The Commons motion passed today by an overwhelming majority of 119 does not just condemn the badger cull, it clearly calls for the only realistic solution; “a vaccination programme for badgers and cattle”.
It is clear from statements by Defra that the cattle vaccine and the DIVA test to distinguish between infected and vaccinated cattle are ready to license. Cattle vaccination against Bovine TB, on Defra’s own figures, would give 56 – 68% efficacy, far more effective than any other proposed action.
Only two obstacles stand in the way. EU law currently 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 farmers and to cattle welfare by standing up to Brussels. With the political will, which the e-petition and today’s Commons vote has shown exists, we could be vaccinating cattle and reducing Bovine TB within months”
The cattle vaccine (BCG) has been used for many decades on humans against the human strain of TB. It is ready for licensing for cattle, along with the “DIVA” test able to distinguish between infected and vaccinated cattle.
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.
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 after the Welsh Government abandoned plans for a badger cull.
Defra figures are at: