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May 31, 2013

Working to Protect Badgers

Humane Society International/UK

  • Badgers are under threat from culling in England. Stuart Matthews

Since the badger culls were postponed last October, we have been working hard to turn that postponement into a permanent reprieve for badgers.

Our team has spoken at public and parliamentary meetings, submitted questions to Ministers and met with Members of Parliament, vets, biologists and other stakeholders in order to underline our concerns.

Killing could begin on 1 June

In spite of these efforts, and the efforts of our Team Badger coalition partners, Secretary of State for Environment Owen Paterson has confirmed that the licenses have been issued to enable pilot culls to take place this summer. The killing could be begin anytime from 1 June across areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset. A third area, in Dorset, has been earmarked as a replacement cull zone, should one of the other two areas become unworkable.

Culling expansion

The Minister also signalled his ongoing support for the culls and has, according to an article in the Sunday Times on 26 May 2013, drawn up plans for a big expansion of culling which would allow farmers far greater freedom to shoot the animals. He also warned that culling would have to continue at a high level for up to 25 years.

Speaking to the newspaper, he said: “If the two pilot culls this year are declared efficient, safe and humane, we will definitely be extending them. We will roll out 10 new cull zones next year, and 10 more in each of the three years after that.”


According to DEFRA, one of the three reasons for holding the pilot badger culls is to assess whether killing more that 70 per cent of badgers in a cull zone within a six week period can be done "humanely".

If DEFRA concludes that the culls are deemed successful and “humane”, it could sound the death knell for up to 130,000 animals as the killing is rolled out to as many as 40 different areas of England, each likely to be at least as large as the Isle of Wight, over the coming years.

We believe that the criteria for reaching such an important decision should be open to public scrutiny. In October 2012, we submitted a number of questions to DEFRA on how it will establish whether or not it believes the culls to be “humane”.

Almost seven months later, we’ve still not received answers to the questions we asked about how data collected from observations of shoots and examination of badger carcasses will be used to measure suffering. The Information Commissioner’s Office is now investigating.

Shocking welfare concerns

We have previously raised concerns about how the welfare of will be seriously compromised badgers during the cull, and now our worst fears have been realised.

In a document released to us by DEFRA, the department acknowledges the likelihood that some badgers may be shot but not killed, and may subsequently die from their wounds through infection and starvation.

Veterinarians’ concerns

Despite the fact that many individual veterinarians and the British Veterinary Zoological Society oppose the cull, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has voiced its support for the government’s proposals.

A letter published in the Veterinary Times and Veterinary Record, signed by a group of veterinarians including our executive director Mark Jones and TV’s Marc Abraham and Joe Inglis, calls on the British Veterinary Association to withdraw its support for the cull whilst so many concerns about badger suffering remain.

Backing badgers: Why the cull will fail

Challenging the top 10 myths supporting the badger cull [PDF] in England, this accessible, concise document has been produced as a Team Badger collaboration. It summarises the major counter-arguments to DEFRA’s attempts to justify its policy.

Team Badger

We’ve worked closely with other organisations as part of Team Badger, and continue to promote Brian May’s Stop the Cull e-petition which we’re delighted to report has, to date, attracted more than 245,000 signatures from UK citizens.

Learn more about our badger campaign.

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