Bovine TB: Record year for badger vaccinations in Cornwall

251 badgers vaccinated during the season, which runs from May to November, according to figures by ZSL
251 badgers vaccinated during the season, which runs from May to November, according to figures by ZSL

Over 250 badgers have been vaccinated against bovine TB in Cornwall this year, making it the most successful season to date.

New figures published on Friday (25 November) reveal that in total more than 800 badger vaccinations have been carried out locally in the last four years.

An area of vaccination has started around the River Cober near Helston, adding to established vaccination programmes in Penwith and mid-Cornwall.

Badger vaccination is being carried out in a bid to reduce the spread of bTB in cattle, a disease which has had a huge impact on livestock farmers in the region.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have taken samples from most of the badgers caught to monitor bTB infection in the population over time as the vaccination work progresses.

The expectation is that vaccination will reduce bTB in badger populations and have a knock-on, beneficial effect on bTB in cattle.

The vaccination programmes come as the government recently announced the extension of the badger cull to eleven new zones in England's high risk and edge areas, including two new zones in Cornwall.

But Rosie Woodroffe, professor at ZSL and lead for the Cornwall Badger Project, said that, overall, Defra policy was pivoting away from culling and toward badger vaccination.

“Scientists have predicted that vaccinating [badgers] could help to eradicate bTB, when combined with controls aimed at cattle," she said.

“The on-the-ground evidence that we are gathering should help landowners across the country to decide whether to follow the lead.”

Elsewhere, the established mid-Cornwall project, which has been running for four years, has delivered over 200 badger vaccinations in total.

Around 20 farmers in St Stephen, near St Austell, have been involved in the scheme, which was set up by the ZSL and Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2019.

Emma Ead, a dairy farmer involved in the project, said the vaccinations "appear to be working and we want to continue with them".

“For us, this disease is like a nightmare that never ends," she said, adding that the vaccinations had been a worthwhile investment for the farm.

"We’re particularly interested in the blood tests results, which will hopefully tell us more about the health of the badgers we have here on site."