POLL: Should bovine TB be controlled by culling or vaccinating badgers?

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Wildlife charities have resumed vaccinating badgers against bovine TB after a global shortage of the vaccine caused it to be suspended last year.

But more badgers than ever before are set to be culled this summer as Wales follows England in introducing a targeted cull in a bid to reduce bovine TB.

While the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is not recommencing its programme until 2018, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust successfully obtained its own vaccine supplies after obtaining permission to import the InterVax TB vaccine from Canada.

Their success has helped other vaccination projects, including those of Chester Zoo, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), acquire the vaccine. The Somerset Badger Group is also poised to resume vaccinating badgers in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire this summer.

A vaccinated badger is released at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Greystones Farm nature reserve near Bourton-on-the-Water. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt

Badgers have been trapped, injected with a vaccine and released by a growing number of wildlife groups as an alternative to England’s , which began in 2013 and has seen almost 15,000 badgers killed. The cull’s aim is to reduce bovine TB in cattle but in the 12 months to April this year, 30,079 cows were slaughtered because of the disease in England, up 4% on the previous year. Some scientists believe culling causes “perturbation”, where badgers roam more widely, potentially spreading more bovine TB across the countryside.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust aim to more than 100 badgers this year after so far vaccinating 30 badgers, including 12 cubs. They restarted their programme after the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust chair and veterinary surgeon, Dr Sue Mayer, secured the vaccine from a Canadian company.

“Unicef now say all country needs for human TB vaccine can be met so we wanted to start vaccinating badgers as soon as we could,” said Dr Mayer. “Vaccination is a better solution than culling which research indicates can spread the disease further. It’s also cheaper and avoids the indiscriminate of healthy animals.”

Tim Birch, who is leading Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vaccination effort, said the Trust was getting “more and more landowners and farmers” seeking to join their vaccination effort, rather than support badger culling.

“Once farmers see we are reasonable people, they can work with us,” said Birch. “We’re very resourceful and we’ve built up a real expertise and, through word of mouth, people genuinely respect what we do. We’ve been getting a lot of interest from farmers saying, ‘We don’t like the idea of culling, we’d like you to come on to our land and vaccinate badgers.’”

Derbyshire’s vaccination programme is currently working with farmers and landowners and groups including the National Trust, the National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA). Other vaccinators are also working alongside small but growing numbers of farmers: the Somerset Badger Group is vaccinating badgers on 10 commercial farms.

An oral vaccine for badgers is still being developed by scientists and critics argue that trapping and injecting badgers is labour-intensive and expensive. But the Wildlife Trusts, which opposes the badger cull, believes it is cheaper than culling and highly effective. In 2014, 11 Wildlife Trusts delivered 317 doses of vaccine across 31.4km/sq of countryside at a cost of £293 per dose.

Vaccination project officer John Field trims the badger’s coat before applying a stock spray to identify it as vaccinated. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/Adrian Sherratt (commissioned)

Volunteers receive government training to become qualified vaccinators, and 80 members of the public are assisting the Derbyshire programme. “We’re showing we can use a large number of enthusiastic volunteers and train them up and it’s way, way cheaper than shooting badgers,” said Birch. “The number of enthusiastic volunteers who will do anything to join the programme is really inspiring. If there were more resources available we could do a hell of a lot of vaccination over a much wider area.”

During the first two years of the badger cull, it cost £6,775 to cull each badger, including police costs, although this expense is understood to have fallen with the expansion of the cull to 10 areas in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire in 2016.

Unlike England, Wales has successfully reduced bovine TB in cattle without culling badgers. New herd incidents – a key measure of the disease’s spread – have fallen by 40% in Wales since 2009. The Welsh government’s success has been attributed to tighter movement controls, improved bio security, and better TB testing. But Wales is this year introducing a very targeted badger cull on 60 farms with a chronic TB problem. Badgers will be tested for the disease and culled if they are found to carry it.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 06 Jul 2017.

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Should bovine TB be controlled by culling or vaccinating badgers?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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Dave Williams

Agree with Paul, The real problem is the poor quality of the cattle test, leaving infected cattle in the herd afrer each test to re infect. Vaccinating badgers protects them from infection from cattle. Remeber the route of transmission between cattle and badger is still not known, there is no scientific study to prove whcih way and indeed how it is transmitted. Despite what NFU and EMarriage, he is know for being anti wildlife.


Trapping them to vaccinate is stressful to them. Culling is horrible – NO way should they be culled – this is Barbaric – There is NO excuse for using this myth to cull the Badgers – let them alone! Since when does a Badger come into contact with a cow? This is such a bunch of baloney – leave the Badgers alone and stop trying to come up with them as being the case of cows getting TB

Alan Petrie

Vaccination is the preferred option as culling clearly does not work but only cattle measures will control Bovine TB.

Paul Seligman

This is a completely false dichotomy and a damaging suggestion. The evidence that cows get bovine TB from badgers is discredited so neither measure will significantly reduce bovine TB. Culling in that context is just cruelty and killing a much loved animal and an important part of our biodiversity. The test for Bovine TB is no better than 50% effective, in particular missing newly infected young animals, older animals with long term low level, but transmittable, TB, pregnant animals (which suppress the immune response on which the test depends). So allegedly “TB free” herds are likely far from it. When… Read more »

Edmund Marriage

see the facts on http://www.britishwildlifemanagement.net Badgers and Google Badgers TB Endemic and count the number of papers confirming endemic TB in badgers.

Paul Seligman

Edmund Marriage And it can be found in some deer, farm dogs and many other animals. But frankly which way is a respiratory infection more likely to spread? Between cows who frequently nuzzle together, press their faces together, breathe near each other and are often in barns and milking parlours together (and that’s not to consider the excretory route) or from a much smaller wild animal which has been shown to (in general) actively avoid getting close to cattle? There are cattle herds in the West Country and West Wales which have had endemic TB since before WW2. There could… Read more »