An open letter to the cattle farmers of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire
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 and have been vaccinating badgers as a positive alternative.
The evidence clearly shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of TB in cattle: the primary route of infection is via cow-to-cow contact. These cattle based factors are being increasingly recognised as the drivers of the disease, particularly cattle movements and slurry management.
We have long advocated for a long-term solution and, along with many others, were pleased to see the Government commitments to developing cattle vaccines, improving bio-security on farms, increasing and expanding badger vaccination and phasing out the culling of badgers.
We were extremely concerned, then, to hear of potential cull licenses being issued for Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire where we have been delivering a successful badger vaccination programme for five years, part funded by DEFRA. The risk of vaccinated badgers being shot in a cull was one of the many reasons the campaign run by our colleagues at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust received the media attention and public support it did last year. Nothing has changed in 2020 and this risk is just as acute here in Nottinghamshire.
In their response to the Godfray Report, which reviewed bovine TB control, the Government said that it wanted to move from lethal to non-lethal forms of disease control in badgers. It also said that one way to do this would be to establish a “Cordon sanitaire’ in defined at-risk parts of the Edge Area…”. Our Vaccination programme is focused on an Edge Area and it is ideally placed to put this policy goal into action. Having a cull in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire would undermine advancement of that goal.
Aside from the needless killing of an iconic species, one of the worst aspects of all of this is how poorly served the farming community has been by weak evidence and half-hearted policy changes. The livelihoods and wellbeing of farming communities are severely damaged by bovine TB outbreaks. You deserve more clarity and better leadership than what has been offered to date.
If you are concerned about bovine TB in badgers on land you manage, then there is an alternative. Badger vaccination is humane and is effective in preventing the spread of bovine TB in badger populations.
We are proud of the collaborative approach we have taken, working with farmers in the Vale of Belvoir to tackle the spread of bovine TB and if you would like to discuss bovine TB, badger vaccination or any other issue with us please contact Gary Cragg, Badger Edge Vaccination Project Manager, via our online contact form.