Vaccinate badgers, says new study

NEW GOVERNMENT-BACKED research has revealed that vaccinating badgers can reduce the level of TB within an infected colony by 54%. 



The results, from a four-year study by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and university departments, shows that culling badgers is not the only way to stop the disease, said campaigners.


How to reduce the spread of bovine TB among the UK’s cattle herd has put animal campaigners, farmers, scientists and politicians in dispute over the past few years.


In October, the Government announced that planned badger culls were being postponed until 2013. Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it was looking into vaccination for both cattle and badgers. The NFU said it could be one of a number of tools used to control the disease, but more detailed work will have to be done to analyse the costs and benefits of vaccination.


The report also shows that unvaccinated young badgers within the same social group as the vaccinated adults showed a reduction in risk to TB of nearly 80% – showing that vaccination has a knock-on positive effect within the sett.


Campaigners have been opposed to any kind of cull and believe the new evidence puts “the final nail in the coffin” to the idea.


“When the coalition government came to power, there were six proposed projects to investigate badger vaccination. They cut the number down to just one – but alone, this report has knocked their cull policy onto its backside,” said Philip Mansbridge. CEO of wildlife charity Care for the Wild.


“This report must be the final nail in the coffin of the plan to cull badgers. Pro-cull supporters claim that the disease can only be stopped if the so-called reservoir of disease within wildlife is reduced – this study shows that vaccination can achieve this.”