What we do: IWT Badger Campaign


€3.4 million of taxpayers’ money spent on just 55 cattle

Bovine TB imposes significant economic costs every year on the Irish beef and dairy industry. In 2012 the Irish government spent almost €3,400,000 in its programme to control Bovine TB in the Republic of Ireland.  A national bovine tuberculosis eradication programme was introduced in 1954. Initially progress was rapid and TB incidence was reduced from 17% to less than 0.2%. This reduction was achieved due to the introduction of measures such as testing and tighter controls on cattle movements. However in 1965 progress stalled and the incidence of TB in the national herd has remained at virtually the same level ever since.

TB is an infectious disease that can affect nearly all warm blooded animals. It was discovered in Switzerland in the 1950’s that badgers had contracted the disease from infected cattle. In 1975 the disease was found in Badgers in the UK in the Cotswolds and also in Cork in the same year. The disease can be transferred from cattle to cattle from cattle to badgers and from badgers to cattle.  The transmission route for the disease between badgers and cattle remains unknown. It is also very difficult to quantify the contribution badgers make to TB infection in Irish Cattle. In an effort to discover whether culling badgers could help to cure the disease in cattle scientists in the UK spent a decade culling badgers and recording the results. After spending £50 million and culling 11,000 badgers they came to the conclusion that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle control in Britain. Indeed some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better”. 

Despite these result’s the Irish authorities have culled over 96,000 badgers since 1985. A staggering figure considering that only 70,000 badgers are thought to be found in the whole country to date. This national operation consists of a team of 100 contractors setting up to 6,000 snares a night working 8 months of the year. In 2012 a whopping €3.4 million was spent culling 6,939 badgers. After all this slaughter only 55 less cattle were diagnosed with bovine TB compared to 2011. That’s €489 euros per badger or €61,818 for every cow below last year’s figure.

Culling badgers is clearly not working. The Irish Wildlife Trust believes that improvements in testing and the development of a cattle vaccine are the best ways to eliminate this disease just as we did in the human population. Vaccination is also the best way to deal with the disease in badgers. A badger vaccine based on the human BCG has been developed in New Zealand and has been shown to reduce TB in 74-76% of vaccinated badgers. Several vaccination trials are on-going in Ireland at the moment and the results of these studies will be known in 2015. In the interim we would call on the Irish authorities to stop wasting taxpayer’s money on a system which is unscientific and completely unsustainable in the long run. We should follow the lead of the authorities in Northern Ireland and Wales who have committed to vaccination.  Vaccination with oral bait will cost less than culling and will cure the disease in the badger population in the long run. That is something snaring can never achieve.


Previous press releases 

13th March 2013 – Ireland’s Bern Blunder

25th January 2013 – The Food Harvest 2020: A Ticking TB Time Bomb

18th January 2013 – IWT calls for an immediate end of badger culling during the breeding season

BTB reactors in Ireland 1959-2012

BTB reactors in Ireland 1959-2012

Autumn 2012 – Badger Campaign Update:

Ireland’s badgers are losing the race to survive in the British Isles by IWT Development Officer Conn Flynn

The war on BovineTb (Btb) has always been an emotive issue. It has pitted farmers and conservationists against each other since Btb was first discovered in badgers in the early seventies.

Badger by Jaroslav Vogeltanzwww.worldnaturephoto.com

Badger by Jaroslav Vogeltanz

The current approaches adopted by the different countries for dealing with Btb in badgers in the UK and Ireland couldn’t differ more. England sits firmly at the bottom of the list with a ‘free shooting cull’ planned for this autumn. This is a crazily unscientific approach that will maim more badgers than it kills and will pit activists against armed marksmen in the open countryside. British police have already warned about the dangers ahead and the lack of police resources to cope with them. The English culls have been delayed until after the Olympics to avoid international attention. Unlike Ireland, there are countless conservation groups in England resisting the culls with rock band ‘Queen’s’ Brian May being one of the loudest voices. Recently the UK Badger trust unsuccessfully challenged the UK government in court allowing the culls to proceed.

