Government set to announce ALL badgers can be culled in specific areas

The government is likely to make an announcement that it is to cull 100% of badgers in specific areas of England from 2026.

Back in early 2023, we wrote about Defra’s plan, but it was yet to be officially announced. Now the Independent has stated that the news is likely to become official within the next couple of days, during the National Farmers Union (NFU) conference. The event runs from 20 to 21 February. It is unsurprising that the announcement will be made then – after all, the NFU was reported to have had “undue influence” on the government’s decision to cull badgers back in 2012.

The current model of ‘intensive culling’ should be ending in 2026. Under this murderous scheme, 70% of badger populations can be shot in different ‘cull zones’ throughout England. But under the new rules, this figure will increase to 100%. The policy of murdering 100% of badgers in one localised area is known as ‘epidemiological culling‘ (EC). The government is likely to state that 100% of badgers can only be culled in “exceptional circumstances”. But what does it mean by this?

The Badger Crowd – a grassroots support and fundraising coalition in the UK – has stated:

“It seems likely that to qualify as exceptional, a farm or defined area will need to have found a dead badger within an unknown distance which has tested positive for bovine TB or have been found with the same strain of bTB present in the local cattle. However, this proves nothing as the directionality of transmission is not known. You could cull badgers anywhere on this basis. It is not rational. We know that once a strain is introduced by cattle it can rapidly pollute the countryside with TB bacteria for considerable distance.”

Anti-cull protest in Oxford. July 2023. Protect the Wild.

Bad science

Protect the Wild has written a number of times about the bad science that dictates the government’s stance on the cull. Defra previously told us:

“The evidence from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) which ran from 1997 to 2005, indicates that badgers are a significant source of TB in areas with a high incidence of TB in cattle.”

Experts have exposed that particular trial as unsafe science, with a number of crucial flaws to it. Instead, there have been reliable reports that the government has conveniently ignored – so influenced is it by the farming lobby. One such report, which was published in May 2023, and was authored by independent researchers, veterinarians, and epidemiologists – argues that continuing plans to cull badgers are devised in “a culture of flawed government veterinary beliefs”, and have no meaningful impact on combating bovine TB (bTB) in cows. The authors state:

“Much if not all the evidence relating to badgers as the source of infection is anecdotal and is therefore subject to unconscious or other bias. Evidence relating to infected badgers is usually completely lacking, beyond their known presence in the area, whereas evidence relating to cattle is more likely to be robust, having been derived from genotyping, cattle movement records and cattle testing.”

The report states that cow-to-cow infection is the most likely cause of bTB, and that:

“cattle movements are the main or sole driver of distribution and spread of bovine tuberculosis into new areas.”

It is, of course, convenient for the farming lobby to blame the defenceless badger for the spread of disease. Because for as long as it has a scapegoat, the farming industry doesn’t have to change its own industrial farming methods.


More than half of England’s badger population has now been killed since the cull began in 2013. It is estimated that more than 260,000 have already lost their lives. It is unclear how devastating the effects of the new policy will be on the total number of badgers in the country, but a number of areas are already facing local badger extinctions.

  • The badger is one of the UK’s most protected mammals. But as Defra looks set to give the go-ahead this week to annihilate badgers – rather than looking at the systematic causes of bTB – without a change in government (the Labour Party has promised to end the badger cull if elected) the outlook for one of the UK’s most loved and most protected mammals looks very bleak indeed.