A campaign to stop a proposed cull of badgers in Somerset has hit a milestone with 100,000 people signing a petition against the plans.
The e-petition was launched by Queen guitarist and campaigner Brian May last week as part of the “team badger” campaign, after the first licence to kill the protected wild animal was issued for a pilot cull in Gloucestershire.
Reaching the 100,000 signatures milestone means the issue could be debated in Parliament, although this is not automatic.
Campaigners say a cull of badgers will not have a significant effect in reducing TB in livestock, and want the focus to be shifted on to vaccination.
But supporters of the cull say the move is necessary to tackle TB in cattle because the wild animal spreads the disease to livestock, costing farmers and the taxpayer millions of pounds a year.
A long-term study found that culling over a number of years on a large scale could reduce the incidence of TB in cattle herds by 16%.
Farmers will be licensed to shoot up to 70% of the badgers in a 300 square kilometre area in Gloucestershire. A second licence for a pilot cull in Somerset is still being considered.
Responding to the news that more than 100,000 people had signed the petition against the cull, shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said: “There is widespread concern about the Government’s decision to press ahead with a badger cull despite their own official advice that it will cost more than it saves and will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disturbed by the shooting.
“Ministers should listen to the scientists and can this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife.”
We, the undersigned, call on the government to stop the planned cull of badgers on the following grounds:
· Over 70% of the badger population in large areas of the country will be killed, many of them healthy.
· The method of free-shooting badgers could cause severe to many thousands of badgers.
· Independent scientific studies have shown that culling would be of little help in reducing bovine TB, and even suggest that it could make things worse in some areas.
We urge the government to stop the cull and implement the more sustainable and humane solution of both a vaccination programme for badgers and cattle, along with improved testing and biosecurity.