Motion Promoting Vaccination of Badgers
My motion promoting Vaccination of Badgers against TB was always going to be controversial by those anxious it was about banning culling. That is not what this motion calls for but culling does not kill all badgers so, IF badgers are really a significant cause to the spread of Bovine TB, vaccination has to happen as well or instead if there were evidence it was as effective.
At the end of this blog you can read how I used my 3 minutes to speak for the motion at Full Council.
As much as my critics can point to evidence that only reducing badger populations will help Farmers combat Bovine TB I can point to evidence that it is much more about the testing of cattle not detecting the disease reliably early enough thus allowing infected animals to move to unaffected farms, and the need to improve bio-security on farms.
MY WORDS AT FULL COUNCIL BEFORE THE MOTION WAS PUT BACK FOR FURTHER RESEARCH/ EVIDENCE
Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, Zoological Society London and probably others are working to promote the vaccination of badgers against TB as a way of reducing, possibly eliminating the disease from badger setts.
To be clear this motion is not about removing from our tenant farmers the right to choose to be part of local culling, if they assess that to be necessary.
Everyone agrees that Bovine TB is serious and has a devastating impact on farming but people debate the science, the causes and solutions. This motion is aimed at Cornwall Council joining forces with local partners to expand the badger vaccination programme in Cornwall to a scale that could have the potential to demonstrate whether we can eliminate the disease from the badger population.
The increased scale and collaboration should reduce the cost of vaccination, currently estimated at £230/ 100 acres/ year, and improve our scientific knowledge on the efficacy. The public, including farmers are willing to fund the Cornwall Wildlife programme.
For those that doubt the potential to eradicate TB from Badgers, here are some facts, supplied by Cornwall Wildlife Trust:
- Where a badger sett is infected, testing has shown only between 15 and 20% are affected;
- In the wild, badgers live for 3 – 5 years so a vaccination programme for 4/5 years will mean infected animals have died, uninfected animals and the young will be protected by the vaccine.
Zoological Society London, who have a research vaccination programme in West Cornwall, have demonstrated that vaccination does not affect a badgers roaming patterns or range so, this method of reducing TB in badgers does not cause the animals to travel greater distances. This reduces their risk of moving from an infected area into an uninfected one, whereas research shows that culling does increase the distances badgers travel thus increasing this particular risk.
So, if we have the potential to eliminate TB from the badger population across our estate, why would we not want to support our farmers and get on with it? Our attention is drawn to the cost of vaccination but compared to the cost to farming of bTB, it seems quite cheap! If we could demonstrate the potential to eliminate badgers as a transmitter of the disease; vets, farmers and scientists could concentrate efforts on improving the testing of cattle, reducing the spread of the disease within and between herds and producing an effective vaccine for cattle.
To conclude, I am not saying that vaccinating badgers is the solution to bTB BUT combined with improved cattle testing, bio security measures and movement controls, we will have played our part.