THE Wildlife Trust has called for a halt to a "flawed badger cull" that has expanded into Cheshire.

Natural England yesterday published licences for areas that will undertake badger culls in 11 new areas across England, including Avon, Cheshire, Cornwall, Staffordshire, Devon, Dorset, Herefordshire and Wiltshire.

This includes the reauthorisation of licences for 29 existing areas which will see over 60,000 badgers killed in 40 areas of England from Cornwall to Cumbria by end of November 2019.

The Wildlife Trusts believe that the government’s strategy is flawed because bTB, which can have a devastating impact on their lives of farmers, is primarily a cattle problem, not a wildlife one and makes no sense at a time when a review of the government strategy which drives the culls – the bovine TB eradication strategy – is still underway.

The trusts say that only one in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers, and that culling badgers is not the answer and is also counterproductive. Culling disrupts badgers’ social structure, causing them to move around more frequently and over longer distances – which can result in increased bTB transmission.

The Wildlife Trusts have opposed badger culling for more than a decade, writing to previous Secretary of State, Michael Gove, to highlight the flaws of the badger cull and request that the cull be ended in favour of strategic and widespread badger vaccination schemes, and to invest in developing a cattle vaccine.

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager at The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Evidence shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of TB in cattle and that the primary route of infection is from cow-to-cow contact – so a vaccine for cattle should be a government priority. While we wait for this to happen, Wildlife Trusts have been, and will continue to, vaccinate badgers.

"Since 2011, Wildlife Trusts have vaccinated over 1,000 badgers on our nature reserves and in the wider countryside in partnership with vets, farmers and landowners. Many farmers recognise that badger vaccination is a positive alternative to culling, and working alongside them is the right way forward.”

Cheshire Wildlife Trust fully support the Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme, which offer badger vaccination to farmers and landowners in the county, free of charge.

“We’re hugely disappointed with the announcement that new cull licences have been granted in Cheshire,” added Elaine Alexander of Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme.

“This year with the help of 150 volunteers we have started vaccinating badgers across Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester as an alternative to culling. It makes today’s announcement even harder to hear.

“We are however hopeful with the news from earlier in the week that cull licences have been rejected in Derbyshire, thanks to a successful badger vaccination programme and campaign.”

The Wildlife Trusts call on the government to halt the badger cull immediately and invest in and promote a strategy for badger vaccination.

The Wildlife Trusts are urging people to write to their MPs asking them to help stop the cull.