Farmer attitudes to vaccination and culling of badgers in controlling bovine tuberculosis

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Controversy persists in England, Wales and Northern Ireland concerning methods of controlling the transmission of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) between badgers and cattle. The National Trust, a major land-owning heritage organisation, in 2011, began a programme of vaccinating badgers against bTB on its Killerton Estate in Devon. Most of the estate is farmed by 18 tenant farmers, who thus have a strong interest in the Trust's approach, particularly as all have felt the effects of the disease. This article reports on a study of the attitudes to vaccination of badgers and to the alternative of a culling programme, using face-to-face interviews with 14 of the tenants. The results indicated first that the views of the respondents were more nuanced than the contemporary public debate about badger control would suggest. Secondly, the attitude of the interviewees to vaccination of badgers against bTB was generally one of resigned acceptance. Thirdly, most respondents would prefer a combination of an effective vaccination programme with an effective culling programme, the latter reducing population of density sufficiently (and preferably targeting the badgers most likely to be diseased) for vaccination to have a reasonable chance of success. While based on a small sample, these results will contribute to the vigorous debate concerning contrasting policy approaches to bTB control in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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