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 whilst they would not cascade the culls to ten new areas they would go ahead with the second year of the culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset.  The target figures for the cull were announced in August though it is unclear how the figures were agreed as no population surveys have been done since the last culls finished and both those culls failed to reach the 70% figure needed for the culls to be effective in reducing the incidence of Btb. Both culls started in September of that year.

In 2015, the culls continued and the culling area was expanded to include Dorset as well as Gloucestershire and Somerset.

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.

The 2013 drop in BTb in Wales shows the effectiveness of these methods., a drop that has continued in both England and Wales in 2014.

For further information please see the following briefing.