The Wildlife Trusts call for more investment in badger vaccination

Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

The Wildlife Trusts' response to new figures released by the government.

Today the government released figures on the numbers of badgers vaccinated last year, in 2018. Their figures show that 641 were vaccinated – with half of these through the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS), the government-sponsored badger vaccination programme.

There is robust scientific evidence to prove that badger vaccination reduces the transmission of bTB in badgers [1]. Several studies demonstrate that vaccinating badgers reduces the progression, severity and the likelihood that the infection would be passed on, once a badger is infected [2,3,4].

Whilst the data released today indicates progress of sorts, when compared to the numbers of badgers culled in 2018 – at least 32,602 – it represents a very small proportion. Vaccination has the potential to reduce bTB infection prevalence in the badger population [5], and hence bTB risks to cattle, without the harmful effects associated with culling such as increased prevalence of TB in badgers plus spreading the disease [6,7].

Much more needs to be done – and The Wildlife Trusts have demonstrated that badger vaccination is do-able. Twelve Wildlife Trusts across England and Wales conducted badger vaccination programmes between 2011-2015*. In this time, we vaccinated more than 1500 badgers. The largest programme is run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust who also hosted training for lay vaccinators carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in 2018.

We call on the government to invest more resources to support farmers and land managers to have the choice to vaccinate badgers instead of culling. Government must act on the findings of the Godfray Review which highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling and roll out a widespread badger vaccination programme.

The Wildlife Trusts have opposed the badger cull since it first started and no Wildlife Trust will allow badger culling on its land. For more information go to www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-and-wild-places/saving-species/badgers

 

References

[1] M. A. Chambers, S. P. Carter, G. J. Wilson, G. Jones, E. Brown, R. G. Hewinson, M. Vordermeier, 2014. Vaccination against tuberculosis in badgers and cattle: an overview of the challenges, developments and current research priorities in Great Britain. Veterinary Record, 175: 90-96.

[2] Chambers, M.A., Rogers, F., Delahay, R.J., Lesellier, S., Ashford, R., et al. 2011. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccination reduces the severity and progression of tuberculosis in badgers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 278: 1913–1920. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21123260

[3] Lesellier, S., Palmer, S., Gowtage-Sequiera, S., Ashford, R., Dalley, D., et al. 2011. Protection of Eurasian badgers (Meles meles) from tuberculosis after intra-muscular vaccination with different doses of BCG. Vaccine, 29: 3782–3790. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21440035

[4] Carter et al., 2012. BCG Vaccination Reduces Risk of Tuberculosis Infection in Vaccinated Badgers and Unvaccinated Badger Cubs. PLOS One, 7: e49833

[5] Carter, SP et al., 2012. BCG Vaccination Reduces Risk of Tuberculosis Infection in Vaccinated Badgers and Unvaccinated Badger Cubs. PLOS One, 7: e49833.

[6] Woodroffe, R et al., 2016. Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54: 718-725.

[7] Lesellier, S et al., 2006. The safety and immunogenicity of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine in European badgers (Meles meles). Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 112: 24-37.