western side of Derbyshire.”

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust began vaccinating badgers on its nature reserves as an alternative to culling in 2014. It has launched a petition to urge the government not to extend the cull to the county.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, described the government’s decision over any culling extension to Derbyshire as “difficult, very sensitive”.

“We think the whole badger cull extension is a mess. If they go into Derbyshire, we think it’s completely insane.”

Defra and the NFU say there is “anecdotal evidence” from farmers that badger culling is helping to reduce cattle TB herd breakdowns.

But Dyer insisted that there was “little evidence of a significant reduction in TB outbreaks on farms”.

A review of the government’s 25-year bovine TB strategy for England, led by population biologist Professor Charles Godfray, was published last November.

It concluded that it was a “judgement call” for ministers to decide whether the benefits of culling to the farming industry outweighed the animal welfare and environmental concerns.

Dyer said he was disgusted that Defra still had not officially responded to the findings of the report, almost 10 months after it was published.

A Defra spokesperson said a government response to the report would be published later this year.

“Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK, causing devastation for hardworking farmers and rural communities,” the spokesperson said.

“There is no single measure that will provide an easy answer to beating the disease. That is why we are pursuing a range of interventions to eradicate the disease by 2038, including tighter cattle movement controls, regular testing and vaccinations.”

Last year, 32,601 badgers were culled in 32 areas across Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset, Cheshire, Wiltshire, Staffordshire and Cumbria, under the government-backed programme.