The Department of Agriculture has said it supports the reduction of badger culling in favour of vaccination, which is more sustainable in the long term for both ecological and disease reasons.
Since the badger vaccination programme started in 2018, 19,079km2 of land has been switched to vaccination on a phased basis and this will continue.
As the level of badger vaccination increases, it is expected that there will be fewer wildlife-driven TB outbreaks in cattle and, in turn, less need for badger culling.
The current policy is to vaccinate badgers to prevent disease outbreaks and, where necessary, to cull badgers in response to outbreaks in areas where epidemiological investigations have demonstrated the link between badgers and TB outbreaks on cattle farms.
Badger vaccination has been proven to be effective in reducing badger-to-badger TB transmission and is not to be inferior to badger culling.
It has been introduced to areas with low badger densities and has reduced prevalence of TB.
Some level of badger culling will remain necessary
The areas where badger culling may previously have taken place are being incorporated into the badger vaccination programme on an ongoing basis. However, only when any underlying disease that has been spread to cattle from wildlife has been suppressed.
However, some level of badger culling will remain necessary until TB levels have significantly reduced.
There is a proven link between TB infection in badgers and bovine TB. The scientific evidence for the effectiveness of badger culling is well established and has been used to reduce bovine TB on Irish farms for over 20 years
Nonetheless, the evidence to support badger vaccination is proving successful within the TB eradication scheme, and the research is ongoing.
The Department of Agriculture, in partnership with UCD and the University of Waginengen, is now working to validate the efficacy of badger vaccination in reducing the burden of bovine TB.
The Department provides advice to farmers on how to reduce the risk of TB from wildlife which can be accessed here.