Badger edge vaccination scheme
Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme
We are continuing to tackle bovine tuberculosis (bTB) with the vital Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) in the Vale of Belvoir. We started the work back in 2015 and have so far vaccinated a total of 254 badgers.
However, our progress is at risk.
The UK Government has made an announcement of new areas for badger culling which started in September 2020.
Devastated but not defeated!
We are devastated. Nationally as many as 70,000 will be shot in autumn 2020. They will be trapped and shot or shot in the open. Thousands will suffer. This is a shameful tragedy.
Over 15,000 people called out the bogus science, protested the inhumanity of slaughtering a protected species and told their MP loud and clear ‘NO badger cull in my county’. Sadly, the Government has ploughed ahead and our voices have been ignored.
But we cannot stand by and allow this to happen!
During September 2020 we tried to establish precisely which parts of Leicestershire will be affected by the cull to assess the likely impact on our badger vaccination work. This was being made difficult as we couldn't access the maps showing the cull locations – yet another example of us being denied access to vital information. However, once we were clear on the locations we worked to get as many farmers in our project area back into our vaccination programme. No easy task.
Further announcements in January 2021 highlight the Government looking to end cull licenses in 2022 but any optimism that an end to the mass killing of badgers is in sight is balanced against the fact that tens of thousands more badgers will continue to be killed.
Our position is clear - vaccinating badgers is a better alternative to shooting and thanks to your support Wildlife Trusts lead the way with badger vaccinations across England.
We call on the Government not to issue any new cull licences and to focus efforts and resources on developing and rolling out a comprehensive badger vaccination programme which is fully supported and funded. We stand ready to help the Government achieve this.
UPDATE: March Consultation
Stand up for badgers
THIS CONSULTATION CLOSED ON 24TH MARCH - READ THE BLOG POST CONSULTATION
If we don’t do anything another 130,000 badgers could die.
Thank you if you supported our campaign to stand up for badgers as yet again they are in desperate need of your help and we only had until 24th March 2021 to do something about it.
The UK Government are currently discussing when to stop issuing licences for the Badger Cull. If they delay until 2022 as proposed, we could see the death of at least 130,000 more badgers.
We’ve asked the Government to stop issuing cull licences immediately and we asked you to do so to.
When we can announce any feedback we will. But in the mean time this is what we are asking for.
What is happening?
The Wildlife Trusts have always been firmly opposed to the badger cull and believe that it is an ineffective tool in the fight against bovine tuberculosis (bTB). To date, over 140,000 badgers have been culled. The proposals recently announced by the Government as part of a consultation process will result in another 130,000 badgers being killed, taking the total to almost 300,000. The total badger population in England and Wales was estimated to be around 485,000 in 2017.
We can’t let this happen
Based on The Wildlife Trusts analysis of the consultation, we are calling on the Government to:
- Stop issuing badger cull licences immediately. This will bring an end to the badger cull sooner than proposed, saving tens of thousands of badgers.
- Implement a cattle vaccine. Cattle vaccination offers the best long-term way to reduce bovine TB in the cattle population.
- Review how cattle are transported around the country and ensure measures are in place to prevent infection spread from cattle to cattle.
- Fast track the transition from culling to badger vaccination.
Recent Government proposals suggested an end to granting cull licences in 2022, but this could still result in another 130,000 badgers being killed.
DEFRA committed to 4 years of support up until 2022 to part-fund badger vaccination programmes across England including our scheme here on the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border. This is only part-funding and does not cover all our costs. This is why we also need your help.
We can keep some of our costs down thanks to the efforts of over 20 incredibly dedicated volunteers but we need the support from people like you to ensure that we can continue this crucial work.
Find out more about bTB, badgers, vaccinations and the cull
What is bovine tuberculosis (bTB)?
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a highly infectious disease in cattle which devastates thousands of farming businesses annually. It is caused by a bacterium which can also cause TB in badgers, deer, goats, pigs, llamas and a wide range of other mammals.
Since the mid-1980s, the number of cattle that have tested positive for bTB has increased substantially. Infected cattle must be culled which is not only distressing but creates an economic burden on the farming industry and the taxpayer. As owners of cattle ourselves, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust are conscious of the hardship and distress that bTB can cause to the farming community and agree that action needs to be taken to stop the spread of this disease.
Government research shows that bTB is not a major cause of death in badgers. Generally, infected badgers do not show any sign of infection and can survive for many years before eventually suffering from severe emaciation.
How does bTB spread?
The disease may be transmitted between animals through saliva, urine and faecal excretions on grass, soil and in water.
Cattle-to-cattle transmission remains the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB in cattle. Badgers also suffer from TB and are able to transmit the disease to cattle however 94% of bovine TB in cattle is estimated to come from other herds. Controlling cattle-to-cattle transmission is likely to have a much bigger impact than controlling badger-to-cattle transmission.
