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Battle bus rolls in to West Dorset to combat badger cull
CAMPAIGNERS against the government’s badger cull have been out in force in West Dorset to drum up support.
Members of the Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare and their Badger Battle Bus were in Beaminster at the weekend spreading their message and looking for volunteers to help them.
Group spokesman Andrew Butler said the group was set up specifically to campaign against the badger cull and to promote different solutions – improved biosecurity on farms and vaccination for badgers and bovines.
He said they had already been in Bridport and Dorchester where they had a great deal of support.
He said: “We had a good response, lots of really interesting feedback.
“We get hundreds of people signing up each time we do it.
“Even in small rural communities there is an overwhelmingly favourable response.”
Mr Butler said they felt their job was to correct a lot of misinformation.
He said: “Our stance is very much based on the science, on what Lord Krebs has said quite categorically that the cull is not going to make any discernible difference. People’s reaction is that they don’t want to see any wildlife killed.”
He said the group supported the alternatives of badger vaccination and they were getting members to train – at their own expense – to be licensed to vaccinate.
He said: “We have got two people who are being trained out of their own pocket and the Dorset Wildlife Trust are vaccinating badgers on their own land.
“We are hoping to raise funds to have a team of trained vaccinators and volunteers supporting them to be able to offer vaccination to anyone in the cull zone.
“Every landowner has that choice.”
He said farmers have to pay for the cull or the vaccination themselves, he added. “There is so much misinformation out there.”
He said Defra and the NFU were saying in Wales it cost £600 to vaccinate each badger but the cost in Cornwall was more like £25 to £30.
He added: “That’s the figure we are aiming for. We will be using existing vehicles and volunteers and we will be trying to raise funds so that those people who can’t afford to have their badgers vaccinated will have the chance to. The option as far as we are concerned is to create these pockets of immunity as a way to tackle TB in badgers.”
The group also wants volunteers to help map setts in the county as current information is out of date said Mr Butler.
West Dorset NFU secretary Paul Bennett said: “We understand there are emotional concerns. The fact remains, however, despite current high livestock controls being applied the incidence of the disease has continued to escalate.
“Unless all carriers of the disease are controlled it will not decrease.
“At the moment vaccination is not unfortunately the solution. It is not 100 per cent effective, it’s very difficult to operate for wild animals, there is no vaccine available for cattle and it is currently too expensive. In the long term we hope it will help provide a solution.
“The current badger vaccine is injectable. This means badgers have to be trapped and then injected by a trained vaccinator. This makes it difficult, costly at £662 per badger in the official Welsh vaccination programme, with a need to repeat this for every badger, every year.”
He said more information can be found at tbfreeengland.co.uk /vaccination