Pilot badger culls fail

Thursday 17th October 2013

Badger vaccination cpt Neil AldridgeBadger vaccination cpt Neil Aldridge

As the latest results from the pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire are announced, The Wildlife Trusts are renewing calls for the Government to drop badger culling from its proposed strategy to tackle bovineTB in England.

In the six weeks of the pilot cull in Gloucestershire, 708 badgers were killed, representing just over 30 per cent of the estimated local badger population of 2,350.  The Government’s pilot culls had aimed to remove at least 70% of the population.  Estimates of the badger population in each pilot area have been significantly reduced twice and still the pilot culls have failed to meet the conditions set out in Defra’s guidance to Natural England.  The original population estimate in Gloucestershire was 3,644 in autumn 2012.

The granting of extensions to licences to cull by Natural England is simply not justifiable

Both pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have failed to meet the key test of ‘effectiveness’.  In both areas, the removal of at least 70% of the estimated badger population in the six-week licence period has not been achieved.  It is possible for the bovine TB problem to have been made worse, due to the ‘perturbation effect’. 

With an extension granted in Somerset and under consideration for the pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire, The Wildlife Trusts believe this failure to meet required targets should lead the Government to abandon its culling policy.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Defra’s badger cull policy remains a distraction from tackling this devastating disease. 

“The pilot culls have clearly proven that the necessary criteria cannot be met; there has been a failure to cull the target numbers of badgers and a failure to do so within the set timeframe.  These failures, combined with huge uncertainties over the badger population’s true size in the cull zones, carry very real implications for remaining badger populations.  They also run the risk of further spreading the disease from disrupted social groups of badgers, known as the perturbation effect.  The granting of extensions to licences to cull by Natural England is simply not justifiable.  Defra set out its strategy for a six week period; it has been a complete failure and the cull should be pulled.

“We are reiterating our calls for the Government to focus efforts on badger and cattle vaccination, stricter cattle movement controls and improved biosecurity.”

The Wildlife Trusts strongly oppose the pilot badger culls and any proposals for rolling out culls beyond this year.  This scale of culling of a native mammal, which is a valuable part of the ecosystem, is simply not justified by the small potential reduction in bovine TB incidence in cattle.

The pilot badger culls
The two pilot badger culls have failed to meet one of the primary conditions set out in Defra’s guidance to Natural England as follows:

“In the first year of culling, a minimum number of badgers must be removed during an intensive cull which must be carried out throughout the land to which there is access, over a period of not more than six consecutive weeks. This minimum number should be set at a level that in Natural England’s judgement should reduce the estimated badger population of the application area by at least 70%”

- Guidance to Natural England, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 14 December 2011, p.5

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 in the attached document.  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'.  

The Wildlife Trusts
For more information about The Wildlife Trusts’ views and activities to control bovine TB, including our vaccination programmes, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/appeals/badgers and keep up-to-date on this, and other issues, through @wildlifetrusts on twitter.


FilenameFile size
twt_impacts_of_a_badger_cull_diagram.pdf3.17 MB

Tagged with: Badgers; bovineTB