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

Whilst welcoming the review’s recommendations for a changed emphasis in the government’s strategy for eradicating bovine tuberculosis (bTB), The Wildlife Trusts 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.

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager of The Wildlife Trusts says:

“The Wildlife Trusts believe that cattle and not badgers should be the focus of efforts to eradicate bTB. 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, so culling badgers is not the answer. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that culling increases the prevalence of bTB in the badger population, and results in it spreading to other areas. We believe that more must be done by both the government and farmers to improve farm biosecurity and cattle movement controls.”

Ellie Brodie continues:

“Badger vaccination should be used strategically, with more resources invested to roll out a widespread vaccination programme. Vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB infection prevalence in the badger population, 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. The review highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling which The Wildlife Trusts welcomes.  The government should do more to support rolling vaccination out to more areas of the country."

The Wildlife Trusts have proved that badger vaccination can tackle bTB in badgers, and Wildlife Trusts have demonstrated it’s do-able. Twelve Wildlife Trusts across England and Wales conducted badger vaccination programmes between 2011-2015*. In this time, we vaccinated more than 1500 badgers. The largest programme is run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust who train lay vaccinators on behalf of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

The Wildlife Trusts are ideally placed to work with the government and farmers to deliver badger vaccination at a wide-scale.

The Wildlife Trusts call 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.

The Wildlife Trusts are urging people to write to their MPs asking them to help stop the cull. (LINK: Find MPs here.

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

More information about the badger cull is available on The Wildlife Trusts’ website www.wildlifetrusts.org/badgers.