The Government has today launched a badger vaccination scheme in ‘edge areas’ around the South West bovine TB hotspots.
Farming and wildlife groups will get up to half their costs met in running vaccination projects to create buffer zones in areas such as Oxfordshire and Hampshire.
It is hoped such zones will help to limit the spread of bovine TB across the country and are running hand in hand with badger culling and tighter movement restrictions.
In a written statement to the House of Commons, Liz Truss, the Secretary of State at Defra, said: “These areas are most at risk from the disease spreading from the South West and West Midlands. Vaccinating healthy badgers in this way is intended to help create a buffer zone to help prevent the spread of bovine TB to new areas of the country where the incidence of bTB is currently low.”
The package includes funding award of up to 50 per cent of long-term costs for vaccinating, vaccination advice from field experts, free loans of equipment such as traps, and free vaccine supply. Eligible vaccination projects need to be predominantly in the edge area, and must cover at least 15sq km.
The edge area includes all of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire, along with parts of Cheshire, Derbyshire, East Sussex, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.
Mrs Truss added: “I hope that wildlife and farming groups, many of whom have been closely involved in the development of this initiative, will seize this opportunity. I want to use annual badger vaccination, over wider areas than is currently carried out, to show that vaccination has a role to play in combatting this disease.
“This vaccination scheme is just one element of our strategy to eradicate bovine TB. This includes strict cattle movement controls and also culling in the high risk area, which overseas experience shows is vital to beating the disease.
“As part of our programme, we continue to take tough but necessary steps tightening and extending cattle controls. Since 30 June, cattle herds which graze our commons have been subject to additional pre-movement testing requirements.
“From October 1, we will be limiting further the number and type of movements that can happen without a pre-movement test and bringing an end to the practice of part of a herd coming out of TB restrictions before the rest of the herd has tested free of the disease.
“Culling continues to have a vital role to play in the high risk area and this year will see the second year of culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Tackling the disease in both cattle and wildlife has worked in Australia which is now TB free and Ireland and New Zealand, where incidence has been reduced. Leading vets support this approach.
“It is vital that we work to make Britain disease free – doing nothing is not an option. The measures we have in place together amount to a comprehensive strategy which includes controls on cattle movements and security, vaccination in the edge area and culling in those areas where the disease is rife.”