GWT opposes new round of badger culls

Terry Longley

Badger culling has been permitted to go ahead by the government in England for another year.

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.

We are very disappointed that the government has permitted badger culls to go ahead in England for another year. We firmly believe that this strategy is flawed and a poor use of public funds, resulting in unnecessary disruption of ecosystems. Bovine TB is a cattle problem, with the vast majority of cases transmitted between cattle and not via wildlife. Only 1 in 20 cases of herd infections are due to transmission from badgers. Culling disrupts badgers’ social structure, causing them to move around more frequently and over longer distances – which can actually result in increased bovine TB transmission. It is unacceptable that the government has not waited for the results of their own review of the bovine TB eradication strategy before forging ahead with another year of ineffective and expensive badger culling.

We do not permit badger culling on any of our nature reserves. We do recognise that bovine TB transmission can cause distress and hardship to farmers who are affected. We are committed to working with farmers to find effective solutions that work for everyone. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust were the first non-government organisation to vaccinate badgers and continued this programme on our nature reserves for 5 years, delivering it at a much lower cost than culling: it costs £496.51 to kill a badger compared with £82 to vaccinate. Until a cattle vaccine is developed, the most effective strategy for tackling bovine TB is a combination of strict biosecurity, movement controls and robust cattle testing regimes alongside a strategic badger vaccination programme.

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%.