John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development
On 20 March I announced that the Welsh Government would embark on a five year badger vaccination programme within the Intensive Action Area as part of our efforts to eradicate bovine TB from cattle in Wales. The IAA covers 288km² and this is the first time that a project to cage trap and vaccinate badgers on such an ambitious scale has been carried out.
We have now completed the first year of the vaccination project. The field work began in May and comprised eight main work cycles ending in October. A small number of badger setts were also vaccinated during November. The duration of each cycle varied between three and four weeks depending on the size of the area and the level of badger activity found.
All the vaccination work was carried out by employees from the Welsh Government who had successfully completed the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) course relating to the cage trapping and vaccination of badgers by injection.
Provisional figures indicate that since May we have successfully caught and vaccinated over 1400 badgers in the IAA. This figure is subject to data verification and the final tally will be confirmed in the project report, which will be produced by the end of January. The report will also include a cost breakdown for the first year of the programme and will be published on the Welsh Government website.
Our vaccination programme has enabled Wales to take quick and decisive action to develop a degree of immunity to TB within the badger population in the IAA. We believe that this will reduce the risk of TB transmission from badgers to cattle and contribute to the eradication of bovine TB over time.
In addition to the project in the IAA, I also asked the Chief Veterinary Officer to consider other areas where vaccination could contribute to TB eradication. Options for expanding the vaccination programme and delivering it in other areas are currently being developed. Proposals will be presented to me in due course.
The success of the badger vaccination initiative is dependant on staff being granted access to as much land as possible. I would like to thank farmers and landowners for their ongoing co-operation and encourage other partners and stakeholders to consider how they could work with us to increase the number of badgers we can vaccinate in Wales.
I will be monitoring the results of vaccination and of our entire eradication programme carefully to ensure we are making good progress towards our ultimate goal of a TB free Wales. I will report further in the New Year.