Councillors calls on Michael Gove to make TB vaccine for cattle and badgers an ‘urgent priority’

Councillors calls on Michael Gove to make TB vaccine for cattle and badgers an ‘urgent priority’

At South Gloucestershire’s Full Council meeting on Wednesday, Councillors agreed a motion to write to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, pressing for the development of a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine for both cattle and badgers as an absolute urgent priority.

The motion was agreed after fierce debate on the pros, cons, and necessity for badger culling, which will be carried in parts of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire Council areas.

Cllr Matthew Riddle, who lectures in agriculture commented: “vaccinations give a real chance to prevent TB in both cattle and badgers, but we are some years away from that. In the short term where there are TB ‘hot spots’, where more than 30% of badgers are infected, some badger culling can reduce TB in cattle quickly. If we have fewer cattle with TB we will also have fewer badgers with TB. Badgers with TB have a long, painful death.”

“Even if there was no TB in cattle nor badgers, culling some badgers would help the hedgehog population. As the number of badgers has nearly doubled, the hedgehog population has halved. The badger is the main predator of hedgehogs.’

Research evidence strongly links increasing badger populations with the collapse of hedgehog populations in the same areas – which makes sense as badgers are predators of hedgehogs, stating:

“By the end of culling operations, hedgehog counts on amenity grasslands had more than doubled in badger culling areas compared to areas with no culling.”

Ben Stokes, Councillor for the rural ward of Boyd Valley said: “Bovine TB is a serious problem which has sent hundreds of thousands of cows to their deaths prematurely. The regular testing and 120 day isolation policy that follows a positive identification of ‘reactors’ in a herd causes great stress to farmers and their remaining cattle. This crisis is decimating an industry, bringing cattle farming to its knees. I know many farmers in my ward of Boyd Valley who have lost thousands of pounds, and even their livelihoods, some being forced to abandon dairy farming because it can no longer feed their families. The motion put forward by my Liberal Democrat colleagues is clearly well intended, but it fails to offer a pragmatic solution to the problem. We talk about imperatives, what greater imperative can there be than to help our own local residents who are seeing their financial stability melt away because of a lack of action?”