There is no evidence to show that mass badger culling in the United Kingdom prevents bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, according to research carried out by animal welfare organisation, Born Free.
The organisation is now calling for an immediate end to the practice owing to the findings, which it says proves that the culling of badgers is not linked to any reduction in the levels of bovine TB in cattle herds.
The peer-reviewed research, recently published in the scientific journal Veterinary Record, stated that the killing of 140,000 badgers has cost the state millions, yet saved nothing.
Badgers have been shot en masse in designated 'high-risk' areas of the west and south-west of England since 2013 as part of a government effort to control the spread of the disease.
However, Born Free examined all published government data and used a range of methods to compare the incidence and prevalence of bovine TB in the culled and unculled areas within the high-risk region.
They concluded that although the rate of disease peaked and declined during the study period, the rate of the decline in bovine TB was no different in areas where badgers were being shot compared to the areas where no culling was taking place.
The study claims the disease reduction in the areas where culling is taking place is down to the introduction of cattle-based measures such as movement controls and more intensive testing requirements.
Born Free stated that the reduction cannot be connected to the killing of badgers.
The current culling practices are set to continue until 2025 and beyond according to the organisation, who are now calling on the government to make the findings of their research widely available and bring the practice to an end.
Co-author of the report and head of policy at Born Free, Dr. Mark Jones said:
"There is no justification for killing any more badgers. It's time to bring this unscientific, inhumane and unnecessary badger culling policy to an immediate and permanent end.
"To justify the licenced killing of many thousands of legally-protected badgers, the
government should at the very least be able to demonstrate a substantial disease control benefit.
"Our analysis of the government’s own data found no evidence to support this mass killing," he concluded.