THE KILLING CONTINUES: Defra issue new badger cull licences

Earlier this year, Defra (the government department working on behalf of the hunting, shooting, farming and fishing industries) launched a ‘sham consultation’, allegedly seeking input for plans to continue killing badgers for the dairy industry.

If the government were to go ahead with those plans, licences might be indefinitely issued to kill 100% of badgers at a targeted, local level from 2026 – U-turning on plans to phase out the badger cull entirely.

Shockingly it has been revealed that Defra have already issued new licences to kill badgers – going against the advice of scientists at Natural England (the government’s – and Defra’s – adviser for the natural environment in England) and before the consultation responses have been collated.


Policy? What policy?

Badger cull ‘policy’ is now an utter mess, littered with the corpses of badgers who don’t have Bovine TB and aren’t to blame for spreading the disease anyway. Land-owning politicians inserted into Defra (like the unelected Robbie Douglas-Millar and Richard Benyon – see “Unelected Defra ministers won’t protect wildlife“) are constantly interfering; scientific advice is being sidelined (see below); and it appears decisions are skewed to keep the ‘industry’ (in other words the ‘bTB partnership‘ (a Defra advisory group chaired by Norfolk arable farmer John Cross) and the National Farmers Union (NFU, a lobby group given special rights in the 1970s as ‘consultees’ to government) onside.

On that latter point, there seems little doubt that the disgraceful decision taken in mid-May to grant nine new Supplementary Badger Control licences and to authorise seventeen existing SBC licences in 2024 – a decision passed by Tony Juniper and the NE board while the sham consultation responses are still being looked at, remember – is to an extent based on the spineless notion that advisers and lobbyists may throw their toys out of the pram and refuse to work with the government on future disease controls.

On 1st May, Sally Randall, Director General for Food, Biosecurity and Trade for DEFRA, admitted as such, writing that “Any abrupt changes to policy would seriously undermine our ability to engage constructively with the industry on future disease control interventions.”

Incredibly, therefore, what is touted as Government policy is actually being partly dictated by the threat that a coalition of pro-cull groups might not want to protect the interests of the very people they supposedly represent if they aren’t allowed to kill badgers today!


Badger Crowd: “Defra’s zombie killing machine won’t stop”.

The highly-respected Badger Crowd (a grassroots support and fundraising coalition including Badger Groups and Trusts around the UK) goes even further, suggesting in their latest blog “Defra’s zombie killing machine won’t stop“, that Defra wants to “keep killing badgers“.

That recent Defra sham consultation on introducing so-called ‘targeted culling’, Badger Crowd points out, claimed (lied?) that “badger culling was responsible for herd incidence reduction, although it had no evidence of this“. Defra has also been “stalling the promised badger vaccination programme, that they have had four years to prepare for“, presumably because Defra actually knows it’s cattle-to-cattle transmission that’s driving bTB infections not unvaccinated badgers.

And to carry on killing they are ignoring the advice of their own scientists. That advice, Badger Crowd writes, comes from Dr Peter Brotherton, Director of Science at Natural England:

Brotherton gives NE’s view on Supplementary Badger Culling (SBC) done after 4-years of Intensive culling…based upon his view of the available scientific evidence:

“I can find no justification for authorising further supplementary badger culls in 2024 for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease and recommend against doing so.



What can we do?

In the words of the Badger Crowd blog, “Intensive, Supplementary, Low Risk Area, and Targeted culling are mistakes, that should, and will be seen as such, be confined to history.

Yet here we are. The incredibly unpopular slaughter of a much-loved species being batted around like a sweetener to keep pro-cull proponents happy. It’s expensive, it doesn’t actually work, and it causes suffering on a huge scale, but Defra won’t even listen to their own scientists and get to work on a genuinely effective alternative policy, instead nodding along with the farming industry voices shouting in their ears.

  • It’s clear that the close ties between Defra and the NFU need to be severed.
  • It’s clear that Defra needs to be rid of spokespeople for landowners like Benyon and Douglas-Miller.
  • And it’s clear that this current government needs to removed at the next election.


However, simply voting in ‘more of the same’ won’t help badgers – or foxes, or grouse, or birds of prey. There has been an almost total silence from both the government and prospective parliamentary candidates on wildlife or the environment. Yes, of course, the cost of living, the deliberate running down of the NHS to benefit private health providers, the lack of affordable housing, the closure of so many community services are vital issues and of major importance. Everyone reading this will have those concerns in common, but in the run-up to the election those of us who also care about wildlife need to let prospective parliamentary candidates know that to secure our vote they need to take wildlife seriously.

Opportunities to shape how a government treats wildlife don’t come around often. The ‘groaning postbag’ may be an outdated term now, but the digital equivalent is very real and just as potent. So let’s all email as many candidates as we can, telephone them, go to hustings and put questions to them, talk to them in the street. Make the cull, hunting, and shooting live issues. Something candidates take note of, report back to their strategists about, and feel they daren’t ignore.

The badger cull must stop immediately. If even for just the next month or so, all of us need to become lobbyists – lobbyists for badgers and lobbyists for wildlife.

  • A list of candidates for every seat can be found at Who Can I Vote For (the final date for a candidate to submit nomination papers is tomorrow, June 07, so additional names may be added in the coming week)


And what is Protect the Wild doing to support badgers?