I have had several emails opposed to the badger cull and in favour of vaccination programmes to deal with TB in cattle.
Yesterday I attended the debate in the Commons. I used that opportunity, and a briefing meeting with Ministers a day earlier, to make representations directly to Ministers on this issue.
I explained how many people want to see vaccination rather than culling being used to control this outbreak. Ministers reply that under EU rules milk and meat from vaccinated cattle cannot be sold or used, as the authorities cannot distinguish between a vaccinated cow and an infected one. When pressed, Ministers agree that work is underway to be able to test cattle to distinguish between the effects of vaccine and the disease, but this has not yet reached a point which satisfies the rule makers in Brussels. I suggsted they press on with this work as quickly as possible.
Some have suggested vaccines for the badgers. Ministers point out that trying to catch and vaccinate them all would be extremely difficult as they are wild and shy animals. Vaccinating the current badger population would not cure infected badgers, who would still be free to roam and infect cattle.
Ministers accept that more disease is probably transmitted from infected cattle to other cattle than from badgers. They have taken stricter measures to combat this, by placing infected herds in quarantine and requiring slaughter of infected animals. That is why so many cattle are now being slaughtered before the end of their normal working lives.
I have urged them to use the year’s delay that results from the deferred cull to see if a better solution can be found. Yesterday some MPs carried a motion against the government policy, but the government made clear the vote is not binding.