Defra unveils further plans to combat TB

Further measures to combat bovine TB have been announced following the publication of the results of the second year of the badger culls.

A biosecurity action plan for farmers sets out plans to help reduce the disease spread on farms.

There will be a new service giving farmers within the badger cull pilot zones bespoke veterinary advice on TB management.

See also: EU pledges £12m to Defra plan to combat TB

Defra secretary Liz Truss said badger culling would continue alongside the additional measures.

“The chief vet’s advice is the results of this year’s cull in Somerset show they can be effective. That is why I am determined to continue with a comprehensive strategy that includes culling.”
Liz Truss, Defra secretary

She added: “During the last parliament, bovine TB rates in England soared to the highest in Europe. That is why we are taking strong action in pursuing our comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, vaccinations and culling.

“The chief vet’s advice is the results of this year’s cull in Somerset show they can be effective. That is why I am determined to continue with a comprehensive strategy that includes culling.”

There are also plans to launch a consultation on a package of tougher cattle measures in 2015, including statutory post-movement testing for cattle entering “low-risk” areas.

Other measures include an online map showing locations of TB and disease reports for “edge” and “low-risk” areas.

Independently audited results of the culls showed levels of humaneness and public safety were maintained.

In Somerset, 341 badgers were killed, exceeding the minimum target of 316. But only 274 badgers – 45% of the minimum target of 615 badgers – were killed in the Gloucestershire cull, which was hampered by the activities of protesters.

The Humane Society International (HSI) UK said it was “deeply disappointed” by Defra’s decision to continue culling next year.

Claire Bass, executive director of HSI UK, said: “We are extremely disappointed that once again the chief vet has chosen to endorse what is widely considered within the scientific community to be a cruel and costly failure of a badger cull.

“Defra has not placed sufficient data in the public domain to allow independent assessment of the suffering of badgers, but the headlines are clear: many badgers will have taken up to five minutes to die, and many will have been mortally wounded and slowly bled to death underground.

“If Defra decides to carry on with the cull for a third year it will again be firmly placing politics above science and ethics.”

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