ASHBOURNE has become the first area in Derbyshire to see vaccinations carried out on badgers, in a bid to tackle bovine tuberculosis.
Fund-raising by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has reached a target of £50,000 enabling the charity to start treating animals at Hartington Meadows Nature Reserve, off the Tissington Trail.
The trust wants to continue vaccinating badgers, which are blamed for spreading the disease among cattle which it hopes will act as a showcase for an alternative to the controversial programme of culling badgers seen in other parts of the country.
Conservation manager Tim Birch explained that the five year programme will hopefully convince the government to target its national resources into vaccination rather than culling.
He said: "Badgers are only one small part of the bovine TB problem – by far the biggest part of this problem is to do with cattle and the way our herds are managed and moved around the country and tested. So we are continuing to campaign for a cattle vaccine and for tighter regulations around cattle movement and biosecurity on farms.
"We are also deeply disturbed by recent revelations that the Government is carrying out gassing trials. This has already been proven to be inhumane and was banned for that reason in the 1980s.”
“This is the first time that badgers have been vaccinated in the county and we are delighted to be working with a wide variety of partners on this – badger groups throughout the county, the National Farmers’ Union, individual farmers, the National Trust, Derbyshire County Council, British Mountaineering Council and the police.”
Debbie Bailey of the High Peak Badger Group has been leading the volunteers. She said: “The vaccination programme is off to a good start thanks to the dedication and commitment of our volunteers.
"We were particularly pleased that we have been able to vaccinate virtually all the badger cubs on the Hartington Meadows nature reserve which is very important given the lifespan of a badger and the benefits of long term immunity within the social groups we have now vaccinated.
"Derbyshire is leading the way, through working in partnership with many organisations and is a great model for other counties to follow.”
To find out more about the programme, or to make a donation to the fund, visit www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/badgers