Last week Network for Animals accompanied Somerset Badger Group and volunteers from Secret World Wildlife Rescue centre on a project to vaccinate badgers on a farm in West Somerset.

The farm, one of several that have chosen to vaccinate badgers instead of participate in the cull, has committed to a four year vaccination program on their land which will see badgers vaccinated against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) using a method of humane trapping and injection.  Over 20 badgers were vaccinated in this initial phase of the project, all of which were found to be in excellent health and condition.

Adrian Coward, Chairman of the Somerset Badger Group said, “[we] are delighted to be working jointly with farmers in a positive and practical way; to help constructively with the battle against bovine TB.  Vaccinating badgers has been proved to be effective in at least 74% of badgers vaccinated.”

Badgers are an iconic symbol of the British countryside, making their home in woodland areas, often near pasture.  Badgers, like many mammals, are suspected to carry certain diseases and have become scapegoats for the spread of TB in cattle, leading to numerous studies and the implementation of measures to try and eradicate the disease.  The Government’s latest plan is to conduct a pilot cull of badgers using ‘free shooting’ in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire, despite the fact a 10-year Government funded study concluded that culling badgers could offer no meaningful contribution to the control of bTB.

The Government’s proposed method of ‘free shooting’ badgers as they roam at night is likely to disturb their social structure and contribute to what is known as the ‘perturbation effect’, which is the scattering of badgers when their sett is disturbed and the potential spread of bTB into new, unaffected areas.  The careful cage trapping and vaccination of badgers is the most practical way to treat the problem without disruption of their social group.

Network for Animals believe that the pilot cull, which offers a best-case scenario reduction in bTB of 16% by the end, is a misguided policy that will only serve to harm wildlife.  A combined strategy of badger vaccination, effective biosecurity measures, improved cattle welfare and the introduction of a cattle vaccine is widely perceived to be the most promising humane alternative to the mass slaughter of badgers.  To this end we are offering financial support to projects such as this in the hope that vital vaccination work can continue.

Vaccination offers a humane and effective alternative to the badger cull.  Somerset Badger Group are calling for landowners and farmers concerned about the badger cull to contact them for help and advice regarding vaccination.