Badgers start to roam much further afield when culling starts nearby, research has found, potentially increasing the spread of bovine tuberculosis, the disease culling is meant to control.
The findings raise questions about the government’s culling strategy, begun in 2011 and intended to reduce the harm to dairy herds from a rising incidence of bovine TB in hotspots around the country. Last month the government announced a major extension.
However, farmers disputed the findings and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the cull had been shown to be effective.
Surviving badgers in populations that were culled covered nearly two thirds more land each month than they did before the culling began, and the likelihood of a badger visiting neighbouring territories each night increased twentyfold, according to the study from the ZSL’s Institute of Zoology. The increase in badgers’ range came despite the animals being less likely to leave their setts overall in the aftermath of a cull, making them less visible to the marksmen carrying out the culls.
Lord Krebs, whose landmark review of the science of bovine TB in the 1990s resulted in a 10-year trial of culls, said: “This research shows how important it is to find out about badger behaviour. It shows that culling badgers can cause surviving individuals in an area to move around more, and as a result they could come into contact with infected cattle and help to spread TB. The ill-thought-out plan to control TB by killing badgers could therefore backfire.”
The National Farmers’ Union said the ZSL study was small and covered only one county, and that it was “vital” the cull should continue to be rolled out across the country
Stuart Roberts, the vice president of the NFU, said: “Culling badgers has a proven impact on TB outbreaks among cattle – the aim must be to get rid of this awful disease. Previously published peer-reviewed research, and anecdotal evidence from farmers in these areas, indicates strongly that TB is being reduced as a result of controlling the wildlife which carry and spread the disease.”
He added: “We do not see similar convincing outcomes from vaccination. Vaccination may have a role to play in areas where TB hasn’t taken hold but it cannot cure a sick badger so, in areas where TB is endemic, culling is vital.”
Nearly 33,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year because of bovine TB, and 3,600 farms were newly affected by the disease, according to the NFU.
Bovine TB is the greatest threat to animal health in the UK, according to Defra. A spokesperson said the culling policy already took into account the potential increase in badger movement, by intensively culling across a given area, and that research showed it was effective. “Bovine TB [costs] taxpayers over £100m a year and causes devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities,” they said. “There is no single measure that will provide an easy answer and we are pursuing a range of interventions to eradicate it by 2038, including tighter cattle movement controls, regular testing and vaccinations.”
Defra’s research has found a 58% reduction of bovine TB in the area culled in Gloucestershire, compared with unculled areas, while there was a reduction of a fifth in Somerset, after two years.
Arthur Thomas, the campaigns manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “This report raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of the badger cull policy. We believe that the evidence against the culling of badgers as a response to bovine TB is well established and overwhelming. Government must act quickly to put a stop to an ineffective and inhumane practice.”
Apr 5 2018: Badger Trust Vaccination Grant Scheme now open
The Badger Trust is launching a new badger vaccination grant scheme.
Grants from £1000 to £1500 will be available to both Badger Trust affiliated and non affiliated organisations who wish to undertake badger vaccination projects in England and Wales.
The grant fund for 2018 will total £20,000. Applicants will be expected to show that they have individuals within their group who are trained and licensed to carry out badger vaccination and provide details and costs of equipment required to be funded under the grant scheme.
Location details, timescale of the vaccination project and details on record keeping and any other sources of funding will also need to be provided for the grant application.
A panel of Trustees with expertise in the area of badger vaccination will make decisions on which grant applications receive funding from the Badger Trust.
To make an application for funding please click here for the application form and return the completed form to Badger Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Executive Badger Trust
Mar 29 2018: Badger Trust to fund new legal challenges March 26th 2018
Mar 10 2018 Badgers under growing threat across England
by The Badger Trust Mar 10, 2018 | News | 0 comments
From Dominic Dyer, CEO Badger Trust
Dear Group members,
Badgers under growing threat across England
Urge the government to abandon plans to extend badger culls
Over the past 5 years, 35,000 or more badgers have been needlessly shot under licence across England, as part of the government’s strategy for reducing bovine TB in cattle.
