UK Badger Cull

On Wednesday 14th December 2011, Caroline Spelman announced the go-ahead for badger culls in two pilot areas in the South West, to combat bovine tb.

The general locations of the pilot culls have been announced and are in the districts of West Somerset/Taunton Deane and in the Forest of Dean/Tewkesbury area. More exact details will not be given for fear of attacks by animal rights activists.

The government claim that culling badgers can decrease the number of new herd breakdowns by 16%, basing that figure on the RBCT trials, however the present cull proposals do not follow the same methodology.

The pilots are an attempt to test whether free shooting as a method can kill enough badgers for it to be as effective as the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, and also to determine whether it is humane. They will not determine whether culling badgers using this method has had a positive impact on btb.

We believe that badger culling is a dangerous distraction from the real problem. Our reasons for that are below and in more detail in the article ‘The science behind our stance on the cull.”

  1. The Conclusion of the Independent Scientific Group which looked into badger culling and bovine tb concluded that “the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.”
  2. The RBCT caused a relative reduction in tb, not an absolute reduction. ie a reduction in the increase over time of tb, it rises more slowly. So something else must be causing the background rise in bovine tb.
  3. In undisturbed badger populations disease does not spread far in space, isolated pockets can remain for years without that changing.  Culling breaks down territorial boundaries and increases the number of badgers with the disease. Culling badgers CANNOT contribute to a healthier badger population.
  4. Achieving hard boundaries is almost impossible, and the methodology differs in two important ways (the period over which culling takes place and the method of free shooting badgers) therefore we (and many of the scientists involved in the RBCT) believe that this cull carries a greater risk of worsening the problem.
  5. A badger cull cannot be selective, the vast majority of badgers are healthy, however it is not possible to diagnose tb in a live badger. 70% of badgers in each cull area must therefore be killed.
  6. There is a high risk of wounding due to the body shape and structure of a badger, should this happen it is likely that injured badgers could die slowly underground.

We believe that the way to tackle the disease is through;

  • improved cattle testing,
  • stricter cattle movement controls and
  •  increased biosecurity on farms.
  • vaccination of both badgers and cattle*

*The vaccination of cattle is currently not allowed under EU law, we believe that our government must press for changes to this law.

What can you do to help?

Please sign the 38Degrees petition.

Donate even a small amount to the Badger Trust to help with their legal challenge.

Questions on this topic are welcomed as it is an extremely complex issue and we cannot provide all the answers in any one article.