Pilot badger culls fail

Thursday 17th October 2013

Badger photo by Margaret HollandBadger Cull Fails

As the latest results from the pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire are announced, The Wildlife Trusts are renewing calls for the Government to drop badger culling from its proposed strategy to tackle bovineTB in England.

In the six weeks of the pilot cull in Gloucestershire, 708 badgers were killed, representing less than a third of the estimated local badger population of 2,350.  The Government’s pilot culls had aimed to remove at least 70% of the population.  Estimates of the badger population in each pilot area have been significantly reduced twice and still the pilot culls have failed to meet the conditions set out in Defra’s guidance to Natural England.  The original population estimate in Gloucestershire was 3,644 in autumn 2012.

Both pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have failed to meet the key test of ‘effectiveness’.  In both areas, the removal of at least 70% of the estimated badger population in the six-week licence period has not been achieved.  It is possible for the bovine TB problem to have been made worse, due to the ‘perturbation effect’. 

Chair of The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, Jack Wilson, said: "The last thing we want is for the problem of bovineTB to be made worse. We want to ensure that we have healthy wildlife and a productive agriculture sector in the England.

"It's time the government admits the policy is not going to achieve this and get back to listening what the scientists tell them is more likely to succeed."

With an extension granted in Somerset and under consideration for the pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire, The Wildlife Trusts believe this failure to meet required targets should lead the Government to abandon its culling policy.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Defra’s flawed badger cull policy remains a tragic distraction from tackling this devastating disease. 

“The pilot culls have clearly proven that the necessary criteria cannot be met; there has been a failure to cull the target numbers of badgers and a failure to do so within the set timeframe.  These failures, combined with huge uncertainties over the badger population’s true size in the cull zones, carry very real implications for remaining badger populations.  They also run the risk of further spreading the disease from disrupted social groups of badgers, known as the perturbation effect.  The granting of extensions to licences to cull by Natural England is simply not justifiable.  Defra set out its strategy for a six week period; it has been a complete failure and the cull should be pulled.

“We are reiterating our calls for the Government to focus efforts on badger and cattle vaccination, stricter cattle movement controls and improved biosecurity.”

The Wildlife Trusts strongly oppose the pilot badger culls and any proposals for rolling out culls beyond this year.  This scale of culling of a native mammal, which is a valuable part of the ecosystem, is simply not justified by the small potential reduction in bovine TB incidence in cattle.

Update

The Gloucestershire badger cull is to end earlier than planned after Natural England has revoked the licence over failure to meet even the greatly reduced targets.

Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscape, commented:

“Whilst we welcome the news that Natural England has revoked the culling licence in Gloucestershire, this clearly demonstrates the need for the government to change direction.

“The Wildlife Trusts shall continue to call for badger culling to be dropped from the government’s proposed strategy to tackle bovine TB in England.

“The pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire both failed to meet the key test of ‘effectiveness’. They may have made the bovine TB problem worse, due to the ‘perturbation effect, and at a cost of millions of pounds.

“Perhaps now the Government will consider dropping the cull and focus on tackling this devastating disease through investing in alternatives, including badger and cattle vaccination, stricter cattle movement controls and improved biosecurity.” 

Tagged with: Badger cull, Pilot, Wildlife trust