National Trust to vaccinate badgers

The National Trust will vaccinate badgers in an effort to tackle bovine TB – although it has not ruled out culling badgers on its land.

The four-year badger vaccination programme will start in May on its Killerton estate in Devon, a bovine TB hot-spot. It is the first UK landowner to operate a pilot vaccination project as an alternative to culling, at an estimated cost of £320,000.
Mark Harold, director for the National Trust’s South West region, said: “We’re in a unique position as a major landowner to help find a solution to the blight of bovine TB that costs millions and affects farmers’ livelihoods. We recognise that both cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine TB as well as badgers infecting cattle need to be tackled.

“In many areas of the UK there are clearly practical problems in implementing an effective cull of badgers to reduce bovine TB in cattle. In these instances, vaccination of badgers would appear to be the most effective ways of controlling the wildlife reservoir of the disease.

“This programme will show how badgers vaccination can be deployed over a large area, and will pave the way for more widespread use of vaccination as an effective alternative to culling.”

The badgers will be humanely trapped by experts from the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), injected with the vaccine and marked to prevent them being vaccinated twice.

Last December, FERA scientists conducted a trial which showed that the vaccination reduced the incidence of TB in badgers by 74%. However, it did not look at the impact on infections in cattle.

The Welsh Assembly recently announced that it would go ahead with a controversial cull of badgers. The government is expected to announce a comprehensive TB eradication programme for England next month.

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