As 40,000 badgers face murder, a handful of campaigners are fighting back

Rosie Woodroffe tweet
Glen Black

More than 40,000 badgers could be killed in 2018’s annual cull. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said on 13 September that two areas have successfully completed four-year trials and ten new areas will be licensed. But badger experts have criticised huge gaps in these claims.

What badgers are facing

Badgers have faced annual culling since 2013 as part of a 25-year program to wipe out bovine TB (bTB) in England. But the idea has long faced widespread opposition, both from scientists and activists. Defra’s 13 September press release is no different.

The statement makes two big announcements. Firstly that the cull’s two pilot trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset have led to a reduction in new bTB outbreaks. Defra said:

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In the Gloucestershire cull area, TB incidence has fallen from 10.4% before culling started to 5.6% in year four of the cull, while in Somerset it has reduced from 24% to 12%.

And it claims that these figures reflect pre-cull expectations based on evidence from a previous study.

Secondly, the 2018 cull will expand to ten new zones. These include new areas in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Staffordshire and Gloucestershire. Cumbria will also host a cull zone for the first time. As a result, the area covered by the program has increased by nearly 70%. Defra expects at least 24,316 badgers to be killed, with a cap of 40,982.

But people picked the announcement apart within hours of its release.

Real science

Rosie Woodroffe is a professor at the Zoological Society of London. She was also part of the team that ran the previous study Defra claims its current data is based on. But she has been a vocal opponent of the cull since it began. And she took to Twitter with a host of criticisms of Defra’s press release.

As Woodroffe pointed out, the announcement is timely:

The Wildlife Trusts shared this view. Senior policy manager Ellie Brodie said:

It is unacceptable that the government has not waited for the results of their own review – which we understand is to be published imminently – before forging ahead with another year of ineffective and expensive badger culling.

Woodroffe also showed flaws in Defra’s report of the data:

And she said the data lacked rigour:

Woodroffe has previously slammed the science behind the cull. In 2017, she said data was being shaped to justify policy:

When evidence is being cherry-picked and presented in the best possible light, it ceases to be evidence. It is fake science.

And The Canary previously reported on data ignored by Defra. A September 2017 report by another department, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, said the program was making “no meaningful contribution” to reducing bTB in cattle.

Woodroffe also took Defra and the government to task for hypocrisy:

Widespread opposition

Woodroffe wasn’t the only one railing at the report, though. Condemnation also came from political figures:

Wildlife conservation groups were also horrified by the plans:

What can be done?

People have taken action since the cull began. Groups including Stop the Cull, Badger Action Network, local Wounded Badger Patrols, and hunt saboteurs have taken direct action to aid badgers and disrupt the cull.

Following a failed high court challenge to the cull’s widening in summer 2018, these activists doubled down on a pledge to disrupt the cull. Defra’s 13 September announcement hasn’t dampened this commitment. The Badger Trust said this could be “the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory”. But people are taking action to stop this from coming true.

Get Involved!

– Contact the Badger Action Network or your local hunt saboteur group for advice on how to support or get involved in resistance to the cull.

Listen to Rosie Woodroffe debate the cull on Radio 4.

Support the Badger Trust’s vaccination project.

Featured image via Twitter

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Glen Black