One aspect of the current Government’s policy on bovine tuberculosis is to enable the licensed culling of badgers for the purpose of controlling the spread of TB, as part of their strategy intended to achieve Officially Bovine Tuberculosis Free status for England.
The Government Policy on Bovine TB and Badger Control dated July 2011 is worth reading, particularly pp 20-31 which state the various Licence Conditions that should be carried out in order to cull badgers.
In order to cull badgers, a species that’s legally protected, special licences have to be issued by Natural England. Whilst considering whether a licence can be issued, Natural England has to ensure that certain requirements are met.
For the forthcoming culls in 2016, DEFRA issued a Guidance to Natural England dated 17 December 2015 and revised in January 2016 outlining the requirements for the coming year
Once a licence has been issued for a zone and only during the cull period, licenced cull operatives can lure badgers into cages where, up to several hours later, they can shoot them at close range.
Known as ‘cage-trapping’, Defra updated the Best Practice Guidelines in August 2014 “to provide clear direction to those licensed to carry out cage-trapping and dispatch of badgers. It provides recommendations on best practice and highlights those areas of the technique that must be complied with, including licence conditions”.
Any breaches must be reported to Natural England.
During the cull period only, licenced cull operatives can also shoot badgers while they’re foraging for food. Known as ‘free’ or ‘controlled’ shooting, Defra produced Best Practice Guidelines, updated August 2014, “to provide clear direction to those licensed to carry out controlled shooting of free-ranging badgers in the field. It provides recommendations on best practice and highlights those areas of the technique that must be complied with, including licence conditions”.
Any suspected illegal shooting must be reported to the police as well as Natural England.
To ensure best practice by cull operatives that work in areas where some landowners or tenants are not part of the badger cull, in July 2011 Natural England produced Draft Guidelines to Mitigate the Damage to Non-participants.
In an attempt to gauge the humaneness, efficacy and safety, Defra/Natural England has monitored the badger culls each year.
- Summary of Badger Control Monitoring 2015
- Summary of Badger Control Monitoring 2014
- Report on the Pilot Badger Culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire 2013 by the Independent Expert Panel
The full costs for the badger culls in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset during 2015 haven’t yet been released by the Government, but the police released their costs in “Badger Culls Cost £1.7m to the Police in 2015”.
In August 2015, a Freedom of Information Request received an answer from Defra on the costs of the badger culls in 2013 and 2014.
The Impact Assessment finalised in 2011 includes the original cost benefit analysis and Defra released a Badger Control Policy Analysis in December 2015 These documents rely heavily on the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) and indicate that the cost of each new cull zone could exceed the expected benefits by at least £1.49 million. However the culls carried out in 2013 – 2015 employ significantly different methodology to the RBCT and as the licence conditions are relaxed yet further in 2016, its unlikely that the culls will, in future, deliver the expected benefits. The conclusion must be that these analyses are significantly flawed.