Press release

Bovine TB eradication strategy delivering results

The comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England is delivering results with more than half the country on track to be officially free of the disease by the end of this Parliament, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss confirmed today.

Badger control operations in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset were all successful in meeting their targets. The Chief Vet’s advice is that the results show that industry-led badger control can deliver the level of effectiveness required to be confident of achieving disease control benefits. As part of our strategy the government wants to see badger control over a wider number of areas next year.

Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK. Dealing with the disease is costing the taxpayer £100million each year. Last year alone over 26,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England to control the disease, causing devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities across large swathes of the country.

The Government is taking strong action to deliver a long-term plan to eradicate the disease and protect the future of the UK’s dairy and beef industries. The comprehensive strategy includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, improving biosecurity on farm and when trading, and badger control in areas where TB is rife.

The Low Risk Area, covering over half of England, is on track to achieve officially TB-free status by the end of 2019. This would be the first time anywhere in England has enjoyed this status.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB through tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control is delivering results.

We are on track to deliver TB freedom to more than half of the country by the end of this Parliament which will boost our trade prospects and is expected to deliver benefits worth millions of pounds to our dairy and beef industries. Badger control in the south west has been successful and we will enable it to take place over a wide number of areas next year.

I am determined to deliver our strategy to tackle bovine TB and eradicate this devastating disease as soon as possible.

To further improve our cattle movement controls, the Government plans to introduce statutory post-movement testing next year for cattle entering the Low Risk Area. This will reduce the risk of importing TB-infected animals from higher risk areas and bring this part of England in line with Scotland.

In November, Defra, in partnership with AHDB, the NFU, BCVA and Landex, launched a campaign to step up biosecurity measures in farms and in the cattle trade and help protect herds from bovine TB.

We have overseen the completion of the first year of six private badger vaccination projects funded under the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme. An ongoing worldwide shortage of BCG vaccine and the need to prioritise use in humans over badgers means that, in line with advice from Public Health England, we are suspending sourcing of the vaccine for badger vaccination schemes in England until the supply situation resolves. This follows the decision of the Welsh Government to do the same.

The European Commission has endorsed Defra’s bovine TB eradication programme for ongoing financial support in 2016.