Welsh Government commended for rejecting lethal badger control in fight against bovine TB

Badger Trust supports new proposals to move the focus to cattle in a proposed bTB policy refresh which sees end of badger killing

Badger Trust today submitted its response to the Welsh Government’s ‘Refreshed TB Eradication Programme’, and commended it for removing lethal badger intervention from future plans. A significant switch of focus to cattle vaccination and improved cattle movement measures, and a change to badger vaccination as a preventative measure, were also welcomed by the charity, the voice for badgers in England and Wales.

Peter Hambly, Executive Director, said: ‘Overall Badger Trust welcomes the Welsh Government’s recent announcement of a policy change, which is based on past learnings and grounded in science.

This is a sensible and sound approach to tackling bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) and to recognising the overwhelming scientific epidemiological evidence that shows that bTB is predominantly a disease of cattle.

With 94% of cases arising from cattle-to-cattle infection, bTB can only be seriously addressed by looking at cattle measures, to concentrate on the single most important host, and prevent cattle-cattle transmission.

He continued: ‘Removing lethal badger interventions from the approach is a long-overdue change. It is a change based on evidence, one which should mark a sea change in thinking on how best to tackle bTB, and one which we commend the Welsh Government for making.’

‘The Welsh Government has logically and scientifically moved away from a brief ‘Test, Vaccinate, Remove’ lethal intervention programme in badgers, recognising that the small reservoir of bTB within wildlife populations is not the cause of the mass spread of bTB in cattle, nor is focusing on the eradication of native wildlife the solution.’

Efforts that focus on measures in cattle management as both the cause and the solution of this endemic situation are the only way to bring about significant advances in eradicating this disease.’

The charity was also pleased to see the Welsh Government recognise the need for mandatory measures from the farming industry, for tax-payers not to bear the full financial burden of tackling bTB, and for focusing on more regular and reliable testing measures.

However, whilst Badger Trust supports and congratulates the Welsh Government on working towards stronger testing regimes and more accurate tests, it recognises that any long-term impact on bTB is only going to be achieved if more funding and resources are put into cattle vaccination research and implementation. The Welsh Government already has a field programme testing cattle vaccination and Badger Trust strongly supports its earliest possible rollout.

Only the most effective cattle management and biosecurity measures, along with a suitable cattle vaccination, will reduce the incidence of bTB and help Wales to reach its target of bTB-free cattle. Good biosecurity is critical to protect cattle, and people, from a range of infectious diseases, not only bTB. The Trust hopes that plans to manage and mitigate bTB in cattle will include reference to the ‘Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015’, as cattle farming is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and targets can only be met through sustainable farming practices.

Badger Trust recognises that any measures must be sustainable and that a research-led, multifaceted approach to tackling bTB is needed to protect the Welsh livestock industry, which this consultation goes some way towards addressing.

The Welsh Government has also recently released the ‘Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Implementation Plan 2022-2024’. The Trust looks forward to seeing how the Welsh Government’s ‘One Health, One Welfare, One Wales’ c