Minister Creed denies claims Department breaches licences to shoot badgers

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said that his Department fully complies with the terms and conditions of licences issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to remove badgers in the context of its Bovine TB eradication programme.

The Minister was responding to TD Clare Daly’s question on claims by the Irish Wildlife Trust that his Department regularly breaches the terms of special licences to snare and shoot 6,000 badgers a year.

He said that his officials work very closely with those of the NPWS in implementing this policy and are in constant contact on the badger capturing programme, including at local level, to ensure that the conditions of the licences are being monitored and met.

Our policy of removing badgers is based on very considerable scientific evidence of a link between badgers and cattle in the context of the spread of bovine Tuberculosis.

“Research conducted by the Department and others has demonstrated that the eradication of bovine TB is not a practicable proposition until the issue of the reservoir of infection in badgers, which is seeding infection into the cattle population, is addressed.

“It is therefore necessary to eradicate TB in both species. I would stress that the removal of badgers is undertaken only in areas where badgers are the likely source of infection,” he said.

Furthermore, the Minister said that his Department believes that the removal of badgers has contributed significantly to the very substantial reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle in recent years.

The incidence of bovine TB in Ireland has declined significantly since 2008 when approximately 30,000 animals were removed as reactors to just c.15,300 in 2015.

“Herd incidence, which is another measure of trends, was at c.3.37% in 2015 compared with 5.88% in 2008.

“This is a historically low level. I am satisfied that the badger removal policy is the main factor in the reduction in the incidence of the disease and I would draw attention to the situation in Northern Ireland, which does not implement a badger culling programme, and where the incidence of TB is almost twice as high as ours,” he said.

Concluding, the Minister said that it is important to note that the badger removal policy is a temporary measure pending the development of a suitable vaccine for use in badgers as it is the Department’s intention to gradually replace culling with vaccination.