Badgers are being killed by the UK government in what is known as the ‘badger cull’, which has taken place in certain parts of England since 2013. Thousands of badgers have so far been killed in what we, along with numerous independent scientists and animal welfare organisations, believe is a totally unjustified slaughter of a protected species.

The Government believes that culling badgers will help reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, also sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘badger TB’ - an infectious disease that results in the slaughter of tens of thousands of cattle each year.

Badgers have been found to be infected with bTB and some farmers fear that infected badgers are transmitting the disease to their cattle, despite the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that this happens often enough to be significant.

Badger Cull – the way forward

The National Farmers Union lobbied hard for a badger cull and the Government agreed to pursue this policy - in spite of substantial scientific evidence suggesting that culling badgers would not have any significant impact on reducing the disease in cattle, and could even make it worse.

We agree that action is needed to tackle bovine TB as it is devastating for cattle and for farmers; however the evidence shows the main source of transmission for bovine TB is cattle to cattle. Therefore, the main focus for eradicating the disease should be tackling cattle to cattle transmission through improved testing (i.e. better tests and mandatory annual and pre-movement testing for all cattle), more movement restrictions and rigorous biosecurity on farms.

This approach, along with a humane vaccination programme for badgers, is already being carried out successfully in Wales, with the incidence of bTB in cattle having dropped significantly without killing badgers.

The League has a long history of campaigning to protect badgers and played an instrumental role in the implementation of the Badgers Act 1991. Our charitable status remit covers all areas of animal welfare and we believe that our expertise in badgers is an asset in the campaign to stop the badger cull.

Why the League is opposed to the badger cull

We believe that culling badgers in an attempt to tackle bTB in cattle is ineffective and inhumane.  A 2014 report by an Independent Expert Panel of scientists appointed by Defra to assess the effectiveness and humaneness of the 2013 pilot badger culls, concluded:

  • The culls did not even come close to reducing badger populations by 70%, the minimum level deemed to have any significant effect in reducing bTB in cattle
  • Coverage of 70% of the land in the cull area, another essential criteria for having any significant effect, could not be confirmed
  • Up to 18% of badgers shot were still alive after 5 minutes and at risk of experiencing marked pain, meaning up to 422 badgers may have suffered marked pain.

In 2015 the Government got rid of most of the scientific criteria that had been used in the past to justify the cull (from the 10 year study called the Randomised Badger Cull Trial), so making it even less efficient and scientific.

Badger in the grass

Why can’t we vaccinate cattle and badgers?

Vaccinating cattle against bTB is currently banned under EU law because the way to distinguish vaccinated cattle from infected cattle is still being tested.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee held an inquiry in 2013 to explore the extent to which vaccination can contribute to the control and eradication of bovine TB. It stated that the Government should produce a clear strategy for badger vaccination.

It also confirmed that the primary means of transmission is cattle to cattle, and as such a cattle vaccination could be a useful proactive tool for combating the disease in the future; however, a licensed cattle vaccine is still several years away.

How many badgers have been killed by the badger cull?

Defra released figures indicating that 850 badgers were killed in Somerset (40% of the initial target), and 708 in Gloucestershire (just 30% of the population in the cull area when the target was 70%) in the initial six week pilot culls in 2013 - before the trials were granted time extensions. Following the extensions the number of badgers killed totalled 1,861.

According to Defra figures for the 2014 cull, 274 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire (44% of the initial target) and 341 in Somerset during the six week period starting in September.

The Government’s figure for the number of badgers killed in the 10 culling areas in 2016 is 10,886, which includes 5,667 killed with controlled shooting and 5,219 killed with cage trapping.

Will the cull be extended to more areas?

Despite the evidence that the cull does not work the Government seems determined to keep rolling it out beyond the two initial pilot zones in Somerset and Gloucestershire. It was extended to Dorset in 2015, and in 2016 to Devon, Herefordshire, the Cotswolds, Cornwall, and a new Dorset zone. It is expected to be extended to others zones in subsequent years.

What is the League doing to oppose the cull?

The League provided support and funding for equipment needed by badger patrol groups Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting and Somerset Against The Badger Cull in 2014 as it was clear we would need boots on the ground when the culls commenced.

Also, to show our solidarity with activists taking part in wounded badgers patrols in the cull zone, the League along with Bill Oddie, now our President, joined them in both cull zones to help generate attention towards their tireless work. See the feature in the Daily Mirror here. In 2016 Bill Oddie returned to the cull zones with our CEO Eduard Gonçalves.

As a founding member of the Team Badger coalition, the League Against Cruel Sports is campaigning to stop the badger culls and any potential further roll outs.

Anti badger cull demonstration in Westminster by League Against Cruel Sports

How can I help to stop the cull?

  • Contact your MP and remind them that the published science and evidence from Wales is strongly against the cull. Ask them to vocally oppose the cull and urge their party to commit to ending the cull if they form the next Government
  • When the cull starts, join a peaceful wounded badger patrol by getting in touch with the any of the local patrols that you can find in the Team Badger Webpage
  • Share this page on your social media