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Natural England asks for public comments on more badger culling

On 20 February, Natural England launched an online survey, giving the public the opportunity to comment after it had “received applications or expressions of interest for a Supplementary Badger Disease Control Licence within the counties of Herefordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Avon.”

But if you’re about to click on the survey, don’t for one moment think that you will have any kind of effective impact in making the government see sense. Natural England states that it will:

“consider any impacts on livelihoods and daily activities that are relevant to the applications and may share this information with the relevant applicant, based upon your postcode or specific point of interest. This is to allow the relevant applicant to consider appropriate mitigation measures, before completing their licence application.”

So, Natural England will possibly share some of the information it gathers to the people who have applied to murder badgers. Even then, the application is unlikely to be refused, and instead the applicant will be advised to consider “appropriate mitigation measures”.

The public body stresses:

“The Opportunity to Comment is not to be used to declare views for or against the Bovine TB policy.”

It continues:

“comments and concerns regarding the safety of walking, riding, working and/or surveying in areas of a licensed cull will not generally be forwarded to the applicant since they are considered by Natural England in the licence assessment to ensure adequate mitigation measures are in place.”

What is the cull?

The government has culled badgers annually for the past decade. It does so by issuing four-year licences to land owners in different zones across the country, along with target figures of the number of badgers it wants murdered. Badgers are then intensively shot and trapped for a six-week period each year, usually beginning in September. At the end of the six weeks, land owners can apply for extensions, lasting a couple more weeks, if they don’t meet their cull targets.

Despite misleading mainstream media headlines that the cull was coming to an end, the government continued issuing new four-year licences in 2022. As if this wasn’t enough, Defra is likely to issue licences indefinitely to kill badgers at a targeted, local level from 2026, although it currently isn’t clear what the system will be.

 

A badger is released from a trap during the annual cull
A badger is released from a trap by an activist during the annual cull. Photo via Avon Against the Badger Cull

Supplementary licences

On top of these active cull zones, there are a number of other zones that have been granted supplementary licences. These are, effectively, extended licences for zones after they have already been extensively culled of badgers over the course of four years. In 2022, the government awarded two-year supplementary licences to murder badgers in ten new locations across the country, which were licensed to run until January 2024.

Avon Against The Badger Cull, which goes out on the ground to actively try to protect badgers, told Protect The Wild:

“Supplementary licences are given to individual and land owners to exterminate badgers on their land. They run from the 1 June until the end of December. They’re very difficult to deal with because of the length of time and secrecy over who applies for the licences. In effect, they extend the cull in each zone for another two years.”

The Badger Trust has warned that small cubs are especially targeted in those zones that have been issued supplementary licences. The charity said in 2022:

“The implementation of a badger cull in June is ethically unjustifiable and an animal welfare tragedy. At only four months old, this year’s badger cubs are now beginning to explore away from the relative safety of the sett, and increased rates of nightly foraging could lead them directly into the cull gunmen’s sights.”

Support those on the ground

Half of the UK’s badger population has now been killed off in the government’s senseless campaign to eradicate bovine TB (bTB), and a number of areas of the country are now facing local badger extinctions. Natural England’s survey giving the public a token say – but only if their livelihood is going to be affected – is pointless. Badgers will continue to be murdered, and activists who are actively out on the ground, protecting setts, are the badgers’ best line of defence. They need our support more than ever.

You can donate to Avon Against The Badger Cull here.