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What is "epidemiological justification" to shoot a badger?

It's a fair question so I asked the UK's Chief Veterinary Office last month. And again this evening.

Dear Dr. Middlemiss, Please would you furnish me with the courtesy of a reply to my email to you dated 14th April 2023 and clarify, in relation to the Hampshire "Area 56" cull zone, the data you reviewed which led you to conclude that early termination of the cull license would be "sub-optimal". Given your department's intention to continue culling badgers where there is "epidemiological justification", we are keen to understand what confirmed scientific data has informed your decision to continue killing them in Area 56 this year? As you know, the "Downs et al" report revealed a complete absence of badger-related bTB data in this county, as confirmed recently in Parliament by Mark Spencer MP, and that no badger has tested positive for bTB in Hampshire for many years. The APHA 2020 and 2021 bTB epidemiology reports for the county contain no confirmed evidence of bTB reservoirs in badger populations here or badgers as a confirmed source of herd infection. The APHA "Southern Edge" roadkill project results for Hampshire as at the end of March 2023 show 1 (as yet unconfirmed) positive bTB test from a badger carcass found on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border out of a total of 85 carcasses from the county tested since April 2021 and the only other non-bovine animal that tested positive for bTB here in recent years was a domestic cat in 2020. Given the registered address of the Area 56 cull company is a tenant farm leased from the Englefield Estate, I'm sure you'll agree there's an additional requirement for transparency when it comes to cull license decisions in that part of Hampshire. The estate is, after all, owned by the Minister at DEFRA responsible for the bTB and badger cull policy area.

I look forward to hearing from you without further delay, please. Yours sincerely, Nick Cole Chair

North East Hampshire Badger Group

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