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Posted: 16th April 2024

Number of badger TB vaccinations increases in England
More than 3,000 badgers were vaccinated in 2023.
Newly published data also reveals drop in number of culled badgers.

The UK government has published the most recent statistics on the number of badgers vaccinated and culled in England as part of efforts to eradicate bovine TB.

The data for 2023 revealed that a total of 3,064 badgers were vaccinated by licensed individuals, an increase of just over 25 per cent compared to the previous year. The highest numbers of badgers vaccinated were in East Sussex (634), Cornwall (538), and Gloucestershire (514).

Government data also showed that 19,570 badgers were culled under licence in 2023. This is a decrease from the total of 33,627 badgers culled the year before. In total, more than 230,000 badgers have been culled since the policy began in 2013.

The government, which aims to eradicate bovine TB in England by 2038, is currently carrying out a public consultation on the next phase of its bovine TB strategy. Increasing the scale of badger vaccination is one of its aims, alongside the continuation of badger culling as an option.

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Bovine TB is one of the most difficult animal health challenges the livestock sector in England faces today, causing considerable trauma for farmers, from the devastating impacts on their businesses and costing taxpayers over £100 million every year.

“Our strategy has led to a substantial reduction in this insidious disease with the lowest number of new bTB breakdowns in nearly twenty years.

“There are no easy answers, but badger culling has proved highly effective and needs to remain a part of our holistic approach alongside wider scale badger vaccination, improved cattle testing, continuing to help farmers improve biosecurity, and work towards deployment of a cattle vaccine.”

The government's strategy of culling badgers has long been opposed by some animal welfare organisations, including Badger Trust and Born Free.

Speaking after the publication of the latest data, Mark Jones, a veterinary surgeon and Born Free’s head of policy, said: “These sobering figures reflect the continuing slaughter of our iconic badgers across England, who continue to be made a scapegoat for decades of failure by the government and farming industry to control the spread of bovine TB in cattle.

“The evidence for disease control benefits from the slaughter are at best equivocal and disputed, and most of the badgers are being killed using a method that has been shown to result in unacceptable suffering for a significant proportion. At a time of crisis for wildlife and biodiversity, it cannot be right to treat our precious wildlife with such distain.”

Image © Shutterstock

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