Badger vaccination, increased cattle testing and the development of a cattle vaccine will be accelerated as part of new government measures to eradicate bovine TB.
The licensing of new intensive badger culls, which helped reduce bTB rates by half in certain areas, will cease after 2022, Defra has confirmed today (27 May).
Existing cull licenses could be cut short after 2 years, down from 5 years, where supported by scientific evidence, and there will be no option for them to be renewed.
The government said it would develop a monitoring system to track the badger population and disease levels to help tackle the disease.
The NFU said it was 'disappointing and frustrating' to see the government pressing ahead with proposals to abandon badger culling.
The union warned that the decision would potentially have 'far-reaching and severe impacts' for cattle farmers across the country.
The government also announced a 5-year badger vaccination programme in East Sussex has been awarded over £2m to help farmers deploy vaccinations over an area of 250 square kilometres.
Defra said the results of this trial would help inform ways to deploy future vaccination schemes at scale across England.
Last year, the government announced that bTB cattle vaccination trials in England and Wales had been given the green light as a result of new research.
The trials are expected to commence in June and, if successful, the project will remain on track to enable the deployment of a cattle bTB vaccine by 2025.
Bovine TB is one of the most difficult animal health challenges that the UK faces, causing trauma for farmers and costing taxpayers over £100m every year.
And over 27,000 cattle in England were slaughtered to tackle the disease over the course of the last year.
Defra Secretary George Eustice unveiled the new measures: "The badger cull has led to a significant reduction in the disease but no one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely.
"That is why we are now building on this progress by accelerating other elements of our strategy, including cattle vaccination and improved testing so that we can eradicate this insidious disease and start to phase out badger culling as soon as possible."
The NFU said the new measures 'ignored the government's own evidence' in its consultation which showed the current strategy, which includes badger controls, delivered reductions in TB incidents in cull areas by 51% after four years.
Deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “This decision clearly ignores the government’s own peer-reviewed evidence in the Downs report that showed badger culling in Gloucestershire reduced bTB incidents by 66%.
"It also ignores its own evidence in its consultation which showed the current strategy, which includes badger controls, delivered reductions in TB incidents in cull areas by 51% after four years.
“This disease continues to have a devastating impact on farming families across the country, causing them huge emotional, mental and financial strain.
“In recent years, they have started to see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel but today’s announcement will drive a coach and horses through this positive hope."
Its response to the Godfray Review outlined the need for an approach which includes tighter cattle movement controls, regular testing, as well as badger and cattle vaccination.