The badger cull is being extended to Dorset following pilot schemes in Gloucestershire and Somerset, the Government announced today (28 August 2015).

The move is among further steps to help tackle bovine TB in England, which has the highest incidence rates in Europe.

Defra says the disease costs taxpayers £100m each year and directly affects one in five of all herds in the worst affected parts of the country.

The expansion of the cull was immediately condemned by the Humane Society (HSI), which said the cull so far had been an “unmitigated disaster” and extending it “defied belief”.

The new proposals include:

  • a consultation on introducing compulsory testing for all cattle entering low-risk areas, such as the north and east of England, to reduce the risk of new TB cases in these regions.
  • a consultation on changes to the criteria for future badger control licences, such as reducing the minimum area for a licence – an approach based on the latest scientific evidence and supported by chief veterinary officer for England Nigel Gibbens.
  • a call for views on controlling TB in non-bovine animals, such as pigs, goats, and deer.

Mr Gibbens said the plans to further strengthen testing in low risk areas would provide additional protection to farmers in those areas, helping them to stay disease free.

“Maintaining strong cattle disease control measures, combined with culling wildlife where the disease is most prevalent, will help us to achieve further disease reduction on farms suffering from TB in the high risk areas,” he said.

Claire Bass, HSI UK executive director, said a consultation on mandatory post-movement cattle testing in low risk areas was welcome, but long overdue.

“It’s scandalous that while dragging its heels over critical TB control measures in cattle, the Government is doggedly continuing to use badgers as scapegoats,” she said.

Defra has already introduced tougher movement controls, more frequent testing and has been supporting badger vaccination schemes in the “edge area”, a buffer zone established to contain the spread of the disease.

Earlier this year, it published an online tool mapping the location of bovine TB incidents over the past five years, allowing farmers to make informed decisions when buying livestock.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency released epidemiological reports, providing cattle keepers and vets with a detailed analysis of the disease situation in local areas.

Three public consultations are now taking place on the bTB programmes. They are:

For more information on Natural England’s licensing for badger cull in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-authorisation-for-badger-culling-in-2015

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