Our view on badgers and Bovine TB

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A badger emerges from his sett © NTPL/NaturePL/Colin Seddon

A badger emerges from his sett

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Latest update 03.04.2014 15:36

We care about wildlife. We also care about our tenant farmers who deliver so much of our wider conservation work in the countryside. Playing our part in tackling the spread of bovine TB (bTB)– a devastating disease - requires us to balance both responsibilities. Our preferred approach is for a range of measures to be used including vaccination, better testing and surveillance of cattle, and stricter biosecurity i.e. keeping badgers and cattle apart.

If we can make it effective, vaccination of badgers could be a powerful tool in reducing badger-cattle transmission. Our trial vaccination programme at Killerton, one of our major estates in Devon, is in its final year and is aimed at demonstrating how vaccinating can work on the ground. What it can’t do, is prove that badger vaccination reduces bTB. We are asking the Government to do more to investigate this potential.

The Randomised Badger Culling Trial of the late 1990s showed that badger culling, if carried out to meet the criteria in Sir David King’s review of the trial, can make a contribution to reducing bTB breakdowns. As a result, we do not yet rule out culling if it can be done to meet those criteria. The culling trials were established to test if this can be done.

We wrote to the Government last year to express our serious concerns about the management of the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. We need to look carefully at what has been proposed as part of their strategy today and will be scrutinising the Independent Expert Panel’s report which looked at the conduct and outcomes of these pilots. Until we’ve been able to carry out that analysis it would be premature to conclude our position or to rule out actions that might help us get on top of the disease.

What is clear to us is that the Government’s actions must be based on sound scientific evidence and meet highest possible standards of conduct. Otherwise the Government risks failing to get on top of this devastating disease, and could potentially make it worse.