Wildlife Trust calls for clarity as badger cull licence application threatens to undermine local badger vaccination scheme

Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, which has been delivering a badger vaccination project on the South Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border since 2015, part funded by the government, has today called for clarity regarding an application for a local badger cull for the purpose of controlling Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB).

Earlier this year, a cull licence application was submitted for an, as yet unidentified, area within Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, but Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that any local cull would undermine the progress made with the vaccination programme and constitute a considerable waste of public and private money at a time when public resources are under unique pressure. Efforts to stop the spread of bTB should instead be focussed on stopping cattle to cattle transmission through movement of infected cattle, developing a cattle vaccine, improved biosecurity and vaccination of badgers.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that the pace of policy development and a recent High Court ruling call into question the current application process and would like to see it halted.

In March the Government issued its response to the Godfray review, a review of its 25 Year Bovine TB Strategy, making clear that it wishes to see badger vaccination programmes substantially expanded. Earlier this month the High Court rejected the NFU’s Appeal against a ruling to not allow culling in Derbyshire, where Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have successfully been delivering badger vaccinations across a wide area, and on Friday 14th May Defra announced a new 6-week consultation on proposals to manage the delivery of both badger vaccination and culling in Edge counties such as Nottinghamshire.

Speaking on behalf of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Head of Conservation, Janice Bradley, said:

At a time when the policy framework is moving so quickly, it is hugely frustrating that a cull licence application, submitted before the Government issued its response to the Godfray Review and the recent announcement on a new consultation, is threatening to undermine the success of our vaccination programme.
JaniceBradley, Head of Conservation
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

The Trust has found that given the prospect of a cull, farmers and landowners responsible for 75% of the landholdings where vaccinations took place last year are reluctant to commit to this year’s vaccination programme.

Mrs Bradley added: “A number of landowners are yet to grant us access to vaccinate badgers this year because of the cull licence application, but we remain fully committed to working with farmers to protect livestock, livelihoods and wildlife through vaccination. Prior to the recent policy developments, we were confident that no cull licence affecting our vaccination area could be justified and we believe that the recent policy developments make the case for a licence even weaker.”

Given the Government’s long-term commitment to badger vaccinations, outlined in the Godfray review; the recent high court decision and the new consultation, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust feels that the licence application should be halted.

Mrs Bradley explained: “With a six-week consultation now open and a decision on the application unlikely before the end of August, we stand to lose a vital window to vaccinate badgers locally, and landowners would miss out on tangible protection for their herds. We have already started preparations for the first round of vaccinations but would ideally want to provide cover across the project area. Sadly, due to the uncertainty around the cull licence application this looks increasingly unlikely.

The Wildlife Trust does not feel that a cull within or adjacent to the vaccination area can be justified as there is no rigorous scientific evidence that it would bring any benefits. It could instead result in badgers that have already been vaccinated at the public’s expense, and with the support of our members and other charities, being killed – reducing the level of immunity within the local badger population. 

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s vaccination programme offers landowners a pragmatic and cost effective route to controlling one of the possible causes of the spread of bTB and the charity is concerned that some landowners may have been given false hope as to the likelihood of a cull licence being granted. As a result, its team is working hard to encourage landowners to remain part of the scheme to ensure they don’t put their put their livestock at unnecessary risk whilst holding out for a cull that has no guarantee of taking place.

Until a cattle vaccine has been developed, badger vaccination combined with better testing of cattle and reduced movements of cattle between farms, are, the Wildlife Trust believes, the only effective ways of controlling this disease and protecting the livelihood of those farmers who have raised cattle in this area for generations.

Mrs Bradley concluded: “We recognise the terrible impact of bovine TB on farmers and their livelihoods, but there is no scientific case for culling locally and our supporters have made it clear that they do not support culling either. Given recent developments we’re hopeful that no licence to cull locally will be approved, but feel that Natural England and Defra need to urgently provide clarity in order to protect the long-term investment we and the public have made and to ensure the future of our vaccination programme.”

Find out more information about Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trusts badger vaccination programme.

Badger Vaccination Programme