Government advisers have laid the foundations for a wildlife cull to tackle bovine tuberculosis.
Members of the TB Eradication Group, which has submitted its plan to tackle the disease for EU approval, said a cull in England and Wales should be an option in the future, despite the current lack of political will.
Details of the eradication plan were revealed when the independent group of industry representatives published its first progress report in Westminster on Thursday (8 October).
Although a cull was not covered in depth within the report, group members stressed the door had been left open for such a move, should the political situation change.
“Cattle and wildlife measures would be necessary for an eradication programme to be effective,” group members agreed.
“It is vital the group continues to consider all the potential tools that could be required in the short, medium and long term.”
The group, which has spent almost a year examining ways to eradicate TB in England and Wales, is now discussing how best to implement a cull when the opportune time arises, including targeting diseased setts or blanket culling within a region surrounded by hard boundaries.
It has also made number of recommendations to help farmers manage a TB breakdown, while meeting EU regulations.
Some proposals will not be welcome news to farmers, including reducing the number of inconclusive reactor tests from three to two before confirming TB restriction.
Parish testing would also be changed to avoid one-year testing of farms alongside those with four-year intervals.
However, the group also wants measures to improve support to farmers living under TB restriction, including boosting the use of Approved Finishing Units to get more calves through the system.
“We’re trying to reduce the bureaucracy and get animals moved with minimal risk,” said a group spokesman.
Other options include possible changes to the treatment of farms with separate units and allowing untested calves from restricted herds to go to slaughter through collection centres or dedicated markets.
Following a report from the Farm Crisis Network on the impact of TB on farmers’ welfare, it also hopes to set up a TB Farm Advisory Service to improve communication with and support for farmers.
Further details of the package will be published in 16 October’s issue of Farmers Weekly and on www.fwi.co.uk.