Huge disappointment at limitations of Bovine TB Strategy Review led by Sir Charles Godfray

badger c. Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Whilst welcoming Sir Charles Godfray’s recommendations for a changed emphasis in the government’s strategy for eradicating bovine tuberculosis (bTB), Cheshire Wildlife Trust are extremely concerned that it also recommends that badger culling should continue. This flies in the face of robust scientific evidence and we urge the government to halt their flawed policy which leads to tens of thousands of badgers being killed every year.

Martin Varley, Director of Conservation at Cheshire Wildlife Trust says:

“As Farmers ourselves, we want to see the eradication of bTB in cattle, but a badger cull is not the answer. We support the review’s recommendation that the focus of the strategy should be shifted to addressing the transmission of bTB between cattle. This is the main route of infection. Only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers [1], so culling badgers is not the answer. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that culling actually increases the prevalence of bTB in the badger population [2,3], and results in it spreading to other areas [4,5,6]. We believe that tackling the disease should involve better biosecurity by landowners, stricter movement controls of cattle, improved TB testing and cattle and badger vaccination.”

Vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB infection prevalence in the badger population [7], and hence bTB risks to cattle, without the harmful effects associated with culling such as increased prevalence of TB in badgers plus spreading the disease. [8,9]. The review highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling which Cheshire Wildlife Trust welcomes.  The government should do more to support rolling vaccination out to more areas of the country.

Wildlife Trusts across the country have proved that badger vaccination can tackle bTB in badgers, demonstrating it is do-able. Cheshire Wildlife Trust, as well as eleven other Trusts across England and Wales conducted badger vaccination programmes between 2011-2015*. In this time, more than 1,500 badgers were vaccinated. The largest programme is run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust who train lay vaccinators on behalf of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Cheshire Wildlife Trust is currently working in partnership with the Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme to start a new programme of vaccination in 2019.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust calls on the government to:

  • Halt the badger cull now.
  • Invest in and promote a strategy for badger vaccination. This should be led and funded by the government, across England.
  • Invest more time and resource in supporting improved farm biosecurity and movement controls.
  • Accelerate development of more effective tests for bTB in cattle and put serious investment into a bTB cattle vaccine. This is a cattle problem, not a wildlife problem.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust is urging members of the public to write to their MPs asking them to help stop the cull. You can find your MP here.

You can find out more information about badgers and bTB here.

*Hampshire & Isle of Wight; South & West Wales; Shropshire; Gloucestershire; Leicestershire & Rutland; Staffordshire; Berks, Bucks & Oxon; Warwickshire; Cheshire; Derbyshire; Dorset, and Nottinghamshire.

References:

[1] Badgers are responsible for around 6% of all new bTB breakdowns in cattle. See: Donnelly, CA & Nouvellet, P., 2013. The Contribution of Badgers to Confirmed Tuberculosis in Cattle in High-Incidence Areas in England. PLoS Currents: Outbreaks. http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to-cattle-tb-incidence-in-high-cattle-incidence-areas/

[2] Woodroffe, R et al., 2006. Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103, 14713-14717.

[3] Woodroffe, R et al., 2009. Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers in localized culling areas. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 45, 128-143.

[4] Donnelly, CA et al., 2006. Reduce uncertainty in UK badger culling. Nature, 439: 843-846.

[5] Donnelly, CA et al., 2003. Impact of localized badger culling on tuberculosis incidence in British cattle. Nature, 426: 834-837.

[6] Jenkins, HE et al., 2007. Effects of culling on spatial associations of mycobacterium bovis infections in badgers and cattle. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44, 897-908.

[7] Carter, SP et al., 2012. BCG Vaccination Reduces Risk of Tuberculosis Infection in Vaccinated Badgers and Unvaccinated Badger Cubs. PLOS One, 7: e49833.

[8] Woodroffe, R et al., 2016. Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54: 718-725.

[9] Lesellier, S et al., 2006. The safety and immunogenicity of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine in European badgers (Meles meles). Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 112: 24-37.

[10] Brunton et al., 2017. Assessing the effects of the first 2 years of industry-led badger culling in England on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle in 2013–2015. Ecology and Evolution. 7: 7213–7230. Available here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.3254/full