Badger groups are offering farmers a lifeline in their fight against TB – by offering to vaccinate badgers.
Dorset farmers have said they feel ‘hopeless’ after the government announced its controversial badger cull would remain only in Gloucester and Somerset and not be rolled out to neighbouring counties.
But Elizabeth James of the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project said their volunteers were offering a solution to vaccinate badgers – and were willing to be considerably out of pocket to do so. She said the group started training volunteers last November.
She said: “What we do is not all that well known, which is a shame because it is a viable alternative. Some farmers are never going to come round to the idea but we are absolutely inundated with requests.”
Ian Mortimer is one of the volunteers who has paid hundreds of pounds for the training to be a licensed vaccinator.
He will also have to pay annually to be licensed.
He said he wanted to do it to help farmers and because he believes culling badgers to get rid of TB is unscientific.
He said: “When 10 years of British science comes out with the conclusion that killing badgers will make no meaningful difference to the incidence of bovine TB then only complete fools, like the NFU, wouldn’t listen.
“I do get very angry about it.
“Farmers are talked about as though they are some great homogenous blob, as though they are all in favour of killing badgers – it simply isn’t true.”
So far 60 badgers have been vaccinated on seven farms.
But some farmers are not convinced it will help. Kevin Wallbridge, a farmer from Hooke whose closed herd has been hit by TB, said: “The trouble with vaccinations as I understand it is it only works on clean badgers so you have to be in a clean area. You can’t check the badger before you vaccinate it.
“In a clean area I think it could work but not in most of Dorset now, which is not clean.
“As I see it I don’t think it is viable. No one has explained to me how you vaccinate all the badgers.
“If you could identify the setts where they have TB and destroy those and vaccinate the clean ones then it could work.”
But Mr Mortimer said if infected badgers were vaccinated they were far less infectious.