Government sets out next phase of strategy to combat bovine tuberculosis

The government has today set out plans for the next stage of its strategy to eradicate bTB, including field trials of a cattle vaccine, plans to vaccinate more badgers against the disease and improved testing to intercept bTB earlier.

As a result of a globally significant breakthrough by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the government will now accelerate the work towards deployment of the cattle vaccine within the next five years.

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.

bTB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that England faces today. More than 30,000 cattle are slaughtered each year due to infection from bTB and a cattle vaccination could become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease following the necessary testing and approvals to ensure its safety and efficacy.

Independent scientific analysis has shown that badger culling has resulted in significant reductions in the spread of the disease to cattle with disease incidence coming down significantly in the two areas analysed, with reductions by sixty-six and thirty-seven percent. However intensive culls, which currently cover fifty seven percent of England’s High-Risk Area for the disease, are only one phase of the long-term bTB strategy to eradicate the disease by 2038.

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

Improvement of the cattle testing regime is also a key component of the strategy to combat bTB. Today’s response makes clear the government’s determination to have more sensitive testing which will intercept the disease earlier and remove it from cattle herds quicker.