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bTB, badgers & the cull

Bovine TB, badgers and the cull

The Government badger cull continues to expand every year.  In 2020 alone, 38,642 badgers were culled, bringing the total shot under government license in England since 2013 to over 140,000 badgers! Each one of those is a heartbreaking waste.  There is still no credible evidence that culling badgers reduces levels of bovine TB in cattle. 

Bovine TB is a major problem for farmers; an outbreak of bTB is devastating and they need a meaningful solution. Although badgers have been implicated in the spread of bTB amongst cattle, scientific research has consistently shown that culling badgers will not be that meaningful solution.  A mere 5.7% of bTB outbreaks can be attributed directly to badgers according to an 8 year government scientific study, leaving 94.3% transmitted from cattle to cattle.

Berkshire has not, until now, been licensed for culling in its own right.   However, we now know that there have been license applications for Berkshire for 2021.  The cull is, therefore, a very real and potentially imminent threat for Berkshire's badgers.  Not only is this devastating but also surprising, with bTB outbreaks declining in Berkshire - Government figures indicate that the number of outbreaks in Berkshire has dropped from 24 in December 2019 to 15 in 2021.

This reduction has been without culling being licensed in Berkshire! 

So, what's the current position with Government policy?   There seem to be changes afoot...

In 2018, a Government-commissioned Report (the Godfray Report) concluded that the focus on badger culling has deflected attention from other measures which would have more impact on reducing bTB. The report stated that ‘it is wrong […] to over-emphasise the role of wildlife and so avoid the need for the industry to take measures that have in the short term negative financial consequences’.

In 2020, the Government responded to the conclusions in this Report, outlining a revision to the bTB eradication strategy, the backbone of which would be:

  • more focus on pursuing cattle vaccination;

  • a transition from badger culling to badger vaccination and

  • efforts to improve diagnostic testing to identify bTB in cattle more effectively.  

Promising headlines! But a detailed review showed the transition would be too slow, with the door kept open for intensive culling indefinitely in certain circumstances. (Read more in our newsletter article from March 2020.) 

Moving to 2021, the Government have put their new Strategy proposals out to consultation.    The key proposal in relation to the culling of badgers is a plan to phase out intensive culling, with the 2022 season being the last year in which 4 year licenses will start.    Whilst we welcome signs of the cull ending, the very real possibility of intensive culling for 5 more years remains.  With 38,000 badgers culled in 2020 alone, the numbers that could still die needlessly and inhumanely are staggering. 


The consultations do, however, also contain much to be cautiously optimistic about, including switching focus to cattle and badger vaccination,  improvements in cattle testing and movement controls.   Have a read of the Badger Trust's excellent review of the current proposals to understand more. 

We join the call from vets, scientists, wildife organisations and much of the population for this cruel and unnecessary cull to be ceased immediately.

  • Do badgers hibernate?
    No, they don't actually hibernate but they do become less active during the cold months so you are less likely to see one.
  • How can I tell if a badger is male or female?
    A male has a broader head and narrower tail. A female has a fan tail and sows are normally slightly smaller than boars.
  • Should I feed badgers visiting my garden and, if so, what?"
    Supplementary feeding is fine provided you keep it up. But, equally, try not to put food out so often that the badgers come to rely on it. Badgers especially love peanuts but will also happily chomp on fruit such as apples, plums or pears and are partial to raisins too!
  • Do badgers eat hedgehogs?
    Yes, but by exception and only where their normal foodsource is not available. Badgers' favourite food is earthworms and they can eat up to 200 a night. They will only eat a hedgehog in extremis - and remember that predation is a natural part of our ecosystem. Badgers are sometimes blamed for the reduction in hedgehog numbers but badgers and hedgehogs have lived alongside each other successfully for hundreds of thousands of years. Hedgehog decline has many other causes such as road traffic accidents, use of slug pellets, habitat loss and lack of hedgerows in the countryside.
  • Do badgers make good pets?
    No, and in any case to keep a badger as a pet would be illegal under the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act. Only wildlife rescue centres, vets and other suitable professionals can keep badgers during rehabilitation before release to the wild. Wildlife organisations must hold a license from Natural England for any such activities.
  • How can I keep badgers off my lawn if badger-proof fencing isn't appropriate?
    Badgers may be attracted to your lawn for food, particularly at certain times of the year. If fencing really isn't possible, you could try removing the food source attracting them. For example, plant bluebells in the flower border only, or remove peanuts put out for the birds at night. Better still, enjoy the badgers and welcome them onto your lawn! If you have any queries about badgers in your garden, please see our 'Badgers in Gardens' advice sheet or contact us on
  • I've got a badger under my shed. What should I do?
    A badger found in an unusual place such as under a shed may have suffered some trauma and not been able to get back to its sett, or could have dispersed from its natal sett. It may well be injured and require trapping prior to inspection. Do not attempt to do this yourself. Please contact us, a wildlife rescue or the RSPCA. Please see our 'Badger emergencies' page for phone numbers. A space under a shed would be considered a sett if a badger has taken up residence. As such, it is protected under the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act. To exclude a badger would therefore require a license in advance from Natural England. We will happily give advice on next steps.
  • If there's a badger sett on a building plot, does that mean building cannot happen there?"
    Naturally, any building work needs planning permission. If development work will disturb a badger sett, the builder will need to apply to Natural England for a license. If Natural England deem that circumstances warrant it, they may grant a license for the sett to be legalled 'closed'.
  • Can badgers live in the middle of a town?
    Yes, badgers have adapted to live in urban settings provided they can find suitable habitat for foraging and dwelling. We know of several setts within Reading for example. The main threat is from traffic at night. Try to keep your speed down and 'Give badgers a brake'!

What have we done?

  • Attended and organised local protest events such as a march through Maidenhead in 2018.

  • Written letters to MPs.

  • Met with ex-PM Theresa May.

  • Spread awareness through local newspapers and local events.

  • Surveyed to identify vulnerable locations. 

  • Prepared to run Wounded Badger Patrols in Berkshire.

  • Supported Wiltshire with WBPs.

What can you do?

  • Write to your MP and Councillor expressing your objection to the cull:  Find your MP here 

  • Share anti-cull Facebook posts, and talk with friends and family;

  • Sign and share anti-cull petitions;

  • During the cull period, support our beleaguered badgers by signing up for our Wounded Badger Patrols in Berkshire or neighbouring counties.

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