Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has published a report today which shows that research, produced by the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), and used by farmers to justify a cull of badgers in Derbyshire is flawed and inaccurate.
The APHA’s report stated that, in 2018, 77% of new cases of TB in cattle in Derbyshire were caused by badgers - a figure significantly larger than any estimate in the peer reviewed scientific literature for the role of badgers in bovine TB. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust was concerned about the accuracy of the figure and commissioned a report to investigate the claim.
The report’s findings revealed that the APHA’s figures should not be relied upon or used for establishing TB control measures. It shows the methodology used is subjective and biased towards badgers being the cause of a large number of outbreaks of TB in cattle without clear science to support the claim. APHA data also claimed that TB is endemic in badgers in parts of Derbyshire but failed to provide supporting data.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust campaigned against and successfully avoided the badger cull in 2019. The findings of the report could have implications for cull decisions in the future for Derbyshire and more widely as cull companies submit applications to trap and shoot hundreds of badgers again this Autumn.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts says that if the APHA's evidence is used to justify the badger cull later this year it will be based on very poor science.
Dr Sue Mayer, a co-author of the report, Chair of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and veterinary surgeon says; “Despite the Government moving away from culling, we expect Derbyshire farmers to submit applications to shoot badgers this autumn. We want to share our important findings to better inform Government decision-making and enable us to keep Derbyshire a cull-free zone.”
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have also released their report today highlighting the success of the 2019 badger vaccination season, now in its sixth year. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, working with the National Trust, is leading the UK’s largest badger vaccination programme – inoculating hundreds of badgers against bovine TB in a project which the Trust now wants to extend. A record 221 badgers were vaccinated between April and October in 2019 by highly trained teams of volunteers across a 120km2 area of Derbyshire.
A cull in Derbyshire would be highly disruptive to the ongoing vaccination work and the Government has accepted that if a cull came to Derbyshire, badgers that have been vaccinated using money provided by the Government could be shot.
Dr Mayer added; “Badgers naturally roam over large distances for food each night from around a half up to several kilometres. Culling badgers would have massive implications for Derbyshire’s leading vaccination programme. It would likely result in many healthy, vaccinated badgers being shot. Culling should not be allowed at all in Derbyshire and the badger vaccination programme needs to be further supported and expanded”.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust are keen to work with farming groups and are extending an invitation to begin talks on turning cull companies into vaccination companies. Dr Mayer added; “We have the knowledge and expertise now - we could work closely together with landowners and farmers to roll out a significant vaccination programme across Derbyshire – that would be an incredible and very positive move for Derbyshire, its badgers and cattle.”
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have today sent a copy of the report to the Secretary of State for the environment calling on the Government to continue their support and expand the nationally important badger vaccination programme taking place in the county, and keep Derbyshire cull free.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust hope to continue their vaccination programme this year once the current Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.
Badger image (c) Elliott Neep