Avon Wildlife Trust calls for people to oppose badger cull: fears that new cull zones could include our area for the first time

Badgers in Avon could be destroyed as the Government has today announced the parts of the country where culling will take place.

Though details are unclear, it seems that Avon may be one of the additional cull areas announced today, adding to the other counties where culling is already taking place, and giving the go ahead for large numbers of badgers to be killed.

Avon Wildlife Trust is joining The Wildlife Trusts nationally in continuing to oppose this flawed policy, urging the Government to halt the cull and instead invest in badger vaccination, speed up more effective tests for bovine TB in cattle and put more investment into a cattle vaccine.

The location of the cull zones is kept secret but may be close to some of our nature reserves, many of which have thriving badger populations. We will not allow culling to take place on any of our land and urge other landowners to take a stand on this with us. We are deeply concerned that wherever culling takes place it will destroy a much-loved and important wildlife species right on our doorstep.

Ian Barrett, Chief Executive, Avon Wildlife Trust says:
“The badger cull is an indefensible policy that puts native wildlife in the firing line for political reasons. I do not believe that there can be any justification for attempting to eradicate a native species from large areas of the country. The cull continues a long history of war on wildlife in the countryside, which has left us with only a fraction of what was once there.

Bovine TB is a serious issue that needs to be tackled. But the answer is in better cattle controls and vaccination, not the extermination of one of our iconic mammals, which the Government’s own scientific advisers have said will not work. We are facing the desperate prospect of badgers here in Avon being killed alongside more than 34,000 already slaughtered since the Government began this mistaken strategy. The public are overwhelmingly against killing badgers in this cruel way and it’s time the Government realised how strongly people feel about this issue. Killing thousands more badgers is not the solution.”

Badger vaccination – which several Wildlife Trusts have been carrying out – costs on average £82 per badger compared to £496.51 per badger culled and has been shown to reduce the likelihood of badgers passing on the infection. It is clear that the main route to infection for farmers’ herds comes from cattle to cattle contact and so more research into effective cattle testing and vaccination is vital.

Avon Wildlife Trust is urging people to write to their MPs asking them to help stop the cull. You can find your MP here

You can find out more information on The Wildlife Trusts’ website here


Editor's notes

Wildlife Trusts and badger vaccination
Wildlife Trusts have been undertaking badger vaccination programmes since 2011* on our nature reserves and in the wider countryside in partnership with vets, farmers and landowners (14 Wildlife Trusts have been involved in these vaccination programmes). Derbyshire Wildlife Trust; Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust; Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust are currently vaccinating badgers. Several other Wildlife Trusts work with local badger groups to deliver badger vaccination. Badger vaccination currently costs on average £82 per badger [1], while latest figures suggest it costs the state £496.51 per badger culled (not including costs incurred by the land owner) [2].
*A global shortage of the BCG vaccine resulted in a suspension of badger vaccination projects in Wales and England for 2015 and 2016. Three Wildlife Trusts resumed vaccination programmes in 2017.

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% [3]. The Wildlife Trusts welcome the Government’s announcement that there will be enough supplies of vaccine to allow Defra’s Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme Link: [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/badger-edge-vaccination-scheme-2-bevs-2] 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, medium and low 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 at least the following counties: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire, Somerset and Staffordshire. This includes one cull zone in the Low Risk Area in Cumbria.

[1] The cost per badger of vaccination by Wildlife Trusts was calculated using data from 2015 which is the most recent data available. Wildlife Trusts vaccinated 949 badgers, which cost a total of £78,042.25. Cost per dose is £82
[2] The cost of the cull per badger in England was calculated using figures from the badger cull in 2016. Figures for costs to government and the police† was divided by the number of badgers culled††. This gives a cost per badger of £496.51.