WILDLIFE TRUST REPORT CLAIMS BADGER VACCINATION ‘VIABLE AND UNDERUSED’

Tuesday 24th November 2015

In a new report published today, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) says it has demonstrated that vaccinating badgers is a viable and underused tool in the fight against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in the county – but that more research is needed to demonstrate the link between vaccinating badgers and the control of bTB in cattle.

In 2011 GWT was the first non-government organisation in the UK to pioneer the vaccination of badgers against TB and has done so for the past five years on its nature reserves in the Stroud Valleys and the Cotswolds – and more recently with other, neighbouring landowners.

“We recognise the real distress that bTB causes farmers in Gloucestershire. As landowners with cattle grazing many of our nature reserves we wanted to do something positive to try to prevent bTB breakdowns on our sites and those adjoining them,” said Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive of GWT.

“The trial set out to show that vaccinating wild badgers could be done efficiently. The science supports that by doing this we’ve reduced TB in the badger population where we’ve vaccinated – but farmers deserve more research to explore the link between vaccinating badgers and the spread of bTB in cattle.

“Five years ago many assumed that vaccinating badgers would be both impractical and costly. This report proves it can be done.”

Five years ago many assumed that vaccinating badgers would be both impractical and costly. This report proves it can be done.

The debate around badgers and their role in the spread of bTB has been one of the most divisive and high profile farming and wildlife issues in the county and in 2013 Gloucestershire and Somerset were the first two counties selected by the Government to trial the culling of badgers. GWT remains opposed to the culling of badgers as part of the Government’s bTB eradication strategy because we do not believe that the science supports culling as an effective way to control the spread of the disease in cattle.

The report includes a full cost breakdown of the pilot to help others who are considering badger vaccination programmes. In 2015 it cost GWT on average £202.71 to vaccinate a badger against TB. Over 200 badgers were vaccinated during the course of the trial.

The badger vaccination programme was funded with the generous support of GWT members. The Trust is also grateful to Stroud District Council who have supported an extension to the initial pilot since 2013.

 

GWT plans to share its report widely, calling for the following steps to be taken:

(1) ‘Underused tool in the toolbox’ GWT believes that badger vaccination shows signs of being a practical way to control TB in the badger population. It remains an underused measure in the battle against the disease in cattle.

(2) More research required demonstrating the link with bTB The Government’s own Badger Vaccination Deployment Project in Gloucestershire – the largest of its kind in England – has been completed but no research on its impact has been commissioned. Research in this area could provide vital data on whether vaccinating badgers translates into a reduction of the incidence of bTB in cattle.

(3) Work together with farmers on the solutions Multi-agency local TB groups, such as the one set up in Gloucestershire by the National Farmers Union and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (which also includes Gloucestershire farmers, vets and GWT), are a good way to encourage a broader and evidence based approach to tackling bTB.

(4) Promotion of vaccination should not be restricted to the ‘edge’ Current Defra policy recommends that badger vaccination programmes focus around the geographical edges of areas of high prevalence of bTB. GWT believes that badger vaccination could be a useful tool used more widely, including in areas of high prevalence of bTB.

Download the full report below.

Downloads

FilenameFile size
Badger Report FINAL November 2015.pdf469.65 KB