‘Come clean’, Defra told in fresh badger culling row

Defra has been accused of spreading confusion around its efforts to tackle bTB in a new flashpoint over badger culling.

The Badger Trust has attacked what it sees as a lack of transparency on where intensive culls are now taking place and their expected impact on badger numbers.

Defra officials insist the number of new intensive cull licenses will be made public in due course, although they claimed they cannot comment on “future culls and wider operational matters for security reasons”.

‘Poor practice’

But Badger Trust executive director Peter Hambly argued it was a further example of “poor practice” from the department and contradicts scientific evidence.

He said: “Defra needs to come clean on what is happening on badger cull licenses.

“According to reports on the ground, the 2022 intensive cull started in late August and has continued throughout September without a pause.

“Yet the Government has not published where the badgers are being intensively culled and how many will be culled.”

Admission

The latest row follows Defra’s admission that culling activity could continue beyond its anticipated end date in 2025 where epidemiological assessments suggest it is needed.

The department has consistently rejected the findings of a study published in the spring, which argued that culling had no effect on the prevalence of bTB.

It insists the paper’s methodology was flawed, even though it later admitted that a graph published as part of its own rebuttal was itself wrong.

But Mr Hambly said Defra’s current stance contradicts a letter it received from Natural England, the body that licenses cull activity, responding to an earlier call for a moratorium activity.

Restricted

The letter, signed by its chief executive Marian Spain, said this year would be the last in which “new area licenses” are granted.

A Defra spokesperson added: “No new intensive cull licenses will be issued after 2022. Supplementary badger control licenses are restricted to a maximum of two years.

“The Government will retain the ability to introduce more targeted culls where local epidemiological evidence points to an ongoing role of badgers in the disease.”

But Mr Hambly said: “Again, we see Defra continuing to spread confusion and undermining confidence through their lack of transparency and clarity. Defra should follow the evidence and stop the badger cull now.”

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