Cornwall's farmers and landowners have helped successfully deliver a second year of badger vaccination against TB, demonstrating the technique as a potential alternative to culling.

The project has been coordinated by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s head of conservation Cheryl Marriott said: “It has been trickier to deliver the badger vaccinations this year, but farmers stepped up to help.

"As well as helping to fund the project, they have done much of the legwork, helping to set up the cage traps and pre-bait them with peanuts. One farmer allowed us to store the traps on his land too which was a great help; it really is a team effort.”

Cornwall Wildlife Trust recently held a virtual live ‘Wildlife Matters’ event to explain more about the initiative. At the event, St Stephens-based farmer, Keith Truscott, talked about why Cornwall's farmers are pleased to be involved with badger vaccination.

READ MORE: Badger culling licenses issued for new areas across England

Keith said: “Doing nothing was not an answer – we had to do something. We were uncertain about going down the route of culling because it’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

"I’m proud of the fact that so many from the initial badger vaccination farmers meeting have joined up, stuck together and are still hanging in there. I can sleep much easier at night knowing that there are people out vaccinating – it’s better than having people out there shooting.”

A team of researchers from ZSL do the actual vaccinating, and are carrying out research in mid-Cornwall and west Penwith. Blood samples are taken from a proportion of the badgers vaccinated to monitor TB infection in the population over time as the vaccination work progresses. Researchers are also trying a new method to estimate badger numbers using camera-trapping. This should help them to estimate how quickly benefits to cattle are likely to emerge.

Lead researcher Professor Rosie Woodroffe said: “Everything we know about badger vaccination suggests that it should reduce TB in the badger population and so help to protect cattle.

"In fact, research suggests vaccination will be more successful in eradicating TB in badgers over time than badger culling, so it is in farmers’ best interests to expand the use of badger vaccination.

“Government has said it is planning to phase out badger culling, but we don’t know when and this year culling has been extended into new areas of England. We would like to talk with more groups of farmers in Cornwall to make sure they have accurate information about badger vaccination.

"It is up to them to decide if they want to switch from culling to vaccination sooner rather than later and we are here to help.”

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