Huge increase in badger culling will see up to 33,500 animals shot

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Up to 33,500 badgers will be shot this autumn in an attempt to control tuberculosis in cattle, a huge rise from the 10,000 killed in 2016.

The government has announced that 11 new cull areas have been licensed, adding to the 10 already in place. Devon now has six badger culls under way, with Somerset and Wiltshire having three each, with others in Cheshire, Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

The badger culls are highly controversial, with ministers and some farmers arguing they are a vital part of curbing bovine tuberculosis (bTB), which led to 29,000 cattle being slaughtered in 2016 at a cost of £100m. However, scientists say there is little evidence that the current culls will help cut bTB rates, and could spread the disease even further by disrupting badger populations.

Ministers also announced the resumption of a badger vaccination scheme in “edge” areas between high and low TB regions. The scheme, suspended for the last two years due to a shortage of vaccine, will fund 50% of the costs of successful applicants. Restrictions on the movement of some high risk cattle are also being put in place – some scientists say this is the key to ending the epidemic.

‘Flying in the face of science’: the Wildlife Trust say badger culls will not solve the problem of bovine TB as the primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact. Photograph: Graham Harries/Rex Shutterstock

“Bovine TB not only has a devastating impact on our beef and dairy farms, but causes harm and distress to infected cattle,” said the farming minister George Eustice. “We have a clear plan to eradicate the disease over the next 20 years. Vaccination is just one part of our comprehensive strategy, which also includes tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where bTB is rife to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife.”

Each is set a minimum and maximum number of badgers to be shot. This is to ensure the animals are not wiped out locally, while enough for the cull to be effective – although scientists have previously criticised the government-set targets as “rubbish” and “ridiculously easy”.

The total number of badgers to be killed across all the areas this autumn has been set at a maximum of 33,347 and a minimum of 21,797. The largest cull is one in Dorset that could see more than 7,000 badgers killed. The culls all met their targets in 2016, though earlier culls did not and were not effective or humane, according to an independent expert group that was subsequently disbanded by ministers.

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers Union, said: “The NFU has always supported a comprehensive and proportionate eradication strategy, which balances disease controls measures with business sustainability. We must have every option available to us to tackle TB.” She also welcomed a new TB advisory service for farmers in risky areas.

However, Prof Rosie Woodroffe, at the Zoological Society of London and who conducted a landmark 10-year trial on badger culling, said: “It’s depressing that the government is pursuing badger culling over such huge areas when the benefits remain so uncertain. Data published today suggest that, after three years of culling, cattle TB in the first cull zones was still no lower than that in unculled areas.”

Steve Trotter, at the Wildlife Trusts, said: “We work closely with many farmers, day in, day out, and we recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bTB, but killing badgers will not solve the problem. The primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact. The government’s badger cull is flying in the face of science.” He said vaccination costs £82 per badger, compared to £6,800 per culled animal.

Peter Martin, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “ badgers has been condemned as ‘inhumane’ by both the government’s own independent experts and the British Veterinary Association. “But it it’s also a disaster for cattle, Britain’s farmers and the taxpayer.”

Martin said a more accurate but more expensive TB test should be used to help control the spread of the disease: “The £40m wasted on culling badgers could be used to pay for this right now.” He added: “The government has no idea even how many badgers there are, let alone whether or not they are infected with TB. They also have no clear or effective method for monitoring whether the policy is working.”

Claire Bass, executive director of the Humane Society International UK, said: “It appears the government is now dispensing with the pretence of science towards a culling free for all, without monitoring or evaluation.”

Woodroffe said in February that the government was misusing data: “When evidence is being cherry-picked and presented in the best possible light, it ceases to be evidence. It is fake science.”

This article was first published by The Guardian on 11 Sep 2017.


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Disgusting!! Always about the money! Stop raising hamburgers

Hilary Morrison

Criminal, stop it.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

disgusting display of human cruel and stupid!!!

Jose Ortiz

An incease in soldier and politician killings will also rise

Alessandra Ferrari


Michele Jankelow

Absolutely appalling mangement from the UK government yet again based on ignorant hysteria from the public sector. There is no sound scientific proof that badgers are in fact causing TB in cattle! If locations become available and like most wildlife they will breed to occupy these areas, that is nature! How anyone can endorse such abject savagery in a first world country like the UK is truly appalling and shocking!

Graham Steer

There is evidence that badgers dont infect cattle but even if they do have farmers not heard of vaccination

Sylvia Jenkins

leave the badgersalone they are part of our british land scape

Ross McMahon

The badger brings the need for planet reality sadly. Thankfully we have seen a 400% rise in badger numbers since there protection status. However we should not loose site of our countryside balance favouring one species over another will end in disaster. One of badgers favourite snacks is good old mr Hedgehog. Not many would be aware as it does not fit with conservation groups to discuss, but we have a 40% reduction in hedgehog numbers! Perhaps do the maths. Badgers need to be controlled but just shooting is not the answer nor is inoculation as your never be successful… Read more »

Norman Mccanch

Of course, the rise and rise of cars and road traffic has had no impact on Mr Hedgehog, has it? Or the widespread reduction in extent and quality of hedgerow habitat ( clue in the name) or the impact of widespread use of molluscicides in agriculture on slugs and snails which make up a significant part of Mr Hedgehogs diet!! Get a life and get real, Badgers eat hedgehogs, but not anything like the number killed on the roads and dying as a result of unsympathetic farming practices.

Evelyn Ball

More like human idiots need to be culled. Sitting there and deciding what species to cull. Go to hell.

Graham Steer

Evelyn Ball I agree with you on that

Leigh Lofgren

Simply horrific

Rikki Salty


Marilyn Ashman