Badgers are set be vaccinated as part of the bovine tuberculosis (TB) eradication programme, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, announced this morning.

The vaccination of badgers will commence as an integral part of the eradication programme from January 2018, the minister revealed.

Commenting on the announcement, he said: “This marks a major step forward in the bovine TB eradication programme.

The move follows years of scientific research funded by my department into the use of BCG vaccine in badgers, designed to reduce the impact of disease in this wildlife host back into the cattle population.

“The most recent research findings confirm that vaccination of badgers can play a role in reducing the level of infection in cattle.

“Whilst vaccination of badgers is not a ‘silver bullet’, it is important in that it addresses one of the critical elements within the complex TB eradication challenge.

“This will now allow us move forward in the early part of this year to the development and re-launch, in consultation with stakeholders, of a comprehensive strategy to finally eradicate TB,” Minister Creed added.

The vaccination of badgers will be carried out by staff from the Department of Agriculture. The vaccination programme will commence in the areas which have already been part of the field trials demonstrating the effectiveness of badger vaccination.

It will roll out incrementally to other parts of the country over time, with vaccination gradually replacing the need to remove badgers, the department explained.

Minister Creed concluded by welcoming the fact that vaccination of badgers enables Ireland move forward towards the eradication of bovine TB in a controlled holistic way – which will serve to protect the badger population, whilst also protecting cattle and the livelihoods of farmers.