It is planned to expand the badger vaccination area incrementally to all parts of the country during the 2019-2022 period.

Responding to a parliamentary question from deputy Eugene Murphy, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, outlined the status of progress on the badger vaccination programme.

Minister Creed explained that from January 2018, the formal badger Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination programme commenced in the areas which formed part of the field trials in areas of Monaghan, Longford, Galway, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork and in all of Louth.

Badgers in a vaccination area are captured, vaccinated and released instead of being captured and culled.

“The vaccination program is continuing on an annual basis, so each year’s births in vaccination areas are vaccinated as they are captured,” the minister explained.

“Vaccinating badgers with BCG is a way to deliver protection to cattle and thereby to farmers from the risk of a TB breakdown, and is a key part of the strategy to eradicate bovine TB.”

‘Distressing news’

In another parliamentary question addressed to Minister Creed, deputy Murphy asked if communication and counselling-type courses are provided for Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVP) or other officials who deliver the “distressing news” to herd owners in the event of a bovine TB outbreak.

Minister Creed responded: “In order to be authorised to undertake TB testing in Ireland, PVPs must sign up to certain terms and conditions with my department which govern how TB tests are carried out.

“As well as covering the technical aspects of TB testing, the training also involves experienced department vets providing advice to PVPs on how to communicate the disclosure of a reactor animal to a herd-owner.

Department officials who engage with herd owners in the event of a TB breakdown are experienced in this type of communication and are aware of the significant stress it can cause.

Concluding, Minister Creed added: “Communication training is also available to my staff from the department’s learning and development team.”