Thank you for contacting me about controlling the spread of bovine TB.
The UK’s bovine TB eradication strategy is founded in the lessons of previous attempts to control the disease, as well as evidence from other countries around the world. This strategy includes a policy of regular testing and removal of infected cattle from herds, as well as tougher restrictions on cattle movements from herds at risk of infection and measures to encourage greater risk management in areas where the disease is rife.
The badger cull has led to a significant reduction in the disease, but no one wants to continue the cull of this protected species indefinitely. That is why the Government asked Sir Charles Godfray to conduct a review, which concluded in October 2018. Earlier this year, in response to that review, the Government set out its intended next steps.
The current BCG vaccine will never provide full protection, so funding will be made available to accelerate the research and trial work needed to achieve the aim of having a deployable vaccine in the next five years. Alongside this, an exit strategy from the intensive culling of badgers will unfold. As soon as possible, a pilot Government-funded badger vaccination will be introduced in at least one area where the four-year cull cycle has concluded, with simultaneous surveillance of disease. The aim is to only allow future culls where the evidence points to a significant reservoir of Bovine TB in badgers.
Finally, the Government will invest in the deployment of better, more frequent and more diverse cattle testing so that we are able to detect the presence of the disease earlier and remove it from cattle herds faster. Trials of new bovine TB cattle vaccinations will also get underway in England and Wales as a result of a major breakthrough by Government scientists. It is hoped that these trials will enable accelerated progress towards planned deployment of a cattle vaccine by 2025.
Ministers hope that areas of the country which join the current cull programme in the next few years will be able to wind down their involvement by the mid to late 2020s. Of course, there is no single answer to tackling the scourge of bTB and the Government believes that by deploying a range of policy interventions we can turn the tide on this terrible disease.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP