Farming News - New bovine TB policy will jeopardise ability to control disease

New bovine TB policy will jeopardise ability to control disease

27 May 2021
Frontdesk / Livestock

The government has today responded to its consultation on the future bovine TB (bTB) strategy and confirmed it will no longer license new intensive badger culls after 2022, alongside shortening and restricting supplementary badger cull licensing. 

The NFU does not support the measures because it goes against the science and evidence, which shows badger culling is an effective measure to control the spread of bTB, alongside other controls. 

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “This decision clearly ignores the government’s own peer-reviewed evidence in the Downs report*that showed badger culling in Gloucestershire reduced bTB incidents by 66%. It also ignores its own evidence in its consultation which showed the current strategy, which includes badger controls, delivered reductions in TB incidents in cull areas by 51% after four years.

“This disease continues to have a devastating impact on farming families across the country, causing them huge emotional, mental and financial strain.

“Many farming families have struggled with bTB for a very long time. In recent years, they have started to see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel but today’s announcement will drive a coach and horses through this positive hope. 

“It is incredibly disappointing and frustrating that the government is pressing ahead with its proposals to abandon badger culling, a hugely successful element of the strategy. The government should be making decisions based on the science and evidence, which clearly shows that badger culling is effective in controlling the spread of this disease.

“Every farmer wants to make this strategy a success and ensure it delivers a TB-free England. However, the pursuit of unproven and untested methods, such as badger and cattle vaccinations**, is irresponsible and could lead to the further spread of this disease at a time when the current strategy is making inroads in tackling it.

“Throughout this process we have championed policy based on robust data that demonstrates success, not arbitrary dates. It’s apparent from this decision the government have abandoned making policy based on science and evidence. This in itself is a very worrying direction of travel.

“I want to be very clear – this decision will potentially have far-reaching and severe impacts for cattle farmers across the country.”

*The Downs report, peer-reviewed research into the effectiveness of the badger cull, showed reductions in new cattle TB breakdowns of 66% in Gloucestershire and 37% in Somerset.

**Badger vaccination is often given a false equivalence to culling. In theory, badger vaccination could be a potential tool to help the bTB eradication strategy in the future. However, currently there is no evidence to suggest any effect in reducing bTB in cattle. APHA analysis of one of the largest vaccination trials conducted (the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project area) concluded: ‘The results of this analysis suggest that badger vaccination had no effect on cattle bTB incidence’.