Forest of Dean council to vote on badger vaccination funding

A council in Gloucestershire is to decide whether to help fund a badger vaccination project as an alternative to culling.

Forest of Dean district councillors will decide on Thursday (4 December) whether to commit £5,000 towards a badger vaccination project in the Forest of Dean area.

The council vote follows a public petition of 833 signatures, which called for a badger vaccination programme as an alternative to culling badgers.

The petition called on the district council to “give financial support to local badger vaccination projects being undertaken” and to assist vaccination projects which may be set up in the county.

See also: National Trust badger vaccine trial farms hit by TB

Councillor Keith Childs, author of The Badger Diaries, handed the petition to the council in October.

Last Monday (24 November) Mr Childs told the council’s community scrutiny sub committee that petitioners felt a five-year badger vaccination programme in the area needed additional financial support from the council.

“It is logical to assume, based on experimental evidence, that a significant percentage of wild badgers that are vaccinated will become resistant to infection and or disease,” said Cllr Childs.

“In the medium to long term, repeated vaccination is likely to reduce the level of bovine TB infection and disease in the local badger population thus reducing the risk to local cattle from badger, to cattle transmission.”

But Andrew Guest, chairman of the NFU in Gloucestershire, told Farmers Weekly that contributing £5,000 to the project would be a “complete waste of taxpayers’ money”.

“I think vaccinating badgers in an area like the Forest of Dean where TB is endemic in the wildlife is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“As I understand it, according to the petition the funding would be used to vaccinate badgers on two farms which each have two badger setts in it. It is looking to cover four badger setts, which is a drop in the ocean.

“Not only is it not going to work, it’s not on a big enough scale to make any difference.”

Mr Guest, who farms in the Forest of Dean, said he had suffered TB herd breakdowns “on and off” for the past 20 years.

He added that badger vaccination could have a role to play in “edge area” counties in preventing the spread of disease from areas where TB is rife, such as Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Gloucestershire is in an area of south-west England considered by Defra to be a “hotspot” for bovine TB. All cattle keepers in the county must comply with an annual TB testing regime and strict movement controls.

Forest of Dean District Council previously voted against having a badger cull on the authority’s land.

More than 250 badgers were removed in Gloucestershire this summer as part of the second year of the government’s four-year pilot badger culls.

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