Read our joint letter with the Somerset Badger Group, raising concerns about the extension of the badger cull in Somerset below.
Somerset Wildlife Trust opposes the government's badger culling programme
Somerset Wildlife Trust does not allow culling on our land.
Somerset Wildlife Trust is committed to protecting wildlife in the county by making decisions based on scientific evidence to inform our approach to land management. Based on the scientific evidence available we do not believe that culling a protected species is the right approach to tackling bovine TB.
Evidence shows that badgers are not the primary cause of spreading bTB in cattle, and there is robust evidence that culling badgers will in fact make the problem worse due to the perturbation effect (the increase in movement of badgers as defended territories are broken down, which allows them to move more freely and potentially spread infection.)
We support scientific non-lethal methods for tackling bovine TB
We support all non lethal, scientifically based measures for tackling bovine TB in cattle and wildlife. The issue of bTB requires a range of responses including better bovine TB testing for cattle (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), research and trials into a usable vaccine for cattle (already vaccinated for 16 other diseases), significantly improved biosecurity on farms and more effective movement controls for cattle. These are all things that Somerset Wildlife Trust - and the wider Wildlife Trust movement - are urgently calling on the government to action.
Badger vaccination programmes have proven to be effective in reducing Tb amongst badgers. As concluded by Dr Rosie Woodroffe, there need to be large scale trials of vaccination programmes in areas not affected by the cull to determine the effectiveness of badger vaccination on tackling bovine TB.
Working with landowners to find solutions
We do understand the devastation an outbreak of bovine Tb can be for farmers and rural communities. Somerset’s farmers are crucial allies in our work to conserve a wide range of threatened species.
Staff and volunteers at Somerset 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. We are also a landowner that relies on healthy livestock for conservation grazing to protect and restore threatened wildlife on many of our reserves.
What do we want our government to do?
We call on the government to end the badger cull and focus all efforts on trialling, investing in and licensing injectable cattle vaccine, supporting farmers to achieve 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. We call on the government to invest in such large-scale vaccination programmes instead of culling badgers. Vaccination of badgers is a more cost effective approach than culling.
How can better solutions be found?
We believe 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.
Somerset Wildlife Trust is firmly opposed to any action taken by members of the public which has the effect of intimidating farmers, landowners and their families.
We are 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)
Want to learn more about badgers?
The Somerset Badger Group is committed to conserving, protecting and promoting badgers, their habitats and resting places, along with other native wildlife.