DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has unveiled what it says is a “comprehensive” strategy to achieve TB-free status in England by 2038.
Announced by the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, the package includes strengthening cattle movement controls; a grant- funded scheme for badger vaccination projects in the “edge areas”; and “improvements” to the badger cull pilot schemes in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Following recommendations from the independent expert panel which assessed the cull pilots last year, a series of changes will be made to improve the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the programme.
These changes will be monitored before decisions are taken on extending the badger cull next year.
Mr Paterson said: “The culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are pilots and we always expected to learn lessons from them.
“It is crucial we get this right. Doing nothing is not an option. Bovine TB is a terrible disease which is devastating our cattle and dairy industries and causing misery for many people in rural communities.
“We need to do everything we can, as set out in our strategy, to make England TB-free.”
Changes to the culls will include more training for contractors, better planning to ensure culling is spread evenly, and better data collection.
There will also be a trial of a service in Somerset and Gloucestershire to provide farmers with advice on how to better protect their farms from disease.
The Defra report says that addressing bovine TB in badgers is just one part of a new long-term strategy to eradicate the disease from England.
Other tools in its programme include:
Offering grant-funding for private badger vaccination projects in the “edge areas” aiming to increase TB immunity in uninfected badgers and reduce the spread of the disease.
Strengthening cattle movement controls and testing regimes to stop the disease from spreading from herd to herd.
Improving biosecurity by helping farmers understand the disease risk in cattle they buy.
Continuing to invest in the development of a vaccine for cattle, which could be field-tested next year, and plans for an oral badger vaccine set to be ready for use by 2019.
Source: Cornish Guardian