The vast majority of these badgers (over 85%) are likely to perfectly healthy and TB free and there is little evidence that the tiny proportion that are TB infected pose any major risk of disease transmission to badgers or cattle.
After five years of culls that are estimated to have cost the tax payer over £50 million, the government has failed to provide any reliable evidence that the indiscriminate cruel slaughter of tens of thousands of badgers is having any significant contribution on lowering the level of bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones.
In spite of this, the government is now consulting on plans to lift the limit of 10 new licensed cull zones in the high-risk area for bovine TB in the west and south west of England, and to introduce the possibility of badgers being culled in response to TB outbreaks in other parts of England where bovine TB is currently rare (the ‘Low-Risk Area’).
The Badger Trust considers badger culling to be cruel, scientifically ineffective and hugely costly to the tax payer. If the government continues to roll out the badger cull to both high and low risk TB areas across England hundreds of thousands of badgers could be killed by 2020, which could result in local extinction of the species from parts of the country which they have inhabited since the ice age.
If you disagree with the badger cull, and object to these plans to expand them still further, please take this opportunity to make your feelings known. The deadline for responses is 15th April 2018.
How to respond:
The government is conducting two separate consultations:
one on plans to remove the limit of 10 new cull zones being licensed each year, details of which can be found at http://consult.defra.gov.uk/bovine-tb/bovine-tb-badger-control-areas/consultation/intro/
one on plans to introduce licensed culling in the Low Risk Area for bovine TB in England, details of which can be found at http://consult.defra.gov.uk/bovine-tb/badger-control-in-low-risk-area-england/consultation/intro/
You can send written responses by email to:
or by post to:
Bovine TB Programme Nobel House 17 Smith Square London SW1P 3JR
You can also respond using the online forms at the website links above.
When responding you may wish to make the following points:
More than 35,000 badgers have been shot and killed across licensed zones since 2013. The government’s rationale for continuing and expanding these culls is to reduce new incidents of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. However, the government has produced no clear evidence that the culls are reducing bovine TB in cattle, and the vast majority of shot badgers will have been free of infection.
The proposal to remove the limits on the number of cull zones that can be licensed each year, and to extend culling into the low-risk area, both deviate from the original policy and current Natural England guidance, yet no scientific evidence is provided to justify this deviation.
Badgers are listed on Appendix III of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), to which the UK is a signatory.
The badger culls are, by their nature, indiscriminate (badgers are not tested for the presence of infection before they are targeted), and extending the culls will clearly increase the risk of local disappearance of or serious disturbance to badgers, with no clear evidence that serious damage to livestock will be prevented. The proposals to allow badger culling in the low-risk area include ‘removing as many badgers as possible’. This amounts to local eradication, which would place the UK in breach of its commitments to the Bern Convention.
‘Controlled shooting’, the method by which the majority of badgers targeted to date have been killed, was rejected by the government’s own Independent Expert Panel, and by the British Veterinary Association, because of welfare concerns. Yet during the 2017 culls across 21 licensed zones, Natural England monitored just 74 instances (just over 0.6%) of ‘controlled shooting’ for accuracy and humaneness. Extending the number of zones that can be licensed, and the geographic spread of those zones, while continuing to allow controlled shooting, will further compromise Natural England’s ability to monitor the culls and risks substantially increasing unnecessary animal suffering.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been quoted as saying that he wants to ‘enhance environmental and animal welfare standards’, and in December he published a draft bill recognising animal sentience and outlining the need for government to pay regard to the welfare needs of animals when formulating and implementing government policy. Yet by continuing and expanding badger culls, he will be condemning many thousands of perfectly healthy animals to an unnecessary and potentially prolonged and painful death.
