What are the pros and cons of badger culling?

A badger cull is being extended to five new areas in England, including Herefordshire for the first time.

Here are answers to some of the questions surrounding the issue.

What is the evidence for a cull of badgers?

It is widely accepted that badgers spread TB to cattle, and officials estimate around half of herd infections come from badgers.

A long-term study showed that proactive culling of 70% of the badgers over a 150 square kilometre area over four years could be expected to reduce the incidence of the disease in herds by 16%.

The reductions were greater inside the cull area, but culling caused badgers to move around as their social structure was disrupted, spreading disease and causing a short-term increase in infection in herds just outside the cull area.

A badger cull is being extended to five new areas in England Credit: PA

Why is it controversial?

Experts, including some involved in the long-term trial, have raised a number of concerns about the policy, including that the gains will not be very large and costs could outweigh the benefits.

Animal welfare and wildlife groups claim killing badgers is inhumane and ineffective.

What costs are involved?

Last year the Badger Trust said that in the first year, when culling was postponed, the policy cost £2.5 million, while the costs for the 2013 cull, including policing costs, stood at £9.8 million and the 2014 bill was just under £4.5 million, the figures show.

With 2,476 badgers killed in the first two years of culling, the price tag works out at £6,775 for each animal culled.

A badger cull is being extended to five new areas in England Credit: PA

So why not a vaccination?

A vaccination for badgers is available but has to be injected. The animals need to be cage-trapped and the vaccine needs to be administered annually for period of at least five years.

An oral vaccine which can be put in bait is still some way off, according to officials.

What is bovine TB?

It is a chronic, progressive and debilitating infectious disease of cattle and other warm-blooded animal. Following infection, the incubation period of tuberculosis ranges from a few weeks to a lifetime.