‘Confidence lacking in TB vaccine’

Farmers lack confidence in a badger vaccine to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis, a study has found.

Livestock producers also have low levels of trust in the government’s ability to manage bovine TB, according to the survey.

The research was conducted by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) and Cardiff University.

An abstract of the findings can be seen here.

A total of 341 farmers were surveyed during the autumn of 2010 in five areas of England across Devon, Gloucestershire and Cheshire.

It included the area of the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project (BVDP) where badgers have been vaccinated against bovine TB.

This survey preceded DEFRA’s announcement of plans to allow farmers to cull badgers in a bid to prevent the spread of bovine TB in cattle.

Some 48% of farmers thought vaccination was a good thing to do, but only a quarter thought that it would help prevent the spread of bovine TB.

Overall, 33% of the farmers that responded to the survey could be said to support badger vaccination, while 19% rejected it outright.

These attitudes were related to farmers’ views of DEFRA. Less than a quarter of farmers thought the department could manage vaccination competently.

One third of respondents thought the government’s scientific case for badger vaccination lacked credibility, with the vast majority (89%) believing it was not their responsibility to pay for vaccination.

Lead researcher Dr Damian Maye said: “This research has provided an important preliminary analysis of farmers’ confidence in badger vaccination.

“The results suggest farmers have cautious views about the role of vaccination to control bovine TB in cattle.

“In particular, farmers surveyed were concerned about the practicality of badger vaccination”.

Farmers responding to the survey were pessimistic that they were able to do anything about avoiding bovine TB restrictions.

Some 79% said that it was simply a matter of luck if their cattle got the disease.

The majority of farmers (52%) did not think the government was doing a good job in relation to bovine TB policy.

A majority of 80% believed that bovine TB policy was too influenced by the general public, as opposed to veterinary or agricultural specialists.

Meanwhile, 46% said they did not believe bTB policy decisions in general to have been fairly made.

Dr Gareth Enticott, of Cardiff University, said: “What this research is showing is that farmers are not confident that vaccination will work, partly because they had low levels of trust in the Government’s approach to bovine TB.”

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