Animal rights activists are once again devastated by the number of badgers culled in the UK in 2021. The government has released its latest figures, showing that at least 33,687 badgers were murdered across the country last year. At least one third of the UK’s badger population has now been killed off in the government’s senseless campaign to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB). 

Almost 90% of the badgers were killed by shooters, rather than by trapping, in 2021. Badger Trust said:
“The proportion shot while free running rather than the more humane caged and trapped hit a record of nearly 9 out of 10, despite calls to stop this inhumane method that can leave injured badgers to die slow deaths.”

Evidence shows that badgers are not to blame

Campaigners have always challenged government rhetoric, insisting that TB rates in badgers are extremely low, and that bTB is a cattle disease spread between cattle. In 2021, the government carried out its own postmortem examinations of culled badgers in two areas, and published the results in March of this year. In one zone, Cumbria, the government admitted that:

“All badger carcases underwent post mortem examination and were negative for Mycobacterium bovis infection on bacteriological culture.”

In its second zone, Lincolnshire, it found that just 14 of the 156 badgers murdered tested positive. That’s only 9% of all the badgers killed in that zone. So 91% of badgers brutally killed were perfectly healthy. 

An extensive new study, published in the Veterinary Record journal and analysed by The Canary, provides yet more evidence that badgers are not the cause of bTB in cattle. The study spans more than ten years—from 2009 to 2020. 

The Canary reported that:

“It compared both the prevalence and incidence of bTB in cow herds in areas that had badger killing and those that didn’t...

...areas with culls generally had higher incidences and prevalence of bTB than areas without badger killing.”

Ecologist Tom Langton, one of the authors of the study, told The Canary that DEFRA had received this evidence back in March 2021. He said that the government department:

“dismissed the findings as inferior to their highly modelled approach using undisclosed data.”

The cull will continue in 2022 and beyond

Since 2013, more than 175,000 badgers have been murdered in the state-sanctioned cull. Headlines  in the mainstream press give the public a false sense of hope that the cull has been called off. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. More zones will be given licences in 2022, and each licence given is for a four-year period, meaning that culling will continue to at least 2025. And from 2026 the government is likely to issue licences indefinitely to kill badgers at a local level. The government has stated that it needs “to retain the ability to cull in a targeted way where the epidemiological evidence requires it.”

It’s time that the government and farmers stop scapegoating badgers and instead turn their attention to intensive cattle farming itself, concentrating on looking for alternatives to the barbaric farming methods used. Until that happens, activists will continue to try to prevent the cull by actively roaming our countryside during the culling season in an attempt to prevent shooters from murdering yet more badgers. 

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