The Commissioner expressed his concerns about the shooting of badgers in the Derbyshire countryside in a letter to the Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
It follows the Government’s announcement that badgers may be culled in eight new counties in England – including Derbyshire - as part of its strategy to control the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
Bovine TB is disease affecting cattle and is predominantly spread by cattle. Wildlife experts say the development of a cattle vaccination and tough restrictions on the movement of cattle will successfully stop the spread of the disease.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has been leading the way in the vaccination of badgers, undertaking the largest-ever vaccination programme in the country involving more than 100 volunteers.
This year alone, the Trust received £190,000 in government funding to further expand its programme to almost 90sq km. This immunisation work has seen the rate of bovine TB in badgers reduced by almost 76%, ensuring badgers in Derbyshire remain healthy.
The Trust said applications to shoot badgers by landowners in Derbyshire have already been received by the Government and strongly opposes such action.
Mr Dhindsa said: “Derbyshire is at the forefront of a vaccination programme to limit the spread of this disease and there are no grounds, either scientifically or economically, to cull badgers.
“Badgers are a protected species under the 1992 Badger Protection Act and evidence shows that shooting badgers is not a viable solution to the spread of bovine TB. If this is the case, then it doesn’t make sense to pursue an expensive culling programme at the cost of the taxpayer.
“I am urging the Government to reconsider its position and to continue to invest in the vaccination programme in this county and beyond to protect what remains a threatened species for future generations.”
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust says research has shown bovine TB is not transmitted by direct contact between cattle and badgers but through contaminated pasture and dung. It says culling badgers is unjustified and costly and that vaccination remains the only answer.
It costs approximately £80 to vaccinate a badger which is far less than the reported £6,000 it costs to shoot one.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is also concerned for the safety of its vaccination team operating in areas close to where a cull takes place.
Volunteers are often out late at night or before dawn to check cage traps as part of the vaccination programme and could easily be mistaken for shooters by anti-cull protesters and vice versa. The equipment they use also might be deliberately damaged by protestors mistaking them for culling devices.