Largest ever cull authorised this autumn – bringing the total shot to 35% of UK’s badger population

Largest ever cull authorised this autumn – bringing the total shot to 35% of UK’s badger population

WildNet - Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust are aghast that more than 70,000 healthy badgers will be shot this autumn in the government’s largest ever seasonal cull.

The move comes despite the government’s promise just six months ago to support badger vaccination and move away from shooting this protected species. The cull will result in the deaths of badgers which have been vaccinated by volunteers in government-funded programmes. 

Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust, which vaccinates badgers on the Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire border in partnership with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, is currently trying to assess the likely impact on local badger populations and its vaccination programme – with Leicestershire one of 6 new areas where culling has never previously taken place under government licences. 

Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust's Chief Executive, Tim Graham says:

"This is a staggering government U-turn and one which will result in thousands of healthy badgers being shot across England this autumn.

Back in March — following a review by Professor Godfray — the government promised it was moving away from lethal control but after seven years of badger culling, the government has failed to act on its own advice and is now massively expanding its culling programme into new areas including Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire making this the biggest cull yet. 

“We are at a crucial turning point for our natural world and this latest government U-turn should set alarm bells ringing — culling is an outdated approach that seeks to wipe out protected wildlife rather than addressing the real problem which is the main cause of bovine tuberculosis (bTB): cattle-to-cattle infection.”

“Recent news of planned investment in a cattle vaccine is welcome, but not enough. Expanding culling into areas where badger vaccinations have been taking place will also undermine this vital and under-funded work.” 

The Trust’s efforts to prevent the expansion of the cull have been hindered by a lack of access to information and the fact that full details of where licences have been issued is making it difficult to assess the full impact of the expansion on its badger vaccination work."

The Wildlife Trusts do not believe that culling addresses the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB which is cattle-to-cattle transmission. Culling also undermines its vaccination programmes.

Paul continued: “Culling is outdated, ineffective and immoral. This government has repeatedly said it will be guided by the science, yet it seems to be ignoring its own advice.”  

The Wildlife Trusts’ latest campaign has resulted in over 14,000 people, including well over 1,300 in Leicestershire and Rutland, writing to their MPs raising concerns about the badger cull and plans to expand it into new areas. 

The Wildlife Trusts oppose badger culling and believe the science used to justify the killing of thousands of badgers every year in the UK is flawed. Evidence shows that bTB is primarily a cattle problem, not a wildlife one. The main route of bTB transmission in cattle is between cattle. 

This autumn’s cull brings the overall total of badgers shot since culling began in 2013 to over 170,000 badger deaths. This is approximately 35% of the UK badger population. The cull began in 2013 and is expected to continue for a further four years. 

Find out more about our badger vaccination work here