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Focus turns to badgers as government launches new consultations on bovine TB

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By Matthew Limb

The government has sparked controversy with plans that could significantly extend the culling of badgers as part of measures to eradicate bovine TB in England.

Environment secretary Michael Gove launched two consultations, alongside a review of the 25-year bovine TB strategy (see box), last week.

One proposal would lift the cap on the number of areas where badger culls can take place. The other would license badger culling where it is not currently allowed in large parts of England with a low risk of bovine TB.

Increasing the number of cull areas in England

England is split into three risk areas: high risk, edge and low risk. Since 2013, 21 areas have been granted a four-year culling licence in the high risk and edge areas in England where TB is endemic in both badger and cattle populations.

Defra guidance to Natural England states that only 10 new areas may be licensed each year for badger disease control under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

The government now proposes to remove the cap, saying that it is blocking progress to eradicate TB.

The consultation document says culls carried out to date do not seem to have caused extinction of local badger populations, so there is no need to set a limit on the number of …

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