Wales-wide badger vaccinations could see costs shared

Image caption The second year of a five-year badger vaccination project started in parts of south west and mid Wales in May

Farmers and charities could be asked to share the cost of badger vaccinations to eradicate bovine TB, as ministers look to afford a nationwide programme.

A £1.2m grant pot over five years is being set up to help towards the cost, according to Wales' chief vet Dr Christianne Glossop.

The Welsh government is funding vaccinations in parts of south west and mid Wales and last year it cost £1m.

But this would be too expensive on a Wales-wide level.

Under the plans farmers and other landowners, such as the National Trust, would foot the bill for vaccinating badgers on their land and then apply to the Welsh government for a grant to help cover the costs.

The Welsh government's grant is worth £250,000 a year over the next five years.

This is in addition to the money already committed to the badger vaccination programme, which last year cost £945,000.

It is estimated it costs more than £600 to vaccinate each badger.

Dr Glossop announced the move at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Powys, during a meeting with wildlife charities and the National Trust.

Queen guitarist

She said the Welsh government was looking to share the cost so they could deliver a badger vaccination programme across Wales.

Queen guitarist Brian May has been a vocal opponent of badger culling and a representative of his charity Save Me was among wildlife and landowning organisations who met Dr Glossop.

Save Me's Ann Brummer later said May backed the initiative, saying it was a Welsh initiative which could followed throughout the UK, doing away with the need for a cull.

"Brian is very keen to support this and sees it as a way forward," she said.

"We don't want to see cattle continued to be culled and this could be a solution."

Talks are to be held with farmers to get their reaction.

NFU Cymru deputy president Stephen James said: "We as a union have never been against a cull but when it's over £600 per badger to vaccinate them it's unaffordable to the average farmer.

"If they can reduce the cost and we're confident that it works then there will be a lot of farmers who will support it."

Dr Glossop said Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies had asked her team to look at ways of expanding the vaccination programme across Wales.

"The minister asked us to look at other ways in which badger vaccination might be delivered here in Wales," she said.

"A couple of weeks ago, the minister agreed to making available a fund to set up a grant which would help support badger vaccination in other parts of Wales.

"The fund currently stands at £250,000 a year and now we've got the OK from the minister we've now got the job of developing a grant.

"As an initial step we invited wildlife groups here today to start developing our thinking."

The second year of the five-year badger vaccination project started in parts of south west and mid Wales in May.

More than 1,400 badgers were vaccinated in trials ending last November.

These took place in parts of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

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