The assumption that persistent hotspots of cattle infection in the low-risk area are ‘maintained’ by infection in badgers is unfounded. Achieving and maintaining bovine TB-free status in the low-risk area in England depends upon preventing the introduction of infection through cattle movements, and controlling the risk of infection spreading to neighbouring herds and local wildlife populations through strict biosecurity measures, increased testing intensity, and the imposition of cattle movement restrictions, on farms that become infected. The focus needs to be on compulsory risk-based trading, in order to prevent farmers in the low-risk area from buying cattle from potentially infected farms, and the implementation of strict biosecurity measures and other restrictions on farms that do bring infection in. There is no evidence to support the assumption that eradicating bovine TB following outbreaks in the low-risk area can only be achieved by culling wildlife, and the assumptions made about the cost-saving that might have accrued in East Sussex if badger culling had been implemented have no basis in evidence.
Culling badgers in the low-risk area in response to an outbreak may actually result in an increased prevalence of bovine TB among remaining and surrounding badgers through perturbation, potentially increasing the risk to cattle. Vaccination of badgers is the only proven method of reducing the prevalence of bovine TB in an infected badger population while maintaining the stability of that population and avoiding perturbation, and should be the only badger intervention under consideration for the low-risk area. There is no evidence on which to base the assumption that the risk of spread of bovine TB between badgers is higher in the low-risk area, nor that the risk of perturbation is lower if badgers in these areas are subjected to culling.
CEO Badger Trust
Mar 7 2018 More bad news following on from the previous post regarding license applications for Oxfordshire and Berkshire.
From Bob Simpson, Chair of Bucks Badger Group 7 MAR 2018
More bad news following on from the previous post regarding license applications for Oxfordshire and Berkshire! I just looked up the bTB risk area map (www.gov.uk/guidance/bovine-tb-testing-intervals-2018) and Oxfordshire is now part high risk, Berks is higher edge risk, (thus the applications). Also Bucks now has additional testing around the (more frequent) new outbreaks as it is in the ‘edge’ area. See www.ibtb.co.ukinteractive bTB map which shows far more bTB than a few years ago… The more frequent outbreaks are probably because they are now doing more accurate (Interferon gamma) cattle testing in the edge areas and not because there is more bTB in cattle.
PS dark blue dots are single outbreaks and you can zoom in to find out the farm locations at : http://ibtb.co.uk
Mar 7 2018 "Spent my career controlling livestock disease. Eradication on bTB organism is impossible in the UK"
Nigel Tolley, Badger Trust Trustee, has retweeted a message sent to him from Amelea Teckel: Former Deputy Chief Vet Alick Simmons tweeted this to me yesterday:
“Spent my career controlling livestock disease. Eradication of the bTB organism is impossible in the UK. The public health risk is under control – and has been since c.1960. Why waste £millions and kill our native wildlife on a hopeless cause?”
& on M.bovis:
“It’s a dreadful pathogen and it needs to be controlled – which is quite possible using the tools we have and without killing shedloads of animals. Control, as you know, is not the same as eradication. The latter is impossible in the UK.”
Now that would be something for the Farmers’ Guardian to tell its readers, wouldn’t it … the truth
Grim news for Campaigners trying to protect badgers from culling
6 MAR 2018 Report from the Daily Mirror article by Ben Glaze
Activists fear up to 50,000 badgers could be slaughtered this year if new licences are granted.
Officials are plotting to widen the controversial badger cull in a fresh blow to campaigners’ calls to halt the bloodshed.
More than 19,000 animals died in last year’s cull across eight English Counties: Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
But Natural England has received applications to expand this year’s cull scheme to eight more counties: Avon, Berkshire, Derbyshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.
Badger Trust Chief Executive Dominic Dyer said ” This is rapidly becoming a badger eradication programme from large parts of the country where livestock farming is taking place”
Animal rights activists had been heartened last month when Environment Secretary Michael Gove refued to commit to continuing with the cull as a way of controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle.
