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Badgers to be given anti-TB jabs

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19 March 2009 - BBC News

Badgers in the wild will be vaccinated against bovine tuberculosis for the first time next year. The vaccine will be tested in six areas in England where cattle are badly affected by the disease. The project, announced by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, is aimed at assessing the practicality of injecting the animals. Farmers and vets will be among those trained in how to trap badgers in metal cages and then inject them. The animals will be marked to reduce the risk they are vaccinated more than once.

DEFRA will begin to sign up and train participants later this year. Vaccination is expected to start in summer 2010 and continue for at least five years. This will be the first practical use of a vaccine outside research trials. It is the latest stage in DEFRA's plan to focus on vaccination rather than culling to tackle bovine TB in England's badger population.

Mr Benn said: "Developing an effective vaccine for bovine TB is only half the challenge. The other is to deploy it effectively. This project will help us do that. As such it marks real progress in our fight against this terrible disease."

The precise areas for the trials will be announced later this year after consultation with the farming industry and other interested groups.

The move has also been welcomed by the Badger Trust, a charity which promotes the welfare of badgers and argues that it is cattle themselves which mainly transmit the disease. The Trust's chairman David Williams said: "We hope that this vaccine will give badgers further protection from bovine TB, which continues to be spread by cattle because the TB testing regime is inadequately enforced."

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