It’s a topic that has been the subject of numerous scientific studies and now the first licences are being issued to start badger culls.
The government’s environment advisory body Natural England has issued a culling licence to a group of landowners in Gloucestershire and another is expected to be issued to farmers in Somerset soon. The cull is aimed at controlling the spread of TB in cattle.
Even the question of whether the bacterium responsible for TB Mycobacterium bovis can be transmitted from badgers to cattle has been controversial. But the Krebs Report, written by zoologist Lord Krebs and the Independent Scientific Review Group in 1997, stated that some form of transmission is the most likely cause of the link that’s seen between infected badgers and the breakdown of cattle herds.
The Krebs report resulted in a nine-year cull trial, which showed that the disease’s spread could be slowed slightly if more than 70 per cent of badgers in an area were eradicated.
The new culling licences are intended as pilot schemes. But Lord Krebs says the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is administering the scheme, has no way of knowing how many badgers there are in the area – so will not know when 70 per cent have been killed.
But Defra says it will commission its own research to estimate badger numbers.