Defra minister George Eustice has urged caution over suggestions that badger culling is starting to reduce levels of bovine TB in cattle.
Mr Eustice was speaking to an NFU fringe meeting during the Conservative Party conference.
His comments follow reports that farmers are seeing lower levels of TB among cattle in areas where badger culling is under way for the third year in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
See also: Badger culls ‘are cutting TB rates’
“It is actually too early for us to make firm judgements about the impact of this,” Mr Eustice told listeners at Manchester town hall on Monday (5 October).
“The incidence has gone down slightly but it is too early to be able to put that down specifically to the culls.”
Anecdotally there were cases where bovine TB levels had fallen, said Mr Eustice.
“The incidence [of TB] has gone down slightly but it is too early to be able to put that down specifically to the culls”
George Eustice, Defra
These included Gloucestershire farmer James Griffiths, whose beef herd remains TB-free after 11 years of constantly going down with the disease.
Statistics detailing TB levels are expected later this year.
But Mr Eustice said it was already clear that TB had not been spread by diseased badgers fleeing cull zones.
“Actually the perturbation effect, which we able to accurately measure, was really quite limited,” he said.