Badger culling to be phased out

The Government has unveiled new plans to vaccinate cattle and badgers against bovine TB.

European badger, Meles meles

Earlier this month, Defra announced a change of strategy in tackling the spread of bovine TB.

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Instead of relying on highly controversial badger culling in order to control the disease, vaccination will become increasingly crucial in its prevention.

Until now, badger culling in a number of counties in the UK was used as the sole method of attempting to control the disease, which has been highly damaging to the beef and dairy industries. Many farmers argued that culling was a necessary measure to protect the industries.

But there has been much public criticism over this method, with scepticism about its cost and effectiveness, together with outcries over the culling of a protected species. Many argued in favour of vaccinating as an alternative to the culls.

Previously, it was not possible to vaccinate cattle against the disease, as tests for bovine TB couldn’t differentiate between vaccinated animals and those infected by the disease. Now, Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) has developed an effective test, which can be trialled alongside the BCG vaccine.

The Government’s decision to phase out the controversial culling method following Apha’s breakthrough has been welcomed by many.

Katherine Hawkins, The Wildlife Trusts’ senior living landscape officer, said that the announcement was, “an open acknowledgement [from the Government] that culling badgers to control bTB is not a viable long-term strategy.”

She continued, “It is hugely heartening to know that the large areas in which badgers have been vaccinated — most of which has been carried out by Wildlife Trusts — will be protected and potentially ‘buffered’ to ensure culling will not happen in those places.”

Although the change in strategy is positive news for badgers and for those who have campaigned on behalf of the protected species, culling will not be immediately halted. Instead, it will be gradually phased out over the next five years as trials of the vaccine continue to take place.

The Country Land and Business Assocation (CLA) support this move, stating, “the CLA welcomes the continue availability of badger culling as an option where local epidemiology suggests it can make a big impact, which the report shows can clearly be the case.”

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Disagreeing, the Badger Trust calls on an immediate end to badger culls: “we’d like the Government to go a step further and stop culling altogether as it now accepts it is cattle-to-cattle transmission and inaccurate testing that sustains this disease rather than badgers.”