IFA urges caution on badger TB vaccine
The IFA has cautioned against abandoning badger culling as a means of controlling the spread of TB in cattle.
The warning follows the publication of results from a recent research project in Kilkenny which found that administering an oral vaccine protected wild badgers from contracting TB.
However, IFA animal health chairman Bert Stewart pointed out that the project had not concluded that badger vaccination would be as effective as targeting culling in reducing the spread of TB to cattle.
Mr Stewart said the IFA fought long and hard to have the current Wildlife Control Programme, which permits badger culling, established in the early 2000s and that a sizeable reduction in TB levels has been achieved since then.
"Any changes to this policy can only be based on solid evidence of an alternative approach providing higher levels of protection for our cattle from TB," he insisted.
Reacting to the report findings, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, said the results were encouraging but he claimed that a mix of vaccination and culling would be required to eradicate TB in the badger population.
Minister Creed said further trials were currently being conducted at six separate locations involving the vaccination of several hundred badgers over three to four years, with continuous monitoring of the cattle population to assess the impact of the vaccine on the incidence of the disease in the cattle population.
"The outcome of these field trials, the initial results of which are due in 2018, will eventually determine whether the vaccination of badgers delivers an outcome equivalent to the current badger removal strategy," he said.