Last week was an amazing week for me.
I spent the week in Gloucestershire with the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency on their Badger Vaccination Training Course (AHVLA).
Dr Iain Trewby from the National Wildlife Management Centre started the course off with a morning of presentations, the first covering an Introduction to badgers and TB.
I was worried the course was going to be anti-badger, but it was actually more concerned about how to reduce the levels of TB and was very science-based.
They acknowledged that badgers are not the only wild mammal which can help spread TB, as foxes, hedgehogs, deer, rats, feral cats and even spraying fields with infected slurry can all help spread TB. Badgers are only one part of the issue.
They talked us through why badgers are a good TB reservoir due to their long lives, high prevalence of TB, they can live some time despite being infected with TB and their ecology over lapping with cattle, foraging mostly on pasture, entering farm buildings and level of direct interactions with cattle.
However, the course also made it clear that badgers are only one area of concern and that vaccination must be used in conjunction with a number of other issues like farm bio-security and cattle testing and issues relating to movement of cattle.
We spent some time discussing the previous trials in badger culling and one of the biggest issues which is worrying the AHVLA is that studies have shown clearly that perturbation after culling badgers increases TB in cattle.
To me the biggest issue which I came away, on day one with, was that unlike culling, vaccination doesn’t lead to perturbation and an increase in TB, it can only help reduce TB.
So it is a win-win situation for the farmers, their cattle and the badgers too. The Krebs TB review stated that the best long term prospect for a solution to TB was vaccination.
The AHVLA are also looking into developing an oral vaccine which could be used in wildlife.
We have been presented with a cheque for £1,350 from Eastbourne Archery Club. You may remember they held a 24-hour archery event earlier in the summer, they raised over £4,000 and divided it equally between us and the Sussex Air Ambulance and St Wilfrid’s Hospice.
It was a great event which Kathy and I attended and had a go at too. So a big thank you to all the volunteers and to those who supported the event.