Why are you vaccinating badgers?
As owners of cattle ourselves for conservation grazing purposes, we are very conscious of the hardship that bovine TB causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.
However, we believe that a badger cull is not the answer. This is a cattle problem, not a badger problem. The control of bTB in cattle should be the main focus of everyone’s efforts to control this disease. The evidence shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of TB in cattle, cattle-to-cattle contact is.
Efforts to control bTB need to shift away from badgers, however the vaccination of badgers has an important role to play. Badger vaccination has the potential to reduce badger-to-cattle transmission by lowering the occurrence of infection on the badger population.
Badger vaccination involves adult badgers and cubs being humanely trapped and vaccinated by trained and licensed people. Vaccination does not remove infected badgers, but it does reduce their ability to infect other badgers, (which will also be protected by the vaccine). Over time, the infected animals will eventually die off, and the prevalence of infection will be expected to decline.
How effective is badger vaccination?
In a clinical trial, the vaccine reduced the risk of vaccinated badgers testing positive for progressed infection by 76% and reduced the risk of testing positive to any of the available live tests of infection by 54%. The trial also found that when more than a third of the badger social group was vaccinated it even protected unvaccinated cubs – their risk of infection reduced by 79%.
Badger vaccination alone is not the solution to bTB, but it does have an immediate positive effect with no known associated negative impact on badgers or cattle.
Why is there not currently a cattle vaccine?
Vaccination of cattle against bTB is currently prohibited by EU legislation, principally because BCG vaccination (which stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin - that’s the TB vaccine) of cattle can interfere with the tuberculin skin test which is the recognised primary diagnostic test for TB in cattle.
A test called a DIVA test could help resolve this issue. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency is developing a test to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals. This test would be used alongside tuberculin skin test to confirm whether a skin test positive result is caused by vaccination or TB infection.
Cattle vaccination offers the best long-term way to reduce bTB in the cattle population. A sustained vaccination programme would be required with annual re-vaccination.
What happens if you vaccinate a badger that already has TB?
There is no negative impact if a badger which already has bTB is vaccinated, in fact research shows that vaccinating already infected badgers slows the progression of the disease and reduces the likelihood of it being passed on to cubs.
Badgers typically live for 3-5 years so over a 4-year vaccination programme, this should reduce new cases of bTB in badgers and infected animals will gradually die off.
Surely you can't vaccinate every single badger?
The aim of our vaccination scheme isn’t to vaccinate every badger in Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire, we are focussing our efforts in the Vale of Belvoir. Like our neighbours in Derbyshire we are considered an ‘edge’ territory in terms of the spread of bovine TB. We are targeting vaccinations here to prevent the spread of the disease from the worst hit areas in the South West and West Midlands to the low-risk areas towards the east.
The Vale of Belvoir is a very important dairy and beef farming area and we believe it is essential to prevent bTB from spreading here from areas with a high infection risk. By working with farmers to vaccinate badgers on their land we can help to build herd immunity in the badgers, contain this devastating disease and keep charismatic badgers in our wonderful landscape.
Why are badgers being culled in the UK?
Badgers are being culled as part of a Government initiative to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle. Pilot badger culls commenced in Gloucester and Somerset in 2013 amid much opposition.
As of 2019 there are now 32 cull zones across England and more have been announced in September 2020.
“83% of badgers culled in government trials 2002-2005 tested TB free.” Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, June 2007
The Wildlife Trusts firmly believe that culling badgers is not the answer to the fight against bTB. A study found that only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers. The scientific evidence demonstrates that culling is likely to be ineffective in fighting the disease and, worse still, risks making the problem even worse.
I have contacted my MP to stop the cull. What else can I do?
Thank you for contacting your MP. Many people have had a standard response, others nothing at all.
If you are unhappy with your MP’s response, write to them directly or request a virtual surgery. You can find your MPs contact details here. If you do secure time with your MP you might like to take a look at our MP talking points spelling out the issues.
During March 2021 there is also a Government consultation so consider responding too before 24th March 2021 deadline.
Talking points to cover when you meet your MP
Some people say there are too many badgers. Do they need controlling?
There is no clear link between the density of badgers and rates of bTB in either badgers or cattle.
Badgers are a valued species in the UK, protected by law. 25% of the European population is found in the UK, so we have an international responsibility to conserve them. The removal of one animal from the ecosystem has knock on impacts. For example, large-scale badger culling also led to a doubling of fox numbers.
Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which makes it illegal to kill, injure or take badgers or to interfere with a badger sett.
If you are aware that a badger or sett may have been disturbed, then please report it as this is a wildlife crime.
