Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has set out his plan to rid Britain of bovine TB within 25 years. ‘We will have better cattle testing and movement controls, but we will also be bearing down on the disease in wildlife,’ explains Mr Paterson. ‘We will be spending a lot of money on developing vaccines for both badgers and cattle, plus the latest technologies for better diagnosis.’

Sett by sett treatment and even contraceptives for badgers will be considered, and alpacas and llamas may be tested. Strategies will concentrate on preventing bovine TB reaching the north and east of England, which is currently disease-free, as well as halting it in the South-West, West Midlands and East Sussex, from which it’s currently spreading outwards.

Mr Paterson says we must learn from successful eradication programmes, which have included culling of wildlife, in Australia, the USA, New Zealand and Ireland. During the past 10 years in Britain, 305,000 otherwise healthy cattle have been slaughtered; last year, it was 28,000 at a cost of £100 million.

In welcoming the announcement, NFU president Peter Kendall suggests that farmers should have ‘a much bigger say’ in disease-control policy. ‘The strategy has to take the industry-farmers and vets-along with it,’ he says. ‘The pilot [badger] culls show that farmers are prepared to contribute to a disease-control package where they can see a clear value.’

Defra has launched a consultation, which closes on September 26 (https://
consult.defra.gov.uk/farming/tb).

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