To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will clarify his previous statements that his Department does not use snares in the culling of badgers and his plans with reports that show this practise is taking place.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 23rd September, 2014.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine : (Simon Coveney)
My Department’s wildlife policy has been developed in response to research conducted over many years which has demonstrated that the eradication of the disease is not a practicable proposition until the reservoir of infection in badgers is addressed. Capturing of badgers takes place under Section 34 of the 1976 Wildlife Act in areas where serious outbreaks of TB have been identified in cattle herds and where Department veterinarians have found following an epidemiological examination that badgers are the likely source of infections.
The mechanism used to capture the badgers is a restraint which is specifically designed with a ‘stop’ so as not to tighten beyond a predetermined point and so will not cause death by strangulation. All restraints are monitored daily and any badgers are removed within a maximum of 24 hours of capture. A condition of the licence granted is that restraints are checked before noon the next day. Capturing of badgers is not permitted during the months of February and March in new capture areas.
Research undertaken at the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis (CVERA) in UCD has shown that damage/injury to captured badgers is none or minimal while in the stopped restraint and lower than with other capture methodologies. My Department also monitors the animal welfare aspects of badger culling on an ongoing basis and is satisfied that the existing culling arrangements and procedures result in minimal injury to badgers.
In tandem with the badger removal programme, my Department continues to sponsor research and trials into developing a vaccination programme to control Tuberculosis in badgers, thus improving the overall health status of that species, and break infection link to cattle. The research to date has demonstrated that oral vaccination of badgers in a captive environment with BCG vaccine generates high levels of protective immunity against bovine TB. Current research is aimed at confirming that such a protective effect holds true in the wild population.
My Department’s ultimate objective is to incorporate badger vaccination into the TB eradication programme when data is available to ensure that it can be incorporated in an optimally effective and sustainable manner. A number of field trials are ongoing with this objective in mind, but it is anticipated that it will be a number of years before a viable oral delivery method can be put in place and, therefore, targeted badger removals will continue in the medium term in the interests of ensuring that the progress achieved in recent years in combating TB in cattle is maintained.