We stand up for badgers and oppose the killing of healthy badgers as part of government plans to tackle bovine tuberculosis
What is bovine tuberculosis?
Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is a highly infectious disease of cattle which significantly impacts thousands of farms annually. Since the mid-1980s, the incidence of bovine TB in cattle has increased substantially, creating an economic burden on the taxpayer, as infected cattle must be culled and compensation paid to farmers.
We recognise that bovine TB is a complex and costly disease that causes substantial hardship to the farming community and that there is a need to find the right mechanisms to control it.
Current situation – July 2021
The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has just launched a Consultation on ‘Proposed Implementation and Next Steps of the Bovine TB eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland. This consultation includes the Department’s preferred option for wildlife intervention which is – “A non-selective badger cull using controlled shooting of free roaming badgers, as the predominant badger removal method, delivered and paid for by farmer led companies.”
We strongly oppose this approach to wildlife intervention.
Our position: Killing of healthy badgers is not the answer
Ulster Wildlife’s position on this issue remains unchanged: Healthy badgers should not be culled as part of any wildlife intervention strategy and we will restate the case for this in the current consultation process. You can read more about our position here
Badgers are a valued native species, protected by law under the Wildlife NI Order 1985 and the Bern Convention. Twenty-five per cent of the European population is found in the UK, so we have an international responsibility to conserve and protect them.
Our clear preference is that badger vaccination is the main approach adopted to control bovine TB in the badger population. However, we could also support a combination of the ‘Test–Vaccinate–Remove’ (TVR) methodology combined with wider badger vaccination as an ethical approach in terms of controlling bovine TB, in both the badger and cattle populations, in bovine TB hotspots in Northern Ireland.
We are also calling on legislation to be introduced urgently to allow laypersons to be trained in badger vaccination, as is the case in England and Wales, and for continued focus on cattle testing and improvements to biosecurity.
We will be scrutinising and responding to the consultation and urge the public to make their views known by doing the same. We will be engaging with our supporters over the coming weeks so please check our social channels for further updates.
You can reply to the consultation here
Deadline is 10 September 2021
What is the Test-Vaccinate-Remove (TVR) strategy?
TVR involves trapping badgers in cages and testing them for bovine TB in the field through a blood test. Any badgers that test negative are vaccinated and released, and any that test positive with advanced tuberculosis are humanely euthanized and therefore ‘removed’.
Research commissioned by DAERA and carried out by the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute showed that TVR is a viable alternative to an indiscriminate badger cull.
What we're doing
Ulster Wildlife has been working on the issue of bovine TB and its links to badgers for several years. During this time our activities have included:
- standing up for badgers in the local media.
- working with government and farming interests
- collating, summarising and presenting science on the spread of bTB.
- providing expertise and scientific evidence to NI Assembly's Agricultural Committee.
- scrutinising and responding to 'DAERA's 'Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland' consultation (2018) and encouraging our members and supporters to respond. Read our full response
Badgers are a valued species in Northern Ireland, protected by law. 25% of the European population is found in the UK, so we have an international responsibility to conserve them.