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August 13, 2013

Badger Campaign Update

Latest news

Humane Society International/UK

  • Culls began in autumn 2013. FLPA/Alamy

The government's pilot cull of badgers began in Somerset and Gloucestershire in autumn 2013, they have since taken place annually, over a six week period, each autumn.

In 2015 culling began in a third area, in Dorset.

In August 2016, the cull was expanded to a further three counties. In all, licences have been issued for ten cull zones.

The government is still considering rolling out the cull to other areas of England over the coming years. Tens of thousands of healthy badgers could be at risk.

Our campaign

HSI is opposed to the cull. Find out more about our campaign work and take action to help protect badgers today!

Timeline of events

26 September 2016: According to the new licences issued by Natural England, a minimum of 9,841 and 14,213 badgers are due to be killed across the ten cull zones this year.

Act now: Sign Simon King’s new government e-petition calling for an end to the badger cull.

7 September 2016: A parliamentary debate about the badger cull, secured by Dr Paul Monaghan MP, was held in Westminster Hall. It was attended by a large number of MPs, from all parties. Read a transcript or watch the debate online.

5 September 2016: Reports from Wounded Badger Patrols in the cull zones confirmed that shooting had begun.

Support the Wounded Badger Patrols.

30 August 2016: The government confirmed it had issued an additional seven licences for culling in new zones in counties across England new areas of England: north Devon, south Devon, north Cornwall, west Dorset and south Herefordshire. Culling will also continue in the existing cull zones in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.

23 August 2016: The BBC reported that the government was due to issue new licences in five new areas of England: north Devon, south Devon, north Cornwall, west Dorset and south Herefordshire. Culling will also continue in the existing cull zones in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.

19 July 2016: Team Badger wrote to the new Prime Minister, Theresa May

18 July 2016: HSI supporters wrote to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, to ask her to listen carefully to both scientific and public opinion and put an end to the inhumane, ineffective and costly badger cull.

12 July 2016: Team Badger held a successful event at the House of Commons to promote the #BigBadgerMosaic. Three eminent scientists, professors John Bourne, Rosie Woodroffe and Ranald Munro, held a meeting with MPs and wrote to new Prime Minister, Theresa May, asking her to halt the failed policy.

1 July 2016: Team Badger launches the #BigBadgerMosaic online selfie campaign. Be part of the public face of opposition to the cull – upload your selfie to the #BigBadgerMosaic today!

18 February 2016: Natural England announced it had received 29 applications or expressions of interest for badger control licences, covering nine counties of England: Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. Comments were invited from residents in these areas via a public consultation.

18 December 2015: Defra released its “summary of badger control monitoring during 2015” report which confirmed 1,467 badgers were killed, across the three cull zones, during 2015. Of those 756 were killed in the new Dorset cull area.

18 December 2015: Restrictions relaxed for future badger culls. The size of the land area to be culled will be reduced and the requirement for the cull to take place over a six week period will be relaxed.

14 October 2015: Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) confirmed that the Gloucestershire cull had ended for 2015

4 September 2015: Volunteers take part in Wounded Badger Patrols in all three cull zones. Find out more about the work of the Patrollers.

3 September 2015: Defra confirms badger culls got underway in Dorset (first year of culling), Somerset and Gloucestershire (both third year of culling).

3 September 2015: Top Experts – Bateson, Krebs, Bourne, Munro – Call on DEFRA to Immediately End the Inhumane & Ineffective Badger Cull.

Leading wildlife, veterinary and livestock experts – including top scientists previously employed to advise the Government – have written an open letter to DEFRA urging Ministers to immediately reconsider the decision to proceed with a third year of badger culling.

In their letter, the experts express their disappointment at the Government’s decision to continue with a third year of badger culling, including rolling out the cull to the new area of Dorset. They note that the first two years of culling “failed to meet predetermined criteria for effectiveness or humaneness” and that the “government’s badger culling policy continues to be opposed by the majority of scientific experts, and remains deeply unpopular with a large section of the public”.

28 August 2015: DEFRA’s Badger Cull Roll Out in South West will be an Unmitigated Disaster, warns HSI. Badger cull will extend to Dorset despite experts warning it’s ineffective, killing in Gloucestershire and Somerset to continue.

17 April 2015: BVA Rejection of Free-Shooting in Badger Cull Welcomed. British Veterinary Association says free shooting neither humane nor effective; HSI welcomes announcement, but disappointed by support for cage-trapping.

