Badger TB vaccine trial launched
09 Jun 2005 - BBC News
The government is to launch a trial to test whether vaccinating badgers
against tuberculosis can prevent the spread of the disease in cattle.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) says badgers should be culled, blaming them
for the spread of Bovine TB. But environmentalists cite a study which found the
disease was more closely associated with cattle movements than proximity to
badgers. A further study found that many farmers have been hit hard by Bovine
Farming Minister Ben Bradshaw announced the three-year vaccine field study -
the first of its kind - to the Commons on Thursday. The trial, estimated to cost
£1.1m a year, will take place next year in an area of high Bovine TB prevalence
in south-west England and will assess the protective effect of the vaccine.
"We will be injecting badgers with the vaccine during the study," Mr Bradshaw
said. "There are cases where this method of administration may be useful as an
alternative to culling." To that end, a further three-year project to create a
version of the vaccine to be taken orally would begin in November 2005, Mr
The Veterinary Laboratories Agency will also be carrying out a study to
prepare for similar trials in cattle, Mr Bradshaw announced.
The government has rejected calls from hundreds of vets, the National Farmers
union (NFU) and the Conservatives for a badger cull, saying that would only
happen if it could be justified by scientific evidence. There was no way of
telling whether a badger was infected with TB until it died, Mr Bradshaw said.
His announcement follows the findings of a study, released on Thursday, which
found that Bovine TB is hitting many farmers harder than they were by the
The number of cases is rising by 18% a year, with more than 22,000 infected
cattle culled last year, researchers at Exeter University say. The study
assessed nearly 100 farms in south-west England hit by Bovine TB. Infected
cattle, or those suspected of infection, must be slaughtered and movement of
animals is restricted. These safeguards can last for years leading to large
The National Farmers Union is now pressing harder for a controversial cull of
wildlife, including badgers, to start as soon as possible. South-west director
Anthony Gibson said the number of farmers diversifying away from cattle to
reduce the risk to their businesses was on the increase.
The best answer to the problem was to eliminate Bovine TB by "dealing with
its reservoir in the wildlife population - principally diseased badgers", he
said. Conservationists had seized on a study, published in Nature, concluding
that the movement of cattle around Britain was the most important known factor
in the spread of bovine TB.
For more information, please click the following link: