A solution to bovine Tuberculosis (bTB)

Badger vaccination (c) Neil Aldridge

We believe an evidence-based and scientifically reliable approach must be developed to counteract the risk posed to cattle by bTB.

Be an advocate for badgers today and join our call on the Government to abandon its failed culling policy and take immediate action to:

1. Accelerate research into cattle vaccination and improve testing regimes for cattle

Cattle vaccination offers the best long-term way to reduce bTB in the cattle population. The research, testing and trialling of a vaccine has been completed, but it is not yet technically called a vaccine in this country as it has to be accredited. However, accreditation for the European market cannot be progressed whilst an EU ban remains in place on the use of such a vaccine. The ban exists because BCG vaccination of cattle can interfere with the tuberculin skin test which is the recognised primary diagnostic test for TB in cattle. A test called a DIVA test could help resolve this issue.

2. Reduce cow-to-cow infections - the major cause of TB infection

The risk of spreading disease when cattle are transported can be minimised by tightening movement controls on cattle even further.

3. Ensure higher standards of biosecurity on farms

Studies indicate bTB transmission may occur via contaminated pasture or around farm buildings but a study by the Food and Environment Research Agency concluded that simple exclusion measures are 100% effective in preventing badgers entering farm buildings when deployed properly. Best practice videos and leaflets are available from Defra. If biosecurity is linked to cross-compliance for subsidy payments on-farm disease transmission should be significantly prevented.

4. Help to roll out badger vaccinations 

In a clinical trial, the BCG vaccine reduced the risk of vaccinated badgers testing positive to a test of progressed infection by 76%, and reduced the risk of testing positive to any of the available live tests of infection by 54%. In the same clinical trial, BCG vaccination reduced the risk of infection of unvaccinated cubs in a vaccinated social group - when more than a third of the social group was vaccinated, the risk to unvaccinated cubs was reduced by 79%. Since 2015 badger vaccination projects have been on hold due to a global shortage of the BCG vaccine. However, due to new availability of the vaccine three Wildlife Trusts will be resuming badger vaccination programmes in 2017. Data from 2015 shows that the cost of vaccinating is £82 per badger - year on year vaccination is getting cheaper all the time. The cost of culling each badger is £6,775 (the figure is £4,790 excluding police costs, figures from 2013-2014).

Vaccination success

Badger vaccination programmes have demonstrated that vaccination is a practical and cost effective option

 

Wildlife Trusts: In 2010 Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust decided that it would be the first organisation to privately deploy the bTB badger vaccine on a selection of its nature reserves in 2011. The first two reports on this pioneering badger vaccination programme are available to download. A further twelve Wildlife Trusts followed suit with badger vaccination programmes and have demonstrated that vaccination is a practical and cost effective option.

Wales: The Welsh Government announced in March 2012 it would undertake a badger vaccination project within the TB Intensive Action Area (IAA) in west Wales as part of its bTB eradication programme. In 2014, a total of 1,316 badgers were vaccinated at a cost of £929,540 and more than 5,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in the last three years. None of the badgers trapped showed visible signs of disease.

According to Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Prof. Christianne Glossop, incidence of bTB in Wales have fallen by 28%; the number of infected cattle slaughtered has fallen by 45%; and 94% of Welsh herds are TB free. This has all been achieved without culling badgers.

Northern Ireland: Research is underway in Northern Ireland to investigate the impact of a 'test and vaccinate or remove' approach, which involves the TB testing of live badgers; vaccinating and releasing the badgers that test negative (TB free); and humanely euthanising badgers that test positive (TB infected). The programme began in 2014, when all badgers trapped within the trial area were sampled, microchipped and vaccinated against bTB. From 2015 to 2018, badgers in the trial area will be trapped annually and all badgers that test positive for TB will be removed. The completion of this work and full analysis of the resulting data will provide useful evidence as to whether this is a viable approach.