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badger image via Shutterstock

Ireland culled up to 39,000 badgers in six years

The Department of Agriculture is trialling a vaccination programme in a number of counties to see how effective it is but most badgers captured are shot.

THE CONTROVERSIAL PRACTICE of badger culling has been back on the agenda in recent weeks after the Department of Agriculture put out a tender for contractors to carry out the cull of 12,000 badgers over the next two years.

Wildlife and animal welfare groups have been up in arms since the news emerged and a protest was held outside Minister Simon Coveney’s department during the week.

A report submitted to the Bern Convention for 2007 to 2011 about Ireland’s badger captures shows that 38,777 were captured in total and most of them were culled.

The highest number of captures were in 2008 with 7,284 badgers removed from the land.

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The Department of Agriculture carries out yearly culls of animals as part of its TB eradication programme as the disease poses a significant threat to cattle populations and therefore the farming industry.

Other options

Animal rights groups have called for the government to switch to a programme of vaccination and the Department of Agriculture said vaccination field trials are already taking place. During 2011, the DAFM commenced work in field testing the BCG vaccination in wild populations.

Work is ongoing in Longford, where capture/vaccinate/release of badgers in roughly 30% of the lands under capture is now part of the local programme. Longford is also split between culling and vaccination.

It is also taking place to a smaller extent in other counties. In its report, Ireland says these projects will continue during 2014 to 2017 when they will be evaluated.

If BCG vaccination in badgers is shown to limit the degree to which infected badgers infect other animals and if it protects badgers not infected with M bovis, then vaccination can be introduced and culling of badgers can be reduced.

Until 2017, however, the plan is for the capture and shooting of badgers to be the practice in most areas.

Read: ‘Bloody’ demonstrations to be held against badger culling>

Pictures: Animal rights protesters think Simon Coveney has ‘blood on his hands’>

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