From Wildlife Extra:
Sussex Badger Vaccination Project in contrast to Somerset cull
October 2013. Farmers in East Sussex may be pleased to know that they can now choose to have badgers on their land vaccinated against bovine TB following the recent establishment of the Sussex Badger Vaccination Project (SBVP), after five local volunteer passed the Badger Vaccination Training Course run by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Gloucestershire.
Somerset cull to be extended?
In the west of England, the government has been carrying out a trial cull of badgers since late August and, if deemed successful, they plan to roll out a badger cull across 40 further areas of England. However the trial in Somerset is about to be extended as they have not managed to cull nearly as many badgers as planned, despite significantly reducing the estimated number of badgers that need to be culled.
Part of East Sussex is on the DEFRA “High Risk” list and, as a result, a badger cull could happen in Sussex here as early as June 2014. The Sussex Badger Vaccination Project believes that badger vaccination is a sustainable approach to reducing bTB in wildlife and cattle without the public opposition associated with badger culling.
Kate Edmonds of the Sussex Badger Vaccination Project said “Science has shown that perturbation after culling leads to an increase in bTB on farms. Badger vaccination is the only way to avoid this problem and has been proven to lower bTB infection by 74%. ”
“We set up this project to give farmers in East Sussex an extremely low-cost choice to vaccinate rather than to cull. East Sussex is unique in that geographically it’s an “island” of bTB, indeed it has a unique strain of the disease, and therefore is ideal as a test case for a combined approach of badger vaccination and changes in cattle husbandry.”
Vaccination much cheaper than a cull
SBVP will be using volunteers throughout their project and they are fundraising to cover capital costs. Kate added: “This means that it will be far cheaper for a farmer to vaccinate badgers than to cull them – as well as being more effective. This isn’t about being anti-cull – we just want to be part of the solution to eradicating bTB from cattle and wildlife in East Sussex.”
One of SBVP’s volunteers is Trevor Weeks MBE, founder of East Sussex WRAS. He completed his badger vaccination training last week: Trevor said “The 4-day course in Gloucestershire was extremely beneficial, we learnt a lot about bTB and its relationship between badgers and cattle, but also more importantly about the process of vaccinating badgers and the procedures we need to follow. We had practical hands-on experience of how and where to set traps, and a very early morning start when we went out and vaccinated 30 badgers and cubs between us. We are really pleased to be the first of a team of qualified lay vaccinators available in Sussex to help support the fight against bTB.”
SBVP have begun contacting farmers and landowners and other interested parties in the DEFRA High Risk area to offer this service. Kate said: “Our first five volunteers completed their intensive vaccination training at the government’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency last week; more will train next year. They’ll be licensed to trap and vaccinate starting in Spring 2014. This is just the beginning. We plan to scale up our operation so that any farmer or landowner who wishes to vaccinate his badgers has this choice.”
Somerset badger cull to be extended
Dominic Dyer, Policy Advisor for Care for the Wild International, said: “Extending the cull is an inevitable last clutch at the straw by the government and NFU, and highlights yet more flaws in a hopeless policy. They failed to shoot as many badgers as they needed to ensure the culling didn’t make the situation worse. They now claim that they don’t need to kill as many badgers as planned because apparently in the last six months the numbers have ‘dropped’. What happened – did all the badgers hear about the cull and take off on holiday?
£1000 per badger
“We estimate that the cull so far has cost around £2 million, including police costs. If they kill around 2000 badgers that works out at about £1000 each – this must be the most expensive cull in history. Vaccinating badgers would be much cheaper.
“Scientifically this policy is a disaster. There was only a slim chance that it could have any benefit whatsoever in reducing TB, but the bungling of the figures has shot that out of the water. Meanwhile, any sense that it was being done in a humane way has been pushed aside in the rush to slaughter badgers, with reports of them being trapped in cages and blasted with shotguns. It’s time to end this debacle now and get on with finding a humane and effective way of dealing with bTB.”
Badger cull facts
Key Fact No 1: The 10-year Randomised Badger Cull Trial showed an increase in bTB of 25% around pro-active culling areas as a result of perturbation. Source: AHVLA.
Key Fact No 2: A vaccine against bTB for use in cattle does exist but until very recently it was not possible to distinguish between a vaccinated animal and an infected one. A new test does make this distinction but it isn’t yet fully tested and approved under EU legislation and won’t be for several years. An oral vaccine for badgers is currently being worked on by the AHVLA.
- Badger cull now under way amid protests (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Badger cull could increase TB in cattle, scientist warns (thetimes.co.uk)
- Badger cull has killed fewer than half the number of animals intended (theguardian.com)
- Somerset badger cull given extension (bbc.co.uk)
- Minister considers gassing badgers (bbc.co.uk)
- Gassing of badgers is ‘inhumane’ says Green party (economicvoice.com)
- New data on badger TB spread (bbc.co.uk)