Is badger culling set to continue?

11 May 2023


Born Free’s Head of Policy, Dr Mark Jones, has co-authored a report, released today, which investigates and challenges the Government’s claims that it is phasing out badger culling.

Close up of a badger standing on the grass

Since 2013, government agencies have authorized dozens of licenses to allow the shooting of badgers across large swathes of south-west and central England, as part of government efforts to control bovine TB in cattle.

To date, more than 210,000 badger have been killed, mostly by the inhumane method of ‘controlled shooting’ where free roaming badgers are targeted using high-powered rifles at night. However, the evidence that this slaughter of a protected native wild species is helping to control bovine TB in cattle is at best equivocal.

Two years ago, government indicated that it would ‘start to phase out badger culling as soon as possible’, that 2022 would be the last year in which new culling licenses would be issued, and that the focus would shift towards cattle-based measures and cattle and badger vaccination.

However, it seems the government intends to retain the option to kill badgers in and around hot-spot areas for bovine TB in cattle, by employing what it calls ‘epidemiological culling’. While it claims that this will only take place in ‘exceptional circumstances’, there are real fears that it could result in many thousands more badgers being targeted, potentially for years to come.

An independent report by researchers, veterinarians and epidemiologists addresses DEFRA’s handling of the disease crisis and explains why the 2020 “Next Steps” policy is likely to fail because of poor decision making and exaggerated claims made on the back of equivocal research results. The report claims that DEFRA and its Animal and Plant health Agency (APHA) are failing to provide proper scientific approaches to vital aspects of the heavily public funded, long running bovine TB crisis in England, and calls for an independent review or inquiry into government policy.

Born Free’s Head of Policy Veterinarian Dr Mark Jones, who is a co-author of the report, said:

“More than 210,000 badgers have been brutally shot under licence in England since 2013 across killing fields that extend from Cornwall to Cumbria and as far East as Northamptonshire. Yet the Government has consistently failed to provide convincing evidence for any disease control benefits in cattle. Britain is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and if the mass slaughter of badgers continues, we could see this protected species disappear in parts of England. Over the past couple of years, the Government has spoken of phasing out badger culling, but the use of so-called ‘epidemiological culling’ could see tens of thousands more badgers being shot every year for years to come, with no clear evidence that it will make any difference to bovine TB in cattle. Robust cattle-based measures, including a cattle TB vaccination programme, should be implemented without delay. The unscientific, ineffective, inhumane and unnecessary culling of badgers must end.”

You can view a summary of the report’s findings here: