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Badger cull costs halved in 2014 but overall cost approaches £17 million

Defra has released figures showing the cost of the 2013 and 2014 badger cull pilots, which show costs are high but heading in the right direction.
The cost of culling badgers halved in 2014
The cost of culling badgers halved in 2014

The cost to Defra of administering the badger cull halved in 2014 but the overall cost to Government of the first two years of the pilots reached nearly £17 million.

 

Opponents of the cull pointed out this equated to £6,775 per badger killed in Somerset and Gloucestershire in 2013 and 2014.

 

However, this included policing costs, which the NFU said were the result of the ‘unlawful acts’ of activists in the cull zones. The NFU also pointed out future culls will be cheaper as much of the costs in 2013 and 2014 are associated with the monitoring of the pilots.

 

Defra released the figures in response to a Freedom of Information request. The figures showed:

 

Costs to Defra

2013

2014

Licensing and compliance monitoring

£859,000

£1,036,000

Humaneness monitoring, including post mortems

£2,628,000

£1,515,000

Efficacy monitoring

£2,311,000

£17,000

Advice and assessments

£389,000

£294,000

Other costs, including equipment

£107,000

£205,000

Total costs

£6,294,000

£3,067,000

Policing

£3,524,000

£1,392,000

 

 

The cost to Defra halved to just over £3 million in the second year of the pilot culls as it disposed with the independent monitoring undertaken in 2013 by the Independent Expert Panel. This saw monitoring costs drop from nearly £5m to just over £1.5m.

 

The cost of policing also fell significantly from £3.5m in 2013 to £1.4m last year.

 

The Badger Trust added the £2.5m cost of the postponed 2012 pilots to the Defra and policing costs to come up with an overall figure of just under £16.8m.

 

With 2,476 badgers killed in Somerset and Gloucestershire in 2013 and 2014, this equated to £6,775 per badger.

 

Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer said: "Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer.

 

“When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers.

 

“In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.”

Huge threat

Defra has announced the badger cull will be extended to Dorset this year, alongside a range of new measures intended to clamp down on cattle-to-cattle spread.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Costs have been substantially reduced since last year and will be kept under review.”

 

“TB poses a huge threat to our farming industry and has cost £500 million over the last decade.

 

“We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, badger vaccination and culling in areas where TB is widespread.”

 

An NFU spokesman said the cull operations were funded by farmers and landowners in the areas who have voluntarily committed their own money to meet the direct costs of the cull.

 

He suggested the policing costs should not be considered as a direct cost of the cull.

 

He said: “It is worth noting that a significant proportion of the cost of the pilot culls to the taxpayer is the cost of policing which is only necessary because of unlawful acts committed by people who are determined to stop what is a legal and licensed activity being carried out as part of Government policy.”

 

"The monitoring costs for what are pilot culls would also not be incurred if the policy was rolled out further.”

 

He added: “Bovine TB continues to devastate beef and dairy farmers across large parts of the country and it is estimated the disease will cost the taxpayer £1 billion over the next decade if nothing is done to tackle it.”


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Experts call on Defra to abandon badger cull

Experts call on Defra to abandon badger cull

A group of wildlife, veterinary and livestock experts have written an open letter to Defra urging Ministers to reconsider the decision to proceed with a third year of badger culling.

 

Signatories include including Professor Lord Krebs, who carried out a report into TB in cattle and badgers that recommended the 10-year Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), Professor John Bourne who oversaw the trial and Professor Ranald Munro, chair of the Independent Expert Panel commissioned by Defra to assess the first year of pilot culling.

 

In the letter, the experts express their disappointment at the Government’s decision to continue with a third year of badger culling, including rolling out the cull to the new area of Dorset.

 

They say the first two years of culling 'failed to meet predetermined criteria for effectiveness or humaneness' and that the 'government’s badger culling policy continues to be opposed by the majority of scientific experts, and remains deeply unpopular with a large section of the public'.

 

Professor Bourne, former chair of the Independent Scientific Group set up to supervise the RBCT, said: "It is disappointing but predictable that Defra continue to either ignore, cherry pick or purposefully misinterpret the science.

 

"While cattle control measures have been strengthened they are still inadequate which emphasises the fact that Defra fail to fully appreciate that this is primarily an infectious disease of cattle and that the tuberculin test is very insensitive. As a consequence large numbers of infected cattle remain undiagnosed and perpetuate the disease in infected herds as well as spreading the disease to other cattle herds and wildlife."

Full list of signatories:

 

  • Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Lord Krebs Kt FRS, University of Oxford
  • Professor John Bourne CBE MRCVS, former Chairman, Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB
  • Professor Ranald Munro MRCVS, Chairman, Independent Expert Panel on Badger cull pilots
  • Professor Claudio Sillero, University of Oxford
  • Professor Sheila Crispin FRCVS, Cumbria
  • Professor Alastair MacMillan MRCVS, Veterinary Advisor to Humane Society International/UK
  • Dr Tony Sainsbury MRCVS, Zoological Society of London
  • Dr Chris Cheeseman, Badger ecologist, Gloucestershire
  • Dr Mark Jones MRCVS, Policy Manager, Born Free Foundation
  • Jan Bayley, Animal Welfare Group, Gloucestershire
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