The UK government has announced controversial plans to allow farmers and landowners in England to trap and shoot badgers in an attempt to control the spread of the disease bovine TB amongst their cattle.
The disease has become a disaster for the farming industry and government in recent years with more than 25,000 cattle slaughtered in 2009 to control the spread of the disease - at a cost to taxpayers in terms of compensation to farmers of £63 million.
Speaking at the launch of a three-month consultation on the plans, farming minister Jim Paice said badgers were a 'significant reservoir for the disease' and that farmers should be allowed to apply for licences to cull them on their land, at their own cost.
Licences to kill badgers are already allowed under existing legislation, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, but the previous Labour government refused to allow farmers to cull.
Former environment minister Hilary Benn said the scientific evidence showed that culling badgers would not meaningfully help control the spread of the disease and that the focus should be on finding a vaccination.
'Shooting badgers may make Ministers feel that they are doing something, but it is not the way to beat this disease,' he said.
The government dismissed a badger vaccination alternative saying it would not 'reduce disease as quickly as culling'.
However it is likely to face a legal challenge from The Badger Trust if it tries to push through a decision next year. The Trust has already successfully stopped attempts by the Welsh Assembly to bring in a cull of badgers in Wales earlier this year.
Defra website on bovine TB
The Badger Trust
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