The Northern Ireland Badger Group has said it remains opposed to a ‘pilot badger cull’ and says that cattle vaccination is the key to eradicating TB from local herds.
The Badger conservation group has affirmed support for five year test and vaccination project currently being undertaking in Northern Ireland.
A spokesperson stated: “The threat level remains high, fuelled by those who scapegoat badgers for the problem of TB in cattle. We recognise that bovine TB is a serious disease that brings hardship to the industry and farming families. However, the available evidence indicates that badgers do not play a significant role, if any, in herd breakdowns. Indeed current research in Ireland has failed to demonstrate any significant contact between badgers and cattle. It is a matter of record that not one actual herd breakdown has ever been conclusively proven to have been caused by badgers anywhere in these islands.
“So, what needs to be done? We need to increase our understanding of the dynamics of this disease in our environment. The link between badgers and cattle is uncertain. Both species get the same TB but the direction and route of transmission remain unknown. Indeed, Professor Sir John Bourne, Chair of the group that analysed the data from the most robust and most expensive culling trial in history holds the view that “Badger infections are following, not leading, TB infections in cattle”, the spokeperson continued.
“Significantly, the same Independent Scientific Group that reported on the British Randomised Badger Culling Trial concluded that “culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to the control of TB in cattle in Britain”.”
The spokesperson said this is why the Northern Ireland Badger Group opposes, and will continue to oppose, badger culling as part of any bovine TB strategy anywhere in these islands.
He added: “There is no credible evidence that the badger culling programmes in England or the Republic of Ireland have reduced TB in cattle. Both Northern Ireland and Wales have halved TB using cattle measures alone. TB continues to fall in Northern Ireland without the need to slaughter badgers.
“A range of measures will ensure healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. We, along with the other major conservation groups and industry stakeholders, give qualified support to the Northern Ireland TVR project. Although this may involve a very small number of confirmed TB-positive badgers being humanely euthanased, TVR remains primarily a vaccination-led project. All 280 badgers trapped in year one (last year) were vaccinated and any ‘new’ badgers in year two and beyond will also be vaccinated.
“Our record on culling is clear. To date, with the support of the Badger Trust, we have successfully foiled previous attempts to cull badgers in Northern Ireland. The Badger Group has long advocated an evidence-led bovine TB strategy in Ireland. We expect the TVR project to greatly inform our understanding of the dynamics of the disease and we have been transparent about our support for this initiative.
“Ultimately, bovine TB is a bovine disease requiring a bovine solution. There is broad agreement that cattle vaccination is the key to eradicating TB from our herds. Badger vaccination, which is already being realised by the TVR project, is a stepping stone to achieving this.”