Dozens volunteer to carry out badger vaccinations
A volunteer army of people prepared to administer a TB vaccine to badgers in the wild began to take shape yesterday.
The group emerged from a meeting called by St Ives MP Andrew George as part of a bid to tackle the growing problem of bovine TB in cattle without the need to resort to a cull.
He said it was a very encouraging start: "I am delighted that so many people are prepared to offer to become trained and licensed volunteers to assist in a vaccination project.
"It certainly won't be easy and could not proceed without the co-operation and support of local farmers."
The meeting in Penzance attracted about 40 people and in a show of hands most supported proceeding with the project and many said they wished to become more involved and knew people who would also want to lend a hand.
Professor Rosie Woodroffe, a senior fellow at the Institute of Zoology and one of the Government's independent scientific advisors, and the keynote speaker, said she was delighted but cautioned that farmers must be brought on board.
"I'm really excited by this level of support," she said.
"We can be as keen as we like, but it's not going to work if we can't get onto farmers' land and we won't get to do that if farmers see us as anti and against them."
Prof Woodroffe told the meeting that she was convinced a cull would lead to perturbation, a phenomenon where normally sedentary badgers are disturbed and flee their setts, spreading infection.
However, she said vaccination was also problematic as there were many unknowns, such as how quickly the benefits would emerge.
The meeting also heard from Alex Raeder from the National Trust about an on-going project to vaccinate badgers on the Killerton estate near Exeter.
He said that two-and-a-half years in and the results were quite positive.
However, he cautioned "if you want to have an impact on the disease you have to look at both (badger and cattle) together."
Cheryl Marriott, of Cornwall Wildlife Trust, told the meeting that vaccinating badgers on the Penwith peninsula would be an expensive undertaking and, according to her "very rough estimates" could cost over £4 million
However the meeting, held in Penzance, was not all plain sailing and at one point Mr George was heckled by a farmer in the 40-strong audience.
The man accused the coalition Government of being disinterested in the industry and caring more about internal wrangling, referring in particular to the controversial resignation of former chief whip Andrew Mitchell.
"You're more interested in Plebgate than you are worried about industry," he said, before other members of the audience called for more constructive comments.