This petition was submitted during the 2017–2019 Conservative government
Petition Halt the badger cull & investigate alternative, humane options for bTB control.
Despite scientific evidence that the badger cull may actually be INCREASING instances of bovine tuberculosis, the government has announced a geographical extension of the cull in autumn 2019. Please listen to the scientists, stop the cull & adopt alternative humane options to culling.
This petition closed early because of a General Election Find out more on the Petitions Committee website
This response was given on 17 October 2019
Bovine TB is one of the greatest animal health challenges facing England today. We are committed to eradicating this disease by deploying a range of measures, founded in science.
Read the response in full
Bovine TB (BTB) is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that England faces today. It is a slow moving and insidious disease which leads to the slaughter of over 30,000 cattle every year with breeders suffering the loss of valued herds thereby creating considerable trauma in the farming industry. Government spends about £100 million a year on disease control in England with the cost to industry estimated to be a further £50 million. Herd breakdowns also have major consequences for the welfare and well-being of farmers and their families.
Our 25-year strategy to eradicate BTB, published in 2014, is founded in science. It establishes a range of measures to control the disease and protect the future of our livestock industries. The cornerstone of our strategy is a policy of regular testing and removal of infected cattle from herds. We have incrementally introduced tougher restrictions on cattle movements from herds at risk of infection and more sensitive tests. We have also encouraged effective biosecurity on-farm and introduced measures to encourage more effective risk management and more information for cattle farmers.
As part of our approach, a policy of badger control has been rolled out in many parts of the High Risk Area in the south-west and west of England; there is no example of a country that has successfully eradicated BTB without also addressing the presence of the disease in wildlife. The latest independent, peer-reviewed academic study into the effectiveness of badger culling (Downs et al. (2019) Nature Scientific Reports) showed a statistically significant decline in BTB herd incidence in the first two cull areas: a 66% reduction in TB incidence rates in the Gloucestershire cull area and a 37% reduction in the Somerset cull area over the four years of intensive badger culling, relative to similar comparison areas where no culling took place.
However, the badger is an iconic, protected species and no one wants to be culling badgers forever. That is why, five years into the current strategy, the government asked Professor Sir Charles Godfray to review progress and consider what additional actions might be necessary now to ensure other tools and interventions are ready to be deployed in later phases of the strategy. Sir Charles’s report is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-strategy-for-achieving-bovine-tuberculosis-free-status-for-england-2018-review.
The report makes clear that there are no easy answers to reducing disease levels. It confirms that badgers do transmit BTB to cattle and contribute to the persistence of the disease. However, it also stresses that moving from lethal to non-lethal control of the disease in badgers is highly desirable. In addition, Sir Charles’s report recommends: improving the efficacy of our testing regime so that we are able to detect the presence of the disease earlier and remove it from cattle herds faster; enhancing on-farm controls, biosecurity and safe trading practices to stop the disease spreading; and addressing major research priorities, including those in the field of cattle vaccination.
Sir Charles’s review concluded in October 2018. Our response will be published shortly, setting out the next steps the government intends to take and how our policy will continue to evolve. There will never be a single answer to tackling the scourge of BTB, but by deploying a range of policy interventions, informed by Sir Charles’s important contribution, we can turn the tide on this terrible disease and achieve our long-term goal of eradicating it by 2038.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.