• Badger Trust Staff Team

Warning to public as start of 2021 badger cull season brings shooters into countryside

Badger Trust alerts public to the badger cull’s reality as 1st June marks start of night-time shooting in eight English counties.


Badger Trust is warning the public in eight English counties about the 2021 badger cull season opening. From 1st June, contractors with guns could be active in unspecified countryside areas, without further public notice or warning. Twenty ‘supplementary’ badger control licences come into effect from 00.01 on 1st June in Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset and Wiltshire and allow the killing of up to 14,000 badgers across these counties. In all cases badgers will be shot, with the majority shot whilst free running, meaning high-powered rifles could be discharged across a wide-ranging area. And as the activity ramps up in mass cull areas during September and October, the charity expects both ongoing and new intensive cull licences will mean a further 70,000 badgers will be killed in the same way across 54 areas of England.


Dawn Varley, Acting CEO of Badger Trust, said: ‘Besides our outrage at the start of yet another unnecessary badger cull season, we continue to be aghast at how the public is left unaware and, we would argue, without due warning, of the fact that contractors armed with guns will be roaming huge areas of the countryside at night. With a maximum kill target of just short of 14,000 badgers, high-powered rifles will be discharged at significant levels targeting free running badgers, with shotguns used for badgers caught in cages, both at night. Besides the public safety risk, we believe the public would be appalled at the level of suffering inflicted on badgers, many of whom will not be shot and killed outright. This level of shooting will also increase in September and into October when the intensive cull period starts up – with a further 70,000 badgers likely to be killed based on our estimate.’


She continued: ‘Despite Government spin only last week attempting to paint a picture of the cull ending soon, with talk of ‘no further licences issued after 2022’, in reality, this badger cull, which started in 2013, is set to run for several more years under existing licences. Indeed intensive cull licences due to be issued in 2022 alone will run for four years. England has already lost over 140,000 badgers to the senseless cull in a highly questionable attempt to control bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, and we estimate that a further 140,000 will be lost in coming years.


The badger cull is a hidden threat to public safety, a waste of taxpayers money, and a failed attempt to control a disease that should be controlled by cattle-based measures.’

The eight counties where shooting will start from 1st June comprise areas where ‘intensive’ four year cull licences have been in place previously and ‘supplementary’ culling is now licensed to continue culling operations for a further period. The table below sets out the areas, the number of badgers to be killed (minimum and maximum numbers are stated as part of the licence conditions), and what year of supplementary culling the county area is in.

Badgers can be killed by either cage trapping and shooting, or controlled shooting without trapping, with over three-quarters of badgers killed by ‘free shooting’ in the last cull year (29,884 out of 38,642 reported in 2020). The 2021 open season for supplementary licences runs 1st June 2021 to 31st January 2022, and contractors should focus operations within a six week period once they start. However, this 42-day shooting period has been increasingly exceeded in recent years, with 48 out of the 54 cull areas (supplementary and intensive licences) exceeding the 42-day target in 2020.


Further details of the supplementary licences, and wider approach to ‘badger disease control licences’ can be found in the ‘Further information’ section below.



Further information:

Full details of the licences issued in 2021 can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-authorisation-for-supplementary-badger-control-in-2021?fbclid=IwAR1SrL26h0VyENN56ZloVO1Vki1fDW3CnI_kvVxBaeHw4HhdWzRKPgWi_bA


Full background to badger control licences, including supplementary areas, can be found here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/989623/tb-licensing-guidance-ne.pdf

Defra announcement 27th May 2021 on future bTB control plans - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-next-phase-of-strategy-to-combat-bovine-tuberculosis-in-england

Licence publication details complete with table detailing areas, minimum and maximum badgers to be killed, and year of culling (eg if just started as ‘Year 1’ for Wiltshire or several years on for Gloucestershire) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-authorisation-for-supplementary-badger-control-in-2021?fbclid=IwAR1SrL26h0VyENN56ZloVO1Vki1fDW3CnI_kvVxBaeHw4HhdWzRKPgWi_bA

See here for the ‘Bovine tb Risk Map for Great Britain’ to understand the reported prevalence of the disease. https://tbhub.co.uk/preventing-tb-breakdowns/bovine-tb-risk-map/

Badger Trust figures on badgers killed to date and estimate for future years - https://www.brockbase.com/post/badger-trust-remains-unconvinced-that-btb-policy-consultation-gives-any-reprieve-to-badgers


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