Ireland, at second from bottom, has been consistently culling badgers unchallenged by the general public since the early 1980’s. 90,000 Irish badgers have been culled to date with the national population at significantly less than that, possibly as low as 60,000 now. Vaccination trials are ongoing in Ireland and positive results are expected but the intention is to continue culling alongside a vaccination programme. Earlier trials in Ireland have established the protective factor of an injected vaccine and current trials are underway to discover if an orally delivered vaccine will be similarly effective.

Wales has unexpectedly commenced a vaccination programme to the ire of Welsh farmers. Badgers are cage-trapped, vaccinated and marked before being released. All badgers trapped are treated which means infected animals are released along with uninfected ones. Vaccination cannot cure animals already infected.

Northern Ireland has just announced a programme that takes the Welsh approach a step further. Cage-trapped badgers will be subjected to the ‘Elisa test’ to ascertain if they are BTb infected or not. The test returns an accurate result in 1 hour. Infected badgers will be culled and uninfected badgers will be vaccinated, marked and released. Marking gets around the issue that a vaccinated badger will show up as an infected animal in future tests. This approach has the best long-term prospect for solving the Btb issue and should meet with the approval of farmers and conservationists alike.

Groups such as Badgerwatch and the Irish Wildlife Trust have tried to muster public support to stop badger culling in Ireland but it seems that years of negative propaganda and our economic reliance on export beef has relegated our Irish badgers to near ‘vermin’ status in the public eye. Farming is critical to Ireland and it’s economic future but farming groups have become very powerful and their voice very strong in the corridors of power. The inexorable drive for higher yields and increased profits has put our wildlife and habitats on the back-foot as the intensity of farming increases.

Badgers are fabulous animals with intricate social structures and fascinating lifestyles. Family groups are very territorial and mark their boundaries with communal latrines and scent markings to warn off vagrants. Their extensive setts can be centuries old and they can be found in city parks as well as more traditional rural locations. Due to the intensity of farming in Ireland our badgers are unique in that they are mostly found in hedgerows. There is literally nowhere else for them to live, unlike UK badgers where there is a greater preference for woodland.

Badgers are protected by Irish and European law but there are conditions where culling can take place, such as a threat to agriculture. That said, any cull must avoid breaching certain criteria. The Irish Wildlife Trust feels that the current Irish approach is breaching the criteria that relate to creating local extinctions in Irish badgers and has made an official complaint to the Council of Europe. Humane society International UK (HSI UK) has lodged a similar complaint with regard to UK badger populations. The Council of Europe has approached the Irish Government and requested a response to the complaint. We are currently awaiting that response. In September we hope to hear the Council’s view. We hope for an outcome that promotes the adoption of an intensive vaccination programme similar to that adopted in Northern Ireland.

Please show your support by signing the Irish Wildlife Trust Stop Badger culling petition IWT Stop badger culling in Ireland Campaign

(this article appeared in the Autumn 2012 issue of ‘Irish Wildlife’)


Are you aware that your taxes are being used to pay 75 government staff to snare and kill badgers in Ireland?

Sign our online petition to help stop this now!

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is opposed to badger culling and the use of snares. Not only is it barbaric and unethical, recent findings have shown it to be ineffective in the war on bovine TB. Badgers can die over extended periods struggling in these hideous devices while their young starve underground. Nobody has ever counted badgers accurately in this country and while it has always been assumed that they are common animals, this can no longer be taken for granted.



  • 96,000 badgers have been killed by the Irish Government since 1984
  • 6,000 snares are set in Ireland every night
  • €70 million of citizen’s money has been allocated to the disease eradication programme in 2011 alone.
  • €3.4 million was spent directly in 2012 killing 7000 badgers to reduce the national bTB figure by 55 cows
  • Badgers are a protected species by Irish and European law

The IWT wants this practice to stop immediately. It is cruel, wasteful and damages Ireland’s reputation for its ‘green island economy’. We recognise that bovineTB is a major problem for Irish farmers but it also must be recognised that culling does not work. Resources should be focused on a national vaccination programme. Faulty science and politically driven motives should not be used as excuses for slaughtering our wildlife.

Please help us stop this cruel and barbaric practice for good by doing any of the following:


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