Badgers are being culled as part of a government initiative to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. In September 2017 the Government licenced 11 new areas for badger culling in western England. Further areas have been licenced each year, with 2020 seeing the largest ever cull authorised by the government, with culling taking place in six additional counties. In September 2021, the government announced the cull has been extended to seven new areas in England, including zones within the counties of Hampshire, Berkshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Shropshire. There are now 40 areas within England where licences are issued to cull badgers, with around 200,000 badgers shot since the cull began.
A consultation on the badger cull ran from 8 February – 21 February 2021. In May the Government announced new licences will continue to be issued until the end of 2022. These four year licences will result in another 130,000 badgers culled during the following four years to 2026.
Essex Wildlife Trust is fully aware that TB in cattle is a significant problem for farming in the UK and that urgent action is required to combat the disease. The Trust believes that action to address bovine TB should be based on clear scientific evidence that can be effectively applied in practice. The government launched a consultation in spring 2021 on measures to reach bovine TB-free status in England by 2038.
Essex Wildlife Trust believes that the best means of tackling bTB are through a sustained programme of vaccination with a BCG vaccine (Bacillus Calmette Guerin), alongside improved biosecurity measures with improved testing and controls on cattle movement.