Northern Ireland Badger Group Press Release

Northern Ireland Badger Group Press Release 

Immediate issue 5th July 2015. Badger conservation group affirms support for 5 year test & vaccination project and rejects claims of a Northern Ireland ‘pilot badger cull’ The Northern Ireland Badger Group is the lead badger protection and conservation body in Northern Ireland. Since it was formed in 2006, its volunteers have worked to protect these iconic animals from a range of threats including persecution, sett disturbance and destruction, and human ignorance. 

The threat level remains high, fueled by those who scapegoat badgers for the problem of TB in cattle. We recognise that bovine TB is a serious disease that brings hardship to the industry and farming families. However, the available evidence indicates that badgers do not play a significant role, if any, in herd breakdowns. Indeed current research in Ireland has failed to demonstrate any significant contact between badgers and cattle. It is a matter of record that not one actual herd breakdown has ever been conclusively proven to have been caused by badgers anywhere in these islands.

So, what needs to be done? We need to increase our understanding of the dynamics of this disease in our environment. The link between badgers and cattle is uncertain. Both species get the same TB but the direction and route of transmission remain unknown. Indeed, Professor Sir John Bourne, Chair of the group that analysed the data from the most robust and most expensive culling trial in history holds the view that “Badger infections are following, not leading, TB infections in cattle”.

Significantly, the same Independent Scientific Group that reported on the British Randomised Badger Culling Trial concluded that “culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to the control of TB in cattle in Britain". 

This is why the Northern Ireland Badger Group opposes, and will continue to oppose, badger culling as part of any bovine TB strategy anywhere in these islands. There is no credible evidence that the badger culling programmes in England or the Republic of Ireland have reduced TB in cattle. Both Northern Ireland and Wales have halved TB using cattle measures alone. TB continues to fall in Northern Ireland without the need to slaughter badgers. 

A range of measures will ensure healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. We, along with the other major conservation groups and industry stakeholders, give qualified support to the Northern Ireland TVR project. Although this may involve a very small number of confirmed TB-positive badgers being humanely euthanased, TVR remains primarily a vaccination-led project. All 280 badgers trapped in year one (last year) were vaccinated and any ‘new’ badgers in year 2 and beyond will also be vaccinated.

Our record on culling is clear. To date, with the support of the Badger Trust, we have successfully foiled previous attempts to cull badgers in Northern Ireland. The Badger Group has long advocated an evidence-led bovine TB strategy in Ireland. We expect the TVR project to greatly inform our understanding of the dynamics of the disease and we have been transparent about our support for this initiative. 

Ultimately, bovine TB is a bovine disease requiring a bovine solution. There is broad agreement that cattle vaccination is the key to eradicating TB from our herds. Badger vaccination, which is already being realised by the TVR project, is a stepping stone to achieving this.

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Notes to the Editor

This release is a direct response to a recent article on the BBC Northern Ireland website. A remark made by Badger Group spokesman Peter Clarke that the ‘TVR project was proportionate and had buy in from everyone’ was carelessly and incompletely quoted in a way that wrongly suggested that we support a pilot cull. This has since been corrected by the BBC. The Northern Ireland Badger Group is the lead badger protection and conservation body in Northern Ireland and works to protect these iconic animals from a range of threats including persecution, sett disturbance and destruction, and human ignorance.  It is an independent voluntary group and receives no funding from any government, corporate or commercial source. NIBG is affiliated to the Badger Trust and plays an active role in the Team Badger and Team Broc campaigns against badger culling in GB and Ireland respectively. NIBG contributes to the Department of Agriculture’s TB Stakeholders’ Group where it champions an evidence-led bovine TB strategy.  The Badger Group also supports and promotes the DARD road kill badger study.