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 03.09.2015 09:31

We care about wildlife. And, as a major landowner, we also care about our tenant farmers and understand how devastating an outbreak of bovine TB can be. It’s important for us to play our part in tackling this disease by finding a practical solution to prevent its spread, while balancing both of these responsibilities.

To help find this solution, we ran a successful four year project at our Killerton estate in Devon to show that badger vaccination is feasible and can be deployed over a large area. We’re now working with the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency to make Killerton a national training school for the vaccination of badgers. 

Now we’d like to see the Government working with partners to carry out further testing on badger vaccination to show its effectiveness in controlling the spread of the disease. As a long-term solution, a multi-pronged approach of vaccination, better testing and surveillance of cattle and stricter biosecurity (ie keeping badgers and cattle apart) is needed.

The current two pilot culls of badgers in England were aimed at testing some of the practical aspects of any wildlife cull. However, we expressed serious concerns to Government over changes to the original design of the pilots, which have the potential to undermine their utility and scientific credibility.

The current culls are not taking place on National Trust land and, given our concerns, we wouldn’t allow culls on our land in new cull areas where we have the power to do so

Research shows that, in the right circumstances, culling badgers can help reduce the incidence of herd breakdowns due to bovine TB. However, before we could consider any cull on our land we would need to understand how any proposal conforms to the clear and rigorous criteria discussed by the Independent Scientific Group on bovine TB.

We do not support calls for the roll-out of the pilot culls to other areas and will monitor the operation of the culls through our engagement with Defra’s TB Eradication Advisory Group for England.

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

Find out more about the results of our badger vaccination project at Killerton.