While England once again prepares for a badger cull, Wales is well into the second year of its badger vaccination policy. But will it secure enough funding to be rolled out nationally?
Voluntary organisations like the Wildlife Trusts are not just talking about badger vaccination as an alternative to culling badgers, they are putting their money where there mouth is and developing practical programmes.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is now in its third year of a programme on seven nature reserves.
If governments and the farming unions want help with developing and delivering badger vaccination programmes they just have to ask. So far, whilst the Welsh Assembly has successfully run its own programme, it has not benefitted from the practical support of volunteers and public fund-raising appeals.
The Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales has already talked with the Welsh government. Sarah Kessel, the WTSWW CEO, explains:
We met with the Welsh Government to discuss the vaccination programme results after the first year and to see how we could help (we have a good relationship with their Officers and with the Chief Veterinary Officer). They said the main problem was the cost of rolling out the vaccination programme and asked if we could help to find a way to bring the costs down. This formed the basis of our action plan. We want to be proactive and help to save badgers, as well as showing that we are responsible landowners, by helping in a practical way. To achieve this we will identify a prioritized list of sites that can act as ‘vaccination hubs’, that we work out from.
We have identified 3 pilot sites and are aiming to start a vaccination programme on these sites in May 2014. The aim of the pilot project is to demonstrate how vaccination can be rolled out across other parts of Wales more cheaply than the £3012 per sett estimated by Welsh Government, by working in partnership with other landowners and with volunteers.
Funding will be needed to train staff and volunteers to do all the lead-in work including sett surveys, landowner liaison, legal paperwork, setting and pre-baiting of traps. The pilot project has to run for 5 years, although we are hoping to be able to prove a reduced cost after the first year. Funding is also needed to cover staff time, travel costs, equipment costs (we can save money by borrowing traps but we will still need bait for example) and for publicity.
Farmers Guardian summarizes the current situation, but perhaps Dr Glossop is being somewhat selective in her view of progress with involving the wider community in what has been kept an exclusively public sector programme to date.
||It is unlikely the Welsh administration could bear the cost alone and the Government is aware farmers will, on the whole, be reluctant to fund a policy many do not believe in.
Dr Glossop said she was therefore asking organisations and individuals which have shown an interest in badger vaccination to ‘put their money where their mouth is’.
“Over the last six months or so we have been having very detailed talks with all the groups interested in seeing badger vaccination, like the RSPCA, Badger Trust and the National Trust. We have also met with Brian May,” she said.
Contacted by Farmers Guardian, the organisations mentioned by Dr Glossop, plus the wildlife trusts, all expressed an interest in working on badger vaccination and were already doing so to some extent. None gave a direct commitment at this stage to working with the Welsh Government, however.||
See on www.farmersguardian.com