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Vaccination is the only viable solution

This is an article for House Magazine

In their report on progress to develop a vaccine solution for bovine TB, the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee warned that vaccination is expensive and offers no guarantee of protection.

To a large extent they are right but compared to all the other solutions, especially that adopted in England, vaccination combined with proper cattle control measures is the only viable long term alternative.

I still find it difficult to believe that any responsible Government minister could conceive of a cull method that involves free-shooting marksmen targeting unsecured badgers at night. 

There is no guarantee that a clean kill can be taken every time, leaving the possibility of badly wounded animals crawling away to die in pain. When you throw in the likelihood of protestors on the scene it seems that we are facing an accident waiting to happen. 

The Government are seeking to cull 70% of the badgers in any one area but they have no idea how many of this protected species are in any one place at any one time. That means that there is a real danger that they could illegally wipe out every badger in the cull zones. 

They are acting in defiance of scientific opinion. The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, after nine years of research concluded that "badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain". Rather than suppressing the disease, killing badgers appears to spread it.

Badgers are not the only animal that can spread bovine TB. Farm cats can pass on the disease for example as can a number of other animals. It is correct that a vaccine cannot cure a badger with the disease but equally the remaining animals after a cull could also be infected. The difference is that these badgers will be fleeing the scene and spreading the infection. Vaccinated badgers cannot catch the disease, survivors of a cull can.

The Government's problem is that they are trying to tackle this disease on the cheap. If they do not commit the resources now then they will not eliminate the problem.

In Wales we are vaccinating. That work will help to develop sustainable solutions to bovine TB. England should do the same so as to contribute to this research. The time has come to put vested interests to one side and do what is right.

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