The BVA has reacted to the Government’s decision not to expand the scale of its badger culling programme by saying it regrets stakeholders were not consulted.

An independent expert panel (IEP) report on the humaneness of last year’s trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset has raised concerns about the humaneness and efficacy of controlling badger numbers by using the free shooting method.

The Government had planned to begin culling in other areas this summer to try to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), but this is now on hold.

BVA president Robin Hargreaves said: “Clearly, the headlines from the IEP report raise a number of concerns about the humaneness and efficacy of controlled shooting of badgers.

“It is regrettable that the secretary of state has announced his decision on the way forward without consulting key stakeholders, including BVA. We are unable to comment further on the announcement until we have had time to fully consider the report in consultation with our members.

“To date, BVA has supported the use of targeted, humane badger culling in carefully selected areas as part of a comprehensive approach to tackling bTB. But we have made it clear we can only support badger culling if the method used is humane, safe and effective. That is why BVA called for controlled shooting to be tested and critically evaluated against these criteria by an independent group of experts.

“Bovine TB is a devastating disease and we know we need a comprehensive package of measures to tackle the disease in cattle and wildlife if we are to stop the advancing spread of TB northwards and eastwards.

Mr Hargreaves did, however, confirm the BVA’s support for the bTB eradication policy for England, which is due to be published soon.  

“We broadly supported the draft bTB strategy when it was published in August last year, particularly the targeted measures in high incidence and edge areas,” added Mr Hargreaves.

“Regardless of our future response to the findings of the IEP, we will only be able to eradicate bTB if we tackle the disease in the wildlife reservoir as well as cattle.”

BVA is holding a joint meeting of its veterinary policy group and ethics and welfare group to discuss the report in detail and make policy recommendations to BVA council, on which all members are represented via their regional rep.

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