Following the last minute advice from some of the leading scientists in the field that the proposed badger cull may make matters worse, Rethink Bovine TB has again called for the vaccination of cattle to commence.
The vaccine (BCG) used for many decades on humans against the human strain of TB is ready for licensing for cattle, along with a test able to distinguish between infected and vaccinated cattle.
Only two obstacles stand in the way. EU law forbids vaccination of cattle against Bovine TB, and because of this Defra have failed to carry out field trials to complete the licensing process.
Michael Ritchie, spokesman for Rethink Bovine TB said that “Defra seem to have got completely bogged down in a deadly mixture of their own and the EU’s bureaucratic inertia”. “The new Defra Ministers have a unique opportunity to make a real difference to cattle farming in England and Wales by standing up to their officials and to Brussels. With the political will we could be vaccinating cattle within months”
Defra admit that recent research indicates a protective effect for BCG of between 56% and 68%. This vastly outperforms the most optimistic estimates for badger culling.(1) No vaccine is perfect – the object when vaccinating herds is to give the herd a level of combined immunity which slows the spread of the disease until it reaches zero. Cattle vaccination could be used alongside almost any other policies, including the vaccination of badgers which is underway in Pembrokeshire now that the Welsh Government has abandoned plans for a badger cull.