MPs have reacted after licences for badger culling were extended to Oxfordshire for the first time.

Earlier this week, Government advisory body Natural England licensed and authorised 11 new ‘badger control areas’, with culling to take place this year.

The controversial culls, which are expected to see 70,000 badgers shot this year, are deemed necessary to control tuberculosis in cattle.

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Witney MP Robert Courts said: “Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK, one which causes devastation for farmers in West Oxfordshire and beyond, with over 30,000 cattle slaughtered each year due to infection from TB.

“Controlling the spread of bTB is a profoundly complex issue with no easy answers or simple solutions. The vaccination method, however desirable in theory, does not offer a complete solution at this moment in time. The cattle vaccination, which may well offer the best long-term solution to this issue, has yet to be accredited in the UK and is currently subject to an EU ban.

“I welcome Defra’s commitment to beginning an exit strategy from intensive badger culling, investing heavily in research to have a deployable cattle vaccine within the next five years, and continuing to support badger vaccination programmes.

“A multi-pronged approach is required to ensure we turn the tide on this terrible disease and achieve the Government’s long-term objective of eradicating it by 2038.”

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Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said: “I’m alarmed that the badger cull is being extended in Oxfordshire, when the Government has previously pledged to phase out the practice and focus on a vaccination programme.

“It seems particularly unnecessary given the Badger Group offers free vaccinations to landowners in our area. If nothing else, this is an incredible waste of money that’s needlessly cruel.

“I have been promised a meeting with Defra in the coming weeks, to better understand what has led to this licence extension, and to make the strength of feeling in our community crystal clear.”

Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds added: “I strongly oppose the cruel and unnecessary badger cull, and I urge the Government to look into effective and humane measures.”