Wales’ chief vet has dismissed speculation that the intensive badger vaccination programme in west Wales is linked to a rise in bovine TB cases in the region.
Christianne Glossop insists there is “no reasonable basis” to connect the increase in new herd breakdowns to badger vaccination.
In 2012 there were 579 new incidents of TB in the former Dyfed area of west Wales compared to 491 in 2011, before the vaccination programme started. New figures show that there were 136 new incidents in the first three months of this year alone.
“Cattle herd incidence is characterised by short-term variations within longer term trends,” explained Dr Glossop. “It is important that all parties avoid the temptation to speculatively attribute short-term variations to any one cause.”
There is no evidence that badger vaccination causes a “perturbation effect” on a sufficient level to cause an increase in cattle herd breakdowns, she added.
“It is important that all parties avoid the temptation to speculatively attribute short-term variations to any one cause.”
Christianne Glossop, Wales’ chief vet
A key component of perturbation is the disruption of the existing badger social structure through the permanent removal of a large number of badgers.
“Vaccination does not remove badgers,” Dr Glossop pointed out. “The number of badgers re-trapped in the same area on subsequent nights indicates that the experience does not drive them away from their local setts.”
The North Pembrokeshire Intensive Action Area (IAA) has one of the highest levels of bovine TB in Europe. The Welsh government created the IAA with a view to tackle all sources of bovine TB, in both domestic and wild animal species.
The effect of badger vaccination, together with the additional control measures in the IAA and in the 2km buffer area surrounding it, are being monitored by the Welsh government to assess their long term impact.
But Dr Glossop said there would be no “quick fix”.
“Tackling this disease demands a sustainable and long-term approach,” she suggested. “The vaccination of badgers within the IAA is only one of a range of different measures, including tackling the disease in wildlife, animal testing across Wales, strict biosecurity protocols and cattle movement restrictions.”
Read more about bovine TB and the badger cull