Find out why badgers are being culled in England, and whether the science stands up.

Although badgers are protected by law in the UK, since 2013 the UK Government has allowed the licensed culling of badgers in England as a temporary measure to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB), a highly infectious and devastating disease in cattle.

Do badgers spread bovine TB?

Bovine TB is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium bovis, which can infect and cause illness in cattle, badgers, deer, pigs, goats and other animals. Although most cattle are infected with bovine TB by other cattle, badgers are also known to transmit the disease to cattle (and, most likely, vice versa).

Badgers are a focal species for ZSL’s wildlife health research in the UK and Europe, and our scientists have shown that badgers are likely to infect cattle with bovine TB through the sharing of environments, rather than direct animal-to-animal contact. For example, cows may graze on pasture contaminated by infected badger urine and droppings.


Badger sitting up in short grass
two young badgers scavenging for bugs

Does badger culling work?

Government research has found that large-scale badger culling can lead to an overall reduction in TB rates in cattle. However, rates have been shown to increase again a few years after culling stops. Meanwhile, culls can actually lead to increases in infected cattle around the edges of badger cull zones, and increased rates of TB in badgers that escape the cull. As our research has shown, surviving animals tend to roam more widely as territory opens up – covering 61% more ground – which may be spreading the infection over wider areas.  

Badger vaccination: what we’re doing

It’s clear from the science that badger culling alone is never going to eradicate bovine TB in cattle. Ever since the Government set in motion its plans for a badger cull in England in 2011, our scientists have been working to understand whether vaccinating badgers against TB could offer an effective and affordable alternative. We’ve joined forces with landowners, farmers and wildlife groups in three regions of Cornwall on a pioneering badger vaccination programme that is providing crucial data on how best to tackle bovine TB.

Our analysis suggests that badger vaccination is cheaper, more humane, less environmentally damaging and potentially more effective than badger culling. Therefore we welcomed the Government’s announcement in 2020 that it would phase out badger culling by 2025 in favour of vaccinating badgers and cattle against bovine TB.

European badger
Badger coming out of its set in a leafy woodland

Support the case against badger culling

Our research is providing vital insights to support the transition towards badger vaccination in England – and helping us call for badger culling to end sooner rather than later. If you’d like to help us advance humane, evidence-based solutions to the wildlife health challenges the world faces, and promote peaceful coexistence between people and other animals, we’d love to have your support.