Wildlife Trust highlights its dismay following local badger cull application

Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust is expressing its sadness and disappointment following an application for a local badger cull for the purpose of controlling Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB).

We have been supporting the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s badger vaccination project on the South Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border since 2018 and undertaken three years of their own badger vaccination work prior to this partnership.

Speaking on behalf of the Trust, Head of Conservation John Clarkson said:

"Bovine TB is a horrible disease with devastating effects on affected cattle and their farmers. However, we do not believe that culling badgers is the answer to the spread of the disease, and the science and evidence supports that. This is why we have committed so much time and resources to establishing a vaccination programme with farmers on the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border.”

Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust believes that any cull in the local area would undermine the progress made with the vaccination work undertaken in north Leicestershire and constitute a considerable waste of public and private money. Efforts to stop the spread of bTB should instead be focussed on stopping cattle to cattle transmission through movement of infected cattle, improved biosecurity and vaccination.

Further to this, last year the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs decreed that no licence for culling badgers should be granted in Derbyshire because of the uncertainty over the impacts on the vaccination programme that had been undertaken in the area, and a judicial review has been held. A report on the outcomes of that judicial review – to determine whether the decision was an appropriate one - is expected soon and we believe that it would be inappropriate for a licence to be granted until the outcome of that review is known.

Mr Clarkson explained: 

“Any cull in this area may well remove from the landscape those badgers which have already been vaccinated – this waste of badger lives and the time and money already invested by farmers, conservationists, tax-payers and donors would be deplorable and dishonourable. In any case, the evidence shows that the majority of outbreaks in cattle are not caused by badgers, or other wildlife, but through cattle-to-cattle transfer”

The licence application to cull badgers within an area of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire & Lincolnshire was submitted to Natural England (NE) and despite a consultation notice being released on 17th February, the charity has received no official notification.  

Badger Vaccination (c) Tom Marshall

Badger Vaccination (c) Tom Marshall

Mr Clarkson added: 

“Given that the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust has been delivering a government-backed vaccination programme designed to help limit the spread of bTB and protect cattle herds, and the fact that the Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire & Rutland and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trusts are substantial land owners with their own livestock, we’re appalled that neither ourselves or neighbouring Wildlife Trusts have had any official contact. We are also very concerned that the narrow focus of the consultation means that people who’ve donated and supported the vaccination programme we have undertaken on the Notts/Leicestershire border have been denied a right of reply. There is no scientific case for culling and our supporters have made it clear that they do not support culling of badgers.”

Because NE has not released details of the specific area covered by the licence the charity has been unable to fully assess the impacts on its work. However, because the process dictates that any licence must cover at least 100km2 it is extremely likely that it will impact on Wildlife Trust landholdings and that the area will include or at least border the current vaccination area.

Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust has now submitted a formal response to the application, as have both Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.  Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust has also reiterated that it will not allow badger culling on its landholdings.

Read more about our badger vaccination work here