Project status
Cornwall, England
Contact details
Project collaborators
Rosie Woodroffe with an anaesthetised badger cub

Rosie Woodroffe

Senior Research Fellow

Verity Miles headshot

Verity Miles

PhD student

TB in badgers

Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is a significant threat to Britain’s cattle. Despite efforts to control the disease, over the past 30 years, the infection rate in cattle has not only increased, but the geographical extent of the disease has also expanded.  

We’re working at the cutting-edge to deepen understanding of the underlying causes of these increases and to find practical solutions to overcome the causes of TB infections. 

We know that persistent bovine TB infections among wild badger populations are a contributing a factor to the presence of the disease in cattle.  

That’s why we’ve established the Badger Vaccination Project to research the impact of TB vaccination among badgers on rates of infection within wild populations, and to find out if it this can help us control TB infections in cattle.  

  • 30 years
    over this time the infection rate of TB in cattle has increased
  • 3
    the number of areas within Cornwall where we work to vaccinate badgers
  • A badger being realeased having been vaccinated
    © Kelly Astley
    Collecting a blood sample from anaesthetised badger
    © Natalie Durrant

    The Badger Vaccination Project in Cornwall  

    We’re working with local landowners, farmers and wildlife groups to develop a way to control the spread of bovine TB in badgers in three areas of Cornwall: 

    1. Penwith, in the far west of Cornwall, is one of the largest remaining areas of land to not be culled of badgers. This makes it an ideal location to collect data on how badger vaccination works in an unculled population. 

    2. An area of mid-Cornwall where a group of farmers were unable to join a cull because of landowner restrictions. They also decided that vaccination was a more sensible long-term disease management technique. Here, we work in partnership with Cornwall Wildlife Trust to deliver annual vaccinations to badgers., We also collect data to monitor the changes in infection prevalence over time. 

    3. An area of west Cornwall around the River Cober where a group of farmers and landowners decided to pursue badger vaccination rather than badger culling as a sustainable approach to disease control. We’re using this opportunity to collect data on the infection prevalence among the badger population and are monitoring how this changes over time. 

    Why is badger vaccination important? 

    Government research has shown that vaccinating badgers can reduce the risk of bovine TB in individual badgers and reduce the transmission of the disease from badger to badger.  

    It's likely that vaccinating badgers could also reduce transmission between badgers and cattle, this is what we aim to learn with the Badger Vaccination Project.  

    How are the badgers vaccinated? 

    Badgers will vaccinated by hand, in cage traps placed near badger setts. Most badgers will be vaccinated, when they’re conscious, by trained and licensed vaccinators.  

    But some will be anaesthetised briefly so researchers can collect blood samples to check that the vaccine is working. Vaccinated badgers will be marked with a fur clip or a microchip to avoid vaccinating the same animal repeatedly. All badgers will be released promptly at the point of capture. 

    How can I get involved in the Badger Vaccination Project? 

    We are keen to meet landowners across any of our vaccination areas in Cornwall to discuss the possibility of vaccinating badgers on their land, free of charge. 

    Email the team

    People involved 

    • Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Principal Investigator 
    • Kelly Astley, Badger Vaccination Coordinator 
    • Dr Cally Ham, Badger Project Coordinator 
    • Verity Miles, PhD Student 
    • Henry Grub, PhD Student 
    Our response to DEFRA bovine TB consultation

    We sought a sustainable, evidence-based solution which recognises the impact the disease has on farm's lives. 

    Response to Defra bovine tb consultation March 2021

    Related projects 

    Badger Cattle Contact Project 

    Our Badger Cattle Contact Project is researching contact between badgers and cattle to understand how bovine tuberculosis is transmitted between the species. 


    Find out more about the importance of co-existence between wildlife and people


    Urgent action to stop the devastation of critical species and habitats by helping people and wildlife live better together, is the only way to save the natural world we love and depend upon. That’s where ZSL comes in, and where you can play your part.