WWT’s position on badger culling as a
bovine TB control measure

The issue

Bovine TB is a serious problem for the cattle industry, from individual farmers to the country as a whole.

WWT is closely involved with farmers and cattle issues, indeed cattle form a vital part of WWT’s management of its wetland reserves. WWT is sympathetic to the needs of farmers to reduce the incidence of this disease.

The WWT approach

WWT ensures that it takes a science-based approach in all its work. Additionally, WWT actively works to promote sustainable solutions to health problems. We have worked hard to help bring about international commitments to taking ecosystem approaches to health recognising the interconnectivity of health between people, domestic animals and wildlife.

WWT’s position

WWT is opposed to the proposed culling of badgers as this does not represent a sustainable approach to disease control. More worrying still is the likely futility of this as an effective disease control measure. Based on many years of high quality scientific research, the Independent Scientific Group on Bovine TB concluded to Government in 2007 that 'badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain' and that 'the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread constrained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.'

The science indicates that culling of badgers is not an effective means of reducing disease due to the complexities of social structures of badgers and how severe disturbances to these structures caused by culling activities exacerbates the disease problem at the periphery of the cull area. Research indicates that over a long period of time a modest reduction (16%) in bovine TB outbreaks might be expected yet this slight ‘benefit’ is outweighed by the economic cost of this long term expensive process.

What WWT believes should be done and is doing currently

Sustainable disease control solutions are required, which is why WWT has already embarked on a programme of badger vaccination at WWT Slimbridge.

Bovine TB is primarily a problem for our domestic animal production and it is there where the most successful control measures should be targeted, including:

  1. Rigorous and robust cattle TB surveillance systems
  2. Development of suitable vaccination programmes for cattle
  3. Better biosecurity in farm holdings to exclude badgers or other potential sources of infection e.g. gates on cattle sheds, badger-proof food storage areas etc.

WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray said

“WWT is keenly aware that on a planet where humans are increasingly impacting on and changing the environment; and animals, plants and pathogens are moved around on a global scale, there is an ever increasing number of emerging disease issues, many of which affect wildlife. We cannot assume that killing wildlife will solve disease problems, in many cases this can make a situation worse. We need to act responsibly and, in this situation, it does not mean killing badgers.”

Badger image by Iain S Bryne.