January: cull finishes in the West Gloucestershire zone, having started in August
February: consultation conducted regarding the cap on adding 10 new cull zones a year… pro-cull people wanted to add more than 10 annually but this limit was not removed
March: a sett targeted by cullers (and badger baiters) over the years had a large fire set on top of its entrances – fire brigade called out – sett survived
June: members of Gloucestershire Badger Office and Three Counties Hunt Sabs did speeches at Birmingham Wildlife Festival / cull in West Gloucestershire began 28th June
July: licence issued for West Gloucestershire cull zone – figures also released from the 2017 cull… see Year 5: 2017 page for a run-down of that year
… cull preparations and activity were found in early July in West Gloucestershire, cages from 11th July onwards – we found out later that the cull had begun officially on 28th June. We were also finding a continuation of damage done to setts, piles of manure dropped on to one sett, completely covering all entrances.
July continued to be a busy month with demonstrations held in areas of cull zones, such as Stow-on-the-Wold, well-known setts were totally destroyed by angry landowners and, contrary to last year’s weather concerns regarding the storm, we were now arguing with the police regarding the extreme heat. Wildlife rescues and hospitals were issuing advice to put out water for hedgehogs and other wildlife, they were dealing with wild animals found dehydrated and struggling, a letter was sent out to badger vaccinators advising them to be very aware of the heatwave (but apparently cull contractors did not need to adhere to the same guidelines or advice…) and the news picked up on the issue. Again the police decided to ‘monitor’ the situation and the culls / cage-trapping was not suspended.
Various news outlets covered work completed by Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs and Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch on the illegal blocking and digging-out of setts by hunts within Gloucestershire and surrounding areas.
In August both the BBC and The Independent reported on the work carried out. Later in August we would be joined by a reporter from Vice magazine who wrote an article about his experiences. Initially campaigners wanted to take the reporter to a large sett, just to show him a good example of what a typical sett looks like… unfortunately the sett had been tampered with and was now blocked and inactive. At least it gave the reporter an idea of what badgers are up against.
On to check others and cages were found at a couple of sites. Into the evening and looking for badger shooters… at a targeted sett a noise was heard and we used a thermal imager which picked up on two people in the field which we were hiding up in… we made our presence known and they ran, a vehicle speeding off moments after they left the field. A busy few hours and a good example of what we do out here in the zones!
Early September came along and with it we found cull preparation, bait points and cages in both the North and South Cotswolds zones. We received film from campaigners near Daglingworth showing farmer David Barton baiting cages on his land.
The licences were released soon after, on 13th September, for the North and South Cotswolds zones as well as the North Wiltshire zones and all the others continuing or becoming active this year, 30 zones in total. One of the zones in Devon actually had a minimum target number of zero – considering that each zone was ‘supposed’ to have a kill target of 70% of the badger population that would also make the original population of that area zero…
West Gloucestershire: 125 – 540
North Cotswold: 28 – 927
South Gloucestershire: 1163 – 1579
Once again this year we were subject to a number of disturbing incidents… one of the Gilder clan, for example, lived up to the family’s reputation earned over the last couple of years of culling and took an unsafe shot on 17th September from a moving quadbike with members of Three Counties Hunt Sabs present on a footpath running through the field. It is believed that he was trying to make sabs think that he had shot an animal rather than actually firing to kill one, but it was a reckless move regardless and shows complete disregard for safety.
Over in Beckford baitpoints were found on a public footpath, again showing a disregard for the safety of those in the area… this has been an ongoing issue from the first year of the culls in this area.
Despite having people out daily, it is inevitable that we will find evidence of badgers being killed when we haven’t been there at the right time. Over the years we have seen plenty of examples of biosecurity and guidelines being ignored, the guidelines even being changed when it was evident that cull operatives were not adhering to them anyway.
One of the issues we have seen time and time again has been the leaving of blood from shot badgers in cages instead of the cages and surrounding areas being cleaned up. We hope that the sight and smell of a fellow badger’s blood, etc. would put others off going into the cages themselves, but it is always upsetting to find evidence of a killed badger in the areas that we try to protect. This cage was found in September 2018 in Gloucestershire and was reported to be put out of commission once found so it could not trap any future badgers for shooting.
Cull kill figures:
West Gloucestershire: 197 kills (168 shot, 29 caged and shot)
North Cotswold: 880 (682 shot, 198 caged and shot)
South Gloucestershire: 1459 kills (848 shot, 611 caged and shot)
32,601 badgers were killed in the 2018 culls… not including those killed in the original pilot zones in West Gloucestershire and Somerset as these zones had not concluded by the time the results were released for the remainder of the zones. No minimum and maximum figures were even set for the zone in Cumbria – Natural England stated that they were less necessary in a ‘Low Risk Area’, meaning that shooters were free to kill as many badgers as they wished.
In West Gloucestershire cage-trapping finished on 30th November (as they are not allowed to cage and shoot badgers after this time) and shooting continued up until 15th January 2019… Having started on 28th June 2018 this made it the longest running badger culling zone yet… 6 months and 17 days.