The VLA 9 Project
The VLA9 project idea was formed from careful analysis of the data in the ISG report on Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT). The name of the VLA9 comes from the spoliotype mapping carried out on the type of TB present in cattle populations across the UK. An area of North, North West Devon and North Cornwall was shown to have only a high level of Spoligotype VLA9 8555321.
Aims and Objectives
- To prove the level of support for a targeted badger de-population exercise to reduce levels of TB in both cattle and badgers over a sustained period (five years) or until vaccines are made available.
- To prove to Defra and Government that farmers or their appointed agents would provide a unique local answer to a problem that has been so far difficult to fund and execute.
- To learn the lessons from the ISG work - ensuring that pertubation is mitigated by using hard and soft boundaries (coast, rivers and main roads), managing the edge effect by effective process, managing from the 'outside in' on a concerted and consistent basis. Most importantly that any cull will have to be proactive as a reactive cull has been proven to be ineffective from the trials.
- To provide a solution that is deliverable, cost effective, safe, and humane and delivers disease reduction in badgers and cattle.
- To empower farmers under strict guidelines and supervision to be able to tackle the disease that threatens their businesses and livelihoods in the absence, currently, of an effective eradication policy for boine T.B.
- To allow badger culling licences to be granted to control a notifiable disease that all present methods have failed to deliver (lifting the moratorium that continues to be currently in place for the purposes of the duration of the Krebs trials - which have not concluded).
- To make badger population control an integral and crucial part of a package of measures including current/existing forms of farm biosecurity, cattle/existing forms of farms biosecurity, cattle testing and movement controls that allows the problem to be dealt with 'in the round'
Results so far...
- Over 1,200 completed and signed licence application forms are held by the VLA9 project team which represents 70% of the farmers in the area and 80% of the land mass discounting Forestry Commission and National Trust land.
- Parishes with the higher levels of TB infection in cattle showed the highest level of supportfor the project.
- More farmers would join the project when issues of confidentiallity, security and method are resolved.
Conclusions so far...
- VLA9 project demonstrates that farmers would contribut fully to a TB eradication plan and take ownership of the disease annually and could provide an effective method of controlling TB as recommended by Sir David King.
- The VLA9 project gained universal approval from veterinary surgeons practicing in the area.
- The project could be rolled out on a wider scale to all affected TB areas.
- Method and security are critical to success; any population control of wildlife must take out entire social groups to avoid perturbation. Farmers or their appointed agents must be sure their confidentiallity is preserved.
- The project provides a logical structure, local knowledge and a committed partnership with Defra to give a long term solution to the spread of TB.