Badgers Matter

Badger (c) Margaret HollandBadger (c) Margaret Holland

Worcestershire Wildlife Trust urges the Government to drop badger culling from its bTB strategy and develop an alternative strategy to dealing with bovine TB.

The evidence is clear; the pilot culls have been ineffective and inhumane.

Colin Raven, Director

We are disappointed with the news in September 2017 that the badger cull is to be extended.  You can read our Director's response to this extension in his blog Vaccination Not Culling.

83% of badgers culled in government trials 2002-2005 tested TB free.
Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, June 2007

You can find out more about the science of Bovine TB, information about the cost of the cull, alternative solutions as well as how you can take action for badgers on The Wildlife Trusts website.

We want to see the Government prioritise badger vaccination, alongside a comprehensive package of cattle measures: better biosecurity, stricter movement controls, improved TB testing and development of a cattle vaccine. The Wildlife Trusts are one of several groups and organisations already deploying one of the tools for tackling bTB – badger vaccination.

Ineffective trial culls

The pilot badger culls, which started in August 2013, in Somerset and Gloucestershire both failed to meet the key test of ‘effectiveness’. The removal of at least 70% of the estimated badger population in the six-week licence period was not achieved. Despite a three week extension in Somerset and five weeks in Gloucestershire, the percentages achieved were 65% and 39% respectively.

It is possible for the bovine TB problem to have been made worse, due to the ‘perturbation effect’. This causes individuals to range beyond their usual territory and come into contact with neighbouring animals, increasing the risk of disease transmission.

The trial culls were designed to test the 'controlled shooting' method of culling badgers and did not measure the impact on bovine TB.  An Independent Expert Panel, appointed by Defra to help evaluate the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the pilots reported that “the number of badgers killed fell well short of the target deemed necessary.” And “more than five per cent of badgers culled took longer than five minutes to die, failing the test for humaneness”.

Vaccination

Organisations, including The Wildlife Trusts, are running badger vaccination programmes, with more than 180 trained and certified lay vaccinators in England and Wales. The Wildlife Trusts’ work on nature reserves and in partnership with farmers, vets and other landowners has demonstrated that vaccination is a practical, cost-effective option.

Badger vaccination is a viable option and a strategic programme could make a real contribution to reducing levels of bTB infection: vaccinating a third of adult badgers reduces the risk to unvaccinated cubs by 79%; ‘herd immunity’ is achieved in five years, as infected animals die and the proportion of vaccinated individuals increases; it offers 54-76% reduction in risk of badgers testing positive for bTB. The injectable vaccine has been available since March 2010.

The greatest reduction in bTB in 2012-13 was seen in Wales, where an independent strategy of strict cattle measures coupled with badger vaccination has achieved a significant 23.6% decrease in the number of infected cattle herds – without culling badgers. In contrast, bTB incidence in England increased by 1.7% during the same period.

Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, like Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset Wildlife Trusts, has announced it will not allow culling on its land.

What we've been doing

The Wildlife Trusts have been working on the issue of bovine TB and its links to badgers for many years.

We have always opposed the culling of badgers and have pressed the case for badger and cattle vaccine and improved biosecurity. 

We are keen for the farming community, conservation organisations and the Government to continue to work together to confront this disease through the following measures:

Biosecurity: All possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm

Badger vaccination: Support landowners to use the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine. We also urge Defra to continue development of an oral badger vaccine

Cattle vaccine: Complete development of a cattle vaccine and secure change to EU regulation to permit its commercial deployment.

Colin Raven, Director of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, said "The Trust is considering appropriate actions and the possibility of deploying the BadgerBCG vaccine on selected nature reserves.

"The Wildlife Trusts have been lobbying both our Government and MPs s well as lobbying the European Commission about cattle vaccination. 

"Locally we've been encouraging our members to write to their MPs about the cull and to MEPs about the EU ban on a bTB cattle vaccination.

"Our native wildlife is having a hard time - a cull is the wrong way to tackle this issue, which does cause hardship in the farming community.  Biosecurity and the prioritisation of vaccinations are the way forward."

How you can help

Call on the Government to focus on a more durable and resilient strategy to reduce bovine TB.

Contact your MP  to urge them to put pressure on the Government to find new sources of vaccine and drop the cull.

Contact your MEP to press for the EU ban on a cattle vaccine to be lifted.

A cattle vaccine is the long term solution to the bTB problem but EU rules currently prevent it from being tested and used in this country - find out why.

Support our badger vaccination programmes

How a cull could make the problems worse

Badgers typically live in social groups of four to seven animals with defined territorial boundaries. Culling disrupts the organisation of these social groups, increasing the risks of disease transmission as shown below.

This is known as the 'perturbation effect'. The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB concluded in its final report (2007) that it was 'unable to conceive of a system of culling, other than the systematic elimination, or virtual elimination, of badgers over very extensive areas, that would avoid the serious adverse consequences of perturbation'.

Diagram showin the peturbation effect