UK – The government has announced 2038 as the target year for a TB-free England with north and eastern parts intended to be cleared by 2025.
The strategy will see grant funding for badger vaccination schemes and England’s farmland partitioned into three disease zones with ‘high’ and ‘low’ risk areas separated by intermediate ‘buffer’ zones.
High risk zones constitute the West Midlands and South Western counties and will be bordered by a buffer region up the centre of England to Nottinghamshire and across to Cheshire.
Other measures include tighter surveillance and biosecurity through statutory requirements and revisions to badger culling trialled in the south west counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Badger Cull Improvements
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said pilot badger culls will continue to go ahead as improvements are on-going.
Speaking earlier today, Mr Paterson said: “The four year culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are pilots and we always expected to learn lessons from them.
“It is crucial we get this right. That is why we are taking a responsible approach, accepting recommendations from experts to make the pilots better.”
Mr Paterson said he intended to have reversed the spreading trend of bovine Tuberculosis by 2020 and that ‘half measures are simply not enough’.
He said badger cull improvements would mean better training for contract marksmen and a more even spread of culling over targeted land.
Farmers will also be given the chance to try a trial advice service within the licensed cull areas.
Badger Cull Assessment: Independent Findings
An in-depth assessment of the badger culls was released in conjunction with the TB strategy by an Independent Expert Panel, responsible for gathering data on the culls to assess the efficacy and ethics of the trials.
Reacting to the report, the British Veterinary Association said: “Clearly the headlines from the IEP report raise a number of concerns about the humaneness and efficacy of controlled shooting of badgers.
“To date BVA has supported the use of targeted, humane badger culling in carefully selected areas as part of a comprehensive approach to tackling bovine TB. But we have made it clear that we can only support badger culling if the method used is humane, safe and effective.”
The National Farmers Union disagreed with some of the assumptions made in the IEP report, although welcomed the finding that controlled shooting of badgers can be safe.
NFU President Meurig Raymond thanked all farmers for their cooperation in delivering the cull, although the NFU said farmers would be disappointed at the decision to roll out culls in other areas.
He emphasised the importance of trial and error in the culls.
“As pilots, there was always going to be the potential to make improvements as a result of knowledge gained," said Mr Raymond.
“After all that is what pilots are for. They have helped to gain a greater understanding of how we can tackle the wildlife element of this terrible disease cycle," he concluded.