Avon Wildlife Trust begins vaccinating badgers against bovine TB

(c) Andrew Parkinson 2020Vision

Avon Wildlife Trust has today begun vaccinating badgers for the first time on one of the conservation charity’s nature reserves, as a way to help tackle the problem of bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) in badgers, and demonstrate an alternative to the cull policy which has so far killed 68,000 badgers over the last few years across England.

The Trust – which manages 30 nature reserves across the Avon region – is initially vaccinating badgers at one woodland site but aims to roll out an extensive programme of vaccination over the next four years, working with farmers and landowners to jointly find a way to control the risks of bovine TB. The charity is launching a fundraising campaign to pay for the vaccines, equipment and training needed to continue protecting badgers through this work and needs to raise at least £20,000 to cover the programme.

Unlike large parts of England including the rest of the South West, culling has so far not taken place in Avon but it’s possible that culling licences may be issued by DEFRA in the future which would mean thousands of wild badgers being killed.  Avon Wildlife Trust remains opposed to the policy of culling badgers, believing that vaccination provides a viable, cost effective and long-term alternative to control the spread of bovine TB.

The disease is spread in several ways, primarily through contact between cows, but there is the potential for it to move through badger populations and so vaccination of badgers is an important part of the range of measures necessary to control bovine TB, alongside improved cattle testing and biosecurity on farms, and long-term investment in a cattle vaccine. 

Ian Barrett, Avon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive, said:

“Bovine TB has a devastating effect on farmers and their livelihoods, and the badger vaccination work we’re beginning is about finding a way of managing the disease which avoids the needless culling of wild animals. We’re starting this summer with a small-scale pilot and will then be able to share our knowledge and encourage other landowners across our region to protect more of Avon’s badgers from bovine TB.

Badger vaccination is successfully happening in many other areas, led by Wildlife Trusts working with landowners and farmers and we’re determined to play our part in reducing the spread of this disease, whilst ensuring that our native wild badger population can thrive. We know how strongly our members and supporters feel about the charismatic badger and its place here in our region and are grateful for everyone who supports our appeal and helps us continue our vaccination work.”

Simon King OBE, Avon Wildlife Trust President, said:

“We need to act now to save our badgers and Avon Wildlife Trust’s badger vaccination programme is an important first step to winning both hearts and minds on this complex and distressing issue. It’s a cost-effective way to tackle bovine TB in badgers and I would urge everyone to support this appeal.”

Avon Wildlife Trust staff are working alongside trained volunteers from Somerset Badger Group who have a license to carry out the trapping and vaccinating of badger adults and cubs.  The animals are handled gently and carefully and once vaccinated are released back into the wild.

Farmers and landowners who are interested in discussing how they might get involved in future vaccination can get in touch at badgers@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk. Donations to the Save Our Badgers appeal can be made at www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/saveourbadgers

ENDS –

Notes to Editors:

For more information

Naomi Fuller – Communications & Media Manager, Avon Wildlife Trust
T: 0117 917 7278 mobile 07458 091433
E: naomi.fuller@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk

  1. Avon Wildlife Trust

Avon Wildlife Trust is the largest local charity working to protect wildlife and inspire people in the West of England area – with the support of 18,000 members, 1,500 volunteers and corporate support.  The Trust cares for 30 nature reserves - from ancient bluebell woods to Iron Age forts, nationally important wetlands, and wildflower meadows. It also runs award-winning educational and community programmes and works with landowners in the wider countryside to reduce the decline in wildlife by creating connected landscapes.

www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk 

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