Welcome TB measures offset by lack of clarity within new cull licences

11 September 2017

BVA supports a comprehensive strategy to tackle bTB, using all of the tools in the toolbox

Today the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced a number of measures as part of the Government's strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England.

Commenting on the news, BVA President Gudrun Ravetz said: “Today's announcement sees 11 new licences issued and, while BVA supports badger culling as part of a comprehensive strategy for tackling bovine TB, we will continue to call on the Government to use the targeted and humane method of cage trapping and shooting only - rather than the current method of controlled shooting.

“As one of the many tools in the toolbox, we welcome the re-commencement of the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme, particularly if used as a ‘firebreak' to mitigate the spread of the disease into the low risk areas.

"The introduction of a TB Advisory Service will provide valuable additional support for farmers, who we'd encourage to continue working with local vets on biosecurity and herd health planning.

“Yet we are concerned that Government policy seems to have moved away from the original, evidence-based proposal of a six-week time limit for badger control within the open season, which enables an intensive, coordinated and effective operation in order to secure optimum disease control benefits.

“In terms of numbers, it is clear that badger population estimates have previously demonstrated considerable uncertainty and imprecision. It is critical that as accurate as possible population estimates, using an evidence-based methodology, are obtained and made openly available.

“We would urge clarity over cull timeframes, numbers and mid-cull review methodology to ensure that the progress made, enabling the application for Officially TB Free status, is not undermined.”

Today's Defra update follows a consultation on licensed badger control conducted at the start of 2017, to which the British Veterinary Association (BVA), British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) and the Association of Government Veterinarians (AGV) submitted a formal, joint response.

More information on BVA's activity on bTB is available on the BVA Policy - bovine tuberculosis webpage.