Government sanctions killing of 7,500 badgers in Avon since 2019

England’s badger population is being annihilated, and one of the worst-hit areas is Avon, in the southwest. 1,521 badgers were murdered in the region throughout September and October 2022 during the government’s annual cull.

Avon has two ‘cull zones’ which Natural England issues licences for. One zone was in its fourth and final year of intensive culling. Natural England set the minimum number of badgers to be culled in that area to 282, and it set the maximum number to 382. The number of badgers actually killed was 345. Even though this zone was, officially, in its final year, land owners have already expressed interest in applying for supplementary licences for two more years. In other words, this zone will likely be culled for at least six years.

Meanwhile, Avon’s second zone was in its third year of culling. The minimum number of badgers to be murdered was set at 948, while the maximum number was 1,287. Sadly, 1,176 badgers were actually killed in that zone.

Most of Avon’s badgers were murdered by free shooting: that is, shooters standing in a field, usually with thermal imaging cameras, when the mammals have come out after dusk. During the cull, land owners lay peanuts on the ground to entice badgers out of their setts and into the line of where they are set to be shot. Free shooting can be torturous for the badger, who can writhe in pain from her injuries for a long time before she dies. A minimal amount of Avon’s badgers were also murdered by being trapped and then shot.

Almost 7,500 badgers murdered in Avon over four years

Despite substantial efforts by activists trying to prevent the cull, Avon’s badger population has suffered terribly since the cull began in the region in 2019. The number of badgers culled in Avon so far are:

2022: 1,521

2021: 2,095

2020: 2,751

2019: 1,084


This figure will, no doubt, increase substantially, as Avon’s first zone will enter its supplementary licence phase, and its second zone will enter its fourth year of intensive culling in September 2023.

Protect The Wild spoke to Avon Against The Badger Cull (AABC), a group which works year-round to try to prevent the murder of badgers in its area. It surveys setts to locate where badgers have survived, and then puts huge effort into trying to protect them during the cull itself. The group said:

“Well over half of England’s badgers have been killed now, although the number of badgers in England is a guesstimate, so the figure might even be much greater. The government says that the object of the cull is to reduce the spread of bovine TB. But after ten years of killing badgers, there has been very little impact on the number of cows having to be killed each year, which is still in the region of 9,500. Killing badgers is a depressing waste of money and anybody can see that it’s a failure.”

Expanding one of Avon’s zones by 136km²

AABC’s hard work has been severely hampered by Natural England, which works on behalf of Defra to issue cull licences and decide upon the parameters of each cull zone. Natural England recently admitted in FOI responses that it had expanded one Avon zone by a massive 136km² in 2021. The decision was made covertly, with no public consultation. Environmental journalist Tracy Keeling argued that expanded cull zones this huge “are clearly large enough to qualify as cull zones in their own right.”

Keeling went on to say:

“This indicates that larger extension areas are operating in some respects as if they are separate badger culls. This includes apparently aiming to kill badgers more intensely than the cull areas they are attached to, due to the reduced number of years of operation.”

Natural England, on behalf of the government, has made a concerted effort – seemingly more so than in other areas of the country – to wipe out Avon’s badgers.

You can support AABC

As Protect The Wild has previously reported, the country’s court system has failed to save our badgers, despite the law stating that the creatures are one of our most protected species. So those who are willing to go out and actively protect setts are badgers’ best line of defence. AABC will be back in force in 2023, surveying setts throughout the year in order to protect them during the cull.

You can donate to AABC here, or find out how to get involved with the group here. If you’re not in the southwest, you can search on the internet for your local group working against the cull.

Featured image via Shutterstock