The Department of Agriculture intends to deploy a full badger vaccination strategy as soon as robust scientific evidence becomes available, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said.

The programme will be rolled out as soon as it is practicable and will deliver an outcome equivalent to the existing wildlife programme, he said.

Responding to a question from Deputy Clare Daly, Minister Creed said that his Department is involved in a range of research activities with a view to progressing the development of a vaccination system for badgers.

Presently, Minister Creed said, the Department are undertaking field trials to determine whether vaccination is as effective in the field as in a captive environment.

He added that his Department is conducting trials to determine whether vaccination is as effective as badger culling in reducing the incidence of TB in cattle and to identify suitable vaccine bait delivery methods.

My Department is hopeful that this research will be successful and that a vaccination strategy will be a significant element of the national TB control programme.

The Department’s ultimate objective is to incorporate badger vaccination into the TB eradication programme, he said, when data are available to ensure that it can be incorporated into the programme in an effective and sustainable manner.

“A vaccine trial in Kilkenny has been completed and results are expected to be published in 2017.

“In addition, trials are being conducted in six separate locations throughout the country, involving the vaccination by intramuscular injection of several hundred badgers over three to four years and continual monitoring of the badger population to assess the impact of the vaccine on the incidence of disease in the cattle population,” he said.

Michael Creed Dairy

Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed

Minister Creed said that the outcome of these field trials will eventually determine whether the vaccination of badgers delivers an outcome to the current badger removal strategy.

“These projects are due to conclude in 2018.

“It is also the case that no TB vaccine is currently licensed for anything other than humans in Ireland and any new preparation for badgers would have to be licensed under EU medicines legislation.

“My Department is collaborating with UCD and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom in carrying out the research needed to prepare a dossier for submission to the licensing authorities in Ireland and the UK for authorisation of a licence for an oral vaccine for badgers,” he said.

“There is no delay in rolling out a vaccination programme.

“There is currently no vaccine licensed for badgers and my Department is engaged in several research projects with a view to submitting a dossier to the licensing authorities for a licence for an oral vaccine,” he said.

When asking the question, Deputy Daly stated that the Department culls 6,000 badgers on an annual basis, a practice which the Irish Wildlife Trust has described as inhumane and barbaric.

The trust has cited many instances of lactating females being culled while their cubs are left to starve underground.