Farming union questions badger vaccination ‘folly’

Farming leaders in Wales have questioned the “folly” of vaccinating badgers to curb bovine TB as new figures reveal the disease shows no sign of abating.

According to NFU Cymru, nearly 5,000 cattle were slaughtered in Wales in the first six months of this year owing to bovine TB.

Farming union leaders will criticise the Welsh government’s decision to undertake a badger vaccination programme in Wales at the Welsh Dairy event today (Tuesday, 16 October).

The union will say that vaccination has a role to play in tackling bovine TB but it is not appropriate on its own.

NFU Cymru said the union would be closely following the badger cull in England “in the hope that their TB eradication plan will highlight the folly of our own government’s decision to follow a vaccination only policy”.

More than 75,000 cattle were slaughtered in Wales from 2002 to 2011 – the equivalent of more than the total number of adult dairy cattle in Carmarthenshire.

Stephen James, NFU Cymru deputy president, said: “The vast majority of these 75,000 cattle would have been dairy and beef cattle in the prime of their productive lives, losing them from the herd has huge impacts on farm efficiency.

“This government has decided to follow a vaccination policy that offers little hope to us that this slaughter will come to an end.”

Speaking ahead of the Welsh Dairy event at the United Counties Showground in Carmarthen, Mr James said vaccination “undoubtedly has a role to play” in eradicating TB.

But he added that it was “not the appropriate intervention in an area of Wales where a significant proportion of badgers are already suffering from this disease”.

The Welsh government has estimated the costs for the five-year badger vaccination project at approximately £5,760,000.

“It must be costing upwards of at least £500 per badger per year to vaccinate,” said Mr James. “Given that vaccination will have no benefit to the significant proportion of badgers in the area already suffering from this disease the actual cost of protection for each healthy badger will be that much greater again.”

A Welsh Assembly government spokesman said: “Our decision to implement a vaccination programme to tackle the problem in wildlife was made after considering the findings of the science review, legal advice and other evidence provided.

“The science review indicated that repeated vaccination of badgers in an area is likely to build up immunity in the local badger population and it is logical to assume that over time this would reduce the risk of disease transmission to cattle.”

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