Our view on the badger cull and bTB
The Wildlife Trusts oppose the badger cull and believe that it is an ineffective tool in the fight against bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Whilst Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is very conscious of the hardship that Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease. However, we believe that a badger cull is not the answer.
The Wildlife Trusts oppose the badger cull and believe that it is an ineffective tool in the fight against bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
December 2018 update -
Government data on the badger cull show that 3979 badgers have been killed in Staffordshire.
We urge the Government to halt their flawed policy. Killing wildlife is not the answer.
We are actively vaccinating badgers in Staffordshire. Please support our work by donating to our appeal https://bit.ly/2BulON7
November 2018 update - The Wildlife Trusts' response to the Bovine TB Strategy Review.
Whilst welcoming the review's recommendations for a changed emphasis in the government’s strategy for eradicating bovine tuberculosis (bTB), The Wildlife Trusts are extremely concerned that it also recommends that badger culling should continue. This flies in the face of robust scientific evidence and we urge the government to halt their flawed policy which leads to tens of thousands of badgers being killed every year.
Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager of The Wildlife Trusts says:
“The Wildlife Trusts believe that cattle and not badgers should be the focus of efforts to eradicate bTB. We support the review’s recommendation that the focus of the strategy should be shifted to addressing the transmission of bTB between cattle. This is the main route of infection. Only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers , so culling badgers is not the answer. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that culling increases the prevalence of bTB in the badger population [2,3], and results in it spreading to other areas [4,5,6]. We believe that more must be done by both the government and farmers to improve farm biosecurity and cattle movement controls.”
Ellie Brodie continues:
“Badger vaccination should be used strategically, with more resources invested to roll out a widespread vaccination programme. Vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB infection prevalence in the badger population , and hence bTB risks to cattle, without the harmful effects associated with culling such as increased prevalence of TB in badgers plus spreading the disease [8,9]. The review highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling which The Wildlife Trusts welcomes. The government should do more to support rolling vaccination out to more areas of the country.
The Wildlife Trusts have proved that badger vaccination can tackle bTB in badgers, and Wildlife Trusts have demonstrated it’s do-able. Twelve Wildlife Trusts across England and Wales conducted badger vaccination programmes between 2011-2015*. In this time, we vaccinated more than 1500 badgers. The largest programme is run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust who train lay vaccinators on behalf of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
The Wildlife Trusts are ideally placed to work with the government and farmers to deliver badger vaccination at a wide-scale.
Huge disappointment at limitations of Bovine TB Strategy Review led by Sir Charles Godfray. We urge the government to halt their flawed policy. A cull is not the answer
The Wildlife Trusts call on the government to:
- Halt the badger cull now.
- Invest in and promote a strategy for badger vaccination. This should be led and funded by the government, across England.
- Invest more time and resource in supporting improved farm biosecurity and movement controls.
- Accelerate development of more effective tests for bTB in cattle and put serious investment into a bTB cattle vaccine. This is a cattle problem, not a wildlife problem.
*Hampshire & Isle of Wight; South & West Wales; Shropshire; Gloucestershire; Leicestershire & Rutland; Staffordshire; Berks, Bucks & Oxon; Warwickshire; Cheshire; Derbyshire; Dorset, and Nottinghamshire.
More information about the badger cull is available on www.wildlifetrusts.org/badgers.
Which Wildlife Trusts are currently leading on the vaccination of badgers? Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust; Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
Badger Vaccination: Whilst vaccination doesn’t cure a badger of bTB it does slow the progression of the disease in an individual animal, and lowers the likelihood that the infection will be passed on. Badger vaccination can reduce the chance that a badger will test positive for bTB by as much as 76% (1). The Wildlife Trusts welcome the Government’s announcement that there will be enough supplies of vaccine to allow Defra’s Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme to resume in 2018.
Cull Zones: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Defra, has granted licenses in England to cull badgers where there’s a high risk of cattle being infected with bTB. Badgers are being culled because they can carry bovine Tb and pass on the disease to other animals; however, badgers are not the main route of infection for farmers’ herds - that comes from cattle to cattle contact. There are now 32 cull zones in the following counties: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Somerset. This also includes one cull zone in a Low Risk Area in Cumbria.
Unsatisfactory evidence to prove that the badger cull is working: This review, led by Sir Charles Godfray, referred to a study published in 2017 to show that wide-scale, non-selective badger culling is working . This secondary analysis on a small dataset, suggests that culling might be reducing TB inside cull zones and increasing it on adjoining land, as in trial culls. However, the study’s authors cautioned that their findings should not be used to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of the badger cull. Furthermore, results quoted by a Defra Minister in September 2018 drew conclusions based on data that hadn’t been properly analysed by an independent scientific body. This means that it is not possible to say that any reduction in bTB incidence has been caused by the badger cull as they could be down to other factors; from improved testing regimes to more effective cattle movement controls.
 Badgers are responsible for around 6% of all new bTB breakdowns in cattle. See: Donnelly, CA & Nouvellet, P., 2013. The Contribution of Badgers to Confirmed Tuberculosis in Cattle in High-Incidence Areas in England. PLoS Currents: Outbreaks. http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to...
 Woodroffe, R et al., 2006. Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103, 14713-14717.
 Woodroffe, R et al., 2009. Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers in localized culling areas. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 45, 128-143.
 Donnelly, CA et al., 2006. Reduce uncertainty in UK badger culling. Nature, 439: 843-846.
 Donnelly, CA et al., 2003. Impact of localized badger culling on tuberculosis incidence in British cattle. Nature, 426: 834-837.
 Jenkins, HE et al., 2007. Effects of culling on spatial associations of mycobacterium bovis infections in badgers and cattle. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44, 897-908.
