Badgers & Bovine TB

Providing an informed and balanced view to avoid the indiscriminate culling of this protected species.

The USPCA does not support the culling of healthy badgers to tackle Bovine tuberculosis.

The USPCA recognises the trauma and suffering caused at a basic human level on farms affected by bovine TB not to mention the cost – £40m per year spent in tackling the disease and so Northern Ireland needs a new  but more importantly – an effective strategy to eradicate the disease.

The debate around a badger cull is almost a side show in terms of meaningfully addressing the problem of the disease. There are bigger and more impactful issues to be looked at such as the inadequacy of the current testing regime, which is leaving undetected infectious animals on farms, leading to a continuous spiral of further infection. That is what has to be addressed.

Badgers only live for 3-5 years so vaccination would quickly break the population transmission cycle. This would be a much more progressive, humane and effective approach. We believe that this approach, combined with enhanced cattle testing, could be the basis of an effective and acceptable strategy to reduce the prevalence of bovine TB in both cattle and badgers.

A recent collaborative project at Gatcombe Farm in Devon has demonstrated that bovine TB can be eradicated in a herd without resorting to badger culling. Dick Sibley, a private vet, has been pioneering enhanced testing using the novel Actiphage test. The herd in question is now clear of TB and this approach is being adopted by farmers in Wales.

Actiphage is already licensed for use in England and Wales and the USPCA would urge DAERA to make this available to farmers in Northern Ireland. Moreover, the Gatcombe approach presents an opportunity for DAERA to address the reservoir of infection in herds currently undetected by existing tests.

The USPCA calls for:

Enhanced Cattle Testing: To tackle the undetected reservoir of the disease in infected herds.

Improved Biosecurity: All possible measures should be pursued to prevent disease transmission on-farm.

Badger vaccination: Support the use of injectable badger BCG vaccine whilst continuing development of an oral badger vaccine.

We oppose badger culling and will continue to champion an effective bovine TB strategy built on robust evidence and not assumptions or prejudice.

We would remind everyone that badgers remain a protected species and that willfully or recklessly harming badgers or their setts is a criminal offence.