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Badger vaccination – an obvious solution

Posted: Monday 16th September 2013 by TimBirch

Badger Vaccination with Tim Birch, DWTBadger Vaccination with Tim Birch, DWT

I have just returned from an exhausting but rewarding four days spent training to be a lay vaccinator of badgers. The course took place near Stroud in the beautiful Cotswold hills. If you don’t like getting up just before dawn then this course is not for you! You also need to have no fear of needles and be prepared to do commando rolls under barbed wire fences, get bitten by badger fleas, drag large metal traps across muddy ditches and up steep hills and slide down slippery slopes, ending up on your behind.

All this before you even get a sniff of breakfast.  The reason for all this so early in the morning is to ensure the welfare of the badgers. Legally they must be released from the humane traps no more than three hours after dawn. This is all fine by me – the badgers’ welfare comes first every time.

 

After all this actually vaccinating badgers with a vaccine designed to give them a significant level of immunity against bovine TB seems relatively easy. I was amazed at how accepting and docile these beautiful animals were in the traps. They are enticed in by large handfuls of peanuts, which they love. In fact they like peanuts so much that they often come back a following night into the traps to eat the peanuts and get caught again. They don’t seem too bothered at all.  I came across a mother and a large cub in one trap where the cub was fast asleep and stayed asleep even whilst getting vaccinated. We released the mother and had to gently prod the cub to wake up and follow his mum out of the trap.

It was a real privilege to get so close to these stunning animals and know that the training you are receiving is helping to solve a key wildlife issue in the UK – the role of badgers in bovine TB. This Government currently believes that culling badgers is vital to help solve the bovine TB problem. This is not the answer and will make things worse for some farmers through scattering badgers across the countryside and some of these badgers may well be carrying bovine TB to new locations. This is the clear message from scientists.

The Wildlife Trusts strongly oppose the culling policy and we are committed to helping roll out badger vaccination as one solution. As the person leading the delivery of the vaccination of badgers in Derbyshire with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust I am convinced that this is the right way to go. We need to roll out this programme across as much of Derbyshire as we can given the resources we have and in a smart strategic way. That means that whilst we are doing really well with our appeal (currently standing at over £42,000) we need more money to enable us to vaccinate more badgers. I am optimistic that together we can help address one key element of this problem for the benefit of badgers and farmers in Derbyshire. 

Badger vaccination is only a partial solution. It only addresses the issue of bovine TB in badgers. We are continuing to press for cattle vaccination and biosecurity measures to reduce badger/cattle interaction, as well as tougher controls on cattle movement and more rigorous testing. However, this vaccination programme is a really positive step forward that will have long lasting and permanent results.  It is time to really get moving and that means we need to train up more vaccinators, get more landowners engaged and also get the Government to put more money on the table to enable this to happen.  If the money can be found to shoot badgers then surely it can be found to vaccinate them instead.

 

Read TimBirch's latest blog entries.

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