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££ Costs & benefits of badger culling

Badger culling is a contentious issue and one aspect of the debate which is often mentioned is “How much does culling cost?” or “Is it worth it?”.

Quantifying the costs and benefits of culling is quite difficult to do and there are various numbers mentioned by different sides of the debate. Typically statements quote figures for the cost ‘per badger’, but in reality there are costs associated with different aspects of badger culling which are paid by Government or by the Farmers themselves. Defra have a report, available online which breaks down the cost and compares this to the expected benefits (reduction in TB breakdowns) which were found during the RBCT, or randomised badger culling trial. Of course we do not yet know whether the current industry led culls will achieve similar benefits (for a summary of the initial results read The effect of the pilot badger culls (summary of Brunton et al. 2017)), and many of the costs in Defra’s document are ‘estimates’, based on certain assumptions. For example, the cost per breakdown is based on an earlier Defra 2016 report, which estimates the cost at £18,745, but costs to farmers will vary widely around this estimate.

Defra’s report can be found here.

I have also summarised these numbers in the graphic below.

Generally the benefits are slightly higher than the costs, but this depends on what benefits are achieved from culling (which are very uncertain). The central estimate of £1.06 million equates to roughly £100,000 per year, which is roughly equal to 5 breakdowns. If culling costs are higher than this (due to high costs of policing or other factors), then this will reduce the financial benefits.