The National Farmers Union announced that pilot badger culls have started to help bring bovine tuberculosis (TB) under control. These culls are being carried out in Gloucestershire and Somerset, which are TB hotspot areas, by trained professionals.
Bovine TB is spreading across England and devastating cattle and dairy industries. Over 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2012 due to bovine TB, and the disease is continuing to spread across England. New herd incidents in Great Britain have risen from 1,075 in 1996 to 5,171 in 2012. In 2012, 6,919 herds were under restrictions due to bovine TB.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said that despite the strict controls already in place, the country would not get on top of this disease until starting to deal with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That was the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.
Paterson stressed that was why these pilot culls were so important. They had to use every tool in the box because TB was so difficult to eradicate and spreading rapidly.
According to Paterson there is work on new badger and cattle vaccines but they are years away from being ready.