Badger Trust welcomes Welsh badger vaccination decision

From the Badger Trust:

The Badger Trust welcomes the Welsh Government’s science-based decision to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis (bTB). This is the only sensible, practical way forward; culling would have made matters worse at great cost to the Welsh taxpayer.

A culling proposal by the last Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) was quashed in 2010 following judicial review proceedings brought by Badger Trust. WAG then produced in 2011 a new, even more risky culling proposal including free-shooting, which Badger Trust challenged alongside four co-claimants in the affected area. The Welsh Government’s revised plan was paused after last year’s election when the new Government agreed to conduct a comprehensive review of the science.

The Badger Trust is pleased that this Government is saving Welsh taxpayers, rural communities, and badgers from a cull. Following a thorough review of the science, the Minister has today concluded that a cull of badgers is not necessary and would not bring about any substantial reduction in the incidence of bovine TB. Vaccination represents a safe and satisfactory alternative.

The Welsh Government has made the right decision. The Badger Trust now calls on Caroline Spelman to reconsider her costly, counterproductive cull plans for England. The Trust has commenced judicial review proceedings to prevent the proposed counterproductive and unscientific slaughter in England of tens of thousands of disease-free badgers – killing that could make matters worse and prompt the spread of disease at great cost to farmers, badgers and rural communities.

The Trust is already working alongside the National Farmers’ Union towards taking this modern vaccination technology into the field following successful DEFRA and FERA vaccination trial results published in 2010 [1]. Test results show a 74% reduction in the proportion of wild badgers giving positive results to TB tests.  Other vaccination programmes have also yielded positive results [2].

The Badger Trust would welcome the opportunity to work with the Welsh Government on their vaccination programme and could share the knowledge gained from our own badger vaccination work with farmers.

David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said:  “Cattle control measures are sufficient in themselves to eradicate this disease and were highly successful up to 1990 without killing badgers. But, in the meantime, vaccination offers quicker and more permanent benefits to cattle farmers than shooting badgers for a benefit of only 12 to 16 per cent at best over nine years at great cost to the tax payer.

Periodic vaccination prevents reinfection, mostly from cattle, and avoids badger populations being disturbed, a feature of badger ecology which would risk spreading bTB further. Given that culling badgers can provide no meaningful contribution to the eradication of bTB we welcome the Welsh Government’s sensible, science-led approach” [3].

Notes

[1] Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination reduces the severity and progression of tuberculosis in badgers. (See also Culling is no better than vaccination for bovine TB control).

[2] In addition to the Welsh Government’s science-led conclusions, there are other English practical examples from which the Westminster Government can learn lessons. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust‘s badger vaccination deployment programme last year vaccinated in seven of its nature reserves, including a dairy farm totalling 420 acres (half a mile square). Its report gives the full costs and demonstrates that vaccination would be affordable if groups jointly vaccinated badgers against bTB, but with no risk of increasing the disease in neighbouring herds. Dr. Gordon McGlone, chief executive of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, reported: “Bovine TB is a big problem but local culling of one of our much-loved native animals is not the answer. Scientists have spent that last 12 years investigating whether killing badgers would halt this serious disease in cattle and the answer they are getting is that it could well make the problem worse.”

Mark Harold, director for the National Trust’s South West region, says the programme on the Killerton estate near Exeter (6,400 acres, 3 miles square) would show whether vaccination could be deployed over a large area, and so pave the way for its more widespread use as an effective alternative to culling.

[3] Independent Scientific Group Final Report: “First, while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better. Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone.

Contact

Jack Reedy
01564 783129
0775 173 1107

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