Badgers and bovine TB

Badger by Jon Hawkins

There have been licence applications submitted for badger culls in every county in the south-west. Information on how many culls are proposed for Cornwall and what the geographical extent will be is not available due to the risk of anti-cull protests and disruption. So what is Cornwall Wildlife Trust doing about this issue?

We feel strongly that vaccination of badgers against TB is a viable cost effective alternative with many practical advantages

We have recently re-visited our policy position on badgers and bovine TB. As before, we believe that badger culling is unlikely to contribute positively or cost-effectively to reducing bovine TB in cattle. We feel strongly that vaccination of badgers against TB is a viable, cost-effective alternative with many practical advantages. A key challenge is to raise the profile of badger vaccination and demonstrate its viability. Only then is badger vaccination likely to become the method of choice for controlling bTB in Cornwall’s badgers. Repeatedly engaging in the ‘to cull or not’ debate can distract us from focussing on this challenge.

Frank Howie, Trustee and Chair of the Trust’s Conservation Strategy Committee explains,

“We feel that the controversy surrounding badger control in Cornwall detracts from working positively in partnership on other measures which will help to reduce and eventually eradicate bovine TB. It can be easy to forget that we all want the same thing- for Cornwall to be free of this disease. We need to work together on this long-term if that vision is to ever become a reality.”

There are 3 main ways in which we are raising the profile of badger vaccination:

1- Supporting the West Cornwall Community Badger Vaccination Project
We featured this project led by Zoological Society of London, in issue 127 of our Wild Cornwall magazine. Over a 5 year period researchers and local volunteers are vaccinating badgers across the entire Penwith peninsula. The Trust sits on the oversight committee for this project and our Wild Penwith volunteers have been involved on the practical side. The Trust’s Nature Reserves in the area are included in the project.

2- Sitting on the Cornwall TB Eradication group
Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working with farmers, vets, academics and others as part of the new Cornwall TB Eradication Group. Initiated by Defra, the group will be tasked with formulating locally relevant, practical solutions towards eradication. We want to ensure that all potential measures for reducing bovine TB in cattle will be considered, in proportion to their potential impact. This will be a useful forum to highlight the practical advantages of badger vaccination to farming groups and vets.

3- Vaccinating badgers on our Nature Reserves
If we as the Wildlife Trust support badger vaccination as the best option for Cornwall then it is logical that we should consider vaccinating badgers on our reserves. We are currently looking at the feasibility of this work and will keep you informed.