The RSPCA is “deeply concerned” and welfare charity Badger Trust Cymru has slammed the decision to cull badgers in Wales as “brutal” and “abhorrent”.

Steve Clark, spokesman for the trust said: “This decision marks the start of a brutal pogrom against badgers. Elin Jones has ignored the weight of scientific opinion and caved in to bullying farming unions and cull-mad vets.

“By combining badger culling with other TB control measures, Elin Jones will have no idea which particular measure reduces the disease. But any resulting fall in bovine TB will inevitably be attributed to badger culling, spelling doom for badgers across both Wales and the UK as pressure mounts to repeat this brutal extermination elsewhere.”

David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust for the UK, said: “To slaughter badgers in Wales when, in England, trials of a vaccine for badgers are about to get underway, is a truly abhorrent decision.

“The evidence is clear that cattle spread bovine TB, with recent reports from the National Audit Offices in both England and Northern Ireland confirming that bovine TB testing is inadequately enforced and delivered.

“These problems also exist in Wales, but rather than putting farming in order, Elin Jones has decided to make a scapegoat of badgers instead. This is cheap, nasty politics of the very worst kind.”

The Badger Trust has vowed to examine the decision in detail and consult with its legal advisors over whether it can be subject to a Judicial Review. Mr Williams added: “We will look at every legal means possible to stop this cull going ahead.”

The RSPCA has also claimed both disappointment and concerned over the Welsh decision to begin a pilot cull in North Pembrokeshire.

RSPCA senior wildlife scientist Colin Booty said: “We’re well aware of the costs of bovine TB in Wales, along with the efforts the Welsh Assembly Government is making to control the spread of the disease in cattle. However, we feel this Government’s decision to eliminate badgers from a large area of the Welsh countryside is wrong.

“The way in which this area has been chosen will mean that any lessons learnt, if there are any, will not be applicable to the rest of the country. The WAG’s approach of throwing everything at the problem will also make it impossible to know which parts of the control strategy may have worked.”

The RSPCA believes one of the main opportunities for controlling the disease is vaccination, and the Society welcomed the recent news from Environment Secretary Hilary Benn who announced the deployment of an injectable badger vaccine next year. This will help to build knowledge about how an oral vaccine may be used in the future and is a very positive step in the right direction.

Whilst vaccine development is ongoing, the RSPCA believes other methods of control should continue, such as pre- and post-movement testing and stringent biosecurity measures. Both need proper monitoring and enforcement to make sure that they are being carried out and are allowed time to have an effect.

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