18 December 2014: Dismay as DEFRA Vet Endorses Third Year of Badger Cull in 2015 - HSI/UK condemns failures and calls for culls to be halted.

10 December 2014: The Guardian reported that badger cubs will be shot under plans to move the 2015 cull forward to the summer months, a “appallingly crude and desperate tactic” said HSI/UK. In response to a question from Grahame M. Morris MP about such reports, Environment Secretary, Liz Truss MP, replied (Hansard, Column 979, 11 December 2014): “It has always been for the cull companies to decide when to start operations..." .

8 December 2014: Vet stance on badger cull “fragile consensus”, reported in the Daily Mail, with comment from HSI.

4 November 2014: MPs took part in the Badger Cull Assessment debate in Westminster Hall on 4 November.

20 October 2014: The six-week culling period in both Gloucestershire and Somerset has now ended. According to a report in The Guardian it is understood that although contractors met the minimum kill target set for Somerset (316 badgers), cullers in Gloucestershire killed 253 animals, fewer than half of the minimum target set by Natural England for that area (615).

1 October 2014: We went out with the Wounded Badger Patrol in Gloucestershire last weekend, here’s the report in the New York Times. Please join us, support the dedicated volunteers who patrol each night in both the cull zones.

9 September 2014: Read our director’s Huffington Post blog on the cruel and pointless cull.

9 September 2014: Defra confirmed that badger culling is now underway in Gloucestershire and Somerset

26 August 2014: Natural England has issued authorisation letters for badger culling to begin in Gloucestershire and Somerset - the shooting could start any day now.

21 August 2014: The Badger Trust takes its legal challenge over monitoring of the badger cull to the High Court in London on Thursday 21 August.

20 August 2014: As badger cull looms, we urge DEFRA to extend badger vaccination scheme to offer farmers an effective, humane alternative to shooting badgers.

19 August 2014: Figures show new incidents of bovine TB (bTB) in Wales are down by almost a fifth and are at their lowest level for six years.

18 July 2014: Read the latest Huffington Post blog by our director, Mark Jones: Paterson Out, Truss in: Will Change at the Top Mean a Change of Fortune For England's Badgers?

15 July 2014: The Prime Minister appointed a new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Elizabeth Truss MP has replaced Owen Paterson MP.

1 July 2014: The Badger Trust has been granted permission for a Judicial Review challenge in the High Court against the DEFRA Secretary of State Owen Paterson and Natural England. The test case focuses on the Government’s highly controversial badger cull policy.

27 June 2014: The Guardian reports on cull concerns, raised by a group of veterinarians, "Badger cull claims flawed, vets say".

24 June 2014: The Independent reports on comments from Professor Timothy Coulson, a member of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP): "Top Government advisor hits out at Defra for pursuing controversial badger cull".

19 June 2014: Badger Cull Breaches International Wildlife Convention says HSI/UK, the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild - read about the complaint we have submitted to the Bern Convention.

17 June 2014: New information from a Freedom of Information request shows that shotguns will contine to be permitted during this year's culls, despite a recommendation from the Independent Expert Panel and concerns raised by vets and animal protection groups

20 May 2014: Badger Culling - Incompetence on a Grand Scale: Our director blogs on the Independent Expert Panel report and why the two pilot culls were ineffective, inhumane and unethical.

20 May 2014: The Badger Trust has made an application for judicial review at the High Court to challenge the legality of the DEFRA Secretary of State's decision of 3 April 2014, to allow the continued culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

15 May 2014: The Guardian reports on gassing trials as a FOI request reveals tests into the use of gas as a potential culling method have been taking place since last summer.

7 May 2014: Interesting blog post about the failure of the government's badger cull policy by David Campbell, Professor of Law at Lancaster University Law School.

10 April 2014: Excellent article by badger ecologist Dr Chris Cheeseman, "The Case Against Gassing Badgers".

5 April 2014: Read our response to comments made by Princess Anne about gassing badgers and horsemeat on the BBC's Countryfile programme.

3 April 2014: Owen Paterson, secretary of state for environment, confirmed today that there would be no roll out of culling to new areas of England this year. He did however confirm that the killing will continue in the two established cull zones, in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Read our press release.

Watch his statement to parliament or read a transcript of it.  This is how The Guardian reported the story.

