Vets voice concern about badger cull during heatwave

Vets have expressed concerns for the welfare of badgers which may be trapped in cages for long periods of time in cull areas.

Natural England has authorised badger culling in two areas so far this year in a bid to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

But the British Veterinary Association says there have been reports that badgers may be trapped with no access to water until cages are checked, which may not be until the following day.

See also: Analysis – Is the badger cull in England working?

The warning comes during one of the hottest weeks of the summer heatwave, with temperatures rising about 30C in parts of the country.

BVA president John Fishwick said: “There are obvious welfare concerns if badgers are being trapped in extreme temperatures with no access to water for long periods of time.

“We would urge Natural England and Defra to review what is happening currently in cull areas and take mitigating action if required while the heatwave continues.”

The BVA has called for cages to be checked regularly throughout the day, especially in the morning, with special consideration for badgers trapped in inclement weather.

Call to halt culling

Meanwhile, the Badger Trust has written to Natural England calling for an immediate halt to badger culling across England because of the heatwave.

The severe and prolonged hot weather, leading to record-breaking temperatures in many parts of the country, was having a devastating impact on badgers, it said.

Multiple reports were being received of badger cubs being severely underweight and subject to heat exposure and exhaustion due to lack of water, the trust said.

Many of the badgers killed this summer would be trapped in cages in “extremely hot temperatures and left for up to 12 hours with no access to water,” it added.

Best practice guide

Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer said: “Many of the badger cubs born this year and older badgers will not be able to make up sufficient body weight to survive the oncoming of winter.

“Taking this into account there can be no justification for allowing the continuation of badger culling in the heatwave.”

Natural England, the government body which issues cull licences, has issued a best practice guide that stipulates that culling should be as humane as possible.

It says contractors are trained to deploy cages within cover to mitigate against exposure to inclement weather – hot or cold.