Government authorises largest ever badger cull

badger c. Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

The Wildlife Trusts are aghast that as many as 64,000 badgers could be shot this autumn as the government announces the largest ever seasonal cull. In Cheshire alone licences for killing nearly 2500 have been issued.

The move comes despite the government’s promise just six months ago to phase out the current intensive culling policy in the next few years, gradually replacing it with government-supported badger vaccination and surveillance. The cull will result killing of healthy badgers and potentially those which have previously been vaccinated. Organisations such as the Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme, which Cheshire Wildlife Trust supports, offers badger vaccination to farmers and landowners in Cheshire, free of charge. 

Martin Varley, Operations Manager for Cheshire Wildlife Trust said: “We work closely with many farmers and recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bovine tuberculosis (bTB), but killing badgers will not solve the problem.. The government has promised to incentivise the uptake of effective biosecurity measures, and manage the bTB risks posed by cattle movements, to reduce the risk of spread within and between farms. We would urge them to deliver on that commitment sooner rather than later to avoid further unnecessary suffering to animals”

Research has found that bTB bacteria can survive for months either on fields or in slurry. Strict biosecurity procedures are necessary to tackle this key route of the spread of bTB. Defra support to farmers to make sure these procedures and rigorous tests are in place would contribute considerably to reducing the spread of bTB between cattle and badgers.

bTB can have a devastating impact on the lives of farmers. The Wildlife Trusts continue to work with farmers to find solutions that work for everyone. Badger vaccination is cost-effective, and it works. It reduces the incidence, severity and long-term vulnerability of badger groups to the disease. If government strategy must focus on badgers, this approach offers a far more effective, cheaper and low-risk way to reduce bTB in badger populations. 

The government has promised to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation. Continuing and expanding the badger cull runs counter to this promise and risks pushing one of our protected native species to the verge of local extinction. 

The Wildlife Trusts call on the government to: 

  • Halt the badger cull now.
  • Invest in and promote a strategy for badger vaccination. This should be led and funded by the government, across England.
  • Invest more time and resource in further research into farm biosecurity and movement controls. We need to know what works.
  • Accelerate development of more effective tests for bTB in cattle and put serious investment into a bTB cattle vaccine. This is a cattle problem, not a wildlife problem.