Update on the Pilot Culls

Monday 3rd March 2014

The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, announced on 26 January 2013 that pilot badger culls would go ahead in Somerset and Gloucestershire in the summer of 2013.

  • The first of two six-week pilot culls began on Tuesday 27 August in Somerset. A second cull began in Gloucestershire on 4 September.
  • The pilot culls were designed to test the 'free shooting' method of culling badgers, even though cage trapping and shooting of badgers was also permitted.
  • The aim was to remove at least 70% of the local badger populations.
  • Culled badgers were not being tested for bTB and the impact of the cull on bTB in cattle will not be measured.
  • The pilot culls will be assessed by an independent panel to determine whether they meet the criteria for effectiveness, humaneness and safety.

Avon Wildlife Trust are firmly opposed to the culls. 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. Biosecurity and vaccination should be at the centre of efforts to tackle this disease rather than a badger cull.

Why use a vaccine?
A vaccine is available to inoculate badgers. Vaccinating badgers can significantly reduce bTB without the disruption of a cull. In a veterinary field study, vaccinating wild badgers resulted in a 74% reduction in bTB. In comparison, culling trials have shown that shooting 70% of wild badgers might reduce bTB cases by just 12-23% over nine years – and increase cases of bTB on the outskirts of cull zones.

Update – the cull so far
During the six-week cull 850 badgers were killed, representing just over 58% of the revised estimated local badger population of 1,450. The original population estimate in Somerset was 2,490 in autumn 2012.

A three-week extension was granted and a further 90 badgers were shot, falling far short of the required minimum of 165, and representing a total reduction of 65% of the badger population. The Government’s pilot culls had aimed to remove at least 70%.

708 badgers were killed during the six-week culling period, representing just 30% of the revised estimated local badger population of 2,350. The original population estimate in Gloucestershire was 3,400 in autumn 2012. An eight-week extension has been granted, during which a minimum of 540 badgers must be shot to achieve a reduction of 53%. In order to achieve the original aim of a 70% reduction, 940 badgers must be shot. The extended cull in Gloucestershire was proposed to last until 18 December 2013 but has ended early on 30 November 2013, due to targets not being reached.