A suite of measures to help tackle bovine TB

Badgers

A suite of measures to help tackle bovine TB

Tom Marshall

What do we believe?

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.

Cattle (c) Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

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 

Badger vaccination has the potential to reduce badger-to-cattle transmission by lowering the prevalence of infection in the badger population. Vaccination does not remove infected badgers, but it does reduce their ability to infect other badgers (which are protected by the vaccine). Over time, the infected animals should die off, and the prevalence of infection would be expected to decline.

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%. In 2015 - 2016, badger vaccination projects were on hold due to a global shortage of the BCG vaccine. However, due to new availability of the vaccine three Wildlife Trusts resumed badger vaccination programmes in 2017 and 2018. Data from 2015 shows that the cost of vaccinating is £82 per badger. In 2015 the cost of culling each badger was £2,441.89.

You can read a review of the evidence here.

Footage from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's badger vaccination scheme

Our badger vaccination programmes

In July 2017, UNICEF announced an end to the shortage of human TB vaccine. This meant that badger vaccination could resume. Three Wildlife Trusts were pioneering badger vaccination in 2017, and continue to vaccinate badgers in 2018. You can find out more about their badger vaccination schemes here:

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