Badger culling was reduced last year to 5,352, compared to approximately 6,000 per year previously, in conjunction with the introduction of badger vaccination increased.
Badger vaccination marks a major step forward in the bovine TB eradication programme, according to Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, serving to protect the badger population whilst protecting cattle and the livelihoods of farmers.
However, some level of badger culling in response to severe TB episodes will still be required.
Badger culling contributed significantly to the very considerable improvement in the disease situation nationally in recent years.
However, culling of badgers is not sustainable in the long term, given its ultimate impact on badger ecology, and Ireland’s commitments under the Berne convention,” said the minister.
Vaccination commenced in areas where successful field trials had taken place between 2013 and 2017, demonstrating that vaccination is no less effective than culling.
The next large extension of vaccination was to areas that had lower incidence of bovine TB, and areas prepared for changeover to vaccination by ongoing badger removal to lower badger densities.
By late 2019, most counties had areas within them that changed over to vaccination, extended to 17,748sq km.
It is intended to continue to increase the area under vaccination.
Recent IT improvements allow for electronic recording of when and where every badger is captured and vaccinated.
Currently, approximately 70% of badgers being captured in vaccination areas are new captures and have not been vaccinated previously.
Of 1,870 captured last year, 1,391 were vaccinated with BCG, 42 were removed for epidemiological reasons, 434 had been previously vaccinated, and three were euthanised for health reasons.
The numbers of badgers vaccinated by county in 2019 and the first six weeks of 2020 was highest in Kilkenny (398), Waterford (227), Tipperary (215), Cork (193), Galway (139), Longford (107), Louth (90), Monaghan (89), Roscommon (83), Kerry (79), and Offaly (76).