27 March 2014: Owen Paterson, secretary of state for environment, confirmed in parliament today that his department is considering the Independent Expert Panel report and he will update parliament on the issue in due course.

13 March 2014: Members of Parliament voted 219 to 1 in favour of a motion urging the government to halt the badger cull. Although non-binding on the government, the result shows that the cull does not have parliamentary support. See which MPs voted (scroll to bottom of the page). During the debate it was confirmed that ministers have now received the Independent Expert Panel report.

7 March 2014: Inhumane, Ineffective & Unnecessary. Our executive director Mark Jones on why the culling must end.

5 March 2014: Channel 4 News report "Badger post mortems raise further questions over cull" featuring Secret World Wildlife Rescue in Somerset. Watch the news report.

3 March 2014: Watch our short video, The Badger Cull: A Welfare Disaster, featuring Bill Oddie.

28 February 2014: Badger suffering and biosecurity breaches were revealed in a set of Compliance Reports from Natural England's badger cull monitors. Some badgers were shot in the wrong body area including the head, or were wounded and had to be shot a second time. Read our report.

28 February 2014: Culls "failed humaneness test". Details of a report by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) showed that between 6.4% and 18% of shot badgers took more than five minutes to die. The leaked information was reported on by the BBC. The Guardian also reported on the findings.  

28 February 2014: The Bow Group issued its report "Time for a change of tack on bovine TB & badger culling" which put forward eight recommendations including working with conservation charities to rollout a national badger vaccination programme.  

17 February 2014: Figures used to justify the cull were overstated. Defra has released updated figures showing the number of cattle herds infected by bovine tuberculosis had been declining rather than increasing in the year before the cull began.  The Ecologist magazine reported on this too.

22 January 2014: We're disappointed Gloucestershire County Council has rejected a motion to write to the government requesting that any further plans to cull badgers in the county be abandoned. However, we are heartened that it has accepted the need for a full examination of the social and economic impacts of the cull.

21 January 2014: Natural England called for those wishing to apply for badger cull licences for 2014 onwards to begin to prepare information for the Expression of Interest process.

15 January 2014: In response to a questions from Adrian Sanders MP, the Home Office released estimated costs for policing the badger cull. Avon and Somerset Constabulary (for the first six weeks) was estimated at £500,000. Gloucestershire Police (for the first six week cull and the eight week extension) was estimated to be in the region of £1.7 million. Defra has agreed to cover any additional costs incurred by the relevant police forces.

15 January 2014: Gloucestershire County Council will discuss two motions related to the badger cull on 22 January.

7 January 2014: The badger cull featured in the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Departmental Annual Report 2012-13

18 December: 1,861 badgers were killed in the two pilot culls this autumn. Let's ensure the cull isn't rolled-out to other areas of England and this terrible policy is ended for good. For the sake of our badgers: Act now!

11 December: A parliamentary debate, the "Future of the badger cull in England", took place at Westminster Hall in the House of Commons. Many MPs called for the issue to be returned to the main chamber of the the House where it could be discussed in more detail before any decision to roll-out the killing to other areas of England is made. Watch the debate or read the transcript.

29 November: Natural England is to revoke the Gloucestershire cull licence as of tomorrow, Saturday 30 November. Good news, but we still need to work hard to ensure plans to roll-out the culling of badgers to other areas of England do not go-ahead.

27 November: We've updated our list of petitions that have been created calling on councils, in both High Risk Areas and other parts of England & Wales, to prohibit the culling of badgers and promote vaccination. Is your county listed?

26 November: Badger Cull: High Court Action filed today by Brian May’s Save Me Organisation.

5 November: The extended Somerset badger cull has failed to meet the 70 percent target. The Environment Minister confirmed today that 90 badgers were killed during the additional three week period, with a total of 940 animals killed in the Somerset cull. The extended Gloucestershire cull is due to continue until mid December.

23 October: The Guardian reports: Sir David Attenborough has condemned the UK government for "ignoring" scientific evidence after the controversial badger cull in Gloucestershire was more than doubled in length on Wednesday.

23 October: We're appalled by news that an eight week extension to the Gloucestershire badger cull has been granted by Natural England.

23 October: Police in cull zones confirm reports of illegal killing of badgers as questions remain over revised population estimates.

22 October: National Trust questions environment secretary Owen Paterson about the "scientific rigour and credibility" of the badger culls.

Read why these shameful culls must not be extended.

