Badger culling starting in Avon for the first time – despite vaccination showing an alternative way forward

(c) Bevis Watts

Badgers will be culled in Avon for the first time as the government today announced new cull areas, increasing the number stretching from Cornwall to Cumbria to over 40. Avon is one of 11 new areas across England where culling is now taking place, despite Avon Wildlife Trust starting a badger vaccination programme in July to help tackle the problem of bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) in badgers and demonstrate an alternative to culling.

Licenses have been granted by Defra and it is understood that culling is already underway in parts of the Avon region, with badgers now being shot. The exact locations of the areas licensed for culling is unknown.

Avon Wildlife Trust successfully ran a pilot vaccination programme over the summer, vaccinating 15 badgers on one site to give them protection from bovine TB. The charity has already raised £10,500 of the £20,000 needed to roll out further vaccination across the region over the next four years and has had positive discussions with farmers and landowners interested in vaccinating badgers on their land.

Ian Barrett, Avon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive, said:

“It’s a huge blow that the cull has come to Avon given that only a few weeks ago we’ve shown a cost-effective, viable alternative to culling which protects badgers from bovine TB. There’s every opportunity to do more and vaccinate badger groups across the region.  But the cull now threatens these wonderful wild animals and certainly doesn’t provide an effective solution for farmers who desperately need to protect their herds. We understand the difficult choices faced by farmers who suffer immense hardship from bovine TB, but there’s simply not enough support for those who do want to vaccinate badgers as one of the measures needed to tackle the disease.”

Avon Wildlife Trust remains opposed to the cull policy and will not allow any culling activity on any of its 30 nature reserves.  It is calling for government funding and publicity for badger vaccination in all parts of England including in ‘high risk’ areas for bovine TB such as Avon, so that it becomes an affordable, accessible choice for farmers. The charity is holding a meeting in October for any landowners and farmers interested in badger vaccination. 

Anyone keen to find out more and register interest should email enquiries@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk.

Donations to the Save Our Badgers appeal can be made at www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/saveourbadgers