Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Team Badger

1. Team Badger is a coalition of national, local and grass roots animal and wildlife welfare organisations representing millions of individuals. Our member organisations include Animal Aid, Badger Trust, Blue Badger, Born Free, Care for the Wild, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Gloucestershire against badger shooting, HSI UK, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International Animal Rescue, League Against Cruel Sports, Network for Animals, PETA, RETHINK Bovine TB, RSPCA, Save Me (founded by Dr Brian May), Stroud 100 and Viva!

2. We are united in our opposition to badger culling as a means to reduce the disease in cattle as it is not a scientifically sustainable solution that will provide a long-term reduction in the disease. We are convinced that the control of TB in cattle can be achieved without the culling of wildlife through a range of policy options including improved biosecurity and vaccination of badgers, and, in the long-term, vaccination of cattle.

3. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to find a long-term sustainable solution to bovine TB. Whilst the transmission of bovine TB from badgers is not recognised as the single biggest cause of the disease, controlling the disease in the badger population through vaccination could be part of the solution.

4. Many individual members of Team Badger have made submissions to this inquiry and we will not collectively repeat ourselves here. Instead, we would like to take the opportunity that this inquiry provides to sketch out a long-term humane solution that we feel will be good for farmers, good for taxpayers and good for cattle and badgers. This solution would be to control the disease in badgers through a sustained badger vaccination programme—the Badger Vaccination Initiative (BVI)—a Team Badger co-ordinated voluntary vaccination programme, which we hope will be supported by farming and landowning organisations including the NFU, and Government and Government agencies including DEFRA, FERA and Natural England.

5. The BVI would deliver in specific areas a targeted programme run by trained volunteers but financially backed by Team Badger members to vaccinate badgers who would then likely become resistant to the disease. The disease would therefore be reduced in the badger population and any risk of transfer to other badgers, and to cattle, would be reduced.

6. Team Badger members already have a great deal of experience in running such a scheme. Many organisations already run or are involved with badger vaccination programmes around the country and are willing to lend expertise to this endeavour. Team Badger members can identify a very large number of individuals who are willing to become volunteer badger vaccinators. Whilst FERA has a waiting list of individuals who want to train as vaccinators and the next training course is proposed to be in August 2013, we are keen to partner with FERA to expand its current training programme and enable those members of the public who want to help to be trained as quickly as possible. We believe that training enough individuals to undertake a sustainable vaccination programme can be achieved before this date.

7. We appreciate that FERA, like all Government agencies, faces budget constraints and so hope that through partnership more training can take place without more public expenditure being required. One option Team Badger is keen to explore is by working in partnership with FERA, and those Team Badger members that have already delivered trained personnel, we could deliver badger vaccination training to professionally supervised and coordinated members of the public in a proactive and timely fashion. We predict that savings can be made to current training and vaccination costs through the economies of scale that will arise as the programme of vaccination is enlarged.

8. We envision that the BVI would be established as a non-profit company limited by guarantee, with a steering committee overseeing its work. We aim for members of this committee to include Team Badger representatives, and representatives from other stakeholders including farmers’ bodies, and be led by an independent chairperson who would report to DEFRA on progress.

9. We are very keen to partner with the NFU and individual farmers to assist them in reducing the prevalence of TB in badger populations through this programme. Unlike the policy of culling badgers that is hugely unpopular with the public, not proven to be effective at reducing bovine TB by any significant degree and places a large financial burden on farmers, the BVI will provide an opportunity for farmers to request that badgers in their local area be vaccinated instead. Modelling has shown that the differences between the outcomes of culling or vaccinating badgers are quite modest so using the BVI in targeted areas could see similar reductions in disease cases with less financial cost to the farmer.

10. Initial targeted areas could begin in the areas of West Gloucestershire and West Somerset (perhaps in the identified pilot cull areas). Due to the voluntary nature of the BVI this would certainly be a more cost-effective solution for farmers, with little or no cost to them.

11. We look to partner with Natural England in this initiative, including identifying badger populations in relevant areas.

12. Team Badger is now in the process of engaging with these identified stakeholders, and is confident that a way forward beneficial to all parties can be found. We are also in ongoing dialogue with the Welsh Government to learn lessons from its badger vaccination programme and to explore with the Welsh Government opportunities to assist in expanding and building on the excellent work achieved so far in any way we can.

13. The BVI will follow a similar model to other voluntary farm stewardship programmes, linking industry and environmental groups with DEFRA and Natural England. DEFRA is aware of Team Badger’s opposition to culling as ineffective and unscientific, and we hope that the Government will also accept our invitation to partner in this initiative.

14. The Government has made clear its support for healthy cattle and healthy wildlife, and support of the BVI as opposed to culling will provide an opportunity for it to succeed in these aims whilst being sympathetic to the public, parliamentary and scientific opposition to culling.

15. It is unfortunate that the Government decided in June 2010 to reduce the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project from six areas to just one, with the need to consider carefully all public expenditure cited as one reason for this decision. Team Badger is willing to contribute resources, time and expertise into the BVI, which will reduce the public expenditure required and thus prove good value for taxpayers. We hope that through partnering with us to reduce TB in badgers through vaccination, the Government will see this as a more attractive policy option than culling.

16. This is intended to be a summary of a very viable solution that protects wildlife, whilst providing good value for money for farmers and taxpayers. Further detailed work is required and engagement with relevant stakeholders is ongoing. It is envisaged that further information can be provided as the BVI develops, either through a second written submission or though providing oral evidence if required by the Committee.

January 2013

Prepared 5th June 2013