A PROGRAMME to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis (TB) in Cheshire is the second largest in the UK, a new report has revealed.
Several hundred badgers have been treated across almost 3,000 hectares of countryside, farms and private land in the county.
The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts – which represents the 47 separate county Wildlife Trusts across the UK – has released their first badger vaccination review, covering 10 schemes across the country.
The report finds Cheshire second only to Gloucestershire in the scale of its badger vaccination scheme.
It suggests the cost of the programme is considerably less than the culling process currently being trialled in the South West to stop the disease being transferred between cattle by badgers.
Wildlife Trusts have repeated calls for the culls to be halted, in favour of further investment in a much broader range of measures – including badger vaccination.
The government is expected to announce additional investment in alternatives like badger vaccination, but focused on ‘edge areas’ such as those found in the north west.
Richard Gardner, from Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said: “This report shows the ongoing commitment the Wildlife Trusts have across the UK and here in the north west, to demonstrating the practical, on-the-ground application of badger vaccination as just one tool that is available in our efforts to tackle bovine TB in Britain.
“There is currently no silver bullet in the battle facing our dairy industry and countryside, and so we’ll continue to work hard with our partners in the Cheshire TB Eradication Group to understand the disease as best we can here in the region and in turn push the government and Defra for the right levels of investment to affect a change here on the frontline of TB.”
The Wildlife Trusts believe a coordinated programme of badger vaccination can make a viable contribution to the Government’s bovine TB eradication strategy by reducing transmission of the disease between badgers and between badgers and cattle.
Vaccination reduces the severity of the disease, the shedding of bacteria from infected individual badgers and therefore the disease’s prevalence in badger populations.