The Wildlife Trusts react to new proposals for further badger cull expansion

© Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

The Wildlife Trusts are deeply concerned that recent government proposals indicate an intention to increase badger culling further.

The Wildlife Trusts are deeply concerned that recent government proposals indicate an intention to increase badger culling further, by expanding culling into low risk and edge areas, and increasing the number of new cull zones that could be licensed each year. These relate to three separate recent government consultations on the badger cull.

These consultations came within days of a Government announcement that they intend to review their strategy for achieving ‘Bovine Tuberculosis Free Status for England’. The current strategy has resulted in over 34,000 badgers being culled without conclusive evidence that culling is having an impact on decreasing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. Culling has been shown to be ineffective, inhumane and expensive compared to alternatives, like badger vaccination, which is more a humane and effective method to stop the spread of bTB. The members of the review panel are yet to be made public – we sincerely hope that it will include people with the full range of necessary expertise and experience, including experts in bTB, wildlife and badger behaviour.

The Wildlife Trusts have actively opposed the badger cull since 2004. There is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that culling badgers decreases the incidence of bTB in cattle. Long-term trials by the Government showed that culling could actually make the situation worse by encouraging badgers to move around – the ‘perturbation effect’[1]. We are very mindful that bTB can have a devastating emotional and financial impact on the lives of farmers and we want to find solutions that work for everyone.

Yet at the same time as we continue to work with Defra in planning and delivering the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme 2, the Government consulted on whether to license badger culls in eight additional Edge Area counties. This fundamentally undermines the logic of the vaccination scheme. In the face of global shortages of the vaccine in 2017, three Wildlife Trusts, DerbyshireNottinghamshire and Berks, Bucks & Oxfordshire, pioneered the use of an alternative vaccine.

The bTB Review offers the Government the opportunity to revisit a scientifically flawed policy, which flies in the face of public opinion, is deeply inhumane, thoroughly unscientific and gives farmers a poor deal, too.

You can read more about The Wildlife Trusts views on bovine Tb and the badger cull, and our badger vaccination work, here: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-and-wild-places/saving-species/badgers

This blog has been updated on 24th May 2018. The Government this morning announce culling in the Low Risk Areas will go ahead. This is a blow for badgers across England and a move without scientific grounding. Vaccination, not culling, is the answer. 

References

[1] The conclusions of the RBCT are available to download, contained within the Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB - 'Bovine TB: The scientific evidence.’ See here: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20081108133322/http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/isg/pdf/final_report.pdf