Badger cull recommended for bovine TB hotspots

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has announced a comprehensive package of measures to tackle the spread of bovine TB in England.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has announced a comprehensive package of measures to tackle the spread of bovine TB in England.

The Bovine TB Eradication Programme for England outlines the measures to tackle TB in cattle, badgers and other animals, including plans for a science-led cull of badgers in the worst affected areas.

Cattle measures, including routine testing and surveillance, pre-movement testing, movement restrictions and removal and slaughter of infected animals will remain the foundation of the TB eradication programme.

The Government will work with the farming industry and vets to promote good biosecurity and provide advice and support to farmers, as well as investing £20 million over the next five years to develop effective cattle and oral badger vaccines as quickly as possible.

The programme also includes plans to license groups of farmers and landowners to carry out science-led, strictly controlled culls of badgers in the areas worst affected by TB.

“I wish there was some other practical way of dealing with this, but we can’t escape the fact that the evidence supports the case for a controlled reduction of the badger population in areas worst affected by bovine TB,” Mrs Spelman said.

“With the problem of TB spreading and no usable vaccine on the horizon, I’m strongly minded to allow controlled culling, carried out by groups of farmers and landowners, as part of a science-led and carefully managed policy of badger control.”

Badger control licences would be issued by Natural England under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to enable groups of farmers and landowners to reduce badger populations at their own expense.

The cull would be piloted in two areas initially, to confirm the effectiveness and hamaneness of controlled shooting, overseen by an independent panel of scientific experts. Only if this is found to be effective will the policy be rolled out more widely.

Applications for licences would only be considered for a cull area of at least 150 km2, and with culling to be carried out by groups of farmers over a minimum of four years. F

armer groups would have to take reasonable measures to establish barriers and buffers, such as rivers, coastlines and motorways, or areas where there are no cattle or where vaccination of badgers occurs, at the edge of culling areas to minimise the effect of ‘perturbation’, where disturbing the badger population can cause an increase in TB in cattle in the surrounding area.

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