Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Secret World Wildlife Rescue

1. Secret World Wildlife Rescue is a large multi-species wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release centre in Somerset. Our location means that we attend to large numbers of adult badger casualties each year and are the main UK centre for the rearing and rehabilitation of badger cubs. As an organisation we ensure that we are up to date with the issues concerning tuberculosis (TB) in cattle and badgers and have presented research work on the subject at national and international conferences. Our badger release policy takes into account disease risks and includes testing for bovine tuberculosis and vaccination of badgers with BCG.

2. Secret World Wildlife Rescue has been supportive, in terms of both staffing and funding, of badger vaccination programs in the field and consequently has experience of the practicalities of this.

Badger Vaccination

3. The intramuscular badger BCG vaccine licenced for use in 2010, has been shown to protect badgers against TB, with significant reduction in the severity of disease in vaccinated animals. Field trials have additionally shown the vaccine to reduce positive serological results in badgers by 74%. As well as reducing disease in individual animals, BCG vaccination also has other significant indirect effects such as protecting unvaccinated badger cubs in setts where a proportion of the adult animals have received the vaccine.

4. Badger vaccination is being used in field trials in England (although these have been reduced because of funding) and extensively in Wales. We would encourage the continuing support of scientific field trials in order to increase farmer confidence in the badger vaccine, especially with respect to its effect on TB in cattle.

5. In addition to official vaccination programs, the vaccine has also been used by many wildlife groups, such as ourselves, to vaccinate badgers at the request of farmers. Using the intra-muscular vaccine is time consuming. It is also costly in terms of equipment (cages, fridges, bait), training and licencing of staff, and the cost of the vaccine itself. Despite this, many people are happy fund vaccination and/or give up their time to help carry it out and we have tried to support their efforts.

6. Whilst organizations such as our own are happy to continue to carry out vaccination, we realize that we are doing this on a very small scale. A co-ordinated large-scale vaccination policy is needed to ensure that those farmers happy to have badgers on their land vaccinated are able to do so and that maximum numbers of badgers are protected. Badger vaccination should be part of a raft of measures, alongside cattle controls and increased biosecurity, put into place on farms where cattle TB reactors occur.

7. Since government policy is still to cull badgers in some areas, to which we are strongly opposed, we would like assurances that badgers that have been vaccinated will not be culled.

8. An oral BCG vaccine is a long way into development in Ireland and has been used successfully in New Zealand. The oral vaccine would overcome many of the delivery issues we experience when using the intra-muscular vaccine. We believe that delivery systems can be developed to prevent the exposure of non-target species (wild and domestic), whilst ensuring maximum vaccination of badgers. We would support the immediate use of the oral vaccine in badgers, when available, in the UK.

Vaccinating Cattle

9. We believe that the use of a BCG vaccine in cattle is ultimately preferable to the vaccination of badgers. As a domestic species, cattle can be much more easily vaccinated than badgers and this means whole groups of cattle, as well as specifically targeted animals such as new-born calves, can be vaccinated.

10. We believe that a BCG vaccine is already available for use in cattle, as are suitable diagnostic tests to differentiate vaccinated from unvaccinated animals (DIVA tests). We would encourage and support immediate field trials of these.

11. There is much debate regarding EU legislation, the vaccination of cattle with BCG and potential effects on UK trade. EU legislation needs to be clarified immediately in order for this discussion to move forwards. It is our understanding the EU is not standing in the way of vaccination and is instead simply being used as a delaying tactic for those who support badger culling rather than cattle vaccination.

January 2013

Prepared 5th June 2013