Irish Badger Culls & Tuberculosis
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) have discussed the huge economic cost that Bovine TB imposes on the Irish economy every year – particularly for the Irish farming industry. The IWT have stated that in 2012 alone, the Irish government had spent close to €3,400,000 of the public taxpayers money on the control of Bovine TB in Ireland. The control measures of which this money was allocated to included culling of the badger species and vaccination as well as control on cattle herds. Badgers are a species that are known to be carriers of the TB disease. In addition, cattle are severely affected by Bovine TB in Ireland.
A large amount of controversy has surrounded this topic as it was initially thought that badgers were responsible for the transmission of the disease to cattle herds on farmland, which incidentally led to culling practices being promoted as the method of management across the country for this disease. However to date there has been no scientific evidence that states that badgers have the ability to transmit the disease to cattle.
In recent years, management strategies for this disease have moved towards vaccination rather than culling as a control method for badgers. The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) have campaigned for an immediate stop to badger culling, backed by research and evidence that culling in the long-term is not effective and threatens the protected badger populations on the island.
Badgers are currently protected under the Wildlife Act 1976, the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 and under Appendix III of the Berne Convention.
The IWT have presented the following statements on their website for their ‘Stop Badger Culling’ Campaign:
- 96,000 badgers have been killed by the Irish Government since 1984
- 6,000 snares are set in Ireland every night
- €70 million of citizen’s money has been allocated to the disease eradication programme in 2011 alone.
- €3.4 million was spent directly in 2012 killing 7000 badgers to reduce the national bTB figure by 55 cows
- Badgers are a protected species by Irish and European law.
The IWT have stated on their website that:
“The IWT wants this practice to stop immediately. It is cruel, wasteful and damages Ireland’s reputation for its ‘green island economy’. We recognise that bovine TB is a major problem for Irish farmers but it also must be recognised that culling does not work.
Resources should be focused on a national vaccination programme. Faulty science and politically driven motives should not be used as excuses for slaughtering our wildlife.“
Badger Vaccination & the DAFM
The practice of badger culling across Ireland has been a highly controversial topic over the last three decades. This controversy stems from mixed public and professional opinions on the practice regarding ethical, ecological and epidemiological considerations.
From recent events and statements made by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, it is looking as though this controversial practice will soon cease to be an option for the management of Tuberculosis in this species.
The decisions and statements made by Minister Michael Creed results from the recent publication of a research project that was carried out in Co. Kilkenny. The research project involved the administration of an oral vaccine to badgers within the Kilkenny region in order to determine how effective the vaccine is against bovine TB on a large-scale field trial.
Now Minister Michael Creed has stated that the results of this trial have been very positive and have illustrated the effectiveness of an oral vaccination as a protection for Irish badgers. The Minister has stated that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are hoping to carry out a full-scale badger vaccination strategy across Ireland as part of the ‘Bovine TB eradication programme‘. Further large-scale trials are operating within six different locations across the island. These trials involve the administration of BCG vaccinations (via injections) for hundreds of badgers.
It is expected that these trials will continue throughout the next 3-4 years. In addition to administering vaccines to badgers, cattle populations in these chosen locations will be monitored in order to assess the potential impact the vaccine may have on Bovine TB incidence in cattle herds.
The Minister has stated that in the case that the vaccinated badgers will present an outcome of an equal or better measure for the current badger management strategy (culling), vaccinations will become the control measure for TB incidence in Irish badger populations.
The Minister has stated that at present in Ireland the only TB vaccine that is licensed is for the purpose of administration to humans. He has also stated that before an oral vaccination can be administered to all badgers across Ireland, the vaccine (that would potentially contain live BCG) would first need to be licensed as a veterinary medicine where it would need to be authorised by regulatory bodies. The first available results for these tests are expected in 2018.
Other online sources for this news story can be found at the following:
- The Irish Independent
- The Irish Wildlife Trust
- The Kilkenny People
- The Connaught Telegraph
- The IWT’s Stop Badger Culling Campaign