Badger Vaccination

Badger Vaccination

European badger (Meles meles) cub staring, Summer, Dorset, United Kingdom - Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

85 badgers vaccinated
200 hectares covered
5 years of hard work
3 new county culls proposed

Badger Vaccination

Leicestershire could be one of the next counties in the UK that face badger culling. We don't want to see that happen.

In order to prevent this, we have worked with partners to vaccinate badgers against bTB in two strategic areas of Leicestershire from 2013 until 2019 to help contribute to the local control of bovine TB by creating immunity in a population of local badgers. 

Since the 1980s, bTB has been progressing north-east across the UK, from initial infections of cattle in the south-west. Our scheme is part of a programme partially funded by DEFRA, targeting badger populations on the leading edge of the disease. This has helped fund projects in this ‘edge’ area, including in Leicestershire, Rutland and Nottinghamshire. Over the course of five years of vaccination work, we vaccinated a total of 85 badgers across two areas of north Leicestershire and within the Charnwood Forest.

We believe that vaccination is a more humane, cost-effective and practical solution to controlling bTB in badgers than culling, and our project sits alongside sister projects in the UK, known as the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme. We will not allow badger culling on our land and remain firmly opposed to the Badger Cull.
Tim Graham
CEO, LRWT
Badger Vaccination (c) Tom Marshall

Badger Vaccination (c) Tom Marshall

Badgers, bTB and the Badger Cull

Find out more about the cull and what we're doing to stop the spread of bTB.

What is bTB?

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a highly infectious disease of cattle which devastates thousands of farming businesses annually. Since the mid-1980s, the incidence of bTB in cattle has increased substantially creating an economic burden on the taxpayer and the farming industry, as infected cattle must be culled.

Government research shows that TB is not a major cause of death in badgers. Generally, infected badgers do not show any sign of infection and can survive for many years before suffering from severe emaciation.

The disease may be transmitted between animals through saliva, urine and faecal excretions on grass, soil and in water. Cattle-to-cattle transmission remains the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB in cattle. Badgers also suffer from TB and are able to transmit the disease to cattle however 94% of bovine TB in cattle is estimated to come from other herds. Controlling cattle-to-cattle transmission is likely to have a much bigger impact than controlling badger-to-cattle transmission.

The Badger Cull

Badgers are being culled as part of a Government initiative to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle. Pilot badger culls commenced in Gloucester and Somerset in 2013 amid much opposition.

As of 2019, there are 32 cull zones across England, including across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset and Cheshire. 

The Wildlife Trusts firmly believe that culling badgers is not the answer to the fight against bTB.  A study found that only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers.  The scientific evidence demonstrates that culling is likely to be ineffective in fighting the disease and, worse still, risks making the problem even worse.

More than 300,000 people supported a petition opposing the cull. An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was appointed by Defra to assess the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the 2013 culls. The panel deemed the culls 'ineffective' and 'inhumane' in 2013, with no significant improvement - and further failures - in 2014. 

Despite two parliamentary debates, a prominent opposition campaign and the support of numerous experts and high profile figures, the number of areas has increased year on year. In September 2017 the Government announced the cull will be rolled out to 11 new areas, and they authorised two new supplementary licenses in Gloucestershire and Somerset. This brings the total number of badger cull areas to 21. 

For further information please click here for FAQ’s about badger culling.

Why are you vaccinating badgers?

As owners of cattle ourselves for conservation grazing purposes, we are very conscious of the hardship that bovine TB causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.

However, we believe that a badger cull is not the answer. This is a cattle problem, not a badger problem. The control of bTB in cattle should be the main focus of everyone’s efforts to control this disease. The evidence shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of TB in cattle, cattle-to-cattle contact is.

Efforts to control bTB need to shift away from badgers, however the vaccination of badgers has an important role to play. Badger vaccination has the potential to reduce badger-to-cattle transmission by lowering the occurrence of infection on the badger population.

Badger vaccination involves adult badgers and cubs being humanely trapped and vaccinated by trained and licensed people. Vaccination does not remove infected badgers, but it does reduce their ability to infect other badgers, (which will also be protected by the vaccine). Over time, the infected animals will eventually die off, and the prevalence of infection will be expected to decline.

Badger BCG vaccine alone is not the solution to bovine TB, but it does have an immediate effect with no known negative impact other than cost. We believe that our vaccination programme has made a worthwhile contribution towards finding a solution to a serious animal disease problem. We will continue to support our colleagues at the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust who will be undertaking vaccination until at least 2022 in a 50km2 strategic area of South Nottinghamshire and North Leicestershire. Click here for more information. 

How effective is vaccination?

In a clinical trial, the vaccine reduced the risk of vaccinated badgers testing positive for progressed infection by 76% and reduced the risk of testing positive to any of the available live tests of infection by 54%. The trial also found that when more than a third of the badger social group was vaccinated it even protected unvaccinated cubs – their risk of infection reduced by 79%.

Badger vaccination alone is not the solution to bTB, but it does have an immediate positive effect with no known associated negative impact on badgers or cattle.

You can read a review of the evidence here.

How else can we stop bTB?

We believe tackling the disease should include the following measures

  • Better biosecurity: all possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm
  • Stricter movement controls: to minimise the risk of spreading disease when cattle are transported
  • Improved TB testing: to increase detection of the disease - currently, many infected cattle are missed
  • Badger vaccination: support landowners to use the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine and continue development of an oral badger vaccine. Vaccination project are currently on hold due to a global shortage of BCG vaccine.
  • Cattle vaccination: complete development of a cattle vaccine and secure changes to EU regulation to permit its commercial deployment
83% of badgers culled in government trials 2002-2005 tested TB free.
Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, June 2007

Find out more