The National Trust is seeking assurance about the badger cull. The organisation said it was uniquely placed on this issue, with a strong interest in both farming and conservation of nature.
The cull is being conducted to deal the spread bovine tuberculosis (TB), which the Trust said it recognised was a “complex problem”. The organisation added that it supported an evidence-based approach to the issue.
Patrick Begg, who leads on bovine TB at the Trust, said, “The Trust’s position on tackling bovine TB is clear: we are in favour of what will work to solve the problem that is affecting so many of our tenants and farmers across the country.
“We know from previous studies that this means increasing and intensifying surveillance to pick up infection early, introducing tighter controls on risky cattle movements, and improving biosecurity in farms.”
Begg said the Trust is worried about uncertainties over, and changes in, the baseline badger population estimates. He added that this dimension is fundamental to understanding whether the appropriate proportion of animals can be culled as the criteria set out.
In a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Trust also outlined its concerns over the lengthening of the pilot culls, changes to the culling methods and the now active discussion of other culling methods for any wider roll out, such as gassing and snaring.
The statement follows comments from the Badger Trust, which said the extension of the cull would be “unlawful”. The charity sent a letter to Natural England describing why the cull had been shown “not to be effective”.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson branded the cull a “success” despite saying it had failed to reach its target due to badgers “moving the goalposts”.