badger in cage being vaccinated© Rex

Volunteers including farmers and landowners have vaccinated 46 badgers in East Sussex in a bid to help control the spread of bovine TB across the county.

The Sussex Badger Vaccination Project (SBVP), which started 12 months ago, has seen 35 badgers vaccinated during the 2015 season.

Organisers say this figure is set to rise further within the next month as the season draws to a close.

See also: Farmers sign up for Sussex TB vaccination scheme

This is SBVP’s first full season, as a rolling project, which will be expanded on each year as it adds further sites and gradually expand across the county. So far, more than 30 farmers have signed up to the scheme.

“Badger vaccination is a cog in the disease eradication machine. It is not the only tool available, but it is an important one and it has a role to play.”
Chris Riddington, Sussex Badger Vaccination Project

On finishing a recent deployment at a farm in Sussex, SBVP director and vaccinator Chris Riddington, said: “We caught and vaccinated five badgers on this site, which is about how many we were expecting, so we are really happy with the results.”

Mr Riddington said the SBVP had recently achieved registered charity status. He added: “It is exciting times for SBVP, achieving charity status will open more doors to fundraising opportunities and ensure we keep the costs to landowners and farmers to the minimum.

“Badger vaccination is a cog in the disease eradication machine. It is not the only tool available, but it is an important one and it has a role to play.”

Defra’s 25-year TB eradication project for England includes culling in TB hotspot areas, in counties where the disease is considered to be rife, such as Somerset and Gloucestershire.

In so-called “edge area” counties, where there is growing concern about the spread of disease, the government is promoting badger vaccination.

These counties include Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, and parts of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and East Sussex.

Organisers of the SBVP applied to Defra under the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (Bevs), to help reduce costs to farmers by as much as 50%.

Last year, there were 14 confirmed cases of bovine TB outbreaks affecting herds in East Sussex, according to the Animal Health and Plant Agency (APHA).

Officially, there have been no confirmed TB cases this year, but some test results are pending.

Up to July 2015, there were 12 herds under TB restrictions in East Sussex following inconclusive reactors or cultures of M. bovis infection.

James Osman, NFU county adviser for Sussex, said: “East Sussex is quite far down the list in terms of a potential area for culling badgers to tackle bovine TB.

“Therefore, at the moment badger vaccination is probably the most effective way to deal with wildlife.

“We have a low incidence of TB in cattle in East Sussex. There is a hotspot there. But we are targeting vaccination in the edge area to stop disease from spreading any further.

“There is no point in vaccinating in areas where we know there are infected badgers.”