Cheshire Wildlife Trust to vaccinate badgers against bTB

Wednesday 21st March 2012

Cheshire Wildlife Trust will begin a badger vaccination programme at one of its sites in the region this autumn.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust will begin a badger vaccination programme at one of its sites in the region this autumn.

The move comes in response to Defra’s decision to run trial badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset, and will take place at the same time as a vaccination programme in neighbouring Shropshire, on a Shropshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

The Trust does not consider culling badgers to be an effective method of tackling bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and considers that vaccination of badgers against bTB, along with improved bio-security measures, will help the long term disease control.

On the Cheshire and Shropshire sites this autumn, badgers will be cage trapped and injected with BadgerBCG vaccine. The programme will continue for five years.

Vaccination offers a way of tackling the disease without any associated negative impact such as the perturbation effect

“Vaccination offers a way of tackling the disease without any associated negative impact such as the perturbation effect that is bought about by culling” said Helen Trotman, who will be carrying out the vaccinations in Shropshire.

The ‘perturbation effect’ suggests that following a cull, any remaining infected badgers may disperse from their home territory and spread the disease across a wider area than initially affected.

“The Government has culled badgers for the past 30 years without any significant reduction of TB incidence in cattle. This is a complex problem that will not easily be solved but the Trust wants to do something positive and we know vaccination can significantly reduce the disease burden in badgers.” added Helen Trotman.

Charlotte Harris, Director of Conservation at Cheshire Wildlife Trust added: “As land managers with cattle at the heart of our conservation grazing strategy throughout the Cheshire region, the vaccination programme gives us a unique opportunity to explore how we can tackle this disease in a scientifically-led and sustainable way”.

The Wildlife Trusts are conscious of the impact this disease has on the farming community and the need to put the right measures in place to tackle it. To raise awareness of the difficulties of controlling bTB, Shropshire Wildlife Trust will host a forum in May where the latest policy and research will be presented to invited groups.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust was the first voluntary organisation to pay for the deployment of the BadgerBCG vaccine in 2011. In addition, Somerset and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trusts will vaccinate in the trial cull areas.

To find out more about Bovine TB and badgers see www.wildlifetrusts.org

-ENDS-

Editors Notes

What are the potential benefits of badger vaccination?
Vaccination targets the prevalence and severity of the disease rather than the badger population. In a clinical field study, BCG vaccination of free-living badgers reduced the incidence of positive serological test results by 73.8 per cent. A reduction in the prevalence and severity of the disease in badgers could reduce the degree of TB transmission to cattle.

What are the potential benefits of cattle vaccination?
Cattle vaccination could have potential benefits in reducing bovine TB in the cattle population. A sustained vaccination programme would be required with annual re-vaccination. The vaccine would not provide protection to all vaccinated cattle.

What changes are needed to EU legislation to allow a cattle vaccine?
Although cattle are routinely vaccinated against other diseases, there is an EU ban on using TB vaccines (Directive 78/52/EEC). There is also a ban on trading cattle in the EU that test positive to the tuberculin skin test (Directive 64/432/EEC). As the BCG cattle vaccine interferes with the tuberculin skin test, Defra is also developing a test known as the Differentiate Infected from Vaccinated Animals (DIVA). Defra has suggested that 2015 is the earliest that changes to EU legislation to permit use of the vaccine could be achieved. However, the ongoing consultation on a new EU Animal Health Law is one potential opportunity.