A four-year programme to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has begun in west Somerset, in an attempt to prove the method more effective than culling.

A four-year programme to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has begun in west Somerset, in an attempt to prove the method more effective than culling.

A four-year programme to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has begun in Somerset.The project is taking place in one of the locations targeted by the Government’s proposed culling pilots – the subject of an impending legal hearing at the Court of Appeal in September 2012 – to offer vaccination opportunities to farmers and landowners.

Adrian Coward, chairman of Somerset Badger Group (SBG), said: “During field trials the vaccine has been proved to be effective in at least 74% of badgers vaccinated.”

According to the Mr Coward, vaccination does not encourage perturbation – a phenomenon where badgers are believed to wander much more widely following a cull, increasing the possibility of disease spread.

“It is the modern, scientific way to conquer the disease and – unlike culling – does not carry the risk of causing infection to spread,” he said.

SBG are carrying out the work in association with Secret World Wildlife Rescue of Highbridge, Somerset, supported by The Badger Trust and Network for Animals.

Vaccination by licensed members of badger groups began last autumn, coordinated by Badger Trust director Simon Boulter. Specially-trained leaders and volunteers established procedures in the field, monitored and approved by senior DEFRA veterinary staff.

Badgers on farms in Worcestershire, Derbyshire, Devon, Cornwall, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire have already been vaccinated by badger group members.

 

HOW BADGERS ARE VACCINATED
Licensed members and volunteers place peanuts in open cage traps for several nights to familiarise the badgers with the traps before setting the catches which close the traps as badgers enter.

Within hours, at first light, the trapped badgers are given a health and condition check, vaccinated, marked and released without harm. Farms will be revisited at regular intervals to increase the proportion of badgers vaccinated.

 

Badger image ©iStockphoto.com/Freder
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