BADGER vaccinations are a much cheaper way than culling to keep bovine TB under control, says a wildlife trust.

The man in charge of the vaccination scheme at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust says the cost of culling can be as much as £1,000 per animal.

Head of estates and enterprise John Durnell told the Journal vaccinations cost the trust a fortune last year, as they had to hire outside contractors and pay for accommodation. But it was still more cost-effective than culling. This year the trust is geared up to carry out the vaccinations in house, bringing the cost down to about the £380 per animal mark, and Mr Durnell says the programme could be carried out even cheaper if volunteers can be recruited to do it.

Costs are high because even though the actual vaccinations only cost £15-20 special fridges and other equipment is needed, and workers need to spend a lot of time baiting the areas and preparing in order to get the “surprisingly clever” badgers to take the jabs which are like a BCG.

Now the trust is calling on the Government to support vaccination schemes ahead of planned badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire for a second year. The group is calling for a nationally coordinated and funded strategy to be delivered with measures to tackle the disease in cattle.

Mr Durnell said: “They are not stupid, badgers, which is why it’s such a struggle to shoot them - it isn’t a cheap option. We need the Government to support an extensive programme, and everything should be in place by next year.”

Paul Wilkinson, head of living landscapes for The Wildlife Trust, said: “We have been working on the issue of bovine TB (bTB) and its links to badgers for many years.

“We work very closely with the farming community, as well as being significant farmers and landowners in our own right, and are very conscious of the hardship that bTB causes.

“Culling badgers is not the answer; it won’t significantly reduce disease prevalence in cattle and could even make the situation worse, due to the perturbation effect where the disease is spread by badgers moving between setts post-cull.

“It is vital that we find the right mechanisms to control this disease and the emphasis of all our efforts should be to find an effective, long-term solution.”

He added: “Cattle to cattle transmission represents the most important route of disease spread, so it is vital that the main focus of the Government’s strategy to eradicate bTB remains on cattle measures, as this is where the most significant disease-control gains will be made.”