- If you witness a wildlife crime taking place, call 999
- For a non-emergency, call 101
Hedgehogs and badgers
Hedgehogs and badgers have coexisted for thousands of years. They have very similar diets and therefore compete for resources. Competition becomes more intense when food becomes scarce, and any pressure on the food supply may cause a shift from competition between badgers and hedgehogs to predation of hedgehogs by badgers. As with all predator-prey interactions, this is a natural and essential part of a functioning ecosystem.
The badger is considered a forager rather than a predator and in the UK its diet is dominated by invertebrates (mainly earthworms) and plant matter. However, badgers are opportunistic and will eat a very varied diet and make use of whatever is locally abundant. This can include slugs, snails, berries, acorns, grubs, fruit, nuts, bulbs, crops (particularly maize), small mammals, carrion and eggs.
Stand up for badgers - March 2021
In January the Government issued a consultation on the next phase of their 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England by 2038.
As part of this, there are proposals to stop issuing the current intensive cull licenses for new areas after 2022.
This was hugely misleading. Under the proposals new licenses can still be issued until 2022, each license lasts for 4 years meaning badgers would go on being killed until at least 2025, even beyond.
What does this mean for badgers?
If the cull continues as proposed, with new licenses that may be granted in 2021 and 2022, it is estimated that over 60% of the total England and Wales population will have been shot. There is real concern that this will lead to local extinctions of badgers across parts of the country.
More than 40 existing 4-year licenses will continue in 2021 alongside new licenses if they are granted by the UK Government. Areas where new licenses may be granted include Hampshire, Herefordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.
Hampshire and Northamptonshire are new counties where culling could begin in autumn 2021.
How many badgers have been and will be culled?
Current estimates are that at least 140,830 badgers have been shot since the cull began in 2013. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-summary-of-badger-control-monitoring-during-2020/summary-of-2020-badger-control-operations
At least 38,642 badgers were shot in the autumn of 2020. With the new and ongoing licenses the number of badgers shot since 2013 could reach over 200,000 by the end of 2021. It is estimated that another 130,000 badgers overall could be shot if licenses are allowed to be issued up to 2022.
This would bring the total number of badgers shot since 2013 by the time culling stops based on the current proposal to nearly 300,000 badgers.
Why is culling not the answer?
The Wildlife Trusts have always been firmly opposed to the badger cull and believe that it is an ineffective tool in the fight against bovine tuberculosis (bTB). There is no strong evidence to support the intensive culling of badgers, a protected species by law, in delivering a meaningful reduction in herd breakdowns.
The Wildlife Trusts are very conscious of the hardship that bovine TB (bTB) causes the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease. Our involvement with this issue over a long period, and the results of previous culling trials, have led us to conclude that a sustained programme of badger vaccination where required, deployment of a cattle vaccine alongside improved biosecurity measures, improved testing and controls on cattle movement would be the best means of tackling bTB.
As bovine TB is primarily a cattle disease most transmission is cattle to cattle and therefore unaffected by culling. The evidence of badgers transmitting bovine TB to cattle is also very weak.
Robust evidence is still lacking to demonstrate that badger culling is worth the loss of thousands of badgers and millions of pounds of public spending.
Is vaccinating badgers the answer?
Badger vaccination has the potential to reduce badger-to-cattle transmission by lowering the prevalence of infection in the badger population. Vaccination does not remove infected badgers, but it does reduce their ability to infect other badgers (which are protected by the vaccine).
Studies have shown that badger vaccination has the following positive effects on badgers:
Vaccination reduces the likelihood of badgers developing lesions or excreting TB bacteria
Vaccination reduces the rate of new infections in badgers by 76%
Vaccinating more than 1/3 of adults in a badger social group reduces new infections in unvaccinated badger cubs by 79%.
What is The Wildlife Trusts role in Badger Vaccination?
The Wildlife Trusts are solution focused and have worked hard to demonstrate over nearly a decade that badger vaccination is a viable alternative to the cull and that it can be carried out professionally at scale. We are working closely with vets, farmers and landowners to deliver badger vaccination and have shown that is possible working with many stakeholders. Many of these vaccination programmed have been supported by the Government in regions known as Edge Areas for bovine TB under the BEVS scheme (Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme).
Wildlife Trusts that have vaccinated badgers include Avon WT, Berks, Bucks and Oxon WT, Cheshire WT, Cornwall WT, Derbyshire WT, Dorset WT, Gloucestershire WT, Nottinghamshire WT, Leicestershire WT, Shropshire WT, Staffordshire WT, Sussex WT and Warwickshire WT.
We continue to work closely with hundreds of farmers and landowners across the country on badger vaccination programmes. We will continue to build support from within the farming/land owning community for our approach, celebrating and supporting farmers who are already vaccinating or would like to. Many farmers recognise that badger vaccination is a positive alternative to culling and working alongside them is the right way forward.
Badgers need your help!
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