Yes, you can. You can vaccinate badgers now and people are. Wales is vaccinating and so are UK farmers, including farmers in the cull zone. We don't believe that btb is self-sustaining in the badger population. However vaccinating badgers should help protect them from cattle-to-badger infection. After ten years of culling badgers in the UK, based on figures from DEFRA and a proper reading of the RBCT (Randomised Badger Cull Trial) report as opposed to cherry-picking, it can be seen that even the small drop of 16 per cent in infection claimed by advocates of the cull is not a real expectation.
Well, that’s not true. In New Zealand, they have used oral vaccines and they work as they do here. Trinity University are working on this, but safety tests are being carried out. It doesn’t dissolve in the stomach and is as effective as the injectable vaccine. However, the University is not allowed to talk to us.
Eamonn Gormley a senior research associate at Trinity University in Ireland has an impressive background (46) and led the research at University College Dublin's school of agriculture. He said: "Our study has shown that oral vaccination can be effective in badgers and that it does work” (44). The oral vaccine works and is currently going through safety tests with the VMD at AVHLA in Weybridge. Oral vaccines will be ready by 2015 so we can vaccinate through injections now and use oral vaccines in 18 months time. The issue with the vaccine is the bait itself and it is unlikely to be used on a bigger scale. it is also too costly.
There was no intention to collect any data or science from these trials. If the culling is rolled out across the ten initial cull zones, 130,000 badgers will die. If the cull is rolled out across the country in 2015, the bill for taxpayers will reach in excess of £50 million; as costs soar once culling actually starts. Not only that, but if this year’s cull does go ahead, it will undoubtedly exacerbate the problem; bTB won’t be eradicated from farms, and as the RBCT clearly stated, culling increases the incidence of the disease in badgers. The project is surely not viable on any level.
Shooting badgers is a complex procedure, and the fact that they’re low-slung creatures means that bullets with a trajectory of one mile must be used. Arrangements for the cull require the shooting to take place at night, which cannot be either safe (for local residents, for example) or effective, given the reduced visibility. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) sets out best practice guidelines on night time shooting and these are included in the following guidance, “As a matter of courtesy, inform local residents who you are and where you will be shooting, together with your approximate starting and finishing times”, http://www.basc.org.uk/en/codes-of-practice/lamping.cfm.
If you do agree with this terms then that is even more reason not to cull. Given that the disease cannot be contained, a cull will inevitably only spread the infection over a wider area and outside the cull zone. This is known as perturbation. The effect on farmers in the perturbation zone will see a bTB increase by 29%. The perturbation can only be prevented by hard boundaries and short culling periods.
Stricter measures to prevent cows from spreading bTB to other cows are the only way to combat the disease effectively. As a result of stringent practices put in place in the 1960s, the disease was virtually eradicated in England. The EU has contributed £32 million to the UK to combat TB in cattle, but doesn’t give funds for badger culling: “The Commission provides substantial financial support (5) to the approved UK bovine TB eradication programme. For 2012, €31.2 million was allocated to implement a rapid eradication strategy. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers” (5).
Lord Krebs who oversaw the RBCT has argued, “The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case.” The following letter, written by David Heath, clearly states that this is "not a scientific trial" and talks of "judgements calls" There is no intention to serve science here just policy.
Given that badgers don’t generally travel by bus or lorry, and rarely cover long distances on foot, the widespread and frequent movement of cattle provides a much more convincing explanation for the spread of bTB in the UK. The map below shows the pattern over a 20-year period. The spread across the country mirrors exactly the increase in intensive farming. Just like humans, cattle under stress become sick, and crowded conditions make the spread of a disease common place.
In the 1960s, farming in England was experiencing a serious outbreak of Bovine TB but through careful cattle management, strict biosecurity and stringent animal testing, the proportion of cattle reacting to the TB tests reduced by a factor of four in just five years. For the next 20 years, bTB in cattle was brought under control and kept in check with very few cattle suffering an infection. During the 1980s, following a marked relaxation of cattle testing and movement controls, the situation began to change for the worse.
Bovine TB was again on the increase and to make matters worse the arrival of 2001 brought with it the worst outbreak of foot and mouth the country had ever seen. With over 6 million animals slaughtered, farmers were forced to restock with cattle, most of which came from abroad.
Every year the UK’s farming industry sends 350,000 cattle for premature slaughter, most of which are suffering from illnesses that are easily treatable and preventable. Only 25,000 of these, or 1 in 14, are suffering from bTB. Intensive dairy farming, in which cows never graze in the fields, has not surprisingly, resulted in an increase in mastitis and lameness. Cows’ hooves, like those of horses, are unsuited to harsh concrete, and even lame cows that are unable to move, are often milked lying on their sides for the sake of profit. Dairy farming has changed beyond all recognition and is now a highly intensive industry.
Given that cows are held in crowded sheds where they suffer from severe stress when family groups are broken, it is little wonder that bTB is prevalent. Cows now produce ten times more milk than 20 years ago and are often milked for more than 6 hours a day. Inbreeding is used to increase productivity, and when their yield falls they’re slaughtered.
Of course, that isn’t true – and you don’t need to travel very far to see some strong evidence against it. In 1938, we slaughtered 47,476 cattle with bTB here in England; in 1979, the total was just 628, without any culling of the wildlife population. An outbreak in North West England in the 1970s was also eliminated in the cattle without harming wildlife. If badgers were a reservoir this would not have been possible. Badgers seem to be dead end host.
Bovine TB does not represent a threat to the human population in the UK. Cattle infected with bTB enter our food chain every day and we eat cattle that were infected and we drink milk that had bob in it. More than 22% of all new cases remain undetected until the animal is slaughtered (77) meaning the milk already produced from this animal is in the food chain. Due to pasteurisation it is not threat to human health. If only a few lesions are found, the meat is considered fit for human consumption meaning it is infected and will enter the food chain. The government receives around £10 million a year by selling bTB contaminated meat into the human food chain.