Wildlife Trust calls on Government to end badger cull and get vaccination programmes back on track | News | Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
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Wildlife Trust calls on Government to end badger cull and get vaccination programmes back on track

Monday 11th January

Wildlife Trust calls on Government to end badger cull and get vaccination programmes back on track

Last month, The Government announced that it was suspending the sourcing of BCG vaccine, used to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), for English badger vaccination schemes, that the 2015 badger culls were ‘successful in meeting their targets’ and confirmed it wants to see ‘badger control over a wider number of areas next year’, issuing new guidance to Natural England that significantly relaxes the current badger culling licence criteria.

Speaking following the announcement our Chief Executive, Rob Fitzsimons said: The Government’s announcement has left us very exasperated. We condemn any intention to roll out the badger culls, which have been found to be repeatedly flawed in their methodology, measures and objectives, and we are urging the Government to re-establish the supply of vaccine so we can continue with our vital badger vaccination programme here in Nottinghamshire."

The Wildlife Trusts believe that culling badgers is likely to increase the bovine tuberculosis risk to cattle due to the perturbation effect, caused when disruption of otherwise stable badger social groups leads individuals to range beyond their usual territory and come into contact with neighbouring animals, increasing the risk of disease transmission.  Vaccination does not carry this risk and is the only approach that can actually reduce the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in badgers.  We are therefore extremely concerned and disappointed that circumstances have required the suspension of badger vaccination programmes in England.  Three Wildlife Trust projects currently receive Defra funding, via its Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS), including our scheme operated along the Notts Leicestershire border. There are eight other Wildlife Trust programmes in operation in England which look likely to be suspended too.  

We remain committed to the delivery of badger vaccination as one of a number of measures against TB in cattle and will resume vaccination as soon as possible.  

Mr Fitzsimons added: “We will shortly be meeting with Defra to discuss the implications of the vaccine shortage for our project and those operated by sister Wildlife Trusts. It would seem that Government has failed to plan ahead for its badger vaccine requirements – putting the efforts of charities like ours to save badgers and help farmers in jeopardy.”

“We recognise that there are external difficulties in supply, and of course accept the need to prioritise global human health, but Government ought to have taken action to secure critical supplies for vaccination programmes that it has initiated. We are at a loss to understand why Defra has not put in place long-term supply arrangements as like many others, our programme is part funded by Defra. We committed to delivering it in good faith and we currently feel very let down, but remain hopeful that the programme can be resumed later in the year.”

According to The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the badger culls in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset were all ‘successful in meeting their targets’ in 2015, with more than 1,400 badgers culled.  However, these targets have been widely criticised by leading scientists as arbitrary and deliberately set to be achievably low.  Scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that culling badgers will not make any meaningful contribution to the eradication of bovine TB in cattle and the pilot culls in England have proven ineffective and inhumane. 

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscapes with The Wildlife Trusts said:  “The badger culls may have met the minimum targets set by the government but this cannot be considered a true measure of success.  There is no evidence that culling badgers is having an impact on bTB in cattle.  There are no statistics available for bTB incidence within the cull zones and no baseline data to compare them to, even if stats were forthcoming.  The first two years of the pilot culls have already cost the taxpayer more than £16.8 million and there is no clear evidence to prove they have been an effective use of taxpayer’s money. 

“The Government’s own cost-benefit analysis, which relies heavily on the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), indicates that the cost of each new cull zone could exceed the expected benefits by at least £1.49 million.  The way that the pilot culls have been carried out to date is already significantly different to the methods used by the RBCT, and the newly relaxed licence conditions will ensure that any future culls bear little to no resemblance – meaning that they cannot be expected to deliver the same (minimal) benefits and are more likely to increase disease risk to cattle.  This is bad for farmers, bad for wildlife and bad for the taxpayer.”

Since 2011, more than 1,300 badgers have been vaccinated by Wildlife Trust programmes in England at an average cost of £336 per badger.

Mr Fitzsimons concluded: “The Government has recently stated that its strategy to reduce the incidence of bovineTB is succeeding, but we are keen to remind them that vaccination is a key part of their own strategy. We would not wish to see the current issues with the supply of vaccine used as a justification of rolling out of more culls. Badger culls are a resounding policy failure and should be halted immediately.” 

The Wildlife Trusts are urging all parties to work towards resolving the BCG shortage as soon as possible so that badger vaccination programmes can resume quickly and positive momentum can be maintained.  The charity also believes that the current situation risks further damaging Defra’s reputation and undermines the level of trust and confidence in the Government’s strategy for dealing with TB in cattle. 

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