He said ” My whole approach is to be guided by the science”
“What we ant to do is progressively reduce and eliminate this disease in a way which ensures that all animals can be better protected from protection.We continually keep under review the best means of doing so”
Announcing a two week consultation today, the Government said ” Natural England has received applications or expressions of interest for a badger Disease Control Licence within the counties of Avon, Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.
“Natural England will consider any impacts on livelihoods and daily activities that are relevant to the applications and/or expressions of interest and may share this information with the relevant applicant, based upon your postcode or specificn point of interest.
To read the full article go to : http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/badger-cull-could-extended-eight-12135500#ICID=sharebar_facebook
To go to the Defra website to make a comment on the licence applications go to :
It has a very limited criteria and only those living in the areas can comment and only if it impacts on their livelihood or daily activity locally!
Feb 23 2018: The badger cull is senseless, expensive violence and a stain on Theresa May's Government
Friday February 23rd 2018 I News The Essential Daily Briefing Opinion
An article by KG Walsha
“The weight of scientific opinion is stacked against this unnecessary slaughter of British wildlife, and the vast majority of badgers tested for bTB post-mortem since the killing began in earnest in 2013 have been found not to be infected with the disease.” (Photo: David Plummer)
Michael Gove was today hunted down to his sett at Defra HQ in London and badgered as he attempted to flee.
A fitting scenario, considering his plans to extend the killing of badgers throughout the UK.
Protesters from the Labour Animal Rights Group and groups including Stop The Cull and The Badger Trust left him in no doubt as to the overwhelming public opinion against such an extension; it’s as unpopular as it is unscientific.
In the three months running up to December 2017, over 20,000 of our largest native omnivores have fallen foul of the Tory piecemeal cull – a band aid move to appease the National Farmers Union in the fight to combat bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
However, the weight of scientific opinion is stacked against this unnecessary slaughter of British wildlife, and the vast majority of badgers tested for bTB post-mortem since the killing began in earnest in 2013 have been found not to be infected with the disease.
Local reports from monitors in existing cull zones have recorded badger corpses left exposed for extended periods, leaking body fluids into the land, and treated with zero bio-security precautions by the multitude of participating hired guns.
It’s maybe just as well that these hapless specimens weren’t carrying the highly contagious strain of TB, then.
To read the full article click on the following link :
Feb 18 2018: Michael Gove refuses to commit to badger cull
Wednesday 21st February 2018
Defra secretary Michael Gove has refused to say whether he is committed to culling badgers as a means of controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle.
Mr Gove was responding to a question from Farmers Weekly after delivering a keynote address to the NFU conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (20 February).
Feb 19 2018: The League against Cruel Sports' response to Government's BTB strategy review and possible extension of the badger cull.
A review of the 25-year strategy to tackle bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle which includes the culling of has recently been announced by the Government. The independent assessment will look at the system of intervention to control the disease and give advice on improvements, but is not a review of .
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has also announced a consultation on lifting the cap for the number of areas where culls can take place each year and on licensing some culling in parts of England that are at low risk of TB.
Responding to the news League Head of Policy and Research, Jordi Casamitjana, said: “We welcome the announcement of an independent review of the UK Government’s 25-year bovine TB control strategy, but we are extremely concerned and disappointed they are considering an extension of the badger cull into low risk zones in England, and on lifting the cap for the number of areas where culls can take place each year, which makes no sense at all. While such review is taking place the badger cull should stop, not be expanded.”
Feb 18 2018: Government to review its bovine TB strategy behind the badger culls
However, the report states that ” the review will not re-visit the rationale for current interventions in the Strategy. It will take a prospective and not a retrospective view. It is not a review of badger culling.” The review will commence in March and will be completed by the end of September 2018.
To see the whole government policy paper go to:
According to Peter Martin ” add to that the announcement that they are ‘consulting ‘ on (ie fully intending to) culling in the Low Risk TB areas, then this is a complete betrayal of Gove’s promise to review the culls but the beginning of probably the worst slaughter of wildlife in UK history.
