In response to the Government’s consultation to issue local badger cull licences, Julia Lofthouse, the Mammal Project Officer, stated: “From 2002 to 2005 in Government trials in the ‘high risk area’ where bovine TB is more prevalent, the majority of badgers culled, 83%, were tested TB free; only 17% of the badgers culled were infected.
“In Oxfordshire and Berkshire the infection rate in our local badgers is likely to be significantly lower than 17%. A recent study carried out by the University of Surrey, which analysed more than 100 local road-killed badgers revealed that none tested positive for TB.”
Julia Lofthouse added: “Culling activity could also potentially put our own and our graziers’ livestock at increased risk of contracting bovine TB. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial from 1998 to 2006 showed how the perturbation effect of badgers, which leave the culled area because of the disturbance, could cause the spread of bovine TB into new areas currently unaffected by the disease.”
In 2014 the Wildlife Trust set up a programme to trap and vaccinate badgers on its own land in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Over the last four years, and with the support of neighbouring landowners, this has expanded to include private estates and farms.
The Wildlife Trust receives funding from Defra to vaccinate badgers: “Last month Defra awarded us a £66,000 grant to continue and expand our vaccination work for the next four years. This will be wasted if the cull goes ahead and badgers that have been vaccinated are killed,” said Julia Lofthouse.
“We vaccinate every badger we trap. Even if the animal is already infected, the vaccination will slow the progression of the disease. As part of the wider strategy to reduce the spread of bovine TB, we are aiming to create a buffer zone of vaccinated animals. Culling badgers in or near the areas where we are vaccinating will result in disruption of the badger social groups and make our aim of creating a buffer zone more difficult to achieve.”
In response to the proposals the Wildlife Trust also pointed out:
Culling a badger costs in excess of £6,000 whereas vaccinating a badger costs less than £100.
Scientific trials have proven that vaccination is effective and reduces the risk of badgers testing positive to a progressed infection of TB by 76%.
In high risk areas and under ideal conditions, at best culling of badgers can be expected to reduce TB infection rates in cattle by only 16%.
Cattle to cattle transfer has been proven to be the primary route of infection in cattle, data suggests this is the cause of 94% of cattle infections.
In Wales 94% of cattle herds are TB free. This has been achieved through a programme of badger vaccination, improved cattle tests and biosecurity, with no badgers killed.
The Government’s consultation on the proposed extension of the badger cull into our local area has concluded, but anyone who would like to give their opinion on the proposals can email their MP and the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, firstname.lastname@example.org the Secretary of State for the Environment who will be making the decision on extending the badger cull.