This does represent a positive step in the right direction in that it is a shift in strategy more towards the vaccination of both cattle and badgers and towards increased and improved cattle-based controls.
Sadly, it does not mean that the badger culls will stop, but it should mean that in the longer-term fewer badgers will be killed. It should also mean supplementary cull licences will not automatically be approved for all of those areas which have completed four years of intensive culling of badgers.
Instead, government-supported vaccination programmes will be trialled in some of these areas.
Badger Trust Response – 5 March 2020
Government finally concludes that badger culling is not the solution to lowering TB in cattle
After much delay, the Government has finally issued its response to the Sir Charles Godfray TB Policy Review
In what is a ground-breaking document the Government concludes that the mass indiscriminate slaughter of badgers, an iconic British wildlife species, will not provide a long term solution to reducing bovine TB in cattle.
Reacting to the Government response to the Godfray review, the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:
“After spending an estimated £60 million of public money killing over 100,000 badgers in the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory, the Government has finally concluded that the long term solution to bovine TB in cattle requires a major focus on cattle-based disease control measures together with both the vaccination of badgers and cattle against TB.
The Government is right to state that far too much emphasis has been based on killing badgers by the farming industry and too little effort had been made to improve biosecurity, introduce risk-based trading, and tighten cattle movement controls.
The Government is also right to conclude the TB testing methods need to be improved in the high risk and edge areas, with greater use of gamma interferon blood tests alongside the SICCT skin test to better identify and remove TB reactors in the herd before they spread the disease to cattle and badgers.
The commitment to introduce badger vaccination after four years of culling in half the current cull zones (41 areas) for a two year period, will hugely increase the number of publicly funded badger vaccination projects, and will provide significant data to assess the benefits of badger vaccination compared to culling.
Now we have left the EU we are also seeing a much needed emphasis by the Government on the need to move forward with cattle vaccination trials.
The recent breakthrough on a reliable differential test between vaccinated cattle and TB infected cattle (DIVA test) at the University of Surrey opens the door for cattle to be vaccinated against TB in England for the first time.
A move by the Government to end the cruel live animal export trade could also speed up this process.
In its response to the Godfray TB review today, the Government has finally come up with a long term exit strategy from badger culling based on cattle-based control measures and TB vaccination in both badgers and cattle.
This is better for taxpayers, farmers and the future of our precious wildlife.”
Jo Bates-Keegan, Chair of the Badger Trust Board added: “There is much to consider in the detail of the Government response, however, the Badger Trust welcomes a reduction in culling badgers and especially that vaccination is rightly being looked at as a viable alternative to culling; we’ve been briefing the Government for decades that culling badgers isn’t the way to beat this disease.
Whilst this is positive news for badgers and for Badger Trust groups and members, we’d like the Government to go a step further and stop culling altogether as it now accepts it is cattle-to-cattle transmission and inaccurate testing that sustains this disease rather than badgers.
We fully support the vaccination of cattle and badgers to protect them from TB, and are pleased to note that the Government accepts that badgers are not the problem.”
In February 2018, the Government commissioned an independent review of its strategy for achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis Free (OTF) status in England by 2038.
The review was led by Professor Sir Charles Godfray supported by a small working group. The review took place during Spring and Summer 2018 and reported to Ministers in October 2018.
A government response was published on 5 March 2020.