Welfare groups have welcomed the National Trust’s decision to fund a 4-year badger vaccination programme on its Killerton estate in Devon, to demonstrate vaccination as a viable alternative to culling in the fight against bTB.
Welfare groups have welcomed the National Trust’s decision to fund a four year badger vaccination programme on its Killerton estate in Devon to “pave the way to the widespread use of vaccination as a way of tackling bovine TB in cattle”.
The National Trust claims that, as the owner of many farms in hot-spot areas, such a programme would demonstrate vaccination as a viable alternative to culling as a means of controlling the wildlife reservoir of bovine TB (bTB).
The programme, involving 18 tenant farmers, will cover an area of 20 square kilometres on the trust’s Killerton estate – one of the real hotspots for bTB in the county.
Badgers will be caught in live traps, injected with the vaccine and marked so that they are not vaccinated twice. The programme will be carried out by trained and licensed experts from the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and will cost £80,000 each year.
Mark Harold, director for the trust’s south west region, said: “This programme will show how badger vaccination can be deployed over a large area, and will pave the way for more widespread use of vaccination as an effective alternative to culling.”
Welfare groups opposed to culling were quick to praise the announcement, including both the RSPCA and the Badger Trust.
RSPCA senior scientist Colin Booty said: “The RSPCA wholeheartedly welcomes the decision by the National Trust to fund badger vaccination on a large area of its farmland in Devon and believes it is an important step forward in finding a long-term, sustainable solution to the problem of bovine TB in cattle.
“Recent research has shown that vaccination of badgers significantly reduces the level of disease in badgers, without the culling-related risk of making the disease worse.
“The RSPCA was extremely dismayed last year when the government announced it was only going to use the vaccine in a limited area of Gloucestershire, rather than six areas in Staffordshire, Herefordshire/Worcestershire and Devon as was originally planned.
“It is great news that the National Trust had the foresight to take this step.”
The Badger Trust also welcomed the decision to support vaccination, which it said was “the proven way forward rather than killing”.
However, the Badger Trust voiced “regret” at an earlier statement by the National Trust, in which it claimed it would not object to culls taking place in areas, including its land, where it could be shown all other routes had been explored.
- Work on the vaccination programme will begin in May and run until 2015.