Badger Cull

The government has been carrying out badger culling in Gloucestershire since the autumn of 2013 when the 6-week cull was granted an 8-week extension when they failed to reach their minimum kill-target. This extension was then cancelled early (after just over 5 weeks) when they realised they didn’t have a chance of reaching the minimum number within the extension period.

These culls take place only a few years after the end of the Krebs trials. These trials took place in several areas over 10 years, an independent body assessing what effect culling would have on the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis. At the end of the trials it was determined that culling did not have enough of an impact on btb for it to be worthwhile. Bad ethics, bad science.

The Gloucestershire cull zone is right in the centre of our ‘sabbing country’, most of it covering a part of Gloucestershire and then extending into Herefordshire and Worcestershire. We were already aware of various badger setts within hunted areas due to suspected persecution by hunt staff, hunt supporters and some local farmers and we then put in many days of looking for others prior to the first cull and between each cull since.

Badger culling has also taken place in Somerset since September 2013 and the cull also started in Dorset in autumn of 2015. Widescale resistance against culling has taken place over the last few years with people traveling from all over the country (and from further afield) to find and check setts and deter shooters.

With roll-out to several new zones happening in 2016 and further roll-out expected in coming years, our sab group has moved away from coordinating resistance on a wider scale against the cull and are focusing on wildlife crime as a whole. We’ll still be paying a lot of attention to the cull, especially as it may well be taking place in larger parts of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire in the future – the three counties that we operate in.

For more information on the cull and what we, and others, have been doing to resist it, please check out the website of Gloucestershire Badger Office, the collective that some of our sabs helped to set up and play a large part in.

In 2016 documents were leaked to us regarding a potential new ‘southern’ zone. Here’s what our good friends at Gloucestershire Badger Office (link to facebook page) wrote about the future:

As the foxhunting season starts to draw to a close, groups are beginning to focus more time on sett-surveying, sett-checking and preparing for the expected further roll-out this year. Many lessons have been learned over the last 4 years and we will continue to learn and adapt our tactics in order to target culling and other forms of wildlife persecution.

Whatever happens in the ‘original’ Gloucestershire cull zone, Gloucestershire Badger Office intends to keep fighting within the ‘northern zones’ and to give advice and support to zones further afield. We received leaked documents some time ago regarding a potential new zone that would become active this year and locals in the area are working hard on researching and preparing for the cull in that area. We will let them announce it when they’re ready to…

In the meantime, we wanted to share parts of the documents received to reiterate a few of the things we spotted over the last few years. For example, much like our own work, someone will be centrally plotting setts on maps for the zone.

The NFU will still be around to assist but the main body of work is to be done locally. For example, sett-surveying is to be done by the landowners themselves (or those they have nominated) – setts are to be marked on maps using red crosses and the training session which must be completed prior to sett-surveying the land will be around 2 hours long.

The first year of culling in Gloucestershire saw a huge number of new vehicles and shooters coming in from other areas as contractors. Over the following 2 years we saw far fewer ‘outsiders’ being brought in. From year 2 onwards we were aware that much more of the actual culling work was being done by locals, landowners and their friends themselves. This is the case for new zones as lessons have been learned from the original pilot areas… landowners themselves will be their own contractors, trapping and shooting or ‘free-shooting’ badgers themselves. They can also nominate someone to act as a contractor for them, for example if they do not have the required firearms licence. Of course, this allows for a contractor to work for more than one landowner, potentially then working in more than one zone. We believed this would happen in the ‘northern zones’ (Glos, North Cots, Here) which was later confirmed as being the case with some contractors and it may be seen in other areas where different zones are close together.

Cage-trapping is encouraged as “it is discrete and effective” – another ‘lesson learned’ from original zones.

If land is rented and has a tenancy of less than 4 years, the landlord must countersign in order for culling to take place on that land. However, if the tenancy is longer than 4 years the landlord does not have to countersign for it.

Other notes:

– 70% enrolment is still required in each area (i.e. 70% of the land considered ‘the zone’ must be signed up to the cull)

– each participant must be signed up for a 4-year commitment

– as in the current cull zones, there will be several disposal areas for bodies – mainly farms, but local hunts may also be used*

*considering the recent news of the Kimblewick hunt hounds contracting tb and given the number of breaches of cull guidelines by contractors observed in the various cull zones over the last few years surely this should be reconsidered

Watch this space for more information and for our upcoming ‘local groups advice’. With roll-out spreading further we believe that local-led initiatives against wider wildlife persecution is going to be the way forward. More on that soon…

GBO