NEARLY 50,000 badgers could be killed over 4,950 km2 of England if Government plans for a 'cull' are fully implemented in the coming years. Campaigning animal group Viva! has learned the true scale of farmers' plans to kills thousands of badgers in parts of England. If the plans get full go ahead, badgers will be shot in a total land area much larger than Cornwall(1,2). Around 49,500 badgers(3) would be hunted with high-powered rifles if the policy is rolled out to the 33 areas suggested by the National Farmers Union (NFU)(1). However, some reports put the figure as high as 90,000(4). Illegal slaughtering could make the figure significantly higher. Viva! have condemned the announcement from the NFU as “gratuitous, cruel and pointless and say that England could be on the brink of a wildlife massacre the likes of which the country has never before seen. On July 19, Defra minister Caroline Spelman announced pilot 'culls' in two as-of-yet unannounced areas in England in 2012. More widespread 'culling' is expected to happen after these trials. Viva! have previously condemned this move as politically driven and scientifically bankrupt. Justin Kerswell, Viva!'s campaigns manager, says: “Sadly, the Government's politically motivated decision to back 'culling' in parts of England was not unexpected. However, it is only now emerging what the potential full extent of these killing fields may be. The farming unions appear to be initiating an almost military manoeuvre on an unprecedented scale. Public enemy No1 is the humble badger: victim of political back-slapping, bad science and cynicism. Farmers may say that badgers are not the enemy - but they have a very strange way of showing it. They seem positive gleeful about the impending deaths of tens of thousands of these wild animals. ENDS Notes for editors (1) Dozens of areas mapped out for cull, Farmers Weekly, 20 July 2011:http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/07/20/127911/Dozens-of-areas-mapped-i... (2) 33 (number of potential sites) x 150 km2 (minimum area of cull site, but could be larger) = 4,950 km2. Cornwall is 3,563 km2. (3) Caroline Spelman's announcement in the Commons (July 19) announced that between 1,000-1,500 badgers would be shot in the pilot areas over four years. The figure could be significantly higher in the areas listed by the NFU - especially if those areas exceed 150 km2. (4) Badger cull to start in pilot areas, The Telegraph, 21 July 2011: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8647710/Badger-cull-to-start-... Viva! says that the potential for badgers to be maimed and not killed outright by the policy of night-shooting of badgers is immense. The groups also maintains that badger 'culling' will not solve the TB crisis - and that the real reasons are cattle movements in their million, bad biosecurity, unreliable testing and fraud. View Viva!'s fully referenced report on TB and badgers. Viva! has been campaigning against 'cull' proposals in England and Wales since June 2008. This has included a National Rally for Badgers, when over 300 people gathered peacefully on the steps of the Welsh Assembly's Debating Rooms to voice objection and national Days of Action across Britain. The group will shortly announce a call to boycott all English dairy products. For more information about this media release, contact press officer Helen Rossiter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0117 944 1000 or contacting campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell on the same number or by emailing email@example.com.