Research commissioned to assess Bovine TB Badger Vaccine Deployment Project

A major social science study to accompany the Government’s Bovine TB Badger Vaccine Deployment Project (BVDP), due to be launched this summer [2010], will be led by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), a collaboration between the University of Gloucestershire, the University of the West of England, Royal Agricultural College and Hartpury College.

The research will be carried out in collaboration with Exeter and Cardiff Universities, Drew Associates Limited, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

The social science study has been funded for four years in the first instance and will assess the level of farmer confidence in the use of vaccination before, during and after vaccine deployment. It will also identify motivators and barriers that could influence the future use of TB vaccines. The research is being funded with a grant of just over £630,000 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Bovine TB is a complex animal disease affecting farmed cattle and badgers. The disease can seriously affect the livelihood of farmers, both in terms of the economics of livestock production and increased stress levels brought about by TB testing and the potential farm business impacts the disease might have. In England, vaccination of either cattle and/or wildlife is an important long-term policy to help reduce the impact of bovine TB. Defra is funding a project to vaccinate badgers against bovine TB. The aim of the BVDP is to vaccinate badgers in six different locations with high incidence of bovine TB. Farms representing an equivalent of 100km2 will be recruited in each area. The areas chosen for the vaccination project are in Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Devon.

Dr Damian Maye (CCRI) is leading the major social science study that will accompany the BVDP.

Dr Maye says, "The bovine TB problem is seriously affecting the livestock industry and there are a lot of strong views amongst the farming community on the issue of bovine TB and whether culling or vaccination is the best way forward.

"We will begin with a baseline study of 75 farmers in eight separate areas before the vaccine is rolled out this summer, asking farmers their views on vaccination as a means of dealing with bovine TB. Once the programme is underway we will carry out qualitative work with smaller groups of farmers, vets and Animal Health Officers in each area to ask them how they have found the process and whether their views have changed over time and why.

"Over the life of the project we will be able to build up a picture of attitudes which may affect farmers’ future use of bovine TB vaccines and what lessons can be learned and practical know-how developed to inform the future use of (injectable and oral) badger vaccines.

"This is a fascinating piece of longitudinal social science research. It has real academic value and will be useful to both the farming industry and to policy makers."