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Friday, July 25, 2014

Government invites applicants for funding to vaccinate badgers in 11 English counties

Funding is available to vaccinate badgers in key areas
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has reopened its 2014 scheme to fund badger vaccination in selected English counties, in areas close to high-risk bovine TB (bTB) hotspots.
First launched in April, the take up then was slow, with many farmers in heavily infected areas being sceptical about the effectiveness of vaccination as it does not address disease in already infected badgers.
However, also planned is a new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) to be launched towards the end of the year, where the aim is to slow the onward spread of bTB from high risk areas, creating buffer zones to prevent the disease being carried out of the hotspots by sick badgers.
The move, welcomed by Care for the Wild and the Badger Trust, will fund the inoculation of badgers against the disease, and the training to administer the vaccine.
The government will be working with wildlife and farming groups to make the scheme work as a jointly funded, privately led project.
For any group to apply for the new funding their plan must, like the old scheme, involve two or more adjacent cattle farms in the Edge Area comprising Hampshire, East Sussex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire.
There will also be other criteria such as undertaking to vaccinate across a minimum area and for a minimum number of years, but these details are still to be finalised.
Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said: “It’s great to see the government pushing ahead with this scheme. Care for the Wild and the Badger Trust were helping evolve a similar plan a year or so ago so it’s fantastic that this has taken shape and is being given the full backing of DEFRA.”
The National Farmers’ Union has also welcomed the launch of the scheme, but it maintained that diseased badgers still needed to be culled in TB hotspot counties to get on top of the disease.
John Royle, NFU chief farm policy adviser, said: “We’ve always said that we would support the idea of vaccinating badgers in the Edge Area as one of the measures to help slow disease spread.
“However, in high-risk areas such as Somerset and Gloucestershire we still believe controlling the disease in wildlife remains a crucial element of tackling TB and remain confident that the pilot badger culls will help deliver a reduction of TB in cattle in those areas.”


Dan said...

Oh dear me, where to begin here?

Let us start with unfounded speculation. We know that badgers are highly territorial, and are very susceptible to bovine tuberculosis (bTB) infection; once infected most develop full-blown systemic tuberculosis quickly and die, but before they die they shed huge amounts of bTB bacteria. In other words, bTB ought to spread like wildfire in badger populations, and ought to wipe them out.

This doesn't seem to be the case, so what on earth might be going on? A clue comes from the fact that whilst dairy farms in the highly-infected hot zones do get regularly infected with TB, they do experience long periods without TB. Also, the recent cull found far fewer badgers than was anticipated.

This leads me to the speculation that bTB infection may well be a hell of a lot more dynamic than anyone thought, and that we might well have another reservoir of sorts in the mix.

Consider how badgers live. Lots of badgers, all in one big sett, all underground in 95% humidity during the day all in close proximity. Can you think of a better way to infect the whole lot with a disease transmitted by contact, vapour and surface contamination? I can't. So, as soon as a sett gets bTB in one badger, the whole lot of 'em ought to go down with it, barring maybe a few social outcasts in remote small setts.

So you go from no infection to a local flare-up, and then down to nothing again inside a year because that sett has croaked it. All's quiet, then as new badgers re-inhabit the sett the population builds up again, builds until they get wiped out by the next flare-up. The question then is, seeing how territorial badgers are, and seeing how the spoligotypes of bTB are so static geographically over time, where the hell is bTB ticking over after it has killed out all the susceptible local hosts?

To summarise, I think we may be in danger of missing something here. We know that badgers are a horribly effective bTB vector, and we know a thorough cull will stop the disease but the question remains: WHERE IS BOVINE TB ALSO BEING HARBOURED?

Syd said...

"I think we may be in danger of missing something here."
While I am not a zoologist, Biologist or any other sort of Ologist, I agree with Dan that the so called experts are missing something.

"We know that badgers are a horribly effective bTB vector"
Are we 100% certain of that. Scientists have made a great many very big mistakes before when claiming, certainty about various things. Thalidomide readily springs to mind when discussing the clear thinking and certainty of so called experts. As does the introduction of cane toads into Australia, American mink, Signal Crayfish, Grey Squirrels and Rose-ringed parakeets in Britain.

"and we know a thorough cull will stop the disease,"
Do we indeed. As I understand it, the recent badger cull which cost the British tax payers an estimated (from government figures) £7.3 MILLION was an abject FAILURE. Even with the very limited areas where the cull took place, the hunters failed miserably to murder anywhere near the numbers of these animals that the experts wanted killed. Culls of our wildlife are barbaric and totally unnecessary.

"but the question remains: WHERE IS BOVINE TB ALSO BEING HARBOURED?"
May I make the rather radical suggestion that the answer is in CATTLE.

In my opinion, it would be much easier, substantially cheaper and far more effective, to inoculate all Bovine's against this disease, than to even consider culling every badger (assuming that could physically be done,) in Britain, which I doubt would be possible.