The government has announced that it has awarded supplementary licences to murder badgers in ten new locations across the country. The new licences were released by Natural England on 25 May, and will affect badgers in Devon, Cornwall, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset. Supplementary licences are, effectively, extended licences for zones after they have already been extensively culled of badgers. The licences run from 1 June 2022 until 31 January 2024. These zones have been added to the 19 existing cull zones across the country.

Of the 29 zones, 12 of them are in Devon, putting the county’s badger population at risk of being wiped out locally. Looking at the licences, in 2022 shooters will be allowed to murder:

7,757 badgers in Devon;

5,312 in Somerset;

4,125 in Dorset; 

2,789 in Cornwall;

2,596 in Wiltshire;

2,492 in Staffordshire;

1,996 in Gloucestershire;

408 in Cheshire;

359 in Herefordshire.

Because the supplementary licences begin in June, the Badger Trust warns that small cubs will be especially targeted. The charity says:

“The implementation of a badger cull in June is ethically unjustifiable and an animal welfare tragedy. At only four months old, this year's badger cubs are now beginning to explore away from the relative safety of the sett, and increased rates of nightly foraging could lead them directly into the cull gunmen’s sights.”

Wiping out badgers

At least 33,687 badgers were murdered across the country in 2021 alone. Since culling began in 2013, the total murdered is 176,928.

Estimates state that one third of the UK’s badger population has now been killed off in the government’s senseless campaign to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB).  

The licences will continue until at least 2025, and from 2026 the government is likely to issue licences indefinitely to kill badgers at a local level.

Manipulating data

A recent study, published in the Veterinary Record, showed what we have known all along: that badgers are not the cause of bTB in cattle.  Defra, of course, published a rebuttal to the studyl, complete with accompanying statistics, arguing that unculled areas have higher incidences of bTB. 

But in May, Defra was forced to admit that the data in its rebuttal was incorrect. The Canary wrote that Defra admitted:

“that it had used ‘incorrect calculations’ in the rebuttal. This followed weeks of pressure from the study’s authors to release the data behind its claims. The department apologised for the ‘error’. However, it asserted that the flaw didn’t impact the rebuttal’s “overall argument’.”

Defra is likely to have known full well, though, that once the flawed ‘truth’ was published, it would be this version of the ‘facts’ that stick in the public’s minds. And a quiet retraction of the statistics is unlikely to change the damage that has been done by manipulating data. 

Work cut out for activists this year

For both the government and the National Farmers’ Union, it is far more convenient to argue that bTB in cattle is caused by badgers than it is to admit that intensive farming and the mass incarceration of cows urgently needs to change.

The fight against the cull is far from over, and activists on the ground are going to have their work cut out once more this year. The zones span huge areas, and it is going to take a concerted effort to prevent shooters from reaching their cull targets.

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