We oppose the badger cull

We oppose the badger cull

Devon Wildlife Trust opposes the government’s badger culling programme

This is because our charity is committed to protecting wildlife and makes decisions on conservation land management based on the best available scientific information - there is robust evidence that culling badgers will make the problem worse.

Badger in grassland

Badger. Photo, Darin Smith

Latest news on the badger cull

The government gave the go-ahead for four new cull areas in Devon on Friday 8 September 2017, adding to the previous two areas which began culling last year. Defra have revealed no specific details on the locations of the culling zones.

This year's culling is scheduled to kill between a minumum of 6,091 and a maximum of 9,159 badgers this autumn at a huge cost to the taxpayer, with no robust evidence provided as yet of the effectiveness of the culls at reducing the incidence of bTB in cattle.

Devon Wildlife Trust continues to oppose the ineffective, unscientific and costly badger cull.

With the TB vaccine becoming available again, DWT is calling for the government to instead invest in the development of cattle vaccine, more effective TB tests and an oral badger vaccine. Measures to improve farm biosecurity will also be a vital part of effectively controlling bTB.

Read the science behind our position

We support all scientifically valid measures for tackling bovine TB in cattle and wildlife.

DWT recognises the devastating impact that bovine TB has on farmers and rural communities – and Devon’s farmers are crucial allies in our work to conserve a wide range of threatened species, from marsh fritillary butterflies to greater horseshoe bats.

Staff and volunteers at Devon Wildlife Trust work every day with people who are affected by bTB and witness first-hand the devastating impacts this disease has on farming communities. DWT is also a landowner and relies on healthy livestock for conservation grazing to protect and restore threatened wildlife on many of our reserves.

We oppose the cull

Devon Wildlife Trust opposes the cull because we believe that there are more humane, more cost effective, and more sustainable ways of tackling this disease effectively and for the long term.

Two badgers in the grass

Badgers. Photo, Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

What does DWT believe is wrong about the government’s current approach to bovine TB?

We believe wildlife management should be based on the best available evidence and scientific evaluation of likely outcomes. The most robust evidence does not conclude that culling will be effective in reducing bTB. In fact, the Government’s proposals could make the problem worse due to the ‘perturbation effect.’ 

Culling of badgers has been shown to increase the movement of badgers as defended territories are broken down. This ‘perturbation effect’ can increase the incidence of bTB in cattle as badgers move more freely and can spread infection.

What does DWT think should be done about bovine TB?

DWT believes the government should be focussing all efforts on trialling and licensing injectable cattle vaccine, better biosecurity on farms, effective cattle movement controls and improved TB testing (current testing is inaccurate – up to 1 in 5 infected cows are mistakenly cleared as TB-free and returned to the herd, thus potentially infecting further animals).

We believe a coordinated, sustained programme of badger vaccination would make a significant and viable contribution towards any bTB eradication strategy by reducing transmission between wildlife and cattle. Vaccination of badgers is a more cost effective approach than culling.

What action will DWT take if a cull is licensed in Devon?

Devon Wildlife Trust will not permit culling on any of our reserves.

If our nature reserves fall within cull areas we will look into the feasibility of badger vaccination on land managed by us.

DWT is a member of the local Bovine TB Eradication Group and is also working nationally to promote a wide range of solutions to help eradicate the disease.

How can better solutions be found to the problem of bovine TB?

DWT believes that one of the most negative impacts of the government’s current policy of badger culling is the way it has polarised the issue of bovine TB in the countryside. In order to find a solution to a disease that infects both farmed animals and wildlife, it is essential that farmers and landowners can work together with animal health, welfare and conservation organisations. The ongoing badger culls make this positive approach less likely to occur. 

DWT is firmly opposed to any action taken by members of the public which has the effect of intimidating farmers, landowners and their families. 

DWT is acutely aware of the serious impact bTB has on farming and rural communities, but our concern is that culling will only make matters worse.

Research relating to badgers and bovine TB

Below are some selected independent research papers and reports relating to badgers and bovine TB. This is not a comprehensive list.

Research relating to badgers and bovine TB


  • Winkler, B., Mathews, F. (2015) Environmental risk factors associated with bovine tuberculosis among cattle in high-risk areas, Biol. Lett. 2015 11 20150536; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0536. Published 11 November 2015


  • Bielby, J., Donnelly, C.A., Pope, L.C., Burke, T & Woodroffe, R. (2014) Badger responses to small-scale culling may compromise targeted control of bovine tuberculosis. PNAS 111: 9193-9198.


  • Godfray, H.C.J., Donnelly, C.A., Kao, R.R., Macdonald, D.W., McDonald, R.A., Petrokofsky, G., Wood, J.L.N., Woodroffe, R., Young D.B., & McLean, A.R. (2013). A restatement of the natural science evidence base relevant to the control of bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B 280: 20131634.


  • Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A., Cox, D. R., Bourne, F. J., Cheeseman, C. L., Delahay, R. J., Gettinby, G., Mcinerney, J. P. and Morrison, W. I. (2006), Effects of culling on badger Meles meles spatial organization: implications for the control of bovine tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 43: 1-10. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2005.01144.x


  • Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A., Jenkins, H. E., Thomas Johnston, W., Cox, D. R., F., Bourne, J., Cheeseman, C. L., Delahay, R. J., Clifton-Hadley, R. S., Gettinby, G., Gilks, P., Hewinson, R.G., McInerney, J. P., Morrison, W. I. (2006) Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Oct 2006, 103 (40) 14713-14717; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0606251103


  • Bielby J, Donnelly CA, Pope LC, Burke T, Woodroffe R. (2014) Badger responses to small-scale culling may compromise targeted control of bovine tuberculosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014;111(25):9193-9198. doi:10.1073/pnas.1401503111.


  • Animal & Plant Health Agency. Report on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle in 2013 – 2016. Three years’ follow - up in areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire and one year of follow - up in Dorset of industry - led badger control. September 2017


  • Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence (2007) Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB


  • Pilot Badger Culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire Report by the Independent Expert Panel (2014)


  • AHVLA Monitoring the efficacy of badger population reduction by controlled shooting during the first six weeks of the pilots (Report to Defra) (2014)


  • Donnelly C. A., Nouvellet P. (2013) The Contribution of Badgers to Confirmed Tuberculosis in Cattle in High-Incidence Areas in England. PLOS Currents Outbreaks. 2013 Oct 10 . Edition 1. doi: 10.1371/currents.outbreaks.097a904d3f3619db2fe78d24bc776098.


  • Defra response: Pilot Badger Culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire: Report by the Independent Expert Panel (April 2014)


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