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Charity’s Badger Vaccination Scheme Resumes in Shropshire

Shropshire Badger Group have recently kick-started their programme to inject badgers on farms around the county with the BCG vaccine against the threat of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Volunteers from the Group, which is a registered charity, began their 4-year scheme late in 2014, and were able to vaccinate over forty Shropshire badgers during 2015. However, they were forced to suspend their initiative last year due to a worldwide shortage of the TB vaccine.

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Photograph: T. Pearce

The resumption of vaccination this year has only been possible thanks to the lead taken by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, whose chairman Dr Sue Mayer, herself a veterinary surgeon, has managed to arrange the direct importation of stocks of the InterVax TB vaccine from Canada. This is the same vaccine that was used successfully to inject badgers in the Irish Republic in 2016. The government department DEFRA has announced that its own vaccination programme, in the so-called cattle TB ‘edge areas’ of England, will start again in 2018. However, Shropshire is classed as a ‘high-risk area’ for bTB and there has been neither any government funding nor any government-led initiative for badger vaccination here.

Shropshire Badger Group’s scheme is being delivered free of charge by volunteer members comprising two teams of government-trained and licensed vaccinators and their helpers. The ten farmers who initially enrolled have since been joined by a further farmer who approached the Group with a request to join the scheme.

Although around 91 percent of cattle farms in Shropshire are bTB-free, there is huge alarm among wildlife groups, scientists and conservationists that present government disease control policy could mean an extension of badger culling to Shropshire as early as next year. Badgers are protected by law from persecution; it is a criminal offence to harm them or damage the setts where they live. An exception to the laws protecting badgers can only be granted under special government licence in very restricted and regulated zones, currently in certain small areas of south-west England.

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Photograph: T Pearce

In 2017 the vaccination scheme will cost Shropshire Badger Group over £3000. In just the past few days the Group has managed to inject 12 badgers on two geographically and commercially separate cattle farms.

Anyone interested in learning more about the scheme is invited to check out our Facebook page, or Twitter account @shropsbadgers, or to contact Shropshire Badger Group via their helpline on 01743 271999.


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