Badger cull could be extended to more counties

The badger cull may extend to counties such as Devon and Hertfordshire, the farming minister has told the House of Commons. Applications may also be submitted by "many other interested parties", George Eustice says.

A protester dressed in a badger costume takes part in a demonstration against badger culling outside the High Court in London on August 21, 2014. Badger cull protesters gathered outside the High Court in London to await the decision on the Badger Trust's legal challenge over the government's badger cull policy.  AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT        (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

Farming minister George Eustice has told the House of Commons that badger culls could be extended further across England, with North Devon and Herefordshire the latest candidates.

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But the effectiveness of the cull, backed by the National Farmers’ Union, has been criticized by new analysis from Queen Mary, University of London.

Responding to a question from Conservative South West Devon MP Gary Streeter, Eustice said ”There were applications and expressions of interest both from north Devon and also from Herefordshire this year, and I know there are many other interested parties which I’m sure can be considered in future years.”

The minister claimed that inaction would cost around £1 billion over the next 10 years.

Labour MP David Hanson, however, hit out at the government, calling the cull a “folly” which “has now cost the taxpayer £17 million and is so far proving not as effective as the approach taken by the Welsh Assembly”.

New analysis of government statistics by Professor Matthew Evans from Queen Mary suggests that more frequent testing of cattle for tuberculosis (TB) is more effective than the badger cull.

The research claimed that the Welsh government’s policy of more frequent testing would probably lead to TB being eradicated, while the English policy would not.

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The cull recently got underway in Dorset. Queen guitarist and animal rights campaigner Brian May is seeking a judicial review.