OXFORDSHIRE Badger Group (OBG) says it has begun a programme to vaccinate local animals against Bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

The group say the 'first round' of their programme has been completed, after 'many months of painstaking preparation' in an effort to prevent more culls.

The group have not said where the vaccinations took place.

Representatives also declined to say how many animals have been vaccinated because of 'confidentiality agreements in place with landowners'.

Banbury Cake:

Trained volunteers trapped the shy mammals and injected them with vaccinations the weekend before last.

OBG says it was the the beginning of the rollout of a vaccination programme undertaken by volunteers which will last a 'minimum of four years' to protect Oxfordshire’s badgers.

In a statement, the group explained: "Working with local farmers and landowners, badgers are humanely trapped, vaccinated and then released under licence from Natural England.

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"Badger BCG vaccine has an immediate effect with no known negative impact and is cheaper and more humane than culling."

The group continued: "As part of the Government’s policy of trying to reduce bTB in cattle, by the end of 2018, 67,000 badgers have been culled at a cost of £50 million of public money in what Dominic Dyer, the CEO of the Badger Trust, has called ‘the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory’."

The local initiative comes as a new nationwide announcement is expected on badger culls, which may include programmes in Oxfordshire.

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Various badger and wildlife groups are opposed to the badger cull and are vaccinating badgers.

Debbie White, the co-ordinator of the project, said: “This is a great start to protecting Oxfordshire badgers against bovine TB and working with a wide range of organisations and landowners shows that a multi-stake partnership to vaccinate badgers can work well.

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"In 2020 we will be rolling the project out to a further 5000 acres.”

The group's current scheme sees theme working with local farmers in an undisclosed 15 square km area.

OBG says it hopes to make a 'valuable contribution to explore the practicalities and effectiveness of vaccination in a county which is a ‘low risk’ area for bovine TB ,by creating immunity in a population of Oxfordshire’s badgers'.

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Ms White explained: “Vaccinating badgers in Oxfordshire is an exciting opportunity for a local badger group, working with landowners and farmers to create a locally protected population of badgers."

The group say they have had an 'excellent response' to calls for volunteers and have applied to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for matched funding on the scheme.

The crowdfunding page can be found at gofundme.com/oxfordshire-badger-vaccination-project