 Carter, SP et al., 2012. BCG Vaccination Reduces Risk of Tuberculosis Infection in Vaccinated Badgers and Unvaccinated Badger Cubs. PLOS One, 7: e49833.
 Woodroffe, R et al., 2016. Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54: 718-725.
 Lesellier, S et al., 2006. The safety and immunogenicity of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine in European badgers (Meles meles). Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 112: 24-37.
 Brunton et al., 2017. Assessing the effects of the first 2 years of industry-led badger culling in England on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle in 2013–2015. Ecology and Evolution. 7: 7213–7230. Available here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.3254/full
September 2018 update
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust has expressed extreme dismay after receiving confirmation that proposals to extend licensed badger culling in our county were approved by Natural England.
The Trust believes culling badgers is not the answer and are passionate in our campaign to oppose the cull. Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is very conscious of the hardship that bovine tuberculosis (bTB) causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease. However, we believe that a badger cull is not the answer.
This year, badgers are now at risk in Staffordshire and Cumbria, in addition to the existing areas of Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset,Cornwall, Devon, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Wiltshire.
As a result of this major expansion of badger cull, 40,892 badgers could be killed by the end of 2018, more than during the last 5 years of the badger cull combined.
The county’s largest nature conservation charity, who were one of the first Trusts to adopt a programme of badger vaccination, will not give permission for a cull to take place on its nature reserves and are currently undertaking a badger vaccination programme on a number of locations across the county.
The organisation believe that the government’s strategy is flawed because bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is primarily a cattle problem, not a wildlife one, and makes no sense at a time when a review of the government strategy which drives the culls – the bovine TB eradication strategy – is still underway.
Scientific research has shown that badger culling could be counterproductive.
Julian Woolford, Chief Executive, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “It is unacceptable that the government has not waited for the results of their own review – which we understand is to be published imminently – before forging ahead with another year of ineffective and expensive badger culling. The badger cull is a dangerous distraction from addressing the main route of bTB transmission in cattle which is between cattle.”
Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager, The Wildlife Trusts said:
“The Wildlife Trusts have been involved in this debate for over ten years. In 2008 we successfully persuaded the Labour Government not to go ahead with a badger cull. In 2012 we helped stop the initial badger cull pilot in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Simultaneously, we have led the way in demonstrating that badger vaccination would be a far more effective route, accompanied with strict biosecurity controls, movement controls and robust cattle testing regimes.
“We’re calling on the government to invest in medicine, not marksmen. The costs of killing badgers are much higher than vaccinating them – it costs £496.51 to kill a badger compared with £82 to vaccinate a badger.”
The Wildlife Trust movement has opposed badger culling for well over a decade and most recently have written to Secretary of State, Michael Gove, to highlight the flaws of the badger cull and request that the cull be ended in favour of strategic and widespread badger vaccination schemes, and to invest in developing a cattle vaccine. Yet again, this has not happened.
June 2018 update
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust was dismayed to hear about the proposals to extend licensed badger culling in our county.
In addition to these proposals, the government has announced it will allow badger culling to take place in low-risk areas of England.
We remain very conscious of the hardship that Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) causes in the farming community and fully support the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease. However, we do not believe that a badger cull is the answer. Scientific research funded by the Government has shown that badger culling, unless carried out in line with strict criteria including the requirement to be across very large areas, could be counterproductive.
We have strongly put our case forward during the consultation process on why we feel a badger cull is not the answer and are maintaining a very close eye on the outcomes.
We will not give permission for a cull to take place on our nature reserves and are currently undertaking a badger vaccination programme on a number of locations across the county.
SWT summer magazine 2018 article
SWT's Head of Conservation Delivery Helen Dale shares the Trust’s views on the badger cull issue and answers some commonly asked questions for our summer 2018 magazine. The article can be viewed on the links below.
SWT Summer magazine Badger cull article - page 1
SWT Summer magazine Badger cull article - page 2
Tackling the bovine TB problem
Scientific research funded by the Government has shown conclusively that badger culling, unless carried out in line with strict criteria including the requirement to be across very large areas, could be counterproductive.
Large-scale badger culling trials show an initial worsening of the disease due to territorial boundaries being disturbed leading to increased movement of badgers. Over the longer term, there may be a positive impact of a 12 - 16 per cent reduction of bTB in cattle, but this still leaves at least 84 per cent of the problem.
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust believes therefore that the disease should be tackled by the following measures:
- Cattle vaccination: The development and deployment of a cattle vaccine is the long-term solution to bTB.
- Badger vaccination: Until cattle vaccination is available, the use of an injectable BadgerBCG vaccine is curently the most effective way of tackling badger to cattle transmission of the disease.
- Biosecurity: All possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm.
What Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is doing
Badger vaccination: Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is working on a five-year badger vaccination programme on two of its nature reserves.
Lobbying the Government and MPs: The Wildlife Trusts have been campaigning both nationally and at a local level, and lobbying the European Commission to change regulation relating to cattle vaccination.
Encouraging our members to take action: We have been encouraging members to wirte to their MPs and MEPs.
What you can do
- Write to or email your MP to ask them to call for the cull to be stopped
- Write to or email your MEP to press for the EU ban on cattle vaccination to be lifted
- Donate to our badger vaccination programme
Become a member of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Our badger vaccination programme
The Trust is working on a five-year badger vaccination programme on two nature reserves.
Find out more about how we vaccinate the badgers from an article in Staffordshire Wildlife members' magazine. Click the link below!
It will cost £25,000 to run the vaccination programme for the next five years. We need your help to fund this important work - to pay for essential veterinary supplies, equipment and staff training.