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UK puts the lives of more than 60,000 badgers in the spotlight

UK has it sworn to badgers. The British Government has approved extending the licenses to slaughter these mustelids to eleven new areas of England, a measure designed to mitigate bovine tuberculosis in the cattle transmitted by these mustelids, but whose effectiveness science calls into question. More than 60,000 specimens, according to veterinarians and animal owners, are now at risk of dying: by clean shot, if they are discovered walking through the fields or in the streets, or slaughtered, if they are captured alive.

Conservationists have raised their voices. Although the badger is not threatened with extinction, in the United Kingdom they are among the most protected wild animals. The chief executive of Badger Trust, an organization that protects badgers, considers the move a “betrayal of public opinion”, has declared to the newspaper The Guardian. He argues that in March an independent scientific study commissioned by the Secretary of State for the Environment, it exonerated badgers from being the major cause of infection, and also reduced the efficiency of slaughter compared to another less bloody measure: vaccinating cattle and badgers against bovine tuberculosis.

Bovine tuberculosis forces the slaughter of some 30,000 head of cattle a year in England. In 2013, when the badger killings began, 26,594 infected cows were slaughtered in the country, but five years after the measure was adopted it was even more: 32,925. The extension of the licenses to 11 new areas to the 43 already existing means that they can be requested in a territory of about 28,000 square kilometers (about 2,000 less than the entire surface of Galicia).

The Badger Trust urges the Government to release some robust scientific study showing that slaughtering badgers reduces bovine tuberculosis. In front of them are the farmers: a union that groups them, the NFU, argues that there already is, and that badger shooting has reduced disease outbreaks in Gloucestershire by 66% and by 33% in Somerset, in the south-east of England. However, the study itself highlighted the risk of establishing a cause-effect relationship between a species eradication measure and a disease transmitted between animals.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johson, veterinarians, naturalists and animal rights advocates demand that the end of licensing anti-blemish and that cows and badgers are massively vaccinated. “We note that your Government responded to the Godfray study [el análisis independiente encargado por la Secretaría de Estado de Medioambiente] in March of this year stating that it would gradually reduce the intensive slaughter of badgers and that, instead, it would opt for vaccination “, includes the letter signed, among others, by the primatologist Jane Goodall.