Some level of badger culling will remain necessary until TB levels have significantly reduced, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

The minister was speaking in answer to a parliamentary question from independent TD Carol Nolan, who asked the minister recently of the status of plans to extend the badger vaccination programme nationwide.

In response, the minister noted “Culling has been demonstrated to be highly effective in reducing the burden of bovine TB on Irish family farms for over 20 years.

“However, the department is currently committed to reducing badger culling in favour of vaccination, which is more sustainable in the long term for both ecological and disease reasons.”

“Vaccination has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing badger to badger TB transmission and not to be inferior to badger culling when introduced to areas with low badger densities and reduced prevalence of TB,” Minister McConalogue explained.

“The current policy is to vaccinate badgers to prevent disease outbreaks and to cull them where necessary in response to outbreaks in areas where epidemiological investigations have demonstrated the link between badgers and TB breakdowns on cattle farms,” he added.

Areas where culling may have previously taken place are now being incorporated into the badger vaccination programme on an ongoing basis but only when any underlying disease spread to cattle has been suppressed.

As of 2020, over 19,000km2 of land has been taken into the vaccination programme and it is planned that this will continue on a phased basis.

“The scientific evidence for the efficacy of culling is well established and the evidence to support badger vaccination within the TB eradication scheme is being added to on an ongoing basis as additional research is published in peer-reviewed scientific journals,” the minister noted.

Although the need for culling will be reduced, it is envisaged the culling will still be necessary until disease levels have decreased sufficiently, he said.