Feb 18 2018: Defra report on TB in badgers in 2016 cull zones and the Low Risk area of Cumbria
18th February 2018 A Defra report has been published on the TB testing conducted on badgers in 9 badger control areas in the High Risk Area of England in 2016.
Thi has shown that of 861 badgers tested for TB only 42 had TB and only 6 of them had severe TB.
This means that, shockingly, thousands of innocent and TB free badgers have been killed needlessly over the past 5 years. With the numbers of badgers being killed rising and the number of TB cases in cows rising as well, it is so obvious that badgers are not anywhere near being the main cause of TB in cattle. It is time the government admitted this and stopped the cruel culls.
For the full report click on the link below.
Feb 17 2018: Labour announces new Animal Welfare Plan..... including pledge to END the Badger Cull!
February 14th 2018
The Badger Trust alongside other wildlife protection and animal welfare organisations had been in regular contact and discussion with the Labour Party concerning its animal welfare and wildlife protection policies since the 2017 General Election.
As a result of these discussions, the Labour Party has produced a new Animal Welfare Plan.
To read the rest of this article click on the following link to the Badger Trust:
January 25 2018: Judges force Government to release Badger Cull details
Government department Natural England has lost its appeal to withhold information about the wider ecological impact of badger culling. The initial request was made by ecologist Tom Langton and backed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), following Natural England’s refusal to supply all the details necessary to properly assess the damage the culls may be having to wildlife outside the cull zones.
To read the rest of this article and report click the following link:
The first case of tb in badgers was discovered on a farm in Gloucestershire in 1971, which had a prolonged breakdown of bovine tb and since then the focus has been on badgers and not the disease itself. From 1975 to 1986 thousands of badgers were gassed in their setts in the southwest and yet it is still a tb hotspot and is still killing badgers nearly thirty years later.
1982 – clean ring strategy
1986 – Dunnet review
In 1990, because tb had dropped to low levels, testing was relaxed and numbers of tb cases rose again.
In 1993 – outbreak of BSE and testing for tb was interrupted – cases of tb started to rise again to 2455 cases.
1993 – Krebs report
In 1998 – badger culling trials began (Randomised Badger Culling Trial) and the number of cattle with tb rose to 5844
2001 – outbreak of foot and mouth disease and testing for tb again suspended because vets were too busy to test, but the number of cases remained about the same as there was no movement of cattle.
However, farms were restocked without cattle being tested and the cases of tb rose to 8353 and cases of tb in Cumbria were linked to the southwest where their cattle had come from.
2007 – Final report of the ISG concluded “that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”. Weaknesses in cattle TB testing and in the movement of cattle were the main factors in the spread of Btb.
2008 – Stricter controls in the movement of cattle and testing produce a reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered without a single badger being culled.
2011 – Wales rejected culling and a programme of vaccination was introduced.
April a meeting of scientific experts rejected a cull.
July government announced a cull in 2 pilot areas. In parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset.
2012 – cull delayed
2013 – August 27th – culls began and ran for 6 weeks
IEP (Independent Expert Panel) concluded that free shooting of badgers was inhumane – and was dismissed.
2014 – rollout was abandoned but 2nd year for Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Defra claim the cull is humane.
British Veterinary Association stated that free shooting cannot be carried out humanely and recommended that all badgers be cage trapped and shot. Rejected by the government.
2015 – 3rd year of culling for Gloucestershire and Somerset and 1st year for Dorset.
2016 – cull extended to seven new areas as well as the original areas – Glos., Somerset and Dorset, another area of Dorset, part of Herefordshire, two areas of Cornwall, two areas of Devon and one more area in Gloucestershire.
2017 – 11 new areas to be culled in addition to the 10 in 2016. New areas include parts of Wiltshire and Cheshire, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.