The second year of the four-year badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire is underway.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy supported by leading vets which includes cattle movement controls, vaccinating badgers in edge areas and culling badgers where the disease is rife. This is vital for the future of our beef and dairy industries, and our nation’s food security.
At present we have the highest rates of bovine TB in Europe. Doing nothing is not an option and that is why we are taking a responsible approach to dealing with bovine TB.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss informed Parliament this morning.
Written Ministerial Statement - Elizabeth Truss
I am today announcing that the second year of our planned, four-year badger culls is underway. This is part of our comprehensive strategic approach to make England TB-free. This approach includes cattle movement restrictions, vaccination in the edge area, and culling where the disease is rife. Culling operations started last night in the same areas as last year, West Gloucestershire and West Somerset.
It is vital that we work to make England bovine TB-free – doing nothing is not an option. England now has the highest incidence of TB in Europe – greater than the sum of all other EU Member States combined. Between 1997 and 2010, TB in cattle increased nine fold, threatening the future of our beef and dairy industries and our nation’s food security.
That is why this government is pursuing a comprehensive strategic approach, based on best international practice, supported by leading vets and endorsed by the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Defra’s Chief Scientist and the Chief Veterinary Officer.
Overseas experience shows that in order to eradicate the disease, the problem must be tackled in both cattle and wildlife. Therefore, our approach includes tighter cattle testing and movement restrictions, vaccination of badgers in the edge area and culling of badgers in those areas where the disease is rife. This approach has worked in Australia which is now bovine TB-free, and Ireland and New Zealand, Where incidence has dramatically reduced.
Last week I launched the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme to support badger vaccination projects in those areas next to the high risk area. Vaccinating healthy badgers in this way is intended to create a buffer zone to help prevent the spread of bovine TB to new parts of the country where the incidence of the disease is currently very low. Vaccination cannot, however, replace culling in TB hotspots such as Gloucestershire and Somerset as it doesn’t cure infected badgers who will continue to spread disease.
This year’s culls incorporate improvements learned from last year’s culls and those set out in the Independent Expert Panel’s report. We have made changes to improve the humaneness and effectiveness, including better training and monitoring.
The culls will be monitored closely and we have published details of the monitoring procedures that AHVLA and Natural England will follow on GOV.UK. As with last year, these results will be independently audited.