A HAMPSHIRE expert has called for reforms to the government’s badger culling policy following a study.

Research carried out by an expert from the University of Winchester has found under the currently policy around five badgers are culled for every cow which avoids slaughter.

The study follows the news that badger culling has been given the go-ahead in 11 new areas of England to tackle tuberculosis in cattle. Licences for badger culling in Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Cheshire and across parts of Devon were announced, as the Government said it was also restarting a badger vaccination programme to stop spread of the disease.

In addition, licences for more culling have been granted for areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Dr Steven McCulloch, acting director at the Centre of Animal Welfare at Winchester University said: “Additional to the harm of killing, culling has greater welfare impacts on badgers compared to vaccination or a do nothing approach. We argue that undertaking an Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA) is a necessary stage of just policy making, where sentient animals are impacted by government policy.”

Along with co-author Michael Reiss, a professor of science education at University College London and former ethicist on the Farm Animal Welfare Council, Dr McCulloch found badger culling to be seriously problematic.

The analysis by Dr McCulloch and Professor Reiss shows that over four years, 85,000 badgers will be culled to prevent the slaughter of approximately 17,750 cattle over nine years.

Following the study, Dr McCulloch and Prof Reiss said mandatory AWIAs should be undertaken to provide objective data on the impacts of policy options.

They also called for robust independent experts to carry out ethical analysis using established moral frameworks for animal health and welfare issues.

Defending the Government’s actions, farming minister George Eustice said: “Bovine TB (bTB) not only has a devastating impact on our beef and dairy farms, but causes harm and distress to infected cattle.

“We have a clear plan to eradicate the disease over the next 20 years.”

However the Wildlife Trusts has raised concerns that culling was putting local populations of badgers at risk in affected areas, and said badger vaccination was a more humane, effective and cheaper measure than culls.

The Trusts’ director Steve Trotter said: “We work closely with many farmers, day in, day out, and we recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bovine TB, but killing badgers will not solve the problem.

“The Government’s badger cull is flying in the face of science.”

The research has been published as a set of five papers in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics (JAGE).