First East Sussex badgers vaccinated against TB in Uckfield

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Media captionBadgers have been vaccinated at two sites in Uckfield

Volunteers have vaccinated the first badgers in East Sussex against bovine tuberculosis (TB) in a campaign to help control the disease in the county.

Sussex Badger Vaccination Project (SBVP) caught and vaccinated four badgers after setting traps and baiting them with peanuts.

Spokesman Trevor Weeks said heavy rain overnight had hampered the operation.

But he said his team hoped to vaccinate more animals over the coming days, when better weather was forecast.

East Sussex has been designated a high risk area under the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) bovine TB strategy.

Private garden

Badger vaccination trials have been carried out elsewhere in England and Wales, while a pilot cull was staged in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year.

SBVP was set up to offer farmers and landowners opportunities to vaccinate and has received funding from International Animal Rescue and the Southdowns Badger Group.

Two badgers were vaccinated on land belonging to the Sussex Horse Rescue Trust at Hempstead Farm, Uckfield and two in a private garden at Oakwood Drive.

The vaccination sites are close to farmed land grazed by cattle. SBVP said it had six other farms interested in vaccinating badgers on their land.

Image copyright WRAS
Image caption The vaccination is given in the badger's thigh after it is trapped using peanuts as bait

Mr Weeks said East Sussex had far fewer outbreaks of bovine TB than the West Country.

"We have historically had bovine TB mainly up on the Downs so we are really interested in looking at what we can do to help the badgers, the cattle and the farmers," he said.

"Badger culling has its pros and cons and vaccinating is probably going to be the better answer here."

He said the vaccination was given in the badger's thigh muscle and they "hardly flinch".

"If we can catch 80% this year, 80% next year and 80% the year after it builds up the herd immunity and that will slowly solve the problem."

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