In March, the government finally published its long-awaited response to the review of bovine TB policy it commissioned two years ago.
Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s Head of Policy, said: “There are some good proposals in the government’s response. Plans to licence a cattle vaccine against bovine TB within five years are very welcome. Improving testing to help identify the tens of thousands of infected cattle, which go undetected every year, and remain in their herds or are sold on, spreading infection, is long overdue. Stricter trading and biosecurity measures to ensure cattle farming and trading practices do not result in the spread of infection are also welcome.
“The response also recognises that badger culling cannot go on forever. It talks of the need to identify an exit policy from badger culling, and its gradual replacement by government-supported badger vaccination and surveillance. However, in welcoming this long-overdue shift in emphasis by the government, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this means badger culling is about to come to an abrupt end any time soon.
“The response also talks of extending the coverage of intensive badger culls in the High Risk Area, which could see badgers being targeted across 27,000 square kilometres of England’s countryside (an area bigger than the whole of Wales) in the coming year. This comes despite little evidence of the government’s repeated claims that widespread intensive culling has produced significant disease control benefits, being justified.
“It seems badgers will continue to be unfairly victimised for some time to come and wrongly blamed for the continuing spread of a disease problem that has been created by decades of poor farming and trading practices, and exacerbated by ill-advised government policy.”
Born Free believes there is no justification for the continued targeting of badgers in the control of bovine TB in cattle. We will hold government to account over the implementation of the positive changes in policy, while continuing to call for an urgent and immediate end to the inhumane, ineffective, expensive and unnecessary badger culls.