Somerset Wildlife Trust is firmly opposed to the Government’s badger culls which have started in Somerset and Gloucestershire for the second year.
We have been working on the issue of bovine TB (bTB) and its links to badgers for many years. We work very closely with the farming community, as well as being significant farmers and landowners in our own right, and are very conscious of the hardship that bTB causes. Culling badgers is not the answer; it won’t significantly reduce disease prevalence in cattle and could even make the situation worse, due to the perturbation effect where the disease is spread by badgers moving between setts post-cull.
It is vital that we find the right mechanisms to control this disease and the emphasis of all our efforts should be to find an effective, long-term solution.
A nationally coordinated, and funded, badger vaccination strategy
We firmly believe that vaccination offers the most effective, long-term and sustainable approach to bTB in badgers, and there is a strong scientific evidence base supporting this view. However, addressing the disease in badgers can, at best, make a limited contribution to the eradication of bTB in cattle.
Cattle to cattle transmission represents the most important route of disease spread, so it is vital that the main focus of the Government’s strategy to eradicate bTB remains on cattle measures, as this is where the most significant disease-control gains will be made.
Vaccination schemes are being demonstrated as a practical, cost-effective option in dealing with bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in badgers - prompting renewed calls for Government leadership and industry support.
The Wildlife Trusts are calling for a nationally coordinated, and funded, badger vaccination strategy to be delivered in conjunction with measures to tackle the disease in cattle.
The Wildlife Trusts believe a coordinated programme of badger vaccination can make a viable contribution to the Government’s bTB eradication strategy by reducing transmission of bTB between badgers and between badgers and cattle. Vaccination reduces the severity of the disease, the shedding of bacteria from infected individual badgers and therefore the disease’s prevalence in badger populations.
In Somerset the Trust is working with the Somerset Badger Group to build a robust evidence base of badger populations on Trust nature reserves. Three Trust staff have been trained as lay vaccinators and are regularly monitoring badger setts on reserves located within the buffer zone of the current West Somerset badger cull area. The Trust’s position is under constant review and current policy is to vaccinate badgers in active setts within this buffer zone.