Bovine TB: The £20 million Vaccine Project

UK - The UK government has announced that they will be making a £20 million investment in the development of a Bovine TB vaccine as the move for a badger cull is turned down.
calendar icon 8 July 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Photo: Defra

The cash is to be ploughed into developing a vaccine against TB for both cattle and badgers over the next three years.

Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, said that the decision was based on a wide range of evidence, including discussions with farming, veterinary, wildlife and conservation groups; the conclusions of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG); and the EFRA Select Committee Report.

He said: “Having listened carefully to a wide range of views from scientists, farming, veterinary and wildlife organisations, and many others, and having considered all the evidence, I have decided that while such a cull might work, it might also not work. It could end up making the disease worse if it was not sustained over time or delivered effectively, and public opposition, including the unwillingness of some landowners to take part, would render this more difficult.

“I do not think it would be right to take this risk. Therefore – and in line with the advice I have received from the Independent Scientific Group – our policy will be not to issue any licences to farmers to cull badgers for TB control, although we remain open to the possibility of revisiting this policy under exceptional circumstances, or if new scientific evidence were to become available.”

"I have decided that while such a cull might work, it might also not work. It could end up making the disease worse if it was not sustained over time or delivered effectively"
Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn

The National Beef Association (NBA) reassert that the door is not yet shut on badger culling. In a statement released yesterday, they said that they felt "let down by Defra Secretary of State, Hilary Benn".

“The Association remains acutely disappointed that no immediate action on badger culling will be taken but the formation of a new core group means that cattle farmers have still got a foot in Defra’s negotiating door and must seize the chance to make the most use of it,” NBA chairman, Duff Burrell, went on to say.

“NBA members in South West England have already put together a culling proposal covering 70 per cent of a 1400 square kilometer area which is bounded by coastal, river, and trunk road features and could immediately embark on an organised badger removal if government approved the applications for around 1,450 culling licences, so we are satisfied about our ability to deliver an effective culling programme.”

Dairy UK has also posted a negative response. They say that rising food production costs and falling milk production in the UK mean that Defra has to announce a policy that gives priority to creating robust and successful farm businesses.

"Government needs to avoid making short-term political decisions on issues such as Bovine TB which risk damaging farm businesses at a time of rising food prices. Ministers must now think really hard about the burdens they place on farmers, to ensure they are getting the balance right between production and regulation." A statement said.

However, Mr Benn insists that instead of a cull, effort should be put into strengthening Defra’s research programme to develop cattle and badger vaccines and maintaining cattle controls.

"Funding would also be provided to set up and run a deployment project to build confidence in the long term contribution badger vaccination could make to tackling bovine TB and to provide valuable information which could help move toward the long term goal of an oral badger vaccine."

Mr Benn said that everyone now needed to move forward in tackling the disease. The Government wants to work in partnership with the industry to decide how to do this. Defra will therefore be establishing a Bovine TB Partnership Group to develop a shared plan for tackling bovine TB.

Further Reading

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