BVA has welcomed Defra’s announcement it will consult on further steps to help tackle bovine TB as part of the Government’s strategy to beat the disease.

BVA has welcomed Defra’s announcement it will consult on further steps to help tackle bovine TB. Photo credit: Free Images: Andy Stafiniak

Defra will consult on the following proposals:

  • introducing compulsory testing for all cattle entering low-risk areas, such as the north and east of England
  • changes to the criteria for future badger control licences such as reducing the minimum area for a licence
  • controlling TB in non-bovine animals such as pigs, goats and deer.

BVA president and cattle vet John Blackwell said: “BVA has always argued that to control and eradicate bovine TB we need a comprehensive suite of measures that tackles all sources of infection.

“In particular, we welcome any proposals to extend and strengthen the tools we use to tackle bTB, such as improved surveillance and further cattle controls to halt the spread of TB northwards and eastwards.” BVA also supports greater attention being given to how the disease is spreading into non-bovines, such as pigs, goats and deer.

“On changes to the criteria for future badger control, we will need to fully consider the evidence base for reducing the minimum area for a licence, given the criteria build on the randomised badger culling trial.

We will consult our members on all of the proposed measures and continue to work with farmers and the Government to control and eradicate bTB.”

Dorset added to culling area

Meanwhile Defra has announced Dorset will be added to the culling area. Somerset and Gloucestershire were subject to culls in 2013 and 2014.

The RSPCA said it is “alarmed” over Government plans to forge ahead with culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire for a third year and add an extra cull zone in Dorset, despite what it said were two years of failed pilots.

The RSPCA is now renewing calls for the culls to be stopped and a more proactive approach through vaccination and improved biosecurity to be taken instead.

RSPCA assistant director of public affairs David Bowles said: “We are saddened, but unsurprised, at the restart of the badger culls.”

“To extend the number of cull areas further is alarming, especially when the past two years of culls have been such a failure. This action is flying in the face of public and scientific opinion.

The whole scheme has turned into a farce. In both years, minimum targets set for Gloucestershire were not met with fewer than half the required number of badgers killed. In Somerset, the 2013 targets were missed and were only just reached in 2014.”

The RSPCA also said the Government is going against agreed veterinary advice, with BVA withdrawing its support of free shooting as a killing method.

“We feel this method of trying to reduce the numbers of incidents of bTB is not just inhumane, but will not work. We have no evidence to show the first two years of culls have reduced bTB incidents in cattle and previous studies show that with the numbers killed it may even have made it worse.

“It is encouraging Defra has launched a vaccination scheme in the edge areas, but if this method is good enough there it is good enough in all areas.

“We still maintain the best way to combat bTB is if wildlife campaigners and farmers work together to develop vaccination projects combined with improved biosecurity. We know from Wales that a tougher cattle testing regime has resulted in a significant drop in bTB cases. This combined with a proactive vaccination programme provides the best way to regain control of the problem that is bTB,” he added.

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