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Government officials ignore scientific evidence to allow unnecessary killings of wild animals: 'I can find no justification'

Scientists around the globe are giving assistance to a number of other species in a race to preserve biodiversity.

Scientists around the globe are giving assistance to a number of other species in a race to preserve biodiversity.

Photo Credit: iStock

England has continued to issue permits allowing people to kill badgers to protect cattle from disease, despite local extinctions and scientific evidence stating that badger culling is not the best way to protect bovines.

What's happening?

The Guardian reported that it accessed leaked documents showing that England's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued 17 new licenses in June that allow people to kill badgers. The publication explains that badger culling has been used in the country for years to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis to cattle and has led to local extinctions. 

However, scientific reports have shown that culling badgers is not the most effective way to stop the spread of this disease, and DEFRA's decision overrules the advice of its own scientific adviser, Peter Brotherton, director of science for Natural England.

"I can find no justification for authorizing further supplementary badger culls in 2024 for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease and recommend against doing so," Brotherton told DEFRA, per the Guardian.

Why is this decision concerning?

Badger culling in England has led to local extinctions, with more than 210,000 of these carnivorous mammals killed between 2013 and 2023. 

Meanwhile, badgers provide a number of ecosystem benefits, according to the nonprofit group Scottish Badgers. As badgers build their dens, heaps of excavated material are created nearby. These areas retain moisture better than surrounding areas and provide habitat for amphibians, invertebrates, and insects, including crucial pollinators (35% of the world's food crops depend on pollinators). 

Scottish Badgers also said badger dens help to provide important safe refuge to animals like pine martens, red foxes, rabbits, wood mice, and voles. Plus, these dens help create a stable thermal environment, which can help species protect themselves from the elements and raise their young. 

Supporting these species supports biodiversity, which benefits humans in many ways — healthy ecosystems help provide us with important resources like fresh water and food

What's being done to protect badgers?

Former DEFRA secretary George Eustice promised to phase out badger culling by 2025, but it remains unclear whether the government will follow through on this promise — especially since a new government was elected July 4.

In the meantime, Brotherton told the Guardian that badger vaccinations are an effective alternative to culls, adding that farmers can also take other measures like utilizing enhanced testing programs, movement controls, and cattle vaccination.

Scientists around the globe are giving assistance to a number of other species in a race to preserve biodiversity. For instance, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is preserving genetic data of some of the country's most at-risk animals. And conservationists have successfully brought the Iberian lynx from the brink of extinction, as 2,000 now roam in the wild.

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