Kate on Conservation

National Badger Day: Betrayal in the British countryside

Badger Meles meles Portrait of an adult badger in evening light Derbyshire, UK

For many of us, Autumn is a peaceful time — conjuring images of crunchy orange leaves, welly boots and cosy jumpers. For others of us, it marks the ushering in of a horror show in the British countryside; as we fight to protect the badger.

Tomorrow marks one month since the Government announced their U-turn on their promise to end badger culling.

In fact, it’s a U-turn of epic proportion — instead of a promised backing of badger vaccination, and a subsequent move away from shooting this protected species — the government have authorised the largest ever cull this autumn.

The move, which comes just six months after the government’s promise to support vaccination against the spread of bovine TB, will instead bring the total number of badgers shot to 35% of UK’s population of the species.

Now, I’ve already covered the ins and outs of the Great British Badger Debate on this blog before; so for an overview of the dodgy science around bovine tuberculosis, take a look back at that here.

A season of death for the badger

More than 70,000 healthy badgers will be shot this autumn, in the government’s largest ever seasonal cull. 

What’s more, the cull will result in the deaths of badgers which have been vaccinated by volunteers in government-funded programmes. 

Derbyshire is one of six new cull zone areas where culling has never previously taken place under government licences. 

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust also happens to lead the country’s most extensive vaccination programme.

“This is a staggering government U-turn and one which will result in thousands of healthy badgers being shot across England this autumn,” says Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s CEO, Dr Jo Smith.

“In March — following a review by Professor Godfray — the government promised to move away from lethal control. However, after seven years of badger culling, the government has failed to act on its own advice and is expanding its culling programme into new regions including Derbyshire, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire into what will be the biggest cull yet.”

A critical turning point for our natural world

It hardly needs to be said, that we are at a critical turning point for our natural world.

“This latest U-turn should set alarm bells ringing,” Dr Jo Smith adds. “Culling is an outdated policy that seeks to eradicate protected wildlife rather than addressing the real problem which is the main cause of bovine tuberculosis (bTB): cattle-to-cattle infection. 

“Recent news that investment in a cattle vaccine is underway is welcome — but it is not enough. Moving the culling into areas where badger vaccinations have been taking place will also undermine this vital and under-funded work.” 

Photo credit: C Andrew Parkinson

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) CEO Estelle Bailey adds: “BBOWT remains adamant that a cull is not necessary for the control of bTB, if alternative approaches including vaccination are fully implemented. 

“Culling does not address the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB which is cattle-to-cattle transmission, and it undermines our vaccination programmes. 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.”  

A campaign to stop the killing

The cull, which began in 2013, is expected to continue for a further four years. However, badger campaigners were given a glimmer of hope that it would end sooner, when earlier this year, the Government said in the Godfray review that it intended to move away from culling and wanted to expand badger vaccination.

Instead, this autumn’s cull brings the overall total of badgers shot since culling began in 2013 to over 170,000 badger deaths — despite evidence showing that bTB is primarily a cattle problem, not a wildlife one (the main route of bTB transmission in cattle is between cattle).

Organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts oppose culling and believe the science used to justify the killing of thousands of badgers every year in the UK is flawed.


Back in August, several Wildlife Trusts started an e-action against the cull coming to their counties for the first time: Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicester & Rutland Wildlife Trusts.

Their latest campaign has seen more than 14,000 people so far writing to their MPs raising concerns about the badger cull and plans to expand it into new areas. 

For more information on supporting the badger this National Badger Day, visit: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/saving-species/badgers

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4 thoughts on “National Badger Day: Betrayal in the British countryside

  1. A really good, informative article! We must have had the same idea for National Badger Day because I wrote a similar blog post! Let’s hope that in the future there won’t be a cull for us to write about.

    1. Hi Jason, thanks for your comment – yes indeed, I dream of announcing that that cull is over for good. How can I find your post? I’d like to read it 🙂

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