Culling is not the cure
Tuesday 19th July 2011
Badger by Eliot Smith
The Wildlife Trusts today express disappointment at the Government’s decision to pursue yet more trials of badger culling, as The Wildlife Trusts do not see culling as the solution to the problem of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
To press ahead with these pilots ignores the main body of scientific evidence relating to culling*, which shows that at best it is ineffective, and at worst can exacerbate the problem.
The Wildlife Trusts acknowledge bTB is a significant problem that causes hardship for many in the farming community but believe there will be no winners from continuing to pursue badger culling as an option.
Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “This issue demands a scientific and practical approach. The rationale for and practicality of any cull of native species needs to be extremely clear and well proven. In this case it is not.
“Today’s announcement of trialling shooting of badgers in pilot areas is still based on the assumption that culling can be a viable solution.
The Wildlife Trusts strongly support the development of the bTB vaccine for cattle and an oral vaccine for badgers. It welcomes the Government’s continued funding for this and urges that there is commitment to ensuring this concludes, and to subsequent wide-scale deployment. The leading conservation organisation sees vaccines as a critical ‘tool in the toolkit’ to help break the disease cycle and significantly reduce the levels of infection in cattle. It seeks a clearer timetable and strategy for vaccination to bring us closer the solution so urgently needed.
Paul Wilkinson continued: “There is already an injectable vaccine available for badgers, yet last year the Government cut funding for trialling it.
“Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust embarked on the first such injectable vaccination trial, of its own initiative, at the end of June. Looking at the deployment of injectable vaccines should help find wider solutions for dealing with this disease.”
The Wildlife Trusts are keen for the farming community, conservation organisations and the Government to continue to work together to confront this disease.
*Scientific evidence: The Independent Scientific Group has given us the definitive scientific view that badger culling provides ‘no meaningful contribution’ and is ‘not cost effective’ as a control measure for combating bovine tuberculosis. The full report is available to download here.
Vaccine research: Defra has an active programme of research into vaccines for both cattle and badgers. The Wildlife Trusts have been supporting field trials of badger vaccines on nature reserves. Further details of work on vaccine development are available at: http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/wildlife/ecologyManagement/bvdp/