21 October: We've written to George Eustice MP, the new Farming Minister, and Natural England asking for more information about the revised badger population estimates [PDF] in the cull zones.

21 October: Natural England's science expert calls for immediate halt of badger cull.

19 October: The Badger Trust issues formal warning of legal action over plans to extend the culling period.

18 October: Read what our UK director Mark Jones has to say on why these shameful culls must not be extended.

18 October: We've written to DEFRA Minister Owen Paterson requesting more details regarding his statements to parliament [PDF] that some badgers were "desperately sick—in the final stages of disease…" when they were killed during the culls and that "carcases that have been shot would not give an accurate reading [for bovine tb] following post-mortem".

17 October: Badgers not "moving the goalposts" as experts question decline in population numbers in cull zones.

17 October: As details of the Gloucestershire badger cull reveal that it has fallen seriously short of its target, a statement from Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, quotes that the Chief Veterinary Officer has "advised that the period of culling this year should be extended". Natural England is considering a request for an extension to the Gloucestershire licence.

17 October: Cheshire West & Chester Council to vote on whether or not to ban any future badger cull on its land. HSI wrote to Council leaders in advance of the vote. [PDF]

16 October: Poll shows public deems pilot badger culls a failure and shows 58 percent say “no” to gassing.

16 October: Members of Parliament discuss badger vaccination at Westminster Hall, London.

11 October: Natural England confirms it has authorised a three-week extension of the Somerset cull and will process an application for a similar extension received from organisers of the Gloucestershire cull in due course.

9 October: An application to extend the Somerset pilot badger cull has been submitted to Natural England, Gloucestershire likely to follow, as DEFRA admits population estimates were overestimated in both killing zones.

8 October: The Guardian reports that an extension to the Somerset cull will be sought as DEFRA sources reveal that estimates of the number of badgers present in the cull area has been revised again.


24 September: HSI receives confirmation that DEFRA has lodged an appeal, just hours before the extended deadline, against the Information Commissioner's Office instruction that the department must release information about humaneness, which we have been requesting since October 2012, to us.

22 September: Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh's speech to the annual Labour conference includes a pledge on the badger cull, saying: "… a One Nation Labour government won’t be rolling out the disastrous badger cull."

19 September: Hampshire County Council members back a motion to ban badger culling on county-owned land, presented by Liberal Democrat Councillor Rupert Kyrle.

19 September: EDM299 "Pilot Badger Cull Parliamentary Assessment and Vote" has so far attracted the signatures of 133 cross-party Members of Parliament. Has your MP signed? Take action, contact your MP today.

17 September: The Green Party votes overwhelmingly in favour of a motion, at party conference, calling for an immediate end to the badger cull pilots.

16 September: The Guardian reports details of the first badger to be found shot near cull area after photos and a report by a vet, stating that it appeared the badger had not died "instantaneously", are released by animal rescue centre Secret World.

16 September: The Information Commissioner's Office has confirmed DEFRA has been given an extension in order to lodge an appeal against its instruction, of 6 August, to release information about humaneness to us. DEFRA has until 23 September to lodge that appeal.

13 September: Could the government take direct control of pilot badger cull?

9 September: Dr Brian May's Stop the Cull e-petition is closed. It attracted 304,150 signatures, the highest ever number for a government e-petition. Thank you for your support!

6 September: DEFRA Minister David Heath accused of misleading MP about badger cull suffering, misrepresented information about humane assessments.

5 September: Mark Jones speaks out about "chaos and cruelty in our countryside" as cull proceeds, on Huffington Post blog.

4 September: HSI's Mark Jones joins a Wounded Badger Patrol in Gloucestershire.

3 September: Second pilot badger cull commences in Gloucestershire.


28 August 2013: Plans are already underway to roll-out the cull, if the pilot schemes are deemed successful. 16 counties have been identified as bovine tuberculosis "High Risk Areas". Is your county one of them?

27 August 2013: Dr Jane Goodall made an 11th hour plea calling on the government to abandon the cull for the sake of compassion and common sense.

26 August 2013: First of the two pilot badger cull gets underway in Somerset. Shooting will last for up to six weeks and will kill 5,000 badgers across both areas.

23 August 2013: The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) issued a statement on the badger cull (full statement), saying "ZSL is concerned that the available scientific evidence does not support the UK government’s decision to allow badger culling by licensed farmers in England" and concluding: "…badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from the important business of controlling cattle TB nationwide."

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