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Gildernew welcomes report on Badgers

10 April, 2008


Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has welcomed the Report of the Badger Stakeholder Group.

The report, which was agreed on 25 February, outlines the position of the group, summarises the information they assessed and proposes a range of actions, which are aimed at gathering information to better inform future decisions relating to badgers and the control of TB in cattle.

Commenting on the report, the minister said:

"I welcome the findings and recommendations of this report as a good contribution to our considerations on how we tackle the issue of Tuberculosis and badgers in the North. I will give the group's recommendations my full consideration. I realise that the actions recommended by the group will take time to complete but I can see that they are necessary to help us decide whether a badger intervention strategy would help achieve a cost-effective reduction in TB incidence in cattle in the North.

"I would like to thank the Badger Stakeholder Group for their very important and valuable contribution to this area. I recognise and appreciate the considerable effort and personal contribution made by the farming industry, environmental, veterinary and academic members of the group who were tasked with delivering a report on such a challenging topic.

"We have made considerable progress with TB in recent years in the North, with a reduction of nearly 50% since the peak levels for the disease in 2002. I am determined to achieve further significant reductions in TB and will continue to push forward and do as much as I can in moving towards the elimination of TB here. Given that the trend in disease levels here since 2002 has been downwards, I will want to ensure that any action we initiate here is clearly going to be of benefit and at the very least will not make things worse and reverse the currently positive trend."

The information gathering actions recommended by the group include:-

  1. Complete a badger population survey to determine the number and distribution of badgers;
  2. Develop a proposal for a survey of the prevalence of bovine TB in badgers;
  3. Assess the available evidence in relation to the role of badgers in bovine TB to inform an appropriate course of action, including whether it is appropriate to run a badger culling pilot;
  4. Engage more actively with farmers and veterinary practitioners to examine the local factors contributing to the disease spread and assess what practical cost effective measures can be taken to contain disease outbreaks;
  5. Consider participation in a vaccination trial; and,
  6. Undertake a cost benefit assessment of the future options for any proposed badger management strategy, once the information arising from the above actions is available.

The Report is available at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's website at www.dardni.gov.uk/publications-badger-stakeholder-group-report


NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The Badger Stakeholder Group was established in 2004 to review all the available information relating to badgers and consider the potential need for a badger management strategy to help reduce bovine TB levels in the North of Ireland. The group is chaired by DARD and has representatives from the Environment and Heritage Service and a range of environmental, academic, veterinary and farmer interests.

2. The group has over the past 4 years considered the available research on badgers in he North of Ireland and scientific work undertaken in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The group now feels that is an appropriate time to report following from the recent conclusion of a major body of scientific work on TB in badgers in Britain, namely the report of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) in June 2007, and consideration of the scientific work concluded in the ROI during the past 2 to 3 years. These pieces of work have been the major reference points for the deliberations of the group and it is unlikely that there will be further scientific research of this scale concluding in the foreseeable future.

3. The group finalised its report on 25 February and some of the actions recommended are underway. The badger population survey started in November and is due to be completed by end May 2008. Some of the other proposed actions are in the planning stages and will be subject to cost-effectiveness assessment before a decision is made whether or not to proceed with them.

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