Response to the 10 area limit Consultation

Since 2014, Devon Badger Group has been helping to protect badgers in Devon with a small but very committed and active membership which is steadily growing. We have a 24/7 helpline and receive calls and emails from people all over Devon with concerns on a wide range of issues such as sett disturbance, injured badgers, development concerns and the badger cull.

We have spoken to a number of farmers and landowners since the culls began in Devon in 2016 and have come to realise that many do not believe culling badgers is the answer. We have also been involved in badger vaccination projects providing support for and working alongside Somerset Badger Group.

We know, through our many public information stalls and talks, that there are real concerns among the wider public of the effect prolonged culling will have on the future of one of Devon’s most iconic native mammals.

5. We would be grateful for your views on removing the restriction on the maximum number of new badger control areas to be licensed each year.

Devon Badger Group opposes any form of lethal badger control for the purpose of disease reduction in cattle. There has yet to be published any scientific evidence to show that culling badgers is having any effect on the level of TB in cattle and in fact results show that where badger culling has taken place for 5 years, the number of herd breakdowns has increased in West Somerset and stayed the same in West Gloucestershire.

Given that, within the HRA, the risk to cattle from infected badgers is known to be low with less than 6% of bTB infected herds being attributable to badgers[1], we believe a far more effective, humane and cheaper method of reducing the risk of TB transmission between cattle to badgers and badgers to cattle, is badger vaccination2. Badger vaccination, in conjunction with stricter cattle movement controls and more frequent TB testing has shown to be much more effective in Wales and much more acceptable by the wider public.

To continue with this unscientific cull when a more effective and cheaper alternative exists which has produced better results is inexplicable and totally unjustifiable. Therefore, to propose to increase the number of new cull areas that can be licenced per year shows a complete disregard for a science-based approach and a reckless attitude to the future of a protected native species.

Defra are themselves supporting badger vaccination in the edge areas, but we urge Defra to support this cheaper, more effective and publicly accepted method for the HRA too. This would show that the government is serious about tackling TB in cattle but not at the expense of tens of thousands of badgers.

The government have confirmed there will be a review of its TB strategy this year and we strongly urge the government to suspend further culls until the review has concluded and the results published. There should certainly not be an increase in the number of licenced areas while there is no evidence to support them.

Any TB policy review should include the costs of the culls since they began in 2013. An estimate of the costs to Britain’s tax payers so far is £50 Million pounds but not all costs have been disclosed to the public. We believe the government has a duty to the British people to release detailed costs of all culling operations to date along with its justifications for not only continuing with badger culling but proposing to significantly increase the numbers of badgers culled. A roll out on the scale proposed could potentially remove badgers from large areas of the country. This could have serious consequences for the wider environment as no environmental impact assessments are available which has been the subject of a recent Information Commissioner’s Office ruling that the information should be made available.

The Animal & Plant Health Agency’s ‘Report on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle in 2013-2016 provided no compelling evidence that badger culling was reducing bTB in cattle[2].

Badger culling is the most serious threat to a native species in living memory and casts a deep shadow over Britain’s reputation in the world as a champion on animal welfare issues. We consistently speak out against illegal poaching and the trade in endangered species but will readily cull tens of thousands of one of its own native mammals with no justification or research into non-lethal alternatives. As a direct result of badger culling, the Devon Badger Group has seen an increase in sett disturbance and destruction as farmers and land owners feel justified in doing so due to the blame attached to them by the governments badger culling strategy.

We are concerned at the reason for the proposed increase in the number of new areas licenced as it will prove more difficult to compare culled areas to non culled areas when evaluating any disease reducing effects of badger culling. We feel that the government are not being open and transparent with the public over its commitment to reducing TB in cattle, is the aim to simply remove as many badgers as possible from large areas of England? As the review is due to conclude in September, this year’s culls will already have begun, this shows a complete disregard for and cynical attitude towards the conclusion of the review.

  1. Donnelly, C. A. & Nouvellet, P. The contribution of badgers to confirmed tuberculosis in cattle in high incidence areas in England. PLoS Currents Outbreaks, doi:doi: 10.1371/currents.outbreaks.097a904d3f3619db2fe78d24bc776098. (2013).
    Carter, S. P. et al. BCG vaccination reduces risk of tuberculosis infection in vaccinated badgers and unvaccinated badger cubs. PLOS One 7, e49833, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049833 (2012).
  2. APHA. Report on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle in 2013-2016 – Three years’ follow-up in areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire and one year of follow-up in Dorset of industry-led badger control. ( 2017).