Badger culling was introduced as a means of combatting the spread of bovine TB, which necessitates the slaughter and subsequent waste of thousands of cattle per year. The culls were brought in by the coalition, despite many scientific studies (and successful non-culling reduction schemes elsewhere) showing that it wouldn’t work. Besides that, there were concerns that the cull would be inhumane.
The pilot cull and the second round which started at the end of 2014 were shown to be both ineffective and inhumane, with over 20% of badgers suffering a slow death after being shot. Cullers missed their targets and the estimated cost per badger was well over £4000. Many detractors point out that culling might not even necessarily do anything to reduce the number of badgers who are currently carrying the disease. The non-discriminatory nature of a cull means that healthy badgers are just as likely to be killed as unhealthy ones.
What’s more, the RSPCA uncovered evidence that the initial figures justifying the cull were inflated. They also ridiculed the government’s claims that the pilot culls were unsuccessful because “the badgers moved the goalposts”.
While UKIP and the Conservatives favour continuing with the cull, Labour and the Green Party are strongly opposed to it, claiming that vaccination programmes are more effective and less cruel. The Lib Dems are sitting on the fence and have said that they will decide “based on further evidence” whether to continue with the cull should they get into power.
The cull has been supported by the NFU, who say that it’s the only way to control bovine TB. This is despite evidence from Wales that shows stringent controls of cattle movement and more rigorous testing resulted in a 48% reduction on bovine TB related slaughter.
Bovine TB is a serious concern which does warrant attention; however, it is clear that the two attempts at culling thus far have caused suffering to badgers and haven’t even met their targets. The issue has been vehemently opposed by animal welfare charities, individuals and celebrities. Despite this, our survey showed that pet owners only rank the badger cull as their 7th most important animal welfare issue.