DWT response to Government update on badger culling

European badger (Meles meles) cub sniffing the air, Summer, Dorset, United Kingdom © Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

DWT response to Government update on badger culling and welcomes the news of a transition from culling to vaccinating badger

Dorset Wildlife Trust welcomes the news of a transition from culling to vaccinating badgers and of plans for a cattle vaccine within four years.

The Government has responded to advice given in 2018 by the ‘Godfray Report’ which called for a move to non-lethal control of the disease in badgers and greater emphasis on biosecurity measures.

The Wildlife Trusts have long called for an end to culling, arguing that it makes more sense to:

o Invest in and promote a strategy for badger vaccination – led and funded by Government

o Invest more time and resource in supporting improved farm biosecurity and movement controls

o Accelerate development of more effective tests for bTB in cattle and put serious investment into a bTB cattle vaccine

It is heartening therefore to see that the Government is phasing out intensive badger culls in High Risk Areas and that these will be replaced by government-supported badger vaccination – for which adequate Government funding will be needed. We are also pleased that the Government has announced that it will support badger vaccination in those areas with incidence of bTB that have so far avoided the cull, as well as providing more training for badger vaccination and further improving cattle TB testing regimes.

DWT wants to see the eradication of the devastating disease Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) and understands the serious implications for farmers who lose stock as a result, so it is really good news that the Government is now going to prioritise some of the actions we have long called for. The breakthrough will be a cattle vaccine and there is now a very welcome plan to bring this in within four years.

It is important to be aware though that this new announcement does not mean an end to badger culling; current licences will run through and additional badger cull areas are still being envisaged.

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Notes

· A strategy for achieving Bovine Tuberculosis Free Status for England: 2018 review - government response – next steps for the strategy for achieving bovine tuberculosis free status for England. The government’s response to the strategy review, 2018, announcement here.

· The Wildlife Trusts have demonstrated that badger vaccination works: twelve Wildlife Trusts, including DWT, across England and Wales have conducted badger vaccination since 2011. The largest programme is run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the National Trust who worked together with volunteers to vaccinate hundreds of badgers since their programme began in 2014.

· There is robust scientific evidence to prove that badger vaccination reduces the transmission of bTB in badgers[1]. Several studies demonstrate that vaccinating badgers reduces the progression, severity and the likelihood that the infection would be passed on, once a badger is infected[2,3,4].

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References

[1] M. A. Chambers, S. P. Carter, G. J. Wilson, G. Jones, E. Brown, R. G. Hewinson, M. Vordermeier, 2014. Vaccination against tuberculosis in badgers and cattle: an overview of the challenges, developments and current research priorities in Great Britain. Veterinary Record, 175: 90-96.

[2] Chambers, M.A., Rogers, F., Delahay, R.J., Lesellier, S., Ashford, R., et al. 2011. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccination reduces the severity and progression of tuberculosis in badgers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 278: 1913–1920. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21123260

[3] Lesellier, S., Palmer, S., Gowtage-Sequiera, S., Ashford, R., Dalley, D., et al. 2011. Protection of Eurasian badgers (Meles meles) from tuberculosis after intra-muscular vaccination with different doses of BCG. Vaccine, 29: 3782–3790. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21440035

[4] Carter et al., 2012. BCG Vaccination Reduces Risk of Tuberculosis Infection in Vaccinated Badgers and Unvaccinated Badger Cubs. PLOS One, 7: e49833