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  1. ITV Report

More places in the West Country given the go-ahead for badger culling licences

The Government has granted 11 new areas licences to begin badger culls Credit: ITV News

The Government has announced that 11 new areas will be granted badger culling licences, including several places in the West Country.

In a bid to stop the spread of tuberculosis in cattle, culls will take place in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and the former county of Avon under the licences from Natural England.

The new culling areas will take the total number of licenced locations across England to 40.

The culls are being granted in an effort to curb spread the curb of Bovine TB to cattle Credit: ITV News

The announcement comes after the publication of an independent review into the success of badger culls, which warned against 'over-emphasis' on the role wildlife plays in spreading TB.

The Government-commissioned report concluded that although culls had a clear effect on the curbing of the disease, the difference seen in cows contracting TB was modest.

Sir Charles Godfray, the professor who led the review, said the impact of cattle spreading Bovine TB to each other is a greater risk than that posed by wildlife.

Farming Minister George Eustice says the culls are necessary to protect farming and agriculture Credit: ITV News

However, Farming Minister and MP for Camborne and Redruth George Eustice has stressed that the spread of Bovine TB is one of the biggest issues facing agriculture and farming industries in the UK, and that all measures must be taken to curb it where possible.

Bovine TB remains the greatest animal health threat to the UK, costing taxpayers over £100 million every year as well as causing devastation and distress for hard-working farmers and rural communities.

There is no single measure that will provide an answer to beating this disease.

That is why we have always been committed to a multi-pronged approach including proactive badger control as well as other tools such as tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger vaccination.

– George Eustice MP, Farming Minister
Campaigners have been protesting about the culls for years Credit: ITV News

News of the increased culls has been met with anger from wildlife campaigners, as projections show tens of thousands of badgers across the country could be killed.

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.

– Ellie Brodie, senior policy manager, The Wildlife Trusts
Wildlife organisations argue that vaccines are a better strategy Credit: ITV News

The Badger Trust has said the continuation of badger culls makes it 'the largest destruction of protected species in living memory' and that the licences being granted during parliament's prorogation, with no means of debating the issue, is 'an unforgivable act of ecological vandalism and a national disgrace'.

The Shadow Environment Secretary has also criticised the Government's decision, arguing that badger vaccinations, cattle testing and restricted herd movement is a better strategy to stop the spread of the disease.