Eco

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As many as 33,500 badgers could be killed in England this autumn following the government's decision to extend the culls to 11 more areas.

The 11 new areas will be added to the 10 already licensed, where about 10,000 badgers were killed in 2016.

Devon now has six badger culls under way, with Somerset and Wiltshire having three each, with others set to be added in Cheshire, Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, according to an article the the Guardian. The arrival of culling in Cheshire, of course, brings it closer than ever to Shropshire.

Professor Rosie Woodroffe, who took part in the landmark 10-year trial on badger culling, said: “It’s depressing that the government is pursuing badger culling over such huge areas when the benefits remain so uncertain. Data published today suggest that, after three years of culling, cattle TB in the first cull zones was still no lower than that in unculled areas.”

Steve Trotter, at the Wildlife Trusts, said: “We work closely with many farmers, day in, day out, and we recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bTB, but killing badgers will not solve the problem. The primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact. The government’s badger cull is flying in the face of science.” He said vaccination costs £82 per badger, compared to £6,800 per culled animal.

Ministers also announced the resumption of a badger vaccination scheme in “edge” areas between high and low TB regions. The scheme, suspended for the last two years due to a shortage of vaccine, will fund 50% of the costs of successful applicants. Restrictions on the movement of some high-risk cattle are also being put in place, which some scientists say is the key to ending the epidemic, according to the article by Damian Carrington.

It goes on to say that the total number of badgers to be killed across all the areas this autumn has been set at a maximum of 33,347 and a minimum of 21,797. The largest cull is one in Dorset that could see more than 7,000 badgers killed.

In a government paper titled Government Badger Control Costs 2016, the figures reveal that licensing costs had risen from £859,000 in 2013 to £1.28m in 2016, while the money spent on 'humaneness monitoring, including postmortems', had plunged from £2.6m in 2013 to £392,000 in 2016, and 'efficacy monitoring' from £2.3m in 2013 to£17,000 the following year - and zero in 2016.

You can read the full Guardian article here.

And if after all that you need cheering up, watch our lovely video here.

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