Badgers can act as a wildlife reservoir for Mycobacterium bovis, the bacterium which causes TB in cattle. Defra’s badger control policy in England includes both injectable vaccination and culling of badgers to control the spread of bovine TB.
Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, however licensed vaccination and culling is permitted to prevent the spread of bovine TB. These activities are tightly controlled and require a licence from Natural England.
Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS II)
Badger vaccination aims to reduce transmission of TB both within the badger population and between badgers and cattle. Injectable badger vaccination reduces the severity of disease and the shedding of TB bacteria from infected individuals.
The Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) aims to help prevent the spread of bovine TB to new areas of the country. A third round of applications for BEVS II closed in August 2019, with further grant funding available to private groups wishing to carry out badger vaccination in the Edge Area of England. Groups will receive at least 50% funding towards their eligible costs and training will be provided free of charge. This builds on the four initial four-year projects Defra has funded. This project aims to create buffer zones between areas which have the disease and those that are disease-free.
Licensed badger culling
Badger culling is licensed by Natural England and is industry-led. Two methods of culling are permitted; cage trapping and shooting, and free shooting. To ensure that badger culling is effective, safe and humane, it can only be carried out by licensed contractors who have undertaken government-approved training. Contractors must adhere to strict licence conditions stipulated by Natural England. Monitoring of the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of badger culls is carried out each year and published on GOV.UK.
There are three types of culling licence:
- A Badger Disease Control licence is required where culling is to take place for the first time in the High Risk or Edge Area of England, or where Natural England considers that a Supplementary Badger Disease Control licence is not appropriate.
- A Low Risk Area Badger Disease Control licence is required where culling is to take place in part of the LRA of England specified by APHA, where there is evidence that infection with M. bovis is present in badgers and linked with infection in cattle herds.
- A Supplementary Badger Disease Control licence is required where culling is to take place to prevent the recovery of the badger population following the completion of annual culling that has lasted at least four years under a Badger Disease Control licence.