Further steps to help tackle bovine TB in England have been announced today as part of the Government’s comprehensive strategy to beat the disease.
Bovine TB costs taxpayers £100m each year. It is a significant threat to the future of our beef and dairy industries, directly affecting one in five of all herds in the worst affected parts of the country.
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 the Chief Vet.
A call for views on controlling TB in non-bovine animals such as pigs, goats, and deer.
Farming Minister George Eustice said:
England has the highest incidence of TB in Europe and that is why we are taking strong action to deliver our 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries.
This includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, vaccinating badgers in the buffer zone around high-risk areas, and culling badgers where the disease is rife.
Our approach of dealing with the disease in cattle and wildlife has worked overseas and is supported by leading vets.
Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens said:
Controlling bovine TB is vital for our beef and dairy industries. These proposals to further strengthen testing in the low risk areas will 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.
As part of our measured approach to tackling bovine TB and achieving disease control benefits Natural England has authorised targeted badger culls in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset this year.
Under the Government’s long-term strategy to eradicate bovine TB, Defra has already introduced tougher movement controls, more frequent testing and is supporting badger vaccination schemes in the “Edge area”, a buffer zone established to contain the spread of the disease.
Earlier this year, Defra published a new online tool mapping the location of bovine TB incidents over the last 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.
Meurig Raymond, NFU President, said: “Bovine TB remains a huge problem for beef and dairy farmers across the South West, large parts of the Midlands and beyond. Thousands of cattle farmers are fighting a daily battle against the spread of this disease. More than 32,800 cattle were slaughtered because of this disease last year and more than 4,700 herds that had been clear of it were affected by it.”
“We are pleased that the Government is pressing ahead with its 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB. The NFU believes the strategy – the first comprehensive plan to tackle bovine TB in England – gives us the best chance of controlling and eradicating this devastating disease and it is vital it is implemented in full as quickly as possible.
“Part of this strategy is ensuring that the disease is kept out of the areas of the country that are at a low risk from bovine TB. The launch of the cattle movement control consultation today will be welcomed by farmers in these areas who have been frustrated by the lack of progress on this. We will consult fully with all our members about this before submitting our response.
“Badger culling is an essential part of the Government’s 25-year strategy in areas where bovine TB is rife. While we are pleased that culling has been extended beyond Somerset and Gloucestershire we are very disappointed that more areas will not benefit from it this year. This is much slower progress than we wanted to see.
“We know there are many areas where the disease is rife that would benefit from badger culling and where farmers are prepared to play their part in the fight against bovine TB. The Government has repeatedly given a clear commitment to tackling the disease in badgers as part of its 25-year strategy. We expect that commitment to tackle this disease to be backed up with further roll out of culling to other areas where bTB is endemic next year and in the coming years. We will continue to press for that as a matter of urgency.
“As this policy is rolled out to more areas in the years to come it is crucial that the model is looked at to ensure it is as simple and effective as possible and less vulnerable to disruption. We hope that the consultation that has been launched today on the licensing criteria will begin the discussion about how this can be achieved.”