Officials 'quietly confident' on badger TB trials
A decision is expected later this year on the potential rolling out of a badger TB vaccination strategy nationwide.
British authorities have resumed vaccinating badgers against bovine tuberculosis after the human BCG jab became available again after a global shortage.
A trial vaccination programme here, involving 1,000 animals in six counties, is due to finish next December.
The trial has seen badgers on 5pc of the country's farmland - across Monaghan, Longford, Galway, Tipperary, Cork and Waterford - inoculated against TB.
"The objective of the injection was to evaluate if one could substitute vaccinating badgers for a proportion of the culling we currently do," said the Agriculture Department's head of wildlife, James O'Keeffe.
He said they were "quietly confident" when the injection trials come to a close in December that they would show it would be successful with almost four years of it completed.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said: "My Department is involved in a range of research activities with a view to progressing the development of a vaccination system for badgers. I'm hopeful that this research will be successful and that a vaccination strategy will be a significant element of the national TB control programme. It is anticipated that the results of this research will be available early next year."
Badgers can act as a reservoir for bovine TB and contribute to outbreaks in the cattle population. "At the moment the cull involves us removing 6,000-plus badgers year on year. Last year it was almost 6,200. If we were able to substitute vaccination for culling we might be able to bring it down to 1,500," said Mr O'Keeffe, adding it would be phased in over five years.