19,570 badgers were needlessly murdered in 2023. Sign our petition to stop the killing.

The government has released its latest figures on its annual badger cull, and the news is devastating. Another 19,570 badgers lost their lives in 2023, bringing the total murdered since 2013 to more than 230,000. Only a change in government will stop this senseless crime.

Every year for the past decade, England’s badgers have been targeted between September and the end of October in designated ‘cull zones’. Contractors, employed to carry out the killings, wait til the sun goes down, head to the borders of fields, and murder the animals. The men lure the badgers into the fields by laying peanut baits in the day time (badgers love to eat peanuts), and then shoot them dead in the evening. Meanwhile, a few badgers are trapped and then shot. Despite much scientific evidence showing that the cull is senseless, the government and beef and dairy farmers still insist that the murder-spree is vital for combating bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cows.

In 2023, some of the biggest areas affected by the cull were Shropshire, where 1,884 badgers were murdered (or “removed”, according to Natural England) in two cull zones; Warwickshire, where contractors killed 1,786 of the mammals in three zones; and Derbyshire, where 1,594 badgers were murdered in two zones.

The never-ending cull

Natural England – on behalf of the Tory government – originally issued licences to each cull zone to shoot badgers for four years. It officially stopped issuing these four year licences in 2022, but instead of phasing out the cull, it began introducing supplementary licences to extend the murdering in certain zones. On top of this, a number of existing cull zones have been expanded to cover greater areas – an underhand way for Natural England to introduce the cull into new zones without actually admitting it was creating zones.

Then on 14 March, Defra launched a new consultation on ‘epidemiological culling’, which will end on 22 April. If the government goes ahead with its plan, Natural England will issue licences indefinitely to kill 100% of badgers at a targeted, local level from 2026.

Vote the Tories out

Although Protect the Wild doesn’t endorse one particular party, it is clear that in order to save England’s badger population, we need to vote the Tories out in the next General Election.  Back in October 2023, Labour pledged that it will end the badger cull if it gets into power. At the time, The Guardian reported exclusively on Labour’s promise. Daniel Zeichner, the shadow farming minister, said:

“I’ve spent a long time looking at this. The 2018 Godfrey review, the last piece of work done by the government, found that badger culling is not the answer. We’re going to make England bovine TB free by 2038, but with a range of measures that do not include culling.”

He continued:

“I think we should be moving to a different approach, because we’ve been culling for quite a long time, and it’s still a big issue and we’re still spending £80m a year on compensation, so it’s not exactly working is it?”

In response to the news, the National Farmers Union’s deputy president, Tom Bradshaw, reportedly said that the news was “something the union had been fearing”. Apparently the NFU had been “doing everything possible to work with Labour to help them understand the importance of the controlled wildlife programme as an essential part of TB control.”

Sign our petition

It is, of course, a relief that the Labour Party has noticed that the cull isn’t working (after all, bTB in the farming industry is primarily passed from cow to cow, not from badger to cow) and that it will use other measures to combat bTB.  If it is truly serious about combating the disease for good, it needs to pledge that it will enforce biosecurity measures on cow farming and movements, too.

We need to put pressure on Labour to keep its word and put the lives of our wildlife before farming lobby interests. After all, the farming lobby will continue to attempt to pressure the party to change its stance. That’s why we’ve launched a petition, calling on all of you to sign a letter to Steve Reed, the Shadow Environment Secretary, today.

In the letter, we are calling on an incoming Labour government (should they win the election) to honour its promise to stop the badger cull. Protect the Wild also argues that ending the badger cull and redirecting resources towards comprehensive disease management strategies, including improved testing protocols and biosecurity measures, is not only morally justifiable but also fiscally responsible.

Almost 9,000 people have already signed the petition – help us reach 15,000! Sign the petition here.