Public should help vaccinate badgers, says Cornish MP
A Cornish MP has called on the support of farmers and wildlife experts for a badger vaccination programme to bear down on the problem of bovine TB outbreaks in local cattle herds.
Speaking a week after the Government suspended plans for a controversial cull, Andrew George, urged immediate "collective action" rather than waiting for action from Westminster.
"The most useful thing that we can now do is to galvanise the support of the local community," said the St Ives Lib Dem MP.
"Many are up in arms at the idea of culling badgers, and (we should) ask them to offer their voluntary support in a vaccination programme across West Cornwall.
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"Some local landowners have already commenced a vaccination programme on their own land, so there is gathering experience."
The initiative won the immediate support of the Badger Trust, which campaigns on behalf of the welfare of the animals and has been vehemently against the proposed cull.
A spokesman said they support a vaccination programme "to the hilt".
"It is something we are very much in favour of," said the spokesman. "People say it will cost a lot of money, but it would cost a lot of money to cage, trap and shoot badgers.
"Vaccination is a much better way forward," he said, adding that the cull would be as much as 10 times more expensive than effective vaccination.
The Government last week announced that its controversial scheme for pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucester was being put on hold till next year amid predictions that the job could not be done on time.
However, a cull will still go ahead next summer, as soon as the badger breeding season is over, the Government has pledged.
Mr George said there was an alternative, which should be explored.
West Cornwall has been identified as the origin of the growth of bovine TB across the British cattle herd. The disease is still most prevalent in the west of the country.
The MP said he had supported the previous government's trial which included the proactive culling of badgers over a decade ago and expressed doubts as to whether the Government would actually be able to proceed with their proposed badger cull next year.
Mr George added that he was "not persuaded" there is sufficient scientific evidence that it will be effective and feared that the Government's approach may only make the situation worse.
Farmers have dismissed ideas that a vaccine against bovine TB could be rolled out quickly and have maintained that claims of a major breakthrough in combating bovine TB are not realistic in time-scale – and that a vaccine is far from totally reliable.