Badgers are being culled as part of a government initiative to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. Pilot badger culls commenced in 2013 in Gloucester and Somerset amid much opposition. In 2016, more than 300,00 people signed a petition opposing the cull. An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was appointed by Defra to assess the effectiveness and safety of the 2013 cull and whether it was acceptably humane for the animals killed.

The panel deemed the culls ‘ineffective’ and ‘inhumane’ in 2013, with no significant improvement – and further failures – in 2014.

Despite two parliamentary debates, a prominent opposition campaign and the support of numerous experts and high profile figures, the number of areas increased in 2015 to include Dorset. In August 2016, the Government announced seven new cull licenses across three new areas (Cornwall, Devon and Herefordshire) for an extension of the cull.

In September 2017 the Government licenced 11 new areas, and authorised two new supplementary licenses in Gloucestershire and Somerset. This brings the total number of badger cull areas to 21. The badger cull now operates across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Somerset. In total, 19,274 badgers were culled in the 2017 badger cull in England.

Farmers will be allowed to kill badgers across England after an expansion of the culling program, which previously only allowed the animals to be killed in areas deemed to be at high risk of bovine TB.

Shooters are rewarded with a payment of up to £50 for each kill as part of the scheme, which has seen new guidance published that permits the killing of badgers in areas where cows are believed to be at a low risk of contracting bovine TB.

In 2018, farmers and other marksmen, are being paid £50 a culled badger in a number of additional cull zones – thought to number over 20, including areas where the risk of bovine TB is thought to be low. The WKBG is opposed to the cull and gives its full support to those challenging it and to those groups who are vaccinating badgers in their areas. For more information on how you can support those fighting the cull, contact The Badger Trust via badgertrust.org.uk.