Badgers and bovine tuberculosis (bTB)

Badger (photo: Elliott Neep)

The Wildlife Trusts are firmly opposed to the badger cull.

We believe there are alternative methods which should be used to tackle the bovine TB problem. You can read more about this below. No Wildlife Trust will allow culling on its land.

For more information and facts about the science being talked about, visit our page which summarises some of the key scientific evidence on bovineTB, with papers available to download in full.

Badgers matter - what you can do

1. Ask Government to drop badger culling from its bTB strategy 

Email, write or tweet your local MP to ask them to continue to put pressure on the Government to scrap their cull plans and prioritise badger vaccination. You can use this template letter  but local and personal contact is best. Find out if your MP spoke or voted in the badger debate on 25 October.


2. Support our badger vaccination programmes

You can donate now towards your Wildlife Trust's badger vaccination programme or one nearby. Funds help to pay for vaccines, training, equipment and  licenses.


3. Email your MEP about the EU cattle vaccine ban

Ask your MEP to press for the EU ban on a cattle vaccine to be lifted.
Find the details of your MEP. A cattle vaccine is the long term solution to the bTB problem, but EU rules currently prevent it from being tested and used in this country - find out why

 On this page:

The badger culls - when and where

The first of two six-week pilot culls began on Tuesday 27 August in Somerset.  A second cull began in Gloucestershire on 4 September and a reserve area was also identified in Dorset but not used. The pilot culls were designed to test the 'free shooting' method of culling badgers, even though cage trapping and shooting of badgers was also permitted, with the aim of removing at least 70% of the local badger populations. Culled badgers were not tested for bTB and the impact of the cull on bTB in cattle will not be measured.  The pilot culls will be assessed by an Independent Panel to determine whether they meet the criteria for effectiveness, humaneness and safety.

During the six-week cull 850 badgers were killed, representing just over 58% of the revised estimated local badger population of 1,450 (which was originally estimated to be 2,490 in autumn 2012.)

A three-week extension was granted and a further 90 badgers were shot, falling short of the required minimum of 165, and representing a total reduction of 65% of the badger population. The Government’s pilot culls had aimed to remove at least 70%. 

708 badgers were killed during the six-week culling period, representing just 30% of the revised estimated local badger population of 2,350 (which had originally been estimated at 3,400 in autumn 2012.)

An eight-week extension was granted, with the aim of removing a minimum of  540 badgers to achieve an overall reduction of 53%.  Meeting the original aim of a 70% reduction would have required 940 badgers to be shot.  The extended cull in Gloucestershire was due to run until 18 December 2013 but on 29 November,  Natural England announced that it was revoking the cull licence because targets were not being met.  Culling was halted as of midday on 30 November.  A further 213 badgers were removed during the extension, bringing the total to 921, or 39% of the estimated population - far short of the Government's target.    


What we are doing

Badger vaccination in Gloucestershire (photo: Neil Aldridge)

The Wildlife Trusts have been working on the issue of bovine TB and its links to badgers for many years, as different Governments have put forward proposals for culling badgers as a strategy for controlling bovine TB.

We have always opposed the culling of badgers, and have pressed the case for badger and cattle vaccine and improved biosecurity.  Read our briefing on Bovine TB and Badgers and briefing on Bovine TB Vaccination 

Wildlife Trusts are carrying out local vaccination programmes

Our activities have included:

  • Lobbying the Government and MPs
    We have done this both nationally and at a local level at key moments and have facilitated meetings of MPs on the topic. We have also been lobbying the European Commission on cattle vaccination.
  • Encouraging our members to take action
    We have been encouraging our members to write to their MPs.  We've also encouraged people to contact their MEPs about the EU ban on a bTB cattle vaccine.
  • Submitting evidence to Government
    The EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Select Committee
  • Organising local badger vaccination programmes
    In 2011 Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust was the first non-governmental organisation to begin deployment of the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine - read its report. A number of other Wildlife Trusts have joined Gloucestershire in carrying out local vaccination programmes - see the full list
  • Standing up for badgers
    in the media including on national television and radio
  • Promoting the anti-cull petition
    on the Number 10 website - which reached more than 300,000 signatures
  • Responding to government consultations - For example you can download The Wildlife Trusts' response to the DEFRA consultation on draft strategy to manage bTB in Britain at the bottom of this page.

Simon King on Newsnight

Here's a film of our President Simon King appearing on BBC Newsnight in Autumn 2012 to argue against a cull.




Tackling the Bovine TB problem

The Wildlife Trusts believe that culling badgers is not the answer to the bovine TB problem

The Wildlife Trusts are very conscious of the hardship that bovine TB (bTB) causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease. However, we believe that a badger cull is not the answer. Biosecurity and vaccination should be at the centre of efforts to tackle this disease rather than a badger cull.

The problem is Bovine TB (not badgers) and the challenge is to control the disease. There is no single quick, cheap and effective fix. We recognise the seriousness of the situation for farmers but the emphasis of all our efforts should be to find a long-term solution.

Scientific research funded by the Government has shown conclusively that badger culling, unless carried out in line with strict criteria including the requirement to be across very large areas, could be counterproductive.  Large-scale badger culling trials show an initial worsening of the disease due to perturbation.  Over the longer term, there may be a positive impact of a 12-16% reduction of bTB in cattle, but this still leaves at least 84% of the problem.  Lord Krebs, who designed a previous trial, concluded that that “culling is not a viable policy option”.

Tackling the disease should therefore include the following measures:

  • Biosecurity: All possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm.
  • Badger vaccination: Support landowners to use the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine. We also urge Defra to continue development of an oral badger vaccine.
  • Cattle vaccine: Complete development of a cattle vaccine and secure change to EU regulation to permit its commercial deployment.

How could a badger cull make the bovine TB problem worse?

The 'perturbation effect'

Badgers typically live in social groups of four to seven animals with defined territorial boundaries. Culling disrupts the organisation of these social groups, increasing the risks of disease transmission as shown below.

This is known as the 'perturbation effect'. The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB concluded in its final report (2007) that it was 'unable to conceive of a system of culling, other than the systematic elimination, or virtual elimination, of badgers over very extensive areas, that would avoid the serious adverse consequences of perturbation'.


Badger Trust 'Stop The Cull' film

The Wildlife Trusts’ President Simon King OBE and our President Emeritus Sir David Attenborough have, along with others, articulated their views on the badger cull in this short film produced by the Badger Trust.


Letter to the Prime Minister


FilenameFile size
twt_btb_response_final_26092013.pdf609.67 KB
Simon King's letter to David Cameron about the badger cull273.71 KB
badger_cull_template_mp_letter.doc27.5 KB




Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust began a five year vaccination programme in 2011 and have published a report on the findings from their first year.



Dorset Wildlife Trust are trying to raise £45,500 to vaccinate badgers on several of their nature reserves. 



Shropshire Wildlife Trust hosted a forum to bring together people trying to find a solution to the bTB problem and will be vaccinating bagers in 2012.



Warwickshire Wildlife Trust are running an appeal to raise funds train staff, buy equipment required and purchase vaccine for a three year vaccination project.


South and West Wales

Credit Wildstock

South and West Wales Wildlife Trust are working with the Welsh Assembly Government to vaccinate badgers in Pembrokeshire.



Copywrite Wildstock

Somerset is one of the pilot cull areas and Somerset Wildlife Trust are appealing for support to help them vaccinate badgers.



Badger (Credit Wildstock)

Cheshire Wildlife Trust are beginning a vaccination programme in partnershire with Shropshire Wildlife Trust in Autumn 2012.



Conscious of the hardship caused in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.



Derbyshire Wildlife Trust proposes to implement a five-year badger vaccination programme on selected sites across Derbyshire.



Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are raising money to vaccinate badgers on at least eight of their nature reserves.



Devon Wildlife Trust is raising funds for a badger vaccination programme to help combat the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Devon.



Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is supporting the vaccination efforts of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and preparing to begin its own programme.

Leicester & Rutland

Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust is raising money to vaccinate badgers from 2013 - 2018.