January 3, 2016

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Bovine tuberculosis (Btb) affects a number of animals including cattle and badgers.  The disease and efforts to control it have serious economic implications for farmers and Governments.  The RSPCA recognises that bovine TB in cattle causes massive hardship for farmers in endemic areas and that there needs to be a sustainable and humane solution.

On the basis of current science, welfare concerns and a realistic assessment of what is practical, the RSPCA supported the conclusion of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) that, ‘badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.

Despite widespread public opposition, the Westminster Government went ahead with a trial badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset in the autumn of 2013.  The Independent Panel’s report which assessed the outcome of those trials shows that it was not humane nor effective.

In March 2014 the House of Commons voted 219-1 not to continue the culls but in April the Government announced that they would go ahead with the second year of the culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset.  In 2015 and 2016 the culls continued and the culling areas expanded.  In 2017 nearly 20,000 badgers were culled over 20 different cull zones.  However to date there has been no further analysis of the humaneness of the culls or their impact on bovine TB incidence despite over 30,000 badgers being culled over the past five years.

The RSPCA believes vaccination is an option the Government in Westminster should be actively pursuing rather than culling badgers.  Additionally, a healthy farming industry is also better equipped to provide good animal welfare.  The scientific evidence suggests that increasing the level of cattle testing, improving biosecurity and imposing stricter controls on the movement of cattle are the methods most likely to be effective in combating the spread, and increased incidence, of bTB.  Whilst the Government did announce new movement and biosecurity controls in 2018, the RSPCA is now calling for a review of the science and the impact of the culls.

For further information please see the following briefing.