A black and white issue that is turning all of us grey

 Badgers are one of the most important wild mammals in the UK and they should be protected.The badger issue should be black and white.

It should be straightforward. Badgers are one of the most important wild mammals in the UK and they should be protected. We have already seen many other large mammals that used to roam our land become extinct, but that was before ’we knew better’.

Now we have laws to protect important species and the badgers have, rightly so, a law of their own. So, if badgers happen to be caught in the crossfire of any battle (in this case the battle between cattle and the Bovine Tuberculosis bacteria) we should do our upmost to keep them out of it, because this is what ’protecting’ means.

However, this is not happening. There are people out there who seem obsessed by persecuting badgers, and will do as much as they can to kill them, and perhaps even to exterminate them. They blame anything on badgers, and they will go to great lengths to be sure they don’t get a break. Is the Government representing the public’s view on this? Can anyone be blamed for thinking they aren’t?

It should be a black and white issue, and the Government is making it grey. Last year many badgers were killed in the two pilot cull areas in order to check whether the Government’s culling methods were efficient, humane and safe, so it could roll them out across the rest of England if they were. An independent panel of experts (IEP) was set up to evaluate this.

Last week the IEP published its report concluding that such pilots were neither efficient nor humane. So, what should be the answer to this? Stop the planned cull and take actions that do work, such as control of cattle movements, improving biosecurity and vaccinating badgers (as has been happening in Wales and it has been proven that it works). However, the Government chose the ’grey answer’:

They will not roll out the cull yet, but will continue the cull pilots in Gloucestershire and Somerset to ‘perfect ‘the culling methods so they can roll out culling to other areas in the future…and they will not use badger vaccination in the areas where more badgers are likely to get bTB from cattle, but will use them in others where they are less likely to.


Does this make any sense? It should be a black and white issue. Either the culls work or they don’t. Either vaccination works or it doesn’t. All evidence available now shows that culls don’t work and vaccination does. And yet, the Government has chosen a ‘grey’ answer, disregarding any common sense, disregarding the opinion of Parliament which has already voted against the cull, and making us, those who have never stopped trying to protect badgers against this irrationality, to become grey-haired in the process.

There have been so many people from all walks of life helping badgers and fighting this cull that it is amazing how the Government, who at the end of the day are still politicians needing votes to stay in power, keep ignoring them. We at IFAW have been involved in this campaign for quite some time, and we will not drop it now. We are obviously having an impact because otherwise there would already be culling in many more areas. But we need to do more.

Last year IFAW trained Wounded Badger Patrollers from Gloucester Against Badger Shooting (GABS) to gather evidence on the ground, as that is important when assessing the efficiency of the culls or establishing if cull licence conditions have been breached. When we learnt last week that there would still be more culling this year, we resumed our training in other areas, and we are now calling on anyone that would like to join these peaceful and legal initiatives to get in touch with the local patrol groups because they will need people to help them when the culls resume in June.

We are also continuing to support the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative (BACVI), a nationwide appeal to promote and support vaccination of badgers and cattle as a tool in the fight against bovine TB. Some of the funds we donated are about to be used in local badger vaccination projects in the areas of high bTB risk, which is where vaccination is the positive alternative to culling.

We will continue backing Britain’s badgers, no matter how grey we become.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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