Badgers and bovine TB

Badger vaccination release (c) Tom MarshallBadger vaccination release (c) Tom Marshall

Bovine Tuberculosis is a serious infection of domesticated animals (cattle in particular) and wild animals (badgers in particular). Incidence of the disease in parts of Great Britain has increased substantially over the last 20 years.


Bovine TB (bTB) costs the UK millions of pounds every year and as landowners and grazers, Cheshire Wildlife Trust recognises the hardship it causes in the farming community.

The Government went ahead with a trial badger cull in the south west of England during 2013, in an effort to tackle the spread of bTB, a process which continued in 2014.

At Cheshire Wildlife Trust we consider the Government should put biosecurity and vaccination at the centre of efforts to tackle this disease rather than culling badgers.

In 2012 we embarked upon a pilot vaccination programme at our Bickley Hall Farm HQ because we wanted to show that vaccination was a valuable component of the TB eradication strategy. This pilot will come to an end in autumn 2016. We have also worked with a number of local landowners in south Cheshire to start vaccination programmes on their own farms. 

The Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group is also carrying out a badger vaccination programme in Cheshire. 

What does the vaccination process involve?

 

*2016 update: There is currently an ongoing global shortage of the BCG vaccine, which protects badgers against bovine TB but is also used in the human TB vaccine. The World Health Organisation has advised countries to limit the use of the vaccine to those individuals who need it most, which has resulted in a suspension of badger vaccination projects in Wales and England.*

Tackling the disease should therefore include the following measures:

  • Better biosecurity: all possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm
  • Stricter movement controls: to minimise the risk of spreading disease when cattle are transported
  • Improved TB testing: to increase detection of the disease - currently, many infected cattle are missed
  • Badger vaccination: support landowners to use the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine and continue development of an oral badger vaccine. Vaccination project are currently on hold due to a global shortage of BCG vaccine.
  • Cattle vaccination: complete development of a cattle vaccine and secure changes to EU regulation to permit its commercial deployment 

 

What we are doing 

- find out more

What can I do?

1.  Email your MP to ask them to call for any further culling to be stopped

Email your local MP to ask them to continue to put pressure on the Government to scrap their cull plans and prioritise badger vaccination. We have produced this template letter to give you some ideas, and there's some further suggestions here, but it is much better if you can personalise it with your own thoughts.

2.  Sign the Wildlife Trust e-action petition asking David Cameron to drop the cull

Click here to sign the e-action.You can sign our e-action asking David Cameron to drop badger culling from the Government's bovine TB eradication strategy.

3.  Email your MEP about the EU cattle vaccine ban

Ask your MEP to press for the EU ban on a cattle vaccine to be lifted.
Find the details of your MEP. A cattle vaccine is the long term solution to the bTB problem, but EU rules currently prevent it from being tested and used in this country.

Information about badger culling

Bovine TB (bTB) costs the UK millions of pounds every year and we recognise the hardship that it causes in the farming community. However, we believe that a badger cull is not the answer.

Here is a simple summary of the science.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape at The Wildlife Trusts, has written a summary highlighting the "Cost of culling" in 2014.

Bovine TB: pilot culls ineffective. Read our latest briefing document

Badger cull trials - when and where

Three pilot culls of badgers took place in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

The pilot culls did not measure the impact on bovine TB.

The Wildlife Trusts are firmly opposed to a cull. We believe there are alternative methods which should be used to tackle the bovine TB problem. You can read more about this below. No Wildlife Trust will allow culling on its land.

What we think

Cheshire Wildlife Trust is keen to see the eradication of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, but a badger cull is not the answer for three main reasons:

Scientific evidence indicates that a cull is unlikely to make a substantive improvement in cattle infection rates and may make matters worse because it is likely to increase movement of remaining badgers into and around the area, potentially bringing infected and uninfected badgers (and cattle) into contact.

It is not known what proportion of bTB in cattle arises from badgers, estimates range from 20% to 50%. Our view is it is better to concentrate on cattle to cattle transmission and improving bio-security to avoid badgers and cattle coming into contact.

Vaccination of cattle in the long-term and vaccination of badgers as a short-term measure are more effective means of control.