In two English counties, badgers are being shot in a government-sanctioned cull. The wild animals are said to be a 'reservoir' for bovine TB – a disease that affects cows, and can be spread by farmers moving cows around the country and putting infected slurry on large tracts of land. The poor welfare conditions of cows, their cramped housing and lax biosecurity all add to the likelihood of the disease spreading. Instead of cleaning up their act, farmers blame badgers.
Because milk from infected cows cannot be exported (due to European rules), the cows are killed and a subsidy given to the farmers. However, recently it was found that meat from these culled cows is sold to schools and hospitals in the UK, and is exported, indicating that it is not, after all, a human health risk.
A long-term trial in the 1990s found that culling badgers can have no meaningful impact on the rates of TB in cows. Independent scientists do not support the badger cull, and nor do wildlife experts. In Wales, the government favours vaccination, but the British government supports the National Farmers Union in its demands to kill wildlife.
The cull won’t end anytime soon. This government plans to expand the cull over the country for the next 25 years. Thousands of badgers will be killed and the vast majority will not have TB.
Five ways to help badgers
- Support the Wounded Badger Patrols in Gloucestershire: http://www.glosagainstbadgershooting.org/ and Somerset: Someset Badger Patrol Facebook page
- Contact your MP and tell him or her why you oppose the badger cull.
- Write a letter to your local newspaper. See sample letters. If you don’t know its address, contact Animal Aid.
- Boycott dairy products. The badger cull is being driven by dairy farmers who are blaming badgers for the appalling welfare conditions of the cows. Order your free guide to going dairy-free.
- Join our e-newsletter to keep up to date with our wildlife campaigns.