Labour Party says badger cull ineffective

Labour: cull ‘ineffective’ but will continue anyway?

The Labour party has been vocal in its criticism of the badger cull, and previously pledged to end it if elected. Its manifesto stated that the party would “end the ineffective badger cull”. But is Labour going back on its promise?

Shadow Defra Secretary Steve Reed spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today on Wednesday 26 June.

Presenter Anna Hill said to Reed:

TB in cattle is a real problem, and many farmers feel that the badger cull is helping. Would you stick with the badger cull, phase it out, or have a hard stop?”

He replied:

“We want to work with farmers and scientists to introduce a wider TB eradication package. That will include things like speeding up work on the vaccinations so that there aren’t these false results; working with farmers on better herd management.

We need that multi-pronged package.”

Hill asked:

“Does that package include a badger cull or not?”

To which Reed replied:

“Well, we’re not going to end any of the existing licences, let me be clear on that. We don’t want to send sudden shocks into the system. But we want to work towards a package that can create a bovine TB-free status because I fully appreciate and understand the devastation that TB can cause to farmers.”



Continuing the cull

Although the Tories stopped handing out new culling licences in 2022, the culling is set to continue into 2025, as each licence is four years long. On top of this, on 6 June, Protect the Wild reported that Defra had announced that it had granted nine new supplementary badger control licences, and that it had authorised 17 existing supplementary licences in England in 2024. Supplementary licences are issued to extend culling in an area that has already reached the end of its four-year intensive cull.

So when Reed states that Labour won’t end any of the existing licences, he is saying that even under a new Labour government thousands of badgers will continue to be needlessly killed. In fact we know that supplementary culling is taking place right now.

He clearly doesn’t want to rock the boat of farmers or the farming lobby, who would rather scapegoat the defenceless badger as the cause of TB in cows than look into their own destructive farming practices.

In his interview, Reed doesn’t explain how ending the existing cull licences would be sending “sudden shocks into the system”. After all, Labour’s Daniel Zeichner, the shadow farming minister, stated less than a year ago that “badger culling is not the answer” because “it’s not exactly working is it?”, while the party’s own manifesto stated that the cull is “ineffective”.  Even Natural England says supplementary badger culling is no longer justified despite issuing licences. There are no shocks in doing the right thing – but it will be shocking if the culls continue.

Zeichner said at the time:

“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.”

Risking legal action

If Labour wants to be known as a party that acts on its own, Reed needs to ensure that all badger cull licences are revoked – whether they are intensive and supplementary – with immediate effect as soon as the party gets into power. If he doesn’t, Labour could face the kind of legal challenge that has dogged the Tories for a decade.


Labour Party Manifesto Page 59 ‘Supporting British farmers’


Protect the Wild has already reported on how it would likely be unlawful for Labour to continue to allow badger culling in 2024, as its manifesto has called the cull “ineffective”. We wrote:

“Having acknowledged that culling is “ineffective,” if a governing Labour Party were to issue licenses to cull badgers, they would surely be unlawful—because those licenses would be in breach of Section 10 (2) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992!”

This Section of the Act states that a licence can be given to kill a badger “for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease…” And, of course, Labour has admitted that killing badgers doesn’t prevent the spread of bTB in the farming industry, restating its long-held view that culling does not work. Any new licences may be open to legal challenge straight away – a policy shambles of the sort we had hoped we’d seen the last of.

All eyes on Labour

If Labour thinks that it can appease the pro-cull farming lobby and the anti-cull public at the same time, it is hugely mistaken.

A decade since the start of the cull, Defra – which has ministers with keen interests in shooting – continues to base its cull ‘science’ on flawed methods and findings. As does the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA), which, under the Tory government, has been using inadequate methodology to develop criteria to cull 100% of badgers in localised areas.

Meanwhile, Natural England, which issues cull licences on behalf of the government, is run by a man who laments biodiversity loss while allowing badgers to be gunned down.

Rather than listening to the likes of Defra and APHA, Labour needs to meet with the scientists who have been shut out over the years. They have shown culling to be ineffective for all to see – and that includes the team who wrote the Manifesto the Labour Party is now campaigning on.

  • Will allowing ineffective culling to continue be the first broken manifesto pledge of a new government? Now, more than ever, badgers need us to speak up. Protect the Wild has launched a petition urging Steve Reed to stick to Labour’s promise and end the cull. You can join almost 18,000 people and add your signature here.