Mike McCarthy, news reporter

Michael Gove will consider the findings of a review of a badger vaccination programme and decide whether to extend the cull.

The badger cull could be extended
Image:The badger cull could be extended depending on the Environment Secretary’s view

The controversial issue of England’s badger cull is coming to a head as farmers and wildlife campaigners eagerly await the publication of a government review.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove is currently considering the findings which are expected to influence whether to expand the cull even further.

Campaigners in Derbyshire who were bracing themselves for a cull in their county have been celebrating the fact that it was not included. They say it’s partly due to the success of their badger vaccination programme – the biggest in the country.

The government supports both vaccination and culling as part of a strategy to eradicate bovine TB. The disease continues to spread despite intensive efforts over several years to tackle it.

The Wildlife Trust, which opposes the cull, says what’s happening in Derbyshire sets an important example.

The Trust’s badger vaccination leader, Tim Birch, said: “We’re calling on the government to roll out a national vaccination programme.

“We’ve shown in Derbyshire that we can operate the vaccination programme. We have hundreds of volunteers with us, we’re cost-effective. This is the way forward.”

Campaigners say vaccination should be extended, not culling
Image:Campaigners say vaccination should be extended, not culling

Although badgers are a protected species more than 19,000 were culled in 2017 up from the 10,886 in the previous year. According to the Wildlife Trust a further 42,000 could be added this year.

Nationally more than 33,000 cows were slaughtered last year because of bovine TB, up from 27,474 in 2014

Farmer Phil Latham is chair of the National Farmers’ Union in Cheshire says the badger vaccinators are wasting their time.

He told Sky News: “I think they are making themselves feel good about themselves. I don’t think they will be stopping the disease spreading. There’s no [scientific] paper in the world that shows that vaccinating badgers reduces the prevalence of TB in cattle.”

But former nurse Debbie Bailey, who founded the Derbyshire vaccination programme, says volunteers have the support of the government, landowners and the NFU.