Defra seeks to phase out badger culls in England after 2022

Defra has launched a new consultation on plans to phase out badger culls in England
Defra has launched a new consultation on plans to phase out badger culls in England

Defra is proposing to end the licencing of badger culls in England after 2022 as part of a new consultation on future TB eradication strategy.

Badger culling would be phased out and gradually replaced with government-supported badger vaccination and surveillance.

Culling would remain an option where epidemiological assessment indicates that it is needed, the consultation says, which closes for responses on 24 March 2021.

The government is also looking at the ability to revoke intensive badger cull licences issued in 2021 and 2022 after two years.

The consultation also states that scientists will accelerate work to develop a deployable cattle vaccine in the next five years.

"This consultation sets out proposed changes to aspects of bTB policy, in order to begin the transition into the next phase of the bTB Strategy.

"It purposefully brings together cattle and wildlife measures given our strategy is holistic," Defra said.

Bovine TB continues to devastate farming families across the UK: figures show that more than 27,000 cattle were slaughtered last year as a result of the disease.

The NFU said the badger cull had played an 'enormous role' in delivering successful results, pointing to figures which show a fall in bTB in cull areas of 51% after four years.

The union's deputy president, Stuart Roberts said: "This clearly shows that the badger culls are working and that it is essential to keep our focus on eradicating this dreadful disease and using every tool in the box to do so.

“A science and evidence-based approach must continue to drive government’s approach to TB eradication in cattle, at this critical time we cannot have eight years of progress undermined.

"Right now, the government should be particularly aware of the consequences of taking its foot off the gas when it comes to controlling a disease."

Animal welfare and environmental groups have welcomed the government's proposals, with the RSPCA calling for the badger cull to end completely after 2022.

The charity said the badger cull was 'inhumane, ineffective and costly' to both animal welfare and farmers’ livelihoods.

“The RSPCA looks forward to contributing to this important consultation so that the badger cull can be phased out swiftly and permanently," chief executive Chris Sherwood said.

'Bovine tuberculosis: consultation on proposals to help eradicate the disease in England' opened for responses on 27 January and will close on 24 March.