Shropshire wildlife and badger groups call for urgent action on bovine TB

By Lucy Todman | Farming | Published: | Last Updated:

Two conservation groups are calling for humane action to be taken to tackle the spread of bovine tuberculosis in Shropshire.

Incidence of bovine TB in parts of Great Britain has increased substantially over the last 20 years and costs the UK millions of pounds every year.

Now Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Shropshire Badger Group want the Government to recognise the hardship that it causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.

But the groups believe that a badger cull is not the answer, instead the Government should put biosecurity and vaccination at the centre of efforts to tackle this disease rather than a badger cull.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust is calling on the Government to pursue cattle vaccine, biosecurity and badger vaccination as a matter of urgency.

A wildlife trust spokesman said: "We are calling for the Government to support landowners to use the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine. In 2012 we started a five-year programme of badger vaccination on one of our nature reserves in the north of the county.

"We are also working with Cheshire Wildlife Trust to deploy the vaccine strategically over large areas of land. Gloucestershire and Somerset Wildlife Trusts will vaccinate badgers on their nature reserves within the pilot cull areas of West Gloucestershire and West Somerset. We also urge Defra to continue development of an oral badger vaccine.

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A statement on behalf of the Shropshire Badger Group said: “It has never been proved that badgers can even transmit TB to cattle in the first place.

"The cull was first introduced in south-west England against the advice of all leading independent scientific experts, and after five years it has cost taxpayers around £50 million with no proof of any disease control benefit whatsoever.

“Until last year no culled badgers had even been tested to check whether they even had TB, and 85 per cent of the 944 badgers finally tested in 2017 were clear of the disease, with fewer than four per cent of them actually infectious. Culling activities have been poorly monitored by Natural England, and requests for detailed information from NE and Defra have been refused despite directives to the contrary from the Information Commissioner.

“One in five cattle in herds with TB breakdowns are missed by the current antiquated and unreliable bTB test and they continue to pass on the infection. It beggars belief that the current regulations allow farmers to spread potentially TB-infected cattle slurry and TB-infected milk waste onto their own cattle grazing land, thus revealing shockingly lax attention to biosecurity."

The groups are urging people to contact their MP and say that they value nature and badgers and that want the cull halted and ask them to continue to put pressure on the Government to scrap their cull plans and prioritise badger vaccination.

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.


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