Controlling bovine tuberculosis in badgers
Bovine TB is mainly a disease of cattle, but it can also affect other species. We know that the disease is present in badgers in parts of England and that the disease can be transmitted among cattle, among badgers, and between the 2 species.
The scientific evidence shows conclusively that badgers contribute significantly to bovine TB in cattle. This evidence comes from the randomised badger culling trial. In this trial there were positive and negative changes in the incidence of TB in cattle as a result of badger culling.
The relationship between TB in badgers and in cattle is highly complex. The following articles give more information about this relationship:
- Guardian Online article by Chief Scientist Ian Boyd and Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens explain the science behind the badger cull
- conclusions from a meeting held between Professor Bob Watson and scientific experts on 4th April 2011
- Ian Boyd writes on the evidence base behind the badger cull pilots
The government’s approach to badger disease and badger control
Badger control pilots
We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, vaccinations and culling.
Following two public consultations in 2010 and 2011, we announced, in December 2011, that we would pilot, initially in the first year, culling in 2 areas. The purpose of the pilots was to confirm our assumptions about how effective (in terms of badger removal), humane and safe it would be to use controlled shooting as a method of removing badgers.
Natural England issued the first culling licence, for West Gloucestershire, in September 2012. The second culling licence, for West Somerset, was issued in October 2012. Culling began in August 2013 and lasted until November 2013.
First year of culling
An independent expert panel reviewed how humane, effective and safe the controlled shooting technique was in the first year of the two badger culling pilots. They published a report of their findings together with results of monitoring of the pilots by AHVLA.
We published our response to the IEP report.
Second year of culling
The first year of the pilots provided information that enabled us to plan how we proceed in controlling this wildlife reservoir of bovine TB effectively, humanely and safely in subsequent years. These improvements were put into place for the second year of culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset as part of the culls, which will be carried out annually for a minimum of four years.
The second year of badger culling started in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset in September 2014.
The results of the monitoring of the second year of culling were published in December 2014. We also published the Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice on outcome of year 2 of the badger culls.
The randomised badger culling trial
The randomised badger culling trial ran from 1998 to 2005 and was overseen by the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB.
The trial took place in 30 100 square kilometre areas of England, which were grouped into 10 sets of 3 areas (‘triplets’).
In each triplet:
- 1 area received repeated culling across all accessible land (proactive culling)
- 1 area received culling in response to bovine TB outbreaks in cattle (reactive culling)
- the third area received no culling (survey only)
Culling operations took place for between 4 and 7 years.
Results during the trial showed positive and negative changes in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle as a result of badger culling.
The Independent Group on Cattle TB published its final report on the trials, ‘Bovine TB: the scientific evidence’ in 2007.
More information about the trials is available on the National Archives.
The most recent update, ‘Results from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial based on data downloaded in July 2013’ shows that a reduction in TB incidence in cattle due to culling persists for at least 6.5 years after the last cull.