Public opinion

The pilot badger culls have begun and public opposition to the badger cull is at an all time high. The H.M. Government e-petition against the cull has been trending with over 500 new signatures an hour. At the time of writing, over 283,000 people had signed the petition. This makes it the most signed Government e-petition ever and signatures have been growing at a rate of around 10,000 a day since Sunday (25th August) night. Yet, the Government and the National Farmers’ Union remain determined to shoot 5,000 badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire over the next few weeks.

© Ralph Underhill

© Ralph Underhill – @cartoonralph

Badgergate, like many others, is appalled that the cull is going ahead despite many unanswered questions and deep-seated opposition from many quarters, including not just animal welfare and animal rights groups, but also farmers, vets, scientists, conservationists, artists, actors, musicians, film-makers, journalists, photographers, writers, teachers, housewives, students. Consultation after consultation has shown that the majority of the public does not favour culling badgers, as have various petitions, public statements and other actions.

People who oppose the badger cull do so on many different grounds. But the vast majority of us agree on one thing. Ultimately, it’s about valuing wildlife and making space for nature  – for one person’s vermin is another’s treasured native wild mammal.  Not surprisingly, the majority of the UK’s oldest and most respected wildlife conservation charities and animal welfare charities, are either opposed to the cull or have expressed their deep reservations about it. It’s worth remembering that these organisations have considerably more supporters than the country’s three main political parties have members, which in 2012 was less than 500,000 in total (Labour, 193,000; Conservatives 130,000-170,000; Liberal Democrats 49,000). But despite the strength of public opposition to the cull, the Government and the NFU seem determined to press on with the cull.

We think it’s important to keep asking why this cull is happening when so many experts as well as hundreds of thousands of members of the public have said that culling badgers is not the best way to control bovine TB in cattle and are asking for alternative solutions. So we’ve put together a list of charities, groups and experts who have stated their opposition to the badger cull – or expressed deep concerns about it, along with their position statements where available.

It’s quite an impressive list already, but if we’ve missed anyone out, please send us your details and we’ll add you as soon as possible. Please share this list as widely as you can. Send it to your MPs and others (see What you can do for ideas and contact details). As most of the position statements in the table below pre-date the start of the cull, please also check the websites of individual organisations to see their latest statements.

 

National Wildlife Conservation / Animal Welfare Charities Position on Badger Cull Details / Position Statement Supporters
Badger Trust

(1986)

AGAINST Agrees with RBCT conclusion that culling is not a meaningful part of bovine TB control in cattle and promotes alternatives such as badger vaccination and improved biosecurity measures.

 

Thanks to the efforts of the Badger Trust, over 100 celebrities, scientists, naturalists, vets and leading animal welfare and conservation charities issued a statement on 14 August 2013 calling on the Government to abandon the badger culls. It’s estimated that between them, these 100 people have the ability to reach around four million people.

Over 1,000 individual supporters

 

Supports around 60 individual local badger groups nationwide

 

 

 

 

RSPB

(1889)

AGAINST We have opposed the proposals to cull badgers included in recent government consultations in both England and Wales” Over 1 million members, including more than 195,000 junior members.
RSPCA

(1824)

AGAINST The RSPCA believes that vaccination, increased levels of testing and improved biosecurity are more effective ways of dealing with the problem in the long term and eradicating bovine TB in cattle for good.”
Team Badger1

(2012)

AGAINST “From the largest to the smallest group, we have one purpose, and that is to halt the cull and secure a sustainable and realistic way to reduce the spread of bovine TB in cattle.”

Individual position statements can be found through member’s websites via Teambadger website.

A coalition of conservation and animal welfare groups that presently numbers 29 groups

 

The Mammal Society

(1954)

AGAINST “The Mammal Society considers that, on balance, there is insufficient evidence for bTB control policy involving badger culling and sufficient evidence to advise against one.” Supports local mammal groups nationwide
The Wildlife Trusts

(1912)

AGAINST “The Wildlife Trusts are firmly opposed to a cull

A statement in response to the vote in the House of Commons can be found here.

47 individual member trusts covering the whole of the UK and the Isle of Man and Alderney.  Over 800,000 members in total including more than 150,000 junior members
Woodland Trust

(1972)

AGAINST Our view, based on the best available science, is that culling badgers will not be effective in eradicating bTB, and could exacerbate the problem. The Trust will therefore not participate in any culling programmes or allow others access to its land for the purposes of culling unless required to do so by law.” 194,000 members
ZSL

(1826)

 

AGAINST  “ZSL is concerned that the available scientific evidence does not support the UK government’s decision to allow badger culling by licensed farmers in England. The complexities of TB transmission mean that the planned approach risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it. Even if such increases do not materialise, the government predicts only limited benefits, insufficient to offset the financial costs for either farmers or taxpayers. Unfortunately, the planned pilot culls are not designed to measure the effects of licensed culling on cattle TB, nor to assess its costs. ZSL therefore concludes that badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from the important business of controlling cattle TB nationwide.”

ZSL “calls upon the UK government to show international leadership in wildlife conservation, by seeking sustainable ways for badgers and cattle to coexist.”

ZSL has conservation projects in more than 50 countries and receives 1.5 million visits to its London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo. ZSL’s Institute of Zoology is a world-renowned research centre  specialising in scientific issues relevant to preserving animal species and their habitats.
Wildlife & Countryside Link2

(1980)

CONCERNED Link publishes an annual analysis of the Government’s progress on natural environment commitments. In Nature Check 2012, Link stated that  “significant concerns exist over the use of the science in policy-making over the badger cull” (p18)

In July 2013, 10 members of Link issued a statement on badgers and bovine TB in England. Its  conclusions included the following: “Killing badgers is a costly distraction from the development of a more rigorous, effective and publicly acceptable approach to the control of bTB.”

