Badgers and bovine tuberculosis (bTB)

© Andrew Mason

The Wildlife Trusts are firmly opposed to the badger cull and no Wildlife Trust will allow culling on its land.


Badgers matter - what you can do

Contact your MP
Write to, email or tweet your local MP, urging them to put pressure on the Government to drop the cull.

Support our badger vaccination programmes
You can donate to vaccination programmes happening at different Trusts around the UK. Funds raised help to pay for vaccines, training, equipment and licenses.


Tackling the bovine TB  problem

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a highly infectious disease of cattle which devastates thousands of farming businesses annually. Since the mid-1980s, the incidence of bTB in cattle has increased substantially creating an economic burden on the taxpayer and the farming industry, as infected cattle must be culled.

Government research shows that TB is not a major cause of death in badgers. Generally, infected badgers do not show any sign of infection and can survive for many years before suffering from severe emaciation.

83% of badgers culled in government trials 2002-2005 tested TB free.


The badger cull

Badgers are being culled as part of a government initiative to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. Pilot badger culls commenced in 2013 in Gloucester and Somerset amid much opposition. More than 300,000 people supported a petition opposing the cull. An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was appointed by Defra to assess the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the 2013 culls. The panel deemed the culls 'ineffective' and 'inhumane' in 2013, with no significant improvement - and further failures - in 2014. Despite two parliamentary debates, a prominent opposition campaign and the support of numerous experts and high profile figures, the number of areas increased in 2015 to include Dorset. In August 2016, the Government announced seven new cull licenses across three new areas (Cornwall, Devon and Herefordshire) for an extension of the cull.

Update 11th September 2017: The Government have licenced 11 new areas, and authorised two new supplementary licenses in Gloucestershire and Somerset. This brings the total number of badger cull areas to 21. The badger cull now operates across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Somerset.


What do The Wildlife Trusts believe?

We are very conscious of the hardship that bovine TB (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 scientific evidence demonstrates that culling is likely to be ineffective in fighting the disease and, worse still, risks making the problem even worse. We believe the emphasis of all our efforts should be to find a long-term solution and we are calling for the Government to end its policy of culling badgers.

  • This is a cattle problem, not a badger problem.
    The control of Bovine TB in cattle should be the main focus of everyone’s efforts to control this problem. The evidence shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of TB in cattle: the primary route of infection is via cow-to-cow contact.
  • A vaccine for cattle should be a priority.
    The Government has failed to develop one for TB. UK Cattle are already vaccinated for up to 16 diseases so why should TB be different?
  • The cull is scientifically unsound.
    The results of the previous badger culls indicate that this policy is flawed and unsupported by the evidence. In 2014 scientist and badger expert Rosie Woodroffe deemed the cull ‘scientifically rubbish’ in response to changing Government targets. Culling has been shown to be more expensive, less effective than other Bovine TB (bTB) control mechanisms and the free-shooting of badgers has been shown to be an inhumane method of killing.


Call for cattle vaccine, not badger culling

As a fresh wave of badger culling begins over a much wider area than in previous years, The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to stop killing badgers. This will not eradicate Bovine TB in cattle.

Badger culls have been given the go-ahead in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Somerset. Almost 15,000 badgers have been killed since culls began in 2013. The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that this culling is putting local populations of badgers at risk in affected parts of the British countryside. We urge Natural England to publish the information they hold on the impact of the badger cull on the wider environment.*

The Wildlife Trusts’ Director Steve Trotter says: “A healthy wildlife rich natural world is valuable in its own right, and badgers are an important part of our countryside and culture. We work closely with many farmers, day in, day out, and we recognise the pain and hardship of those whose cattle herds have been devastated by bovine tuberculosis (bTB), but killing badgers will not solve the problem. Badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bTB in cattle: the primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact. The Government's badger cull is flying in the face of science. It should be putting more resources into speeding up the development of an effective cattle vaccine, amongst other measures.”

Badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bTB in cattle: the primary route of infection is cattle-to-cattle contact. The Government's badger cull is flying in the face of science. It should be putting more resources into speeding up the development of an effective cattle vaccine, amongst other measures

In the absence of cattle vaccination, The Wildlife Trusts believe that vaccination of badgers is a more humane and effective solution to helping stop the spread of bTB than culling. A shortage of BCG vaccine put a temporary halt to badger vaccination in 2016 and Defra did not find alternatives. But this year some Wildlife Trusts sourced vaccine independently - these Wildlife Trusts are now re-commencing badger vaccination. The latest figures† show that on average it costs a Wildlife Trust just £82 to vaccinate an animal, as compared to the cull which cost £6,800 per badger between 2012-2014.

The Government spent almost £450,000 on communications equipment alone to support the culls between 2016-2017. This money could have been invested in cattle vaccine research or used to vaccinate nearly 5,500 badgers.

The Wildlife Trusts call on the Government to:

  • Stop the policy of badger culling
  • Establish a full and independent inquiry into whether the culls to date have achieved their intended outcomes in reducing bTB in cattle
  • Advance the development of a cattle vaccine, and complete the development of and licence the use of oral baited vaccine in badgers.
  • Develop better biosecurity, bTB testing and cattle movement controls

Although The Wildlife Trusts don’t agree with the policy of badger culling, if it takes place robust monitoring programmes should be implemented in all cull zones.

More information about the badger cull is available on The Wildlife Trusts’ website www.wildlifetrusts.org/badgers.


How could a badger cull make the bovine TB problem 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'.



Badger Trust 'Stop The Cull' film

The Wildlife Trusts’ President Simon King OBE and our President Emeritus Sir David Attenborough have, along with others, articulated their views on the badger cull in this short film produced by the Badger Trust.