A cull on badgers will continue despite objections to the science behind the cull, something local campaigners claim is 'outrageous'.

The Area 56 cull zone, introduced in 2021, is wrapped around Basingstoke with its boundary stretching from Andover in the West, to Eversley in the East, and all the way up to the Hampshire and Berkshire border around Newbury.

Since 2013 it has been Government policy in England to kill badgers as part of a programme to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in England by 2038. In 2022, over 33,000 badgers were killed across England.

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The statutory scientific advice to DEFRA in 2011 was that culling badgers would not make a meaningful difference to rates of bovine TB in cattle. The “Randomised Badger Culling Trial” conclusion was that culling 70% of the entire badger population for a minimum period of four years could only be expected to reduce new herd bTB breakdowns by 16%.

Founder and Chair of North East Hampshire Badger Group, Nick Cole, said: “Measures focused on killing badgers simply can’t address the disease in cows because bTB isn’t primarily hosted or transmitted by badgers. In fact, 94% of all bovine TB cases arise from cattle-to-cattle infection.

"The remaining 6% are attributed to a range of sources. The disease is carried by a host of other species including cats, dogs, deer, foxes, hedgehogs, mice, sheep, llamas, alpacas, earthworms and even micro-organisms found in soil, allowing bovine TB to effectively survive in the ground itself for long periods."

Basingstoke Gazette:

The official Hampshire cull numbers released by Defra in March revealed that 831 badgers have been shot and killed in Area 56 since August 2021 with a further 515 killed in Area 67 during 2022 - a total of 1,346 Hampshire badgers shot dead since August 2021.

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Since Area 56 has completed a second cull in 2022, it is eligible to have its cull license terminated early. However, in March this year, UK Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss announced that early termination of the Area 56 cull would be “sub-optimal for disease control”.

“It’s outrageous,” said Nick Cole. “There’s not a shred of data or science which supports the continuation of culling in Area 56. The Animal Plant & Health Agency year-end epidemiology reports for Hampshire in both 2020 and 2021 show not a single badger tested positive for bovine TB in the county in either year.

"Not terminating it is an appalling act of wildlife persecution and even Ranil Jayawardena MP, the previous Secretary of State for Defra, is now asking questions of his colleagues in the House of Commons”.