Badger Trust welcomes end of selective badger cull in Wales and rethink of bTB policy

Wales leads the way with a common-sense approach to tackling bTB as TVR dropped and cattle measures made the main focus

Badger Trust has welcomed the announcement by the Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths MS, of an end to the use of badger culling as a technique to control bovine Tuberculosis (bTB), which was announced at the opening of a 12-week consultation into the future of bTB measures in Wales. It has been estimated that £1.5m has been spent to date on the Test, Vaccinate and Remove (TVR) programme, a selective culling approach with little impact on the control of bTB. The majority of badgers killed under the scheme test negative for the disease at post-mortem.

The Minister advised the Senedd on Tuesday, 16th November 2021:

‘I will be phasing out the badger trap-and-test work in persistent herd breakdowns from this year.’

She continued: ‘From an epidemiological perspective, the small sample size and short follow-up period provide limited meaningful results to gauge the impact of interventions on cattle TB. Work will be completed on existing farms, but new ones will not be recruited.’

The key focus of the revised approach will be on cattle, the victims of the disease and the main transmission source.

The Minister also stated in her announcement that ‘Eight in ten confirmed breakdowns in the low TB area are primarily attributable to cattle movements…’ and that ‘Cattle vaccination has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease…’. This is a clear recognition of the primary role played by farmers in the current management of cattle, and how this can be improved to significantly reduce the transmission of bTB in herds.

The announcement also included an increase in funds for badger vaccination, with £100,000 of new funds being allocated and saved funds from the failed TVR scheme being reallocated.

Dawn Varley, Acting Executive Director at Badger Trust, said: ‘We welcome this common-sense approach to the control of this serious and debilitating cattle disease.’

‘TVR has been a failed scheme from the start, killing mainly healthy badgers at very high cost to the taxpayer, whilst doing little to help manage the bTB problem in cattle.’

‘Badgers are usually protected animals, but they have paid the ultimate price for a disease that’s spread from cow to cow in over 94% of cases.’

The consultation announcement additionally included data for the multi-year ‘All Wales Badgers Found Dead Survey’ (BDFS, Sept 2014 - July 2021). This survey tested badgers found dead to gauge the prevalence of the disease in local populations. Of 1,818 badger carcasses tested, just 144 (7.9%) were positive for M. bovis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis.

Dawn Varley continued: ‘The All Wales BFDS study once again shows that badgers are not, and never have been, a major carrier of bTB and that a focus on badgers to address the disease was a failed focus from the start. We commend the Welsh Government for reviewing the results of a wide range of efforts, and for being guided by the science and the data to reach the only sensible conclusion:

To control a cattle disease, which is transmitted in the vast majority of cases by cattle, the spotlight has to be on cattle. This is the future of bTB eradication and we welcome it.’

Badger Trust, as the voice for badgers in England and Wales, will be responding to the consultation.

Further information:

Full details of the consultation can be found on the Welsh Government website.

Badger Trust’s call f