As new pilot cull areas are being considered in England, a badger sett population survey is being undertaken in Northern Ireland that could see selective culling begin in early 2014.
Bert Houston, Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer, has revealed plans for a research programme into badger vaccinations and selective culling in an attempt to end bovine TB. The TVR (test and vaccinate or remove) method of stopping bovine TB involves a more selective method of culling compared to the indiscriminate cull planned for the UK this summer. TVR uses cage trapping so that live badgers can be tested for TB. If they are free of TB, badgers will be vaccinated against it, and those that are positive for TB will be humanely dispatched. Mr Houston added: “We are getting the data this year from the badger setts. We are hopeful of moving on to the ground in early spring, if the opportunity is there, to get the TVR project underway.”
The predicted cost of the project has not yet been released, though the trial could last up to five years. Northern Ireland’s intentions have led to questions about why the UK government cannot adopt a similarly selective approach, but Mr Houston suggests that badgers behave differently in the UK: “In England and Wales, there is a lot of perturbation. But badgers do not seem to move around as much over here. It is also postulated that social groups are much smaller [in Ireland] than in England.