Defra to bring in new badger vaccination scheme

Defra has announced plans to launch a new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) as part of ongoing attempts to tackle bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

The scheme has been welcomed by the Badger Trust and the National Farmers Union (NFU). BEVS will replace the existing Badger Vaccination Fund and will support larger-scale vaccination schemes. This has been seen as a positive step away from the badger cull brought in by former environment minister Owen Paterson.

Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, welcomed the news: Its great to see the government pushing ahead with this scheme. Care for the Wild and the Badger Trust were helping to evolve a similar plan a year or so ago, so its fantastic that this has taken shape and is being given the full backing of Defra.

Badgers are no more than a minor player when it comes to bTB, as the latest evidence suggests they are responsible for less than 6% of new outbreaks of bTB, at most. But culling them is a completely pointless, unscientific and an ultimately unsuccessful way of dealing with them, so focusing on vaccination in these key areas is a good way to go. It would be a real seal of approval to this policy if the new environment minister Liz Truss chaired the next BEVS stakeholder meeting, to show that this is the way the government is heading.

What we mustnt do though is allow this to take our eyes off the key facts the vast majority of new outbreaks of bTB come from cattle, not badgers. Up to 20% of the tests which show cattle are uninfected are wrong meaning there are thousands of infected cattle hiding in herds, often until they die, spreading the disease without anyone knowing. We need to get on top of the testing, and on cattle movements which allow the disease to spread, rather than putting all our eggs in the very, very small badger basket.

The NFU also welcomed news of the scheme. Martin Haworth, NFU deputy director general, said: We have always said that vaccination of both badgers and cattle has a role to play in the control and eradication of bovine TB. It is important that all available options that can help in the fight against this disease are used, so it can be wiped out.

We support the governments plan for a badger vaccination project in the edge area to help stop the further spread of this disease. It is essential that any vaccination projects are properly targeted, co-ordinated and cover a large enough area to have a significant impact.

The BEVS scheme is set to be rolled out in Hampshire, East Sussex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire.

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