Defra has moved to quell recent media speculation over the Government’s alleged plans to advocate the ‘free shooting’ of badgers as part of its mission to curb the march of bovine TB. Although the Government has yet to respond publicly to a Defra consultation on proposals for a badger cull in England, a recent article in The Guardian suggested Ministers are planning to allow farmers a special licence to shoot badgers on their land.
But Defra has issued a statement refuting both this and the suggestion that free shooting could actually help to spread TB as infected badgers are dispersed to other areas. It says: ‘A 10-year badger-culling trial reported that culling reduced TB incidence in cattle within culled areas, but an increase in disease occurred in surrounding areas.
However, ongoing monitoring shows the negative effects disappeared 1½ years after culling stopped, and that 5½ years on, new infection of cattle in the culled area is still 27% lower.’ ‘They [some areas of the media] insinuate that badger shooting will become a new form of organised sport, with bloodthirsty shooters lining up to shoot a badger.
Such scaremongering does nothing to solve the very real problem of bovine TB and could not be further from the truth,’ says David Taylor, Countryside Alliance shooting campaign manager. The National Trust is this month starting a four-year badger-vaccination scheme at its Killerton estate in Devon.