This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Bovine TB is spreading across England and devastating our cattle and dairy industries. Over 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2012 due to bovine TB, and the disease is continuing to spread across England. New herd incidents in Great Britain have risen from 1,075 in 1996 to 5,171 in 2012. In 2012, 6,919 herds were under restrictions due to bovine TB.
On 27 August the National Farmers Union announced that pilot badger culls have started to help bring bovine TB under control. These culls have been carried out in Gloucestershire and Somerset, which are TB hotspot areas, by trained professionals. The badger cull in Somerset has now ended following the completion of a three week extension to the licence. An extension period for the Gloucestershire badger cull finished on Saturday 30 November after agreement was reached between the cull company and Natural England to stop early.
Bovine TB is an infectious disease that is spreading across the country and devastating our cattle and dairy industries.
We know that despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That’s the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.
That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly.
If we had a workable vaccine we would use it. A badger vaccine would have no effect on the high proportion of sick badgers in TB hotspots who would continue to spread the disease. We are working on new badger and cattle vaccines but they are years away from being ready and we cannot afford to wait while TB gets worse.