Ulster Wildlife expresses concern over badger cull plans

Ulster Wildlife has expressed concern about the strategy on bovine TB (bTB) eradication for Northern Ireland which was launched last week by the TB Strategic Partnership Group. This could see large numbers of healthy badgers culled within ten intervention areas across Northern Ireland.

Jennifer Fulton, Chief Executive with Ulster Wildlife said: “Bovine tuberculosis is a complex and costly disease and we are very conscious of the hardship that it causes the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control it.

“Although there is much to commend in the new long-term strategy, we are disappointed and concerned that the current test, vaccinate and removal methodology may not be fully rolled out in the intervention areas, and that a large number of healthy badgers may be culled unnecessarily.”

“While we welcome the vaccination of badgers around the target areas, which will help to provide a degree of protection to both adults and their young, the vast majority of science to date suggests that culling causes perturbation – dispersal of badgers - which could in turn further aggravate the spread of the disease.”

“The badger is a protected species under the Bern Convention and as such has legal protection. There is a range of different environmental assessments that will need to be undertaken during the consultation stage before any proposals are submitted to the Berne Committee within the European Commission.

“We will be considering the strategy in depth during the coming weeks and seeking the views of key scientists working in this field. We have also requested a meeting with the TB Strategic Partnership Group to highlight public concerns and to obtain further details about the proposed wildlife intervention approach.”

Download the Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland

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Notes to Editors: 

Test-Vaccinate-Remove Approach
In 2014 the former Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) deployed a five-year 'test and vaccinate or remove' approach to tackle bovine TB within a defined area which involves the TB testing of live badgers, vaccinating and releasing healthy badgers and humanely euthanising badgers that test positive for TB. 

Perturbation Effect 
Undisturbed badgers typically live in stable close knit social groups. Culling disrupts the organisation of these social groups and opens up the territory, causing individuals to range further and come in from surrounding territories. Badger movements around and beyond the infected area therefore increase. These badgers come into contact with infected setts and neighbouring animals, increasing the risk of disease transmission. This is known as the 'perturbation effect'.