Bovine TB, badgers and The Trust

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is the first organisation to spend its own money to vaccinate badgers against bovine TB.

 



Background

The first badger to be found infected with bovine TB was a road casualty animal in Gloucestershire in 1971. Over the intervening 40 years there has been a remorseless increase in the number of cattle that have tested positive for the disease not just in the South West of England but also in Wales and the Midlands. The consequence of the disease for affected farmers has been financial trauma, unwanted distraction and psychological pressure.

In late 2010, the Trust decided that it would pay for the deployment of the new bTB badger vaccine at a cost of over £5,000 making it the first organisation to do this. This work, which has been funded by the Trust’s members, began in mid June 2011 by specially trained Trust staff on a set of nature reserves where the badger vaccination could be used practically, to the benefit of the Trust’s, and its neighbour’s, cattle. 

The Trust recognises, the serious impact that bovine TB has on the efficiency of farming and the welfare of farmers and their families.

Results of the Trusts work along with a PDF of the Badger Vaccination Deployment Programme can be viewed here.

This work has been widely recognized and is referenced in these research notes

 


Why vaccinate badgers?

Since 1998, the Government has invested £30 million in developing bTB vaccines for cattle and badgers. The current status of vaccine development is:

  • An injected vaccine called Badger BCG has been available since 2010
  • An oral badger vaccine is being developed, but needs to be tested before potential submission to regulatory bodies
  • A cattle vaccine is a key part of the long term solution to bovine TB. A cattle vaccine is being developed but requires regulatory approval and changes to EU legislation to permit its use – a process that will take around 10 years.

Vaccination with BCG offers a sustainable long term solution to tackling the disease in both badgers and cattle

Vaccinating badgers can significantly reduce the extent of bovine TB (bTB) and the potential for transmission to cattle without the disruption of a cull. In a veterinary field study, vaccinating wild badgers resulted in a 74% reduction in the incidence of badgers testing positive to the antibody blood test for TB. 

In comparison, culling trials have shown that shooting 70% of wild badgers could reduce bTB cases by 12–23% over nine years – and may increase cases of bTB on the outskirts of the zones. Even for those who accept a cull of badgers, vaccination will reduce the risk of infection of cattle from the remaining badger population.

Vaccinating badgers can significantly reduce the number of cubs testing positive for bTB, when more than a third of social groups had been vaccinated the risk to unvaccinated cubs was reduced by 79%.

"As farmers, we need to understand that we are responsible for the health and welfare of both our livestock and wildlife in order to farm sustainably. Cattle and badger vaccination is the only logical way forward."

Dave Purser, Farmer, Newbridge Farm

"Vaccination with BCG offers a sustainable long term solution to tackling the disease in both badgers and cattle. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has led the way in mounting small scale badger vaccination programmes on its reserves. I would wholeheartedly support its expansion in the hope that eventually there will be a co-ordinated badger vaccination programme across all affected areas."

Professor Chris Cheeseman, badger expert

 

The Wildlife Trusts’ badger advisory group submitted a very clear set of responses to the Defra consultation:

  • Badger vaccination should be explored as the major way, in the short to medium term, of tackling badger-cattle and badger-badger transfer of bTB.
  • All possible biosecurity measures should be pursued following the ISG recommendations, and where appropriate regulating their application by farmers and landowners, and providing advice, support and incentive.
  • More research should be carried out into the incidence of bTB within different farming methods.
  • Current testing methods and regimes should be reviewed and more effective testing methods developed.
  • A cattle vaccine against bTB should be developed as a matter of priority and all legislative hurdles overcome to enable this to become the long term solution to bTB.
  • The Wildlife Trusts made it clear that badgers, whilst a significant part of the wildlife reservoir of bTB, are not the major source of infection within the national herd.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust believes that by playing an active role in promoting BadgerBCG vaccination, it is contributing to a practical solution. The industry needs a long term answer, vaccination offers hope. 

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Please help us fight bovine TB by donating and helping us to extend our badger vaccination programme into the wider countryside. Your donation, no matter how small will make a huge difference.

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