The Welsh Government has suspended its badger vaccination project in west Wales citing a global shortage of the BCG vaccine as the reason. This means the British government will not be going ahead with the final year of its five year badger vaccination programme in the Intensive Action Area (IAA), located mainly in Pembrokeshire.
94.4 per cent of herds in Wales are currently free from disease, and this has been achieved without culling. During a recent cross-party EFRA committee meeting, Liz Truss was even asked whether she was looking to learn from the example of Wales, where a near 50% reduction in bTB in Cattle has been shown. Her answers to this question were vague. Truss has already stated her commitment to further badger cull roll-outs, despite no results of the 2015 cull being announced yet. This commitment was affirmed during a talk she gave at an NFU fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference.
It is interesting to note that NFU President, Meurig Raymond, who is a farmer in Pembrokeshire, where the IAA is, has also hailed the 2015 culls a success, despite results not being announced. And as far back as February this year, he made a bid to put badger culling back on the political agenda in Wales. This was at odds with what the Welsh Natural Resources and Food Minister Alun Davies had to say on the matter. He described the incompetence of DEFRA as "breathtaking".
Having enough of the BCG vaccine to keep humans safe and well all over the world is absolutely necessary. This goes without saying. NFA is in no doubt that there is a shortage of the BCG vaccine. Yet it is strange that no mention of a shortage was made at the recent EFRA meeting, when Truss and Eustice were being grilled by fellow MPs. The vaccine shortage is being cited now as a reason to suddenly halt what was a successful programme in Wales. Yet one lay badger vaccinator NFA spoke to today confirmed that DEFRA knew about a possible shortage of the BCG vaccine much earlier this year. DEFRA sent emails to lay vaccinators asking if their prescribing vets would be happy using human vaccines for badgers. This was months ago. Eustice knew then that shortages could be a possibility. Yet only now, very close to the 2015 cull results are announced, is Eustice bringing up the BCG vaccine shortage in the same breath as justifying a 2016 badger cull, and roll outs. It also allows him to disregard the idea of cattle vaccination once again.
It may appear cynical to suggest that DEFRA is using a BCG vaccine shortage as an excuse to justify more badger culling. However they have already disregarded scientific evidence. They have ignored the views of the tax paying public whose millions they have already spent on their failing cull. Most recently, they were forced to admit they didn't even bother testing or examining the badgers culled in 2015 for bTB.
In light of these facts, we put nothing past Truss, Eustice and the rest of DEFRA. This latest BCG shortage excuse is ringing alarm bells for all rationally minded animal lovers who await the impending, and inevitable DEFRA announcement about the 2015 cull results.
Why is the BCG vaccine shortage only being mentioned now? How can shortages even occur in the first place in a world where pharmaceutical companies are billion pound industries? Yet again, the public deserves answers...