Badgers and the countryside
Hedgehog pelts following evisceration by a badger
Between the two national surveys published in 1988 and 1997 a 77% increase in numbers was identified. This would give a population of 450,000 adult animals in 1997 from the earlier figure of 250,000 in 1988 and assuming a similar rise in the last decade it seems reasonable therefore to estimate current numbers to be not less than 800,000. A recent survey published in 2014 has confirmed the inexorable rise in the population, particularly in England.
The badger, a large mammal with no natural predators other than man, is a classic example of a population out of control through lack of management. It is not an endangered species and does not merit its protected status. This should be removed and similar legislation, as for deer, including a close season, put in place whereby local landowners and farmers are allowed to control their badger populations. Such measures would reduce damage to the countryside, reduce predation on vulnerable wildlife and relieve the badger population itself from the adverse effects of overpopulation such as loss of territory, fighting, wounding, road accidents, lack of food and starvation (see refs 2002, 2010 and 2012 below).
Non-lethal (artificial) methods of population control, which are attractive to research groups and single issue organisations, are impractical, unnecessary, unproven and ethically questionable.
A return to earlier population levels prior to the Badger Acts of 1973 and 1992 is urgently needed.
Apart from benefiting the badger population per se from the adverse effects of overpopulation, and the countryside in general, a substantial reduction in the national badger population would in itself radically mitigate the risk of transmission of bovine TB from badgers to cattle and the zoonotic risk to humans.
- Submission to Law Commission's review of wildlife legislation - November 2012
- Submission to DEFRA consultation on bovine TB and badger culling - December 2010
- Comment on DEFRA's England Wildlife Health Strategy, June 2009
- Badgers must be controlled - Letter to The Field, May 2007
- The need to manage some wildlife populations, Symposium paper, November 2002
- Letter to Vet Record - Bovine TB; the current situation and need, April 2000