UK (University of Gloucestershire) Study explores farmers’ attitudes towards vaccinating cattle and badgers against bovine tuberculosis

A major new study led by University of Gloucestershire has explored farmer and stakeholder attitudes towards vaccinating cattle and badgers against bovine tuberculosis.

The Defra-funded project found that while farmers and stakeholders are broadly willing to vaccinate cattle against bovine tuberculosis (TB) where it is affordable and any trade implications are clear, they are not willing to vaccinate badgers.

Farmer workshops and interviews with stakeholders across the UK, including vets and national and local farmer organisations, examined attitudes towards badger vaccination and cattle vaccination.

Professor Damian Maye, from the University’s Countryside and Community Research Institute (CRRI), was the lead author of the report about attitudes towards vaccinating cattle for controlling bovine TB.

Professor Maye said: “Farmers and agricultural stakeholders were generally supportive of cattle vaccination, particularly where vaccination does not result in barriers to normal trading.

“They also stated that they need clear information before they will vaccinate cattle surrounding the efficacy of the vaccine for reducing bovine TB prevalence, the consequences for trading, the costs of the vaccine, how flexible the timings of vaccination would be, and how vaccination status of livestock would be recorded and presented.”

Dr Charlotte Chivers, also from the CCRI, was the lead author of the report about attitudes towards vaccinating badgers for controlling bovine TB.

“Farmers do not see badger vaccination as a realistic option for controlling bovine TB. There are, however, some steps that could be taken to gradually increase the likelihood of them accepting this as an approach,” said Dr Chivers.

“Firstly, robust scientific trials should be carried out to build trust in the approach. Secondly, doses should be provided free of charge, with farmers paid for any time spent on delivery.

“Alternative approaches to trapping badgers in an ethical way should also be sought, as most participants felt that the current approach is extremely inefficient.

“Lastly, farmers should be given more of a voice in the public sphere so that they feel more empowered; they have strong knowledge of bovine TB but often feel that they aren’t listened to.”

Overall, the key recommendation from the report is that if Defra and the Welsh government intend to implement any vaccination strategy for controlling bovine TB, there needs to be a strong information campaign beforehand to ensure that farmers and stakeholders are willing to participate.