PRESS RELEASE BY SHROPSHIRE BADGER GROUP
1st May 2015
Building on the significant successes achieved last autumn in their project to vaccinate local badgers against bovine tuberculosis (bTB), Shropshire Badger Group are pleased to announce that they will shortly start the second round of annual badger vaccinations for the seven Shropshire farmers who last year seized the chance to have the badgers on their land vaccinated completely free of charge. The Group now have five fully qualified and licensed vaccinators and anticipate that a sixth will qualify shortly. This will enable them to operate as two teams, allowing more time at each location. Surveying begins this weekend, and the process will continue throughout the next couple of months.
Top scientists conclude that badgers play only a very minor part in the transmission of bovine TB, with a recent radio tracking experiment showing that badgers and cattle actually prefer to avoid each other. But vaccination as a disease control measure in both animals and human populations is a tried and tested procedure. Shropshire Badger Group therefore believe that their badger vaccination approach offers a positive and measured response to a relatively limited problem, in place of the now discredited government cull which has indiscriminately killed many perfectly healthy badgers that would otherwise have boosted overall immunity in the badger population to the cattle disease.
Recent comments by politicians and by a farmer and vet from Gloucestershire, claiming a 28% reduction in bTB in the culling areas, need to be considered alongside the same level of reduction across most of the rest of England, where there has been no culling but where new and improved cattle testing and cattle movement controls have been introduced, as they have in the culling trial areas. The Government chief scientist has himself said that the drop in infection levels could not be due to badger culling.
A spokesman for Shropshire Badger Group explained:
“Having got off to an encouraging start at the end of 2014, this will be the second phase of our 4-year vaccination scheme to protect Shropshire badgers from the threat of cattle TB. Since the vaccinated badgers will pass on the immunity to their cubs, we only need to vaccinate 50% of a badger family to achieve this scientifically proven clan immunity effect.
“We are also delighted that for 2015 a further two locations have been added to our list of free badger vaccination sites, making a total of nine sites.
“As an entirely self-funding small local charity, we welcome any offers of financial or practical help from businesses and members of the public in order to further our objectives. For more information please leave a message on our helpline: 01743 271999, or use the contact form on our website: www.shropshirebadgergroup.co.uk. “
Scientists have reported creating the first cattle resistant to TB using genetic engineering. Reported in the Guardian on 3rd March and on the Guardian website, the development could pave the way for farm animals that are genetically modified to be resistant to disease.
The cattle in the study, carried out in China, introduced a mouse gene known to protect against TB. The cattle carrying the protective gene, along with control cattle, were then housed with infected animals, and the GM cattle were much less likely to contract the disease.
The study is reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Obviously there is a long way to go before this might solve the bovine TB problem in Britain, but one promising feature of the research shows that the resistance is passed to offspring, suggesting that it could be introduced within one generation.
Professor Mike Coffey, a livestock expert at Scotland's Rural College, said: “This doesn't produce completely TB-resistant cows, but the aim is to raise the general resistance. This would slow down any spread of the disease and slowly reduce the national level in herds.”
You can read the full story here.
Shropshire Badger Group will be carrying out a second year of badger vaccination in 2015 after it launched a programme in 2014 to encourage local farmers to participate in a bTB vaccination scheme.
SBG was contacted by several farmers last year who joined up to the free vaccination scheme. Only a small sample of badgers were successfully vaccinated last year, but it is hoped that the experience gained by all the volunteers and trained vaccinators during the first year will contribute to a much more successful rate of vaccination in 2015.
At the launch of the scheme, SBG chairman issued a press release, part of which is reproduced here:
"The Shropshire Badger Group wants to reaffirm its support for badger vaccination as a very effective method of dealing with bovine TB within the badger population, in which all the surveys show that the level of disease is actually quite low.
"Vaccination is a highly successful and proven method of dealing with disease in both animal and human populations and we have every confidence in the extensive trials of the BCG vaccine at the Government Research Station in Gloucestershire as well as gathering the evidence from the Welsh vaccination project, as well as experience from our own and Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s involvement in vaccination projects within Shropshire.
"We are well aware that bovine TB is a very difficult problem within the farming industry and so, as a gesture of our desire to help and support farmers in dealing with this problem, we intend to demonstrate our confidence in badger vaccination by offering full four-year vaccination schemes to the first six Shropshire farmers to contact us; totally free of charge.
"For any applications beyond the first six, we will provide all the preparatory work without charge and, if we can find further funding, then we will continue with the totally free schemes."
Jim Ashley, Chairman
Many of you will have already seen the news in the Shropshire Star the other day that a couple in Priest Weston, Shropshire, are under investigation for suspected crimes against badgers.
A dawn police raid found unlicensed guns at the premises, and dogs with injuries consistent with them having been used for badger baiting.
As we all know, the dogs suffer in these fights as well as the badgers, and no doubt would not receive proper veterinary treatment for their injuries. And of course, goodness knows what happened to the badgers involved.
It is, sadly, a reminder that this kind of practice is still happening on our doorstep, and we must all be vigilant.
If you missed it, you can read the full story here.
Information on how to deal with an injured badger or suspected crime is also available on our site: http://www.shropshirebadgergroup.co.uk/index.php/advice-to-public
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