Badger culling is to shortly begin in the second year of a test, vaccinate or remove (TVR) wildlife intervention research project, the North’s Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

This is part of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) overall bovine TB eradication strategy.

In year one of the project badgers were cage trapped, tested for bovine TB, and released. In year two badgers will be re-trapped and tested, it says.

Those that test positive will be culled using a lethal injection of barbiturate and data will be collected on the reliability (sensitivity and specificity) of the diagnostic tests to help inform future policy, DARD says.

Simon Doherty, President of the British Veterinary Association Northern Ireland Branch and North of Ireland Veterinary Association, said that the next phase of the TVR research project is in a focused pilot area using trained staff.

It will help us to learn more about the complex issues relating to bovine TB in both cattle and badgers in Northern Ireland, where farming practices and badger ecology differ to Great Britain.

“We recognise that there are limitations in the diagnostic tests that are currently available for badgers and cattle and hope that the study will provide some quantification and validation for the deployment of these tests.

“We also hope that the results will help to inform future eradication policy decisions. It is important that DARD continues to engage with the veterinary profession, and other stakeholders, as the project develops in order to inform future control and eradication strategies,” he said.

British Veterinary Association (BVA) President John Blackwell said there is no question that bovine TB is spread between badgers and cattle.

“But we still need to understand more about this complex disease in order to move towards eradication across the whole of the UK.

“BVA supports the use of targeted, humane badger culling and has called for it to be part of the comprehensive strategies in Northern Ireland, England and Wales, alongside strong cattle and biosecurity measures.

“All parts of the UK are taking a different approach to tackling bovine TB and we look forward to seeing the results of the TVR project as it progresses to help inform policies in other regions, as well as in Northern Ireland,” he said.