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Bovine TB
Open letter to the prime minister regarding badger cull licences
  1. Iain McGill, veterinary surgeon, director, Prion Group,
  2. Mark Jones, veterinary surgeon, head of policy, Born Free Foundation,
  3. Jane Goodall, founder, the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace,
  4. Ranald Munro, chairman of the Independent Expert Panel on the Pilot Badger Culls,
  5. Alick Simmons, former deputy chief veterinary officer,
  6. Chris Packham, naturalist, broadcaster and author,
  7. Alastair MacMillan, veterinary advisor, Humane Society International/UK,
  8. Andrew Knight, University of Winchester, European and RCVS Specialist in animal welfare science, ethics and law,
  9. Dominic Dyer, CEO, Badger Trust,
  10. Chris Cheeseman, former head of APHA Wildlife Disease Research and government adviser on bovine TB,
  11. Adam Grogan, head of wildlife, Wildlife Department Science and Policy Group, RSPCA,
  12. Andre Menache, European veterinary specialist in animal welfare science, ethics and law,
  13. Richard Saunders, RCVS Specialist in zoo and wildlife medicine (mammalian),
  14. Ian Redmond, field biologist and conservationist,
  15. Claire Bass, executive director, Humane Society International/UK,
  16. Elisa Allen, director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK,
  17. Caroline Lucas, MP, Green Party,
  18. Peter Egan, actor, wildlife and animal welfare campaigner,
  19. Mark Avery, former conservation director at RSPB, director, Wild Justice,
  20. Emily Wilson, head of programmes, Four Paws UK,
  21. Will Travers, executive director, Born Free Foundation,
  22. Virginia McKenna, actress, author and wildlife campaigner, co-founder of the Born Free Foundation and
  23. James Sawyer, regional director, International Fund for Animal Welfare
  1. email: iain{at}

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We write to you today concerning your upcoming decision of whether or not to issue new licences for the killing of badgers in 2020.

We note that your government responded to the Godfray review in March 2020 by stating that it would ‘phase out’ intensive culling of badgers and instead move to badger vaccination.

However, in spite of these promises, on 15th May 2020 the government published supplementary badger control licences for all seven cull zones which had completed four years of culling under their original licences in 2019 (areas 4–10 inclusive). Indications suggest that your government intends to initiate a huge expansion of killing by issuing as many as 11 new licences this Autumn. For 2020 this would bring the total number of cull zones to 54, covering an area of approximately 28,000 km2, with in excess of 65,000 badgers being targeted.

There are a number of factors which call the current strategy into question:

  1. Badger killing is ineffective. Downs and others1 used mathematical modelling to claim that, up until September 2017, the bovine tuberculosis (bTB) situation in cattle in their studied areas of the Gloucestershire pilot cull zone had improved after four years of culling – and this was much trumpeted as a success story by ministers. However, analysis of subsequent data released by …

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