Details of the latest badger culls in over 50 areas of England is expected to be announced in mid-September and Lincolnshire is being considered.
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has written to MPs and published an open letter to communities, expressing concern about the hardship farmers face from bovine tuberculosis but highlighting that culling badgers will not stop the spread of the disease.
Lincolnshire has been identified as a low risk area for bovine tuberculosis by the Government’s own agency, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Earlier this year the Government said that it was committed to expanding and supporting vaccination of badgers and phasing out culling.
Yet the reality is the complete opposite and for the first time, badgers could be shot in Lincolnshire this autumn
Bovine tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease of cattle and since the mid-1980s, the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle has increased substantially.
This creates an economic burden on the taxpayer and the farming industry, as infected cattle are culled.
However, badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle, which is via cow-to-cow contact.
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust own cattle, work closely with farming communities and understand the devastation that bovine tuberculosis can cause. But the culling of badgers is not the answer and certainly not within a low risk area such as Lincolnshire.
Tammy Smalley, Head of Conservation at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, said: “We are very conscious of the hardship bovine tuberculosis causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.
“But culling badgers will not stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis. Instead, time and public money will be wasted and wild animals will be needlessly slaughtered.”
In an open letter to the communities of Greater Lincolnshire, Tammy Smalley added: “To the community of Greater Lincolnshire including our farmers and associated organisations
“The UK Government is due to make an announcement of new areas for badger culling this September. We are concerned about the possibility of Lincolnshire being included, as well as parts of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire where we work closely with our sister Wildlife Trusts.
“We are very conscious of the hardship that bovine tuberculosis (bTB) causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.
“Even in the best of times, farming is a difficult business and it is reasonable to rely on the Government to supply the correct advice and information to ensure these businesses best interests are covered, alongside using public funds to deliver public goods for all.
“But we believe we have all been poorly served by the unsubstantiated, weak science behind culling. We say this, as livestock owners and managers ourselves.
“The evidence clearly shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bTB in cattle. The primary route of infection is via cow-to-cow contact.
“We support the recent Government commitments to developing cattle vaccines, improving bio-security on farms, increasing and expanding badger vaccination and phasing out the culling of badgers. We believe that this approach presents the best long-term way forward.
“In the meantime, we are very disappointed at the possibility of cull licenses being issued for Lincolnshire as a low risk area, as identified by the Government’s own agency.
“As well as for Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire where our sister Wildlife Trusts run a badger vaccination programme. It will not stop the spread of bTB. Instead, time and public money will be wasted and thousands of wild animals needlessly slaughtered.
“If you manage land and have concerns about bTB in badgers, then there is an alternative. Badger vaccination is humane and is effective in preventing the spread of bTB in badger populations.
“Given the widespread public opposition to the badger cull and the lack of evidence for it, we feel our only option is to launch a public campaign to amplify these concerns.
“We want to be clear to the farmers of Lincolnshire and elsewhere. You are not the target of this frustration. It is the misinformation and short-term policy that we oppose. It is causing harm to wildlife and does nothing to protect farmers.
“We are proud of the collaborative approach we have taken, working with farmers across Greater Lincolnshire and if you would like to discuss bTB and the potential of setting up a badger vaccination programme with us, then please get in touch.”
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