Badgers & Bovine TB

This is a very contentious and complicated topic, which has been subject to much misinformation and propaganda. The Group recognises that the loss of cattle and income which results from Bovine TB can be devastating for farmers, and it continues to work with farmers offering low-cost badger vaccination.

Extensive, prolonged and peer reviewed research (the Randomised Badger Culling Trial which killed 11,000 badgers) concluded that cattle-based measures of disease control could resolve the problem. It also concluded that although badgers were considered to be implicated, that badger culling would make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control.

An independent review of the government’s bTB strategy was carried out by Professor Sir Charles Godfray in 2018. It recommended re-examining cattle vaccination and that it was highly desirable to move from culling to vaccination of badgers. More accurate bTB diagnostic tests for cattle have now been developed which would support the deployment of a cattle vaccine.

The Government’s response to the Godfray Review was published on 5th March 2020 and its top priority was to develop and deploy a cattle vaccine by 2025. It also intended increasing the use of more accurate bTB testing, strengthening controls over infected herds and incentivising farming best practices for managing bTB risks.

Despite the fact there is no substantive evidence that the inhumane culling of badgers is reducing bTB in cattle, Government have continued to extend the badger culls across 19 counties covering an area larger than Wales. Since 2013, 176,931 badgers have already been killed (16,856 in Somerset).

A recent study of Defra’s own data from the high-risk area of England, published in VetRcord, shows there is no evidence that badger culling has had any impact on reducing bTB in cattle. By comparing cull and non-cull areas the study showed that any reduction in bTB in cattle was likely a result of cattle measures.  Further analysis of ten county areas considered high-risk areas for bTB, showed that in 9 out of 10 of these counties, bTB in cattle peaked and then began to fall before the government ever implemented a badger cull.

You can watch a recent presentation given by one of the authors of this study, Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy, Born Free Foundation, The Badger Cull – Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics. Vaccination of badgers and cattle has the potential to reduce bovine TB without the negative impacts of killing cattle or wildlife.

Our Group along with several Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and other badger groups are carrying out successful badger vaccination programmes. Our Group believes that Government must urgently progress cattle vaccination and increase the funding available for badger vaccination to include the high-risk areas.

In the meanwhile, our Group continues to collaborate with others to support farmers and landowners by providing an effective and inexpensive badger vaccination programme.