Response to the Bovine TB Strategy Review

Tuesday 13th November 2018

Pic: Elliott Neep

Essex Wildlife Trust is hugely disappointment at limitations of the Bovine TB Strategy Review led by Sir Charles Godfray

Whilst welcoming the review’s recommendations for a changed emphasis in the government’s strategy for eradicating bovine tuberculosis (bTB), The Wildlife Trusts are extremely concerned that it also recommends that badger culling should continue. This flies in the face of robust scientific evidence and we urge the government to halt their flawed policy which leads to tens of thousands of badgers being killed every year. 

Essex Wildlife Trust is seriously concerned about the impact bovine TB has on the local economy and the hardship it causes to the farming community. However, the Trust believes that action to address bovine TB should be based on clear scientific evidence that can be effectively applied in practice. The review highlights the potential for a large-scale badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling, which The Wildlife Trusts welcomes.

It’s a terrible misconception that all badgers are carriers of bovine tuberculosis, the disease is not currently found in the East of England and the main transmission of bTB, as the report states, is between cattle. This is the main route of infection, with only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections being directly transmitted from badgers, so more needs to be done to improve farm biosecurity and develop a cattle vaccine accompanied by a DIVA test to differentiate vaccinated from infected cattle. Alongside this, a vaccination strategy for badgers would stop them from being considered a problem.

The Wildlife Trusts have proven that badger vaccination can tackle bTB in badgers, and Wildlife Trusts have demonstrated it’s do-able. Twelve Wildlife Trusts across England and Wales conducted badger vaccination programmes between 2011-2015*. In this time, more than 1,500 badgers were vaccinated. The Wildlife Trusts are ideally placed to work with the government and farmers to deliver badger vaccination at a wide-scale.

It’s very worrying that the research for this report was on historical data from the Randomised Badger Control Trials conducted between 1998 and 2007, instead of looking at the effectiveness of the current cull that has been happening since 2013. Essex Wildlife Trust will not allow badgers to be culled on any of its land and is prepared to vaccinate badgers against this disease if a licence were to be granted.

All 46 Wildlife Trusts, including Essex Wildlife Trust call on the government to:
• Halt the badger cull now
• Invest in and promote a strategy for badger vaccination. This should be led and funded by the government, across England.
• Invest more time and resource in supporting improved farm biosecurity and movement controls.
• Accelerate development of more effective tests for bTB in cattle and put serious investment into a bTB cattle vaccine. This is a cattle problem, not a wildlife problem.

Read Essex Wildlife Trust's position statement on the badger cull here

*Hampshire & Isle of Wight; South & West Wales; Shropshire; Gloucestershire; Leicestershire & Rutland; Staffordshire; Berks, Bucks & Oxon; Warwickshire; Cheshire; Derbyshire; Dorset, and Nottinghamshire.