IT costs police more than half a million pounds each year to enforce the culling of badgers in Somerset, writes local democracy journalist Daniel Mumby.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is responsible for enforcing the annual cull of badgers, as mandated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to slow the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (TB ).
Figures released by police show it cost taxpayers more than £540,000 to enforce the cull in 2021 – and more than £5.6million has been spent in total since the introduction of the culled in 2013.
Activists have called for an end to culling, describing it as poor value for money and ineffective in controlling the spread of the disease.
In 2021, £543,987 was spent monitoring the culling of badgers in the Avon and Somerset region.
Since culling began in 2013, the total amount spent in the force zone on badger culling is £5,611,780.27, an average of over £600,000 per year (from 2013 to 2021 included).
All policing costs associated with enforcing the cull are claimed from Defra – meaning none of the culling costs come from the policing of the local council tax precept.
Campaign group Somerset Against the Badger Cull had called for culling to be dropped, arguing there are better uses of police resources and better ways to reduce the spread of disease among livestock.
A spokesperson said: ‘The badger cull is widely opposed as it is ineffective in reducing bovine tuberculosis in cattle and it is cruel.
“Badgers are a legally protected native species. Many people are very fond of badgers.
“We would like the government to focus on effective ways to tackle bovine tuberculosis, such as stricter and improved testing for cattle and higher standards of on-farm biosecurity. The production of a vaccine for livestock is also essential.
“The disease is most commonly transmitted by cattle-to-cattle transmission. As expert scientists have already said, the incidence of bovine tuberculosis can be reduced by focusing only on livestock measures.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary declined to comment on the figures, stating only that “the badger cull is a DEFRA initiative” and confirming that all costs associated with its enforcement are “fully reimbursed”.
In its most recent analysis of the effectiveness of badger culling, published in September 2021, Defra officially concluded that it remains the most cost-effective option.
A spokesperson said: “Currently, no alternative option offers better value for money in the short to medium term, in a situation where the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle continues to increase, as well as the costs for the government and the farmers to deal with it.”