A comprehensive strategy to achieve TB free status in England by 2038 has been announced by environment secretary Owen Paterson.
This includes continuing to strengthen cattle movement controls, a grant-funded scheme for badger vaccination projects in the “edge area” at the frontier of the disease, and improvements to the four-year badger cull pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Following recommendations from the Independent Expert Panel that assessed the badger cull pilots last year, a series of changes will be made to improve the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of culling. These changes will be monitored to assess their impact before further decisions are taken on more badger cull licences next year.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson said: “The four year culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are pilots and we always expected to learn lessons from them.
“It is crucial we get this right. That is why we are taking a responsible approach, accepting recommendations from experts to make the pilots better.
“Doing nothing is not an option. Bovine TB is a terrible disease which is devastating our cattle and dairy industries and causing misery for many people in rural communities. We need to do everything we can, as set out in our Strategy, to make England TB free.”
Improvements to the pilot culls will include more extensive training for contractors carrying out the cull, better planning by the licensed companies to ensure culling is spread evenly across all land available and better data collection to assess progress. The changes being introduced will help increase the effectiveness of the culls by removing more badgers in a safe and humane way.
There will be a trial of a new service in Somerset and Gloucestershire to provide farmers with bespoke advice on how to better protect their farms from disease. This service will be available to all farmers within the licensed cull areas.
Addressing bovine TB in badgers in high risk areas is just one part of a new long-term strategy to eradicate bovine TB from England. The strategy demonstrates the wide range of tools we will use to achieve TB free status by 2038. This includes:
- Offering grant funding for private badger vaccination projects in the edge areas aiming to increase TB immunity in uninfected badgers and reduce the spread of the disease. Defra will provide match-funding for successful applicants;
- Continuing to strengthen our cattle movement controls and testing regime to stop the disease from spreading from herd to herd;
- Improving biosecurity by helping farmers understand the disease risk of cattle they buy; and
- Continuing to invest in development of a new vaccine for cattle, which could be field tested in 2015, and an oral badger vaccine that Defra would look to have available for use by 2019.
The scale of the problem is different across the country, so Defra will establish three bTB management regions known as the High Risk Area, Low Risk Area and the Edge area. A range of measures will be applied to control the disease within each zone according to the risk.