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Vaccination plans for badgers in Shropshire

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Badgers are to be vaccinated against tuberculosis at a secret location in north Shropshire as part of a trial by conservationists.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust has allowed the five-year trial to take place at one of its nature reserves in a bid to show that badger vaccination can successfully control the spread of the disease, which can spread to cattle, without the need for a controversial extensive cull.

Farmers say bovine TB is the biggest threat to the beef and dairy industries and they blame badgers for spreading the disease.

Shropshire conservationists have joined forces with Cheshire Wildlife Trust, which is running a simultaneous trial at a second site in south Cheshire.

Officials said they were not disclosing the locations until the trial was completed, but hoped to demonstrate that badger vaccin- ation was a more effective and humane way of controlling the spread of TB betwe- en wildlife and livestock.

It comes after the Government announced earlier this month that a trial cull of thousands of badgers would go ahead in Gloucestershire and Somerset following an unsuccessful legal challenge from wildlife supporters.

Helen Trotman, trust spokeswoman, said about 40 traps were being laid across the two sites, and trapped badgers would be inoculated with a commercially-available badger BCG vaccine before being released.

She said: "At the end of five years, we hope to have a good level of immunity within the badger population. By reducing TB in badgers we would be reducing the risk of transmission to cattle.

"The trust realises that something has to be done about TB and we are committed to working with landowners and farmers to show there are viable alternatives to a cull."

She added the first phase of the trial could be completed by next month.

If the trial cull is deemed successful, the Government said it could be rolled out across England in future.

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