The government has finally released the death toll for the 2021 cull scheme, which supporters say helps fight tuberculosis in cows
More than 30,000 badgers were culled in the latest government-backed cull, figures released today show.
A total of 33,687 people were killed last fall by shooting and cage entrapment, sparking fury from animal welfare campaigners.
This brings the total number of creatures culled since culling began in 2013 to 174,517, sparking warnings that the species could be extinct in parts of the country.
The Badger Trust said the death toll over the past nine culling seasons represented “more than a third of the entire UK badger population”.
Get a daily morning political briefing straight to your inbox. Sign up for the free Mirror Politics newsletter
Chief Executive Peter Hambly called the latest statistics, revealed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, “sickening”.
He added: “The numbers are appalling – the attack on badgers is intensifying.
“With little evidence that badgers transmit bovine tuberculosis to cattle, this assault on a much-loved wild animal is reaching catastrophic proportions and must stop now.
“Most people oppose the culling, but they don’t realize that the culling is intensifying and worsening in its nature, threatening one of the largest mammals in this country.
“We should be protecting badgers, not attacking this protected native species.”
But, releasing today’s figures, Chief Veterinarian Christine Middlemiss said: ‘I anticipate that mass culls, if they continue to be effective, will continue to have the same benefits of reducing the incidence of diseases in cattle during their licensing periods.”
Natural England has authorized ‘badger disease control operations’ in southern and central England including Avon, Berkshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.
The murder took place between August 31 and November 2.
Natural England’s chief scientist, Dr Tim Hill, said: ‘The contractors continued to demonstrate a high level of discipline and adherence to best practice guidance.
“The level of precision of the controlled shot compares favorably to previous years and other wildlife control activities.”
Experts blame badgers for spreading bTB in the countryside.
More than 27,000 cattle in England were culled in 2020 to fight the disease.
Defra hopes to have a hit for the cows by 2025 and eradicate bTB by 2035.
Last July, Boris Johnson – whose wife Carrie is a leading animal welfare campaigner – raised hopes the cull would be halted.
He told MPs: ‘We believe culling the badger has led to a reduction in disease, but no one wants to continue culling a protected species – beautiful mammals – indefinitely.’
Still, Natural England is preparing to decide if and where this year’s cull can be expanded.
Mr Hambly warned: ‘The sickening total will continue to rise.
“We estimate that the number of badgers killed will exceed 230,000 by the end of 2023, with further years of culling already locked into current expansion plans and four-year licenses still to run.
“The government’s culling policy is at best inhumane and unnecessary – at worst it is a smokescreen and an ineffective strategy to appease farmers, while continuing to fail them.”
Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon said “the impact of bovine tuberculosis is devastating”.
He added: “Our approach to reducing bovine tuberculosis must be based on science, improving livestock testing and accelerating the livestock vaccination program, vaccinating badgers and improving herd movement control. “.
A Defra spokesman said: ‘Bovine tuberculosis is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges facing the livestock sector in England today, causing considerable trauma to farmers and costing taxpayers over £100m every year.
“Our bovine tuberculosis eradication strategy has resulted in a significant reduction of this insidious disease.
“Thanks to the progress made, we are now able to move on to the next phase of the long-term eradication strategy, including steps to expand badger vaccination alongside improved livestock testing and a possible vaccine for livestock.
“We’ve always been clear that we don’t want to continue culling badgers any longer than necessary.”