The Badger Trust has today sent an open letter to the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, raising a number of serious concerns around the badger Test Vaccinate Removal programme (TVR), which is currently being implemented by the Welsh Government as part of its bovine TB reduction strategy.
Under the TVR programme, badgers are cage trapped and tested with the field Dual Path Platform (DPP). They are then euthanised by lethal injection if they test positive for bTB. If badgers test negative for bTB, blood samples are taken for analysis in the laboratory and the badger is microchipped and released.
At first sight, this might seem a proportionate and reasonable course of action. However, data emerging from the operations from publicly released reports and Freedom of Information requests obtained by Sarah Reisz on the Dyfi Badger Group, paint an extremely worrying picture of a policy failing on scientific effectiveness, humaneness and public cost grounds.
It now appears that the overwhelming majority of badgers euthanised over the past three years of the programme (66 in total) have tested negative at post mortem. Even more alarming is the fact that most of those badgers had previously been vaccinated
Commenting on the letter to the Welsh First Minister, the CEO of the Badger Trust said:
“These results show that badger testing under the TVR programme is far from accurate and healthy badgers are being killed, including many that have been vaccinated. The public cost of the policy is also completely unsustainable, with over £1 million spent killing 66 mostly healthy bTB-free badgers to date.
The TVR programme has shown that the level of bTB in badgers, even on high risk farms, is extremely low. If the Welsh Government considers it necessary to continue to lower bTB in badgers, it should do so by using a badger vaccination strategy only. It should also return to providing funding, training and equipment to landowners, wildlife conservation groups and volunteers for this purpose.”
The letter is supported by Born Free, IFAW, HSI and the League Against Cruel Sports.
Mark Drakeford First Minister Wales Cathay’s Park Cardiff CF10 3NQ
19 August 2020
Dear First Minister
Welsh Government Badger Test Vaccinate & Remove Policy
The Badger Trust is the leading voice for the protection, welfare and conservation of badgers in England and Wales.
The Badger Trust has a number of serious concerns around the badger Test Vaccinate Removal programme, which is currently being implemented as part of the Welsh Government’s bovine TB reduction strategy.
Since 2017, the Welsh Government has been working on a number of bespoke bovine TB reduction Action Plans (59 up to December 2019) on farms with ‘persistent’ herd breakdowns. To a large degree these Action Plans have been based on cattle interventions including tighter movement controls, informed purchasing, improved TB testing and biosecurity measures. To the Welsh Government’s credit, this policy has had some success and resulted in the lifting of bovine TB restrictions on 23 farms by the end of 2019.
However, on a small number of farms the Welsh Government has also been implementing a badger intervention programme, alongside cattle control measures, supposedly to ‘identify and remove diseased badgers only’. The Welsh Government has made it clear that this is not a scientific trial and there is no way, or indeed any attempt, to distinguish between the impact of cattle control measures or badger interventions.