Not a silver bullet - a way of reducing risk: Another tool in the box - use with other measures, and Defra cite 'practical and legal difficulties.'.
On timetable, badger vaccines are described as "2010 for an injectable" and at the very earliest, "2014 for oral." Problems envisaged include:
Expense and lack of farmer confidence ( now why would that be?The initial six areas aim to vaccinate badgers in endemically infected areas and will continue for five years. The 'trial' is completely funded by Defra and will be carried out by trained contractors. Participation is voluntary and farmers may withdraw if they want to. Protocol is described as 'flexible' as 'this is not a scientific trial'.
Practicality of trapping badgers, need to access land, vaccinating a wild animal and technical barriers to developing an oral bait.
Defra officials say that "If vaccination reduces the level of disease in badgers it should reduce the risk to cattle."
Note our emphasis on the carefully crafted 'maybes' in that sentence and compare to what the farmers are told. And it gets better. On the thorny question of vaccinating badgers already infected with tuberculosis, Defra agree that it is a waste,
But it keeps it simple.; you can't identify an infected badger in the field, the field diagnostic tests are not good enough yet. And infected badgers don't look any different ( From what? A bite-wounded bag of bones should be pretty obvious. What happens to that one?? )
And on perturbation - the excuse-for-doing-nothing that Defra have used, when hiding behind John Bourne's skirts:
The deployment project will be a lot less disruptive and less stressful for badgers. (than what?) The only risk of perturbation would be if you try to remove badgers, and we are not going to do that.Mmmmm. Didn't John Bourne's recent efforts in the
So how is trapping a wild badger (that is 'wild' as opposed to the Woodchester badger population, who view a baited cage as their Ritz self service bar), leaving it a few hours to stew, tipping the cage on its end to make sure the occupant has its backside in the air, jamming a pronged fork through the mesh to secure it, jabbing a (long) needle in its backside, painting it yellow and then releasing it, not 'disruptive or stressful' for wild badgers, and will neither cause stress related perturbation nor increase disease status from 'infected' to (highly) 'infectious' ?
(That question was rhetorical by the way)
But we digress. That presentation was for vets. And it crept along with a lot of hope, little certainty and an abiding prayer that it would not make things worse. Our European masters demand a tuberculosis eradication strategy, and hey, Defra have one.
But already the Defra spin machine has clanked into action, inviting farmers outside the six 'trial-that-isn't-scientific' areas to volunteer to vaccinate their badgers. Farmers Guardian has the story.
Briefly, vaccine will be available at between £12 - £20 per dose and licenses to use it from Natural England. The work will be contracted out to trained personnel who will bill the farmer and that cost is likely to be much higher than that of the vaccine. But an upbeat presentation used rather different phrases and tone from that which was delivered to vets. Defra officials:
... believe farmers elsewhere, particularly owners of high value pedigree herds, may also see the economic benefits of doing it themselves.
... are confident that vaccinating in the project areas will bring benefits in terms of cattle disease.
To be fair (and why should we be?) Defra's upbeat officials also accept their latest
Good. We are sure the world is watching UK's 'disease trends' with interest..
Badger vaccination will not eliminate the risk but should reduce it and will not make things worse.
Well that's all right then. Some strategy. Some eradication programme.