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Shocking news as Natural England issues supplementary badger cull licences against scientific advice

Shocking news as Natural England issues supplementary badger cull licences against scientific advice

Natural England CEO and Chair overrule their own scientific advice that supplementary badger culling will not work.

Badger Trust has today urgently written to the Chief Executive of Natural England to follow the scientific guidance of its own Director of Science, Dr Peter Brotherton, and stop the badger cull with immediate effect.

Documents obtained by independent ecologist Tom Langton show that Brotherton’s scientific advice was NOT to carry out the supplementary badger cull from 1 June 2024 as, “…based on the evidence, I can find no justification for authorising further supplementary badger culls in 2024 for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease and recommend against doing so”.

Despite this advice, Natural England’s Chief Executive Marian Spain and Chair Tony Juniper have decided to proceed with supplementary badger culling and have ordered the killing of thousands of badgers to go ahead in 17 existing and 9 unnamed new zones.  

This decision is shocking news.  Badger Trust can see only one reason in the documents for this decision  – that it would upset the farming industry if they did not. This seems to point to a politically based decision rather than a scientific one, contradicting the principles of evidence-based decision-making.

Peter Hambly, Executive Director of Badger Trust, said,

“This shocking decision will lead to thousands of needless badger deaths, causing significant disruption to ecosystems and putting nature further under threat; and yet it will not reduce bTB in cattle.  Natural England must follow the scientific advice and call for an immediate stop to the badger cull. Every day it delays means the slaughter of more badgers and their cubs.”

In another blow to Natural England and Defra’s strategy of targeting badgers, Brotherton also added,

“It is disappointing that the recent publication by Birch et al 2024 has been widely reported as providing evidence that badger culling reduces the incidence of bTB by 56%, when in fact the study shows the overall impact of implementing a range of bTB control measures, not culling alone.  Further research to establish the relative disease reduction contributions of the different control methods is needed.”

Hambly added,

“Dr Brotherton’s comments on the ”Birch Report” 2024 are in line with what Badger Trust and independent scientists have been pointing out for months.  It’s cattle that spread the overwhelming majority of bTB, and it’s cattle where bTB control measures should be focused.  This view is widely accepted among independent scientists, further questioning the effectiveness of badger culling as a bTB control method. 

We are already seeing localised badger extinction in heavily culled areas. The decision to proceed with slaughtering badgers has significant implications for the badger population and the natural environment at a time of nature crisis.

The continual scapegoating of the badger by people who are meant to protect nature continues to shock us. They must stop the killing now.”