Volunteers could trap badgers – MP
The Government should back a "big society" badger vaccination programme to curb tuberculosis in cows, Parliament has heard.
David Morris, Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale in Lancashire, yesterday spearheaded a Commons debate where he urged ministers to pour efforts into immunisation.
The call comes amid the Government's controversial policy to cull badgers, said to spread the disease, in two pilot areas in the South West where bovine TB is most rampant.
Mr Morris said he backed the cull, one of a series of measures the Government has deployed, as an "interim measure" before the more widespread vaccination.
FREE Home staging included with your 1% Commission!View details
1% Commission FREE Home staging advice http://www.kerbappealz.co.uk
Terms: Home staging advice given on instruction to sell your property
Contact: 01736 332076
Valid until: Saturday, December 14 2013
But critics of badgers vaccination argue the injectable form is expensive and ineffective, and an oral vaccine is years away. A vaccine for cattle is said to be at least ten years away as well.
Mr Morris, though, asked whether ministers were "open to a 'big society' badger vaccination programme", using an army of volunteers from animal welfare campaign groups and charities.
He said in the Westminster Hall debate: "Vaccines are expensive, but most of the costs of a badger vaccination programme is in manpower. I dream of a world when Defra trains volunteers from Team Badger (the campaign group fronted by musician Brian May) to administer vaccines and badgers play their part by facilitating volunteers."
He added charities and lobbying groups "could be the magic wand to deliver a vaccination programme more cost effectively". The MP added: "Remember the prize at stake: that none of us have to go through the heartache and division of further badger culls in the future."
Ian Paisley Jnr, Democratic Unionist MP for North Antrim, said vaccination would do little for sick animals and argued badgers would have to be trapped and injected for each of five years.
"That costs about £3,000 per beast," he told MPs.
Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, is leading a vaccination scheme in West Cornwall that is scheduled to begin this week.
Farming Minister and Cornwall MP George Eustice responded that the Government is spending at least £15 million on vaccination, and grants of up to 50% of costs are available to community groups to train volunteers to carry out vaccination.
He said: "There's no magic bullet in this. And there's no single policy on its own that will change the situation dramatically.
"Vaccinating badgers and cattle has got a role. Wildlife control has got a role. The reservoir in wildlife has got a role. Routine testing, movement control, bio-security, all these things have a role. None of these things on their own are the entire solution."