2,000 badgers at risk in new wave of culling

Friday 15th September 2017

Badger culling will soon restart in Gloucestershire, with far higher numbers being killed than expected.

Natural England, which grants licences for badger culling, recently stated that in Gloucestershire the minimum number of badgers to be killed by licensed cullers would be 1,007; the maximum number that could be killed is 1,906 according to Natural England.

Badgers are being culled because they can carry bovine TB and pass on the disease to other animals; however, badgers are not the main route of infection for farmers’ herds - this comes from cattle-to-cattle contact. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, a charity which manages 60 nature reserves across the county, is calling on the Government to stop killing badgers as this will not eradicate bovine TB in cattle.

Roger Mortlock, CEO of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, says: “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 bovine TB. But the Government’s badger cull is flying in the face of science with no evidence to support a roll out of the original trials that took place in the county.

“The Government should put more resources into speeding up other solutions, including a cattle vaccine and badger vaccination. GWT pioneered the vaccination of badgers as this is a more humane and effective solution to helping stop the spread of bovine TB. We will restart our badger vaccination programme next year.”

Badger cull licences have been granted in parts of England where there’s a high risk of cattle being infected with bovine TB. There are now 21 cull zones in eight English counties. Details about the areas where badgers will be killed are not officially released, but it is known that in Gloucestershire the culling will encompass a much wider area than in previous years.

GWT estimates that it costs £202 to vaccinate a badger. In contrast, the cost of culling a single badger is £6,800, with the Government spending £16.8 million on the cull between 2012 and 2014.

Although vaccination doesn’t cure a badger of bovine TB it does slow the progression of the disease in an individual animal, and lowers the likelihood that the infection will be passed on. Badger vaccination can reduce the chance that a badger will test positive for bovine TB by as much as 76%.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is calling on the Government to:
• Stop the policy of badger culling
• Establish a full and independent inquiry into whether the culls to date have achieved their intended outcomes in reducing bovine TB in cattle
• Advance the development of a cattle vaccine, and complete the development of, and licence the use of, oral-baited vaccine in badgers.
• Develop better biosecurity, bovine TB testing and cattle-movement controls