How can the spread of bovine TB be reduced?
The evidence shows that bTB can be tackled successfully when the disease is tackled on all fronts at the same time.
This means using both cattle controls and badger controls in the hotspot areas -those areas where the disease is persistent and high.
Cattle herds in TB problem areas, and surrounding areas, are tested at least annually (increasing to six monthly in high risk areas from 2021) and cows that react to the test are isolated and slaughtered.
The remainder of the herd is subject to strict movement restrictions, meaning cows cannot move off farm, unless it is for slaughter, until the whole herd passes two consecutive TB tests 60 days apart.
Despite these measures, huge numbers of farms are still closed down with bTB.
The number of cattle herds in England which were not officially TB free at the end of the period due to a bovine TB incident (non OTF herds) as of 31 December 2019 was 2,600. This was down 12% compared to the same time last year but is still having a devastating impact on the British beef and dairy sectors.
The evidence demonstrates that badgers do spread bTB to cattle and harbour a reservoir of the disease. In the TB eradication strategy published in April 2014 the government recognises the role badgers play in spreading the disease in areas where bTB is rife and makes a clear commitment to controlling the disease in badgers in these areas as part of the strategy. There is no nationwide culling strategy.
A strategy review was conducted by an independent panel, headed by Professor Sir Charles Godfray, in 2018. The findings reaffirm that badgers do transmit bovine TB to cattle and contribute to the persistence of the disease. He makes recommendations in relation to both culling and vaccinating badgers, as well as vaccinating cattle.
In response the government has released its next steps strategy for eradicating bTB and plans to increase vaccination in badgers, as well as continue culling, in areas where evidence shows that bTB is at its highest.
- Defra TB stats
- The strategy for achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis Free status for England
- The government’s policy on Bovine TB and badger control in England
- Garnett, B.T. Delahay, R.J. Roper, T.J. Use of cattle farm resources by badgers and risk of bovine tuberculosis transmission to cattle
- