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July 15, 2011

Opposing Plans to Massacre Badgers in England

Humane Society International

  • Britain's iconic badger is under threat. Dirk Freder/istock

Badgers are among the most iconic and best-loved of the UK's wild mammals, but their future is under threat from official plans to slaughter them en masse in a misguided attempt to control tuberculosis in cattle.

With an announcement from the Westminster Government widely expected to give the go-ahead on killing badgers in parts of England, Humane Society International/UK has written to Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) [PDF], asking her to urgently reconsider the government’s position on the proposal.

Shooting badgers

Licensing landowners to shoot free-running badgers will undoubtedly result in injuries to many, with associated suffering and welfare problems. It will also disrupt badger clans and setts, which could actually increase the risk of spreading tuberculosis.

Scientific opinion

The mass slaughter of badgers as a means of controlling bovine tuberculosis isn’t supported by the available scientific information.

Indeed, in 2007 the group of scientists charged with reviewing the results of the ten-year "Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT)," conducted by DEFRA to evaluate the effectiveness of slaughtering badgers, concluded that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”.

Professor Lord John Krebs, who acted as advisor to the government in the 1990s and who was involved in initiating the RBCT, has recently been quoted as saying that culling is "not an effective policy" and would be a mistake.

Dr Rosie Woodroffe, a badger ecologist at the Institute of Zoology in London who worked on the RBCT, was quoted as saying of the government’s preferred option: "I think it is scientifically among the worst options they could have chosen."

Public opinion

UK based opinion polls consistently demonstrate the public’s opposition to badger slaughter.

The Westminster Government has to date failed to release the results of last year’s public consultation on proposals to slaughter badgers. HSI has written to DEFRA asking for the results under the Freedom of Information Act.

Badger slaughter in Wales

Plans announced to slaughter badgers in parts of west Wales are currently being reviewed by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).

Opposition to slaughter

HSI opposes the mass slaughter of badgers as a means of controlling bovine TB, and calls on the governments of England and Wales to instead concentrate resources on reducing cattle-to-cattle spread, and researching vaccines and other preventative methods in order to protect both badgers and cattle against this debilitating and costly disease.

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