The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has said is it “essential” for the TVR Research Project to be carried out.
Responding to recent warnings from scientists that the pilot scheme within the Banbridge area to selectively cull badgers testing positive for tuberculosis would risk spreading the disease further, DARD said the “study conclusions might not translate to the situation in the north.”
A spokesperson commented: “The Department is aware of the Bielby Report on the potential of perturbation following the culling of small numbers of badgers.
“While the study reaches some very interesting conclusions, it is important to put it in context. The study is based on recent statistical modelling and data information from field work undertaken in England, part of which originated from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) conducted between 1998-2006.
“However, the study conclusions might not translate to the situation in the north, which is why it is essential for the TVR Research Project to proceed to see if perturbation is a factor here following badger removal.”
They continued: “The authors of the study acknowledge that on the limited information available they could not reject the hypothesis that removing up to three badgers per sett did not cause perturbation or alternatively that removal of just one badger could prompt perturbation.
“This suggests that there is a general lack of evidence for or against perturbation, which is something we will start to address through the TVR Research Project.
“We were always aware of the potential of perturbation and this was fed into the development of the TVR Research Project design.
“As a result we are introducing certain measures to monitor and mitigate against the effects of perturbation should it happen here.
“This year, all captured badgers under TVR will be vaccinated and released.
“This is in preparation for badger removal from next year and is intended to build up some immunity to bovine TB in the badger population in advance of badger removal.
“In addition, GPS collars are being placed on a number of badgers to establish a baseline of data on badger movements before any badgers are removed.
“These data can be compared to future movement data which will be obtained after the removal of infected badgers next year and beyond.”