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Badger culls to be phased out in favour of vaccinations, Government announces

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 05/03/2020 Helena Horton
a badger in grass: The government hopes to produce a cattle vaccine within five years -  Ben Birchall/PA Wire © Ben Birchall/PA Wire The government hopes to produce a cattle vaccine within five years -  Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Badger culls will be phased out, the government has announced, as it plans to trial vaccinations of cattle and bagers instead.

The environment secretary has said he does not want to continue killing the animals "indefinitely" so has welcomed new methods to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.

Farmers have previously maintained that killing badgers is the most effective way to protect their cattle from tuberculosis.

It is one of the most pressing issues facing the farming industry, as more than 30,000 cattle are slaughtered each year due to infection from bTB.

However, a recent study by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has indicated that vaccinations could be effective in stopping the spread.

Because of this, the government will now accelerate the work towards deployment of the cattle vaccine within the next five years.

© Getty

The commitment is part of  the government’s response to an independent review  of its 25 year bTB strategy, led by Professor Sir Charles Godfray, which showed the disease spreads more effectively from cattle to cattle rather than from badgers.

As wider preventative measures are introduced, the response to the Godfray review sets out an intention to begin to phase out intensive badger culling.

Where four-year cull cycles have ended, the government will phase out the method. After the infection in the badger population is dealt with by culling followed by badger vaccination, it will allow other measures such as cattle vaccination to be more effective. This is the combined approach needed to achieve the government’s goal of eradicating the disease by 2038.

However, the government will retain the ability to introduce new cull zones where local epidemiological evidence points to an ongoing role of badgers in maintaining the disease.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Bovine TB is a slow-moving and insidious disease leading to the slaughter of over 30,000 cattle every year and considerable trauma for farmers as they suffer the loss of highly prized animals and valued herds.

“The badger cull has led to a significant reduction in the disease as demonstrated by recent academic research and past studies. But no one wants to continue the cull of this protected species indefinitely so, once the weight of disease in wildlife has been addressed, we will accelerate other elements of our strategy including improved diagnostics and cattle vaccination to sustain the downward trajectory of the disease.”


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