Bovine TB costs taxpayers over £100 million every year and England has the highest incidence of the disease in Europe. In 2015 alone over 28,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England to control the disease, causing devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities, where herds have often been built up on family farms over many generations.
The government’s strategy includes tighter cattle measures, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where the disease is rife. Advice from the Chief Veterinary Officer makes clear that dealing with the disease in both cattle and badgers is essential to tackle the disease effectively. This strategy is already delivering results: we are on track to achieve TB freedom to more than half of the country by 2020—the first time anywhere in England will have this status.
New measures outlined today include:
• Seven additional licences for badger control measures covering parts of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, with operations now underway.
• A consultation on introducing further cattle measures including more sensitive tests for TB-affected herds in the High Risk Area, and increased surveillance testing for herds in the Edge Area.
• A call for views on a more risk-based approach to TB testing of cattle herds in the High Risk Area.
• New farm advice packs to help farmers affected by bovine TB to improve the effectiveness of biosecurity measures on their farm.
• An updated online tool mapping the location of bovine TB incidents over the last five years to allow farmers to make informed decisions when buying livestock.
• A consultation on introducing further measures for controlling TB in non-bovine animals.
Farming Minister George Eustice said:
“Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England is delivering results, with more than half the country on track to be free of the disease by the end of this Parliament.
“Bovine TB has a devastating impact on farms, which is why we are taking strong action to eradicate the disease, including tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control measures in areas where the disease is rife.
“The veterinary advice and the experience of other countries is clear—we will not be able to eradicate this disease unless we also tackle the reservoir of the disease in the badger population as well as cattle.
Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens said:
“Action to prevent infection of cattle from significant reservoirs of TB infection in local badger populations is an essential part of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England.
“Proactive badger control is currently the best available option and the licensing of further areas is necessary to realise disease control benefits at regional rather than at local levels.”
In 2015 badger control operations in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset were all successful in meeting their targets, and the government announced in December that it wanted to see badger control over a wider number of areas in 2016.
As part of its long-term strategy to eradicate bovine TB, the government has already introduced tougher movement controls and more frequent testing, as well as working with farmers, vets and others to improve biosecurity on farm and when trading.