Badger culls have been permitted in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire, and Somerset, with the Government aiming to reduce badger populations by 70% "relative to the initial starting population". This could lead to the deaths of up to 33,841 badgers across the UK in 2017 in the 21 areas where culling is permitted.
While the Green Party supports the Government-backed relaunch of the badger vaccinations programme to stop the spread of bovine TB, it believes the Government is "hoping to sneak out the expansion of the cull, which they know is unpopular and shameful".
The party recommends rolling out a full humane vaccinations programme for both badgers and cows, along with rigorous TB testing, and biosecurity measures.
"The badger cull is not only inhumane but ineffective," says Jonathan Bartley, Green Party co-leader. "This is a black and white issue. Thousands of badgers are dying a slow, painful death for absolutely no reason.
"There is very little evidence to support the Government’s claims that the cull will prevent the spread of TB, but as the science against the badger cull gets stronger, the Government simply expands the cull every year. One of Britain’s most beloved animals is being pushed to the brink of extinction."
According to the Wildlife Trust, badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bovine TB in cattle. Moreover, it says the primary route of infection is cow-to-cow contact.
It has called on the Government to stop the policy of badger culling, to launch an independent inquiry into what the culls have achieved to date, advance the development of a cattle vaccine, licence the use of an oral baited vaccine for badgers, and improve cattle movement controls and biosecurity measures.
"We recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bTB, but killing badgers will not solve the problem," says Steve Trotter, Wildlife Trust director.