THE first phase of a four-year badger vaccination programme aiming to cut the spread of tuberculosis (TB) has begun in Northwich Woodlands.

Cheshire West and Chester Council hope that this will reduce the risk of cattle contracting the disease.

This was after it resolved not to support the culling of badgers on council-owned land and to support the vaccination of badgers instead.

The first phase has seen badgers vaccinated in Marbury Park and in Anderton Country Park, and will now focus on

The programme will now focus on badgers on private land, including farmland, covering a total area of around 17 square kilometres.

Next year the vaccination area will expand to about 32 km² and the Council will consider whether to extend the area further in the third year.

“Bovine TB (bTB) can have a devastating effect on the farming community in Cheshire,” said: Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport.

“By contributing to the local control of bTB in cattle by creating immunity in a population of badgers in the borough, local farmers will be supported and badgers protected.

“We know that badger vaccination is effective, resulting in a 74% reduction in the proportion of wild badgers testing positive to a blood test for bTB.

“During this process officers have been in contact with farmers and landowners in the vaccination area and have received a very positive response.”

Northwich Guardian:

A vaccinated badger

The full programme will cost the Council around £48,000, with match funding being provided by Defra.

The vaccine is administered by trained volunteers from Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme (CBVP), who are working in partnership with the Council.

Volunteers from Northwich Woodlands including Marbury Park have also assisted with the vaccinations.

Elaine Alexander from CBVP said: “CBVP is very pleased that Cheshire West has taken such a proactive stance on badger vaccination.

“It’s very positive that the Council is supporting local farmers in this way and offering vaccination free of charge.”

Earlier this month Natural England published licences for areas across England that will undertake badger culls, including in parts of Cheshire.

Speaking about the decision to vaccinate rather than kill badgers, The Wildlife Trusts’ Senior Policy Manager Ellie Brodie said: “It is unacceptable that the government has not waited for the results of their own review before forging ahead with another year of ineffective and expensive badger culling.

“The badger cull is a dangerous distraction from addressing the main route of bTB transmission in cattle which is between cattle.

“We’re calling on the government to invest in medicine, not marksmen.

“It costs £496.51 to kill a badger compared with £82 to vaccinate a badger, showing that the cost of killing badgers are much higher than vaccinating them.”