The number of cattle slaughtered to control bovine tuberculosis declined by almost 25% in the first three months of 2010.

DEFRA statistics show that 9044 cattle were slaughtered between 1 January and the beginning of April this year. That compares with 11,985 for the same period in 2009.

The latest figures for new cases of the disease also show a decline. In April this year they fell by 8.2% year on year.

But a DEFRA official warned: “These statistics are provisional and need to be viewed with care. They are a snapshot of the date they were extracted.

“A number of incidents are still unclassified until post-mortem evidence of TB and all data are subject to revision,” the official said.

His comments were echoed by a spokesman for The Badger Trust.

“We must treat these figures with caution, but taking them at face value I am genuinely delighted both for the badger and for the farmers whose animals have escaped this dreadful disease.”

Read DEFRA’s latest statistical release.

• code123