BVA welcomes launch of new badger vaccination scheme

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the launch of the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS), announced by Defra earlier this week.

The new scheme, to be supported by government, has been launched as part of the overall strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in England.

It will support projects in areas outside the bTB high-risk area. The edge area covers countries in the middle of the country, including Cheshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire – these areas are most at risk of the disease spreading from the south west and west Midlands.

Robin Hargreaves, president, BVA, said: “BVA welcomes the Secretary of State’s announcement of government support for badger vaccination projects in the edge areas separating the high and low risk areas of bTB, that will be delivered on the ground through local partnerships, including wildlife groups, farmers and veterinary surgeons.”

It is hoped that vaccinating healthy badgers will create a buffer zone of healthy badger populations to help curb the spread of bTB.

He said the BVA had long argued that no single measure would be enough to tackle bTB, and “it is therefore important that a vaccination strategy is not deployed in isolation, but delivered in conjunction with other key elements of the strategy”.

“Area-based strategies have an important role to play in efforts to control and eradicate the disease across the UK. Recent post-mortem evidence from road-killed badgers in Cheshire, one of the counties in the edge area, shows provisional 24% infection rates among badgers, which may indicate that the edge is advancing and thus illustrates the urgency of dealing with bTB in both high-risk and edge areas,” he said.

George Eustice, farming minister, said: “Bovine TB continues to be a huge threat to our beef and dairy farmers, our economy and our food security, which is why we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to beat it.

“As part of this, I want to see vaccination groups come together, building on prior experience to deliver badger vaccination in the edge area. This could be an important part of our collective efforts, to prevent the spread of this terrible disease in cattle to new areas of the country.”

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