Is badger culling legal in the UK?
Yes, although badgers are a protected species, it’s legal to kill them if you have a specific badger cull licence.
Each license is issued for a particular area as it’s only legal to kill badgers in certain counties – which ones varies each year.
What are the alternatives to badger culling for stopping the spread of bovine TB?
Even though badgers are not the major problem in bTB spreading, currently the main alternative to badger culling is badger vaccination.
It’s a trap-vaccinate-release scenario, which has been working well in many places. But it needs more funding and farmer and landowner support7.
However, in some places, vaccination and culling are happening in neighbouring areas. There should be no-cull zones around vaccination areas but legally, these can be as narrow as 200 metres1 – that’s a distance badgers can comfortably cross.
Inevitably, it leads to some badgers being vaccinated, released and then killed. A thoroughly pointless exercise.
Another alternative is the use of microchips for cattle to track their movements.
Farmers can manipulate ear tags and sell bTB positive animals, but you can’t easily manipulate a microchip.
Some experts say that instead of microchips, it would be enough to test cattle more often and act accordingly.
Then, there are trials of a bTB vaccine for cattle. The vaccine already exists and is being tested, but its widespread use is not in sight just yet simply because it’s too expensive8.
Arguably, it would be the most effective tool and its use would also shift the focus back to cattle farmers and problems in their own herds.
Badger culling, meat and dairy
As bTB is not a badger disease but primarily a cattle one, the obvious solution is to control its spreading in cattle herds.
But why not take it a step further?
We don’t need to farm cattle for meat and milk. If bovine animals weren’t raised, used, sold and killed for food, bTB wouldn’t be a problem.
It’s only a problem because of animal farming and because sick animals reduce the farmers’ profits.
In a vegan world, bTB wouldn’t be an issue.
If you’re wondering about cattle at sanctuaries – bTB is currently a big issue because any animal testing positive has to be euthanised.
However, cows can live with it for many years, particularly in sanctuaries where they don’t have to endure stressful conditions and their bodies aren’t pushed to the limit. They don’t always develop serious symptoms.
Whichever way you look at it, it becomes obvious that badger culling doesn’t need to happen.
It devastates this protected species and doesn’t protect cattle from bTB.
The good news is that if you’re vegan, you’re already a part of the solution and not the problem.