Last updated: October 2016
At the end of August 2016, the official UK badger cull began again. This was the fourth year running in Gloucestershire and Somerset, and the second year in Dorset. New licenses were also granted to areas in Herefordshire, Cornwall and Devon, as the government insisted badger culling was part of its strategy to eradicate TB in cattle.
Brian May leads anti-badger-cull protest in Bristol.
Background to the cull
After a UK epidemic of bovine (cattle) TB in the 1930s, it was brought under control by cattle-based measures, until the last decades of the 20th century when it began to increase again.
According to the Badger Trust, “the increase followed a marked relaxation of cattle testing, slaughter and movement controls [and] coincided with the intensification of dairy farms.” On the other hand, farming organisations, notably the NFU, blamed badgers.
In the 1990s the Government commissioned a nearly 10-year, taxpayer-funded study including a Randomised Badger Culling Trial. The final report in 2007 concluded that ‘badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain,’ and recommended cattle-based measures alone.
The Coalition Government launched a four-year trial of badger culling in 2013 in an attempt to halt the spread of TB in cattle. Despite a report from the Government’s own Independent Panel of Experts concluding that the 2013 cull was both cruel and ineffective, it was repeated in 2014.
On 28th August 2015 the government announced that Natural England had authorised the cull to start again in Gloucestershire and Somerset, and also to begin in Dorset. This is despite widespread resistance from scientists, Wildlife Trusts and the general public.
The pilot badger culls in England are considered highly controversial for a number of reasons including their effectiveness, cost, impacts on local communities, animal rights concerns and politicised nature.
Like millions of others we believe that the badger cull will not stop the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
Independent scientific studies have shown that culling would be of little help in reducing bovine TB, and even suggest that it could make things worse in some areas.
Instead the cull will have a dire impact on British wildlife with over 70% of the badger population in large areas of the country being wiped out.
Opposition in the field was immediate. With the experience gained by existing groups in the last three years, and the new Badger Action Network resource website this May, groups in new cull areas were helped to set up. Ethical Consumer also continued to run our Badger Action News website, tracking campaigns and summarising news on the cull.
Visit Badger Action News >
Tweet your support for the campaign to stop the badger cull
Stop the Cull (STC) called for boycotts of two major chains who use dairy milk (Sainsbury’s and Caffè Nero) in order to get the issue of the badger cull onto the high street.
This year STC put maps on Facebook of all the Caffè Nero premises in London. Caffè Nero announced at the end of May 2015 that they would stop using milk from the badger cull zones. STC shifted the focus to Sainsbury’s.
Will dairy retailers evolve their response to the badger cull?
We spoke to Dominic Dyer from the Badger Trust in June, after he met with Sainsbury’s to pursue dialogue. “Publicly the retailers have so far largely sat on the fence,” he said. “They should accept their responsibility as key purchasers of dairy milk to play more of a part.” Although they are unlikely to label ‘badger friendly milk’, Dominic thinks they recognise a need to review their public messaging.
He suggested they could:
- Talk publicly about work they do with suppliers to support biosecurity measures on farms to reduce the likely spread of TB;
- Show support for cattle vaccination trials;
- Build on the support given by some local stores to badger vaccination schemes.
“Anti-cull campaigning has achieved a lot,” said Dominic, “and has opened up space for retailers to get involved in the debate, despite pressure from the National Farmers Union (NFU) to restrict it.”
Ethical Consumer is also part of Team Badger to help stop the cull of badgers in England.
We at Team Badger question:
- the humaneness of shooting badgers
- the monitoring of the cull and how this will ensure that the target of killing at least 70% of the badger population to reduce the disease is met but, at the same time, ensure that the culls are not detrimental to the survival of the populations of badgers
- how long-term lessons can be gained from the pilots. The government seems intent on rolling out the policy in up to ten additional areas despite any effect on the disease taking some years to be established.
The following companies were all Best Buys in our 2012 product guide to dairy-free alternatives to milk:
Other dairy free alternatives
Good Hemp (hemp milk)
EcoMil (almond milk)
Oatly (oat milk)
Rice & Rice (rice milk)
For more on the issues of milk and dairy farming see our special report on the dairy industry.