Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has today spoken of its frustration and anger that its efforts to vaccinate badgers to help control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) must end due to a last-minute decision by Defra.
The decision, made with just a week’s funding remaining, has left the Trust with no option but to end the project – which formed part of the Government’s Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS).
Speaking on behalf of the Trust, Chief Executive Paul Wilkinson said:
“Although Defra only provided partial funding, we have chosen to support the BEVS programme for the past seven years because it was the right thing to do – the right way to protect badgers and to protect farmers’ livelihoods.
“The match funding provided through our donors and cost savings delivered through our specially trained project volunteers meant our project, which has vaccinated 275 badgers, delivered excellent value for money and we are proud of our record.
“We would like to express our thanks to everyone that has donated and volunteered to make this possible and its very sad that we won’t now be able to continue.”
“Having the rug pulled from under us by our project partner when we had a skilled and motivated team primed for action has left us baffled and frustrated – but knowing that we will not now be able to vaccinate badgers on land where farmers are ready and waiting for us to do so makes us angry”.
The Charity, which has a long history of working with farmers and landowners across the county, feels it is the victim of the Government’s decision, in 2019/20, to expand the badger cull into its original project area – undermining more than six years work and resulting in the Trust having to build relationships with landowners from scratch.
The Trust has spent the past 12 months engaging with farmers and landowners and its project manager and volunteer team were all set for a new round of vaccinations this year.
“Despite the expansion of the cull, which we felt was wholly unjustified, we remained committed to the BEVS programme and supporting farmers through vaccination and worked extremely hard to develop a new vaccination area.
“The BEVS team were aware of the challenges we faced and backed us every step of the way – so to have the fact we were unable to vaccinate last year thrown back at us as part justification to pull the funding feels like a betrayal – not only of us as project partners, but of the farmers who had agreed for us to vaccinate on their land.”
Defra is currently funding a £2.27 million pilot project designed to enable farmers to vaccinate badgers on their own land and the Trust feels that this change of direction is at the heart of the decision not to extend its funding for another 12 months.
“We have fought extremely hard to keep this project going, making up the funding gap year on year. For Defra’s bTB Programme Team to sign off the letter which effectively culled our vaccination project with a statement about them remaining committed to working in partnership with groups that want to vaccinate badgers is difficult to swallow”.
“To see our successful, cost-effective project, which only cost Defra in the region of £30,000 a year end just as a recently fully-funded £2.27million pilot programme gets under way, is hard to take, especially when there are landowners ready and waiting for us to vaccinate on their land.
“However, we hope that the new programme is a success as we remain utterly convinced that badger vaccination is a key part of efforts to control the spread of bTB and to limit its devastating impacts on farmers and farm businesses”.