Each badger killed in last year’s cull to stop the spread of bovine TB cost taxpayers £3353, according to figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The trial scheme cost just under £6.3 million to administer, but killed just 1,879 badgers across the west of England.
A spokesman for DEFRA insisted that the money was put to good use monitoring the shoots to ensure they were humanely carried out, and the efficiency of the scheme. In total, £2.6 million was spent on “humaneness”, which included post mortems of the badgers shot, and £2.3 million on “efficiency”. The remainder was spent on advice, assessments, licensing, compliance, equipment and other costs, according to the Telegraph.
The trial took place across the west England counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire. In Somerset, 955 badgers were culled, whilst in Gloucestershire, 924 were shot. These figures far exceed the targets of 615 in Gloucestershire and 316 in Somerset, despite claims by the Humane Society only a week ago that the targets had barely been met.
According to Farming UK, the Humane Society had released figures claiming that just 568 badgers had been culled; they had obtained the figures from Natural England. However, they may have been relying on older figures, as the cull was extended to meet targets.
Farming Minster George Eustace said: “We have the worst bovine TB situation in the developed world and we cannot let that continue if we want to have competitive, productive and profitable beef and dairy sectors.”
But the scheme has had its detractors. Labour Member of Parliament Maria Eagle said: “The Tories have failed to explain why they’re pressing ahead with culls which have been shown to be ineffective, inhumane and now these figures also reveal that they are at huge cost to the taxpayer.”
A spokesman for DEFRA defended the costs as mainly consisting of one-off start up costs, and also a relative saving compared to the devastating cost of tackling bovine tuberculosis, saying: “England has the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe. The cost of the badger culls need to be seen in the context of the devastating scale of the threat bovine TB poses to our farming industry and food security – £500million over the last decade. Doing nothing is not an option.
“We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, badger vaccination and culling. Many of the costs associated with the pilot culls last year were one-offs and have not been repeated this year.”
More than 26,000 cattle were slaughtered last year thanks to bovine TB. The badger cull will be repeated this year.