A coalition of 41 voluntary organizations supported by over 8 million people
Local Wildlife Conservation charities 
Local Badger Groups AGAINST 60 local badger groups in Great Britain oppose the cull. Details of individual groups can be found here
Local Wildlife Trusts AGAINST 47 local wildlife trusts cover the UK,  Isle of Man & Alderney. Check individual group websites to read their position on the cull.

 

Non-Violent Direct Action Groups
Hunt Saboteurs Association

(1963)

AGAINST “The vast majority of the population is against this unscientific cull and we will prevent as many deaths as possible.”

 

 Numerous local sab and anti-hunting groups
Stop the Cull AGAINST A coalition to stop the badger cull using inventive but peaceful non-violent direct action. Amongst other things, members of the coalition have been doing sett surveys, leafleting and local campaigning in the two pilot cull zones in the run up to the cull.
Political Groups/Think Tanks
The Bow Group

 

AGAINST Common Sense and Bovine TB: Why the Government should abandon badger culling trials in favour of vaccination The oldest centre-right think tank in he country
Scientists
Open letter to The Observer3

14 October 2012

 

AGAINST 31 leading independent national and international scientists published an open letter to the Government on 14th October 2012 asking the Government to reconsider the pilot culls.

“Unfortunately, culling badgers as planned is very unlikely to contribute to TB eradication. We therefore urge the government to reconsider its strategy.”

Vets
BVZS

(1961)

AGAINST We are recommending that BVA relook at its current position regarding culling in light of the weight of current scientific thinking.”
Open letter to the Independent4

4 June 2013

AGAINST “…the overwhelming scientific opinion that culling badgers will not help to reduce TB in cattle, and amidst grave concerns over the impact that culling will have on the welfare of badgers and the future of many populations…”

 

Notes:

1. Team Badger Members

Animal Aid, Animal Defenders International, Badger Trust, BRAVE, Brock, Born Free, Care for the Wild, Change for Animals Foundation, Conservatives against the Badger Cull, David Shepherd Foundation, Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, Humane Society International/UK, IFAW, League Against Cruel Sports, Network for Animals, Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, Peta, Political Animal Lobby, Rethink Bovine TB, RSPCA, Save Me, Stroud 100, South West Action for Hares, WRAS Wildlife Rescue, The Children of the Badgers,TB Vac, Viva, Wildlife Aid Foundation

2. Wildlife & Countryside Link Members

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Angling Trust, Badger Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, British Ecological Society, British Mountaineering Society, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Campaign for National Parks, Council for British Archaelogy, Council for Protection of Rural England, Client Earth, Freshwater Biological Organisation, Friends of the Earth, Hawk and Owl Trust, Humane Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Mammal Society, Marine Conservation Society, Open Spaces Society, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife, Pond Conservation, Ramblers, Rivers Trust, Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Salmon and Trout Association, Shark Trust, Waterwise, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, World Society for the Protection of Animals, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, World Wildlife Fund, Zoological Society of London

Link Members who issued July 2013 Statement on badgers and bovine TB in England:

  • Badger Trust
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Humane Society International/UK
  • International Fund for Animal Welfare
  • The Mammal Society
  • People’s Trust for Endangered Species
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • The Wildlife Trusts
  • The Woodland Trust

3. Scientists who signed the open letter to The Observer

  • Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, University of Cambridge and president of the Zoological Society of London
  • Professor Mike Begon, University of Liverpool
  • Professor Tim Blackburn, Zoological Society of London
  • Professor John Bourne CBE, former Chairman, Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB
  • Professor William Sutherland, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Terry Burke, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Chris Cheeseman, formerly Food & Environment Research Agency
  • Professor Sarah Cleaveland, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Tim Clutton Brock FRS, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Andrew Dobson, Princeton University
  • Dr Matthew Fisher, Imperial College London
  • Dr Trent Garner, Zoological Society of London
  • Professor Stephen Harris, University of Bristol
  • Professor Daniel Haydon, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Peter Hudson FRS, Pennsylvania State University
  • Professor Kate Jones, University College London
  • Professor Matt Keeling, University of Warwick
  • Professor Richard Kock, Royal Veterinary College
  • Professor Lord Krebs Kt FRS, University of Oxford
  • Dr Karen Laurenson, Frankfurt Zoological Society
  • Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS, former chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council
  • Professor Simon Levin, Princeton University
  • Professor Georgina Mace FRS, University College London
  • Professor Jonna Mazet, University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Professor Lord May OM AC Kt FRS, University of Oxford
  • Professor Graham Medley, University of Warwick
  • Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland, Imperial College London
  • Professor Denis Mollison, former Independent Scientific Auditor to the Randomised Badger Culling Trial
  • Professor Pej Rohani, University of Michigan
  • Dr Tony Sainsbury, Zoological Society of London
  • Professor Claudio Sillero, University of Oxford
  • Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Zoological Society of London

4. Vets who signed the open letter to the Independent

  • Caroline Allen
  • Heather Bacon
  • Fiona Dalzell
  • Bronwen Eastwood
  • Richard Edwards
  • Mark Jones
  • Andrew Knight
  • J Lewis
  • Alastair MacMillan
  • Iain McGill
  • Andre Menache
  • Paul Torgerson