Badger Trust condemns the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory

Badger Trust condemns the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory as the Government confirm that over 35,000 badgers killed under culling licences in 2019

After many months of delay the Government finally confirmed on Friday 27 March that a total of 35,034 badgers were killed as a result of its badger culling policy in 2019. These figures include all the badgers killed under 4 year cull licences currently in operation and supplementary cull licences which are put in place once these have ended. The number of badgers killed in 2019 exceeds for the first time the number of cattle slaughtered for TB in the same period.

Reacting to the publication of the badger culling figures the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:

"The Government licensed the killing of 35,034 badgers in 2019 in 40 culling zones stretching from Cornwall to Cumbria in the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory. Over 70% of the badgers killed in the 2019 cull were as a result of controlled shooting (24,645). This method of killing is condemned by the British Veterinary Association as being inhumane, with the Government's Independent Expert Panel finding in 2013 that it can result in badgers taking over five minutes to die from multiple bullet wounds, blood loss and organ failure.

Only 149 of the 35,034 badgers killed were monitored for humaneness, just 0.6% of the total. 99.4% of the badgers killed by contractors were not subject to any independent monitoring for humaneness, public safety or TB safety controls by Natural England.

The total number of badgers killed since the cull policy started in 2013 is now a staggering 102,349 and the estimated public cost is over £60 million to date. Badgers are now being slaughtered at such a rate across England they could face local extinction in areas of the country they have inhabited since the Ice Age.

Despite this mass destruction of a protected species, the Government has failed to produce any reliable evidence to prove that the culling of badgers is making any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones."

Also responding to the release of the badger kill figures, the Chair of the Badger Trust, Jo Bates-Keegan, added:

"Sadly these figures don't come as a surprise; we are hearing that in cull areas badger groups are seeing completely abandoned setts across wide areas. We are in danger of seeing local extinction, if not already.

The Government needs to move more quickly with regards to sensible cattle-based measures detailed in the Sir Charles Godfray TB policy review; improved TB testing, risk-based cattle trading, and tighter movement and biosecurity control. Cattle vaccination is coming and badger vaccination should be swiftly brought in as a viable alternative to culling." In view of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures, the Badger Trust is calling on the Government to consider if the badger cull can go ahead in 2020.

With Natural England currently unable to put its officials into the field to monitor culling operations, possible Covid-19 restrictions placed on cull contractors, and the police fully occupied managing the consequences of the pandemic, the Badger Trust believes it would be very difficult for DEFRA to license any culling operations, taking into account the need to maintain public safety and to monitor the humaneness of the shooting of badgers.

Details of badger cull figures 2013 to 2019

Policy paper from UK Government Bovine TB: summary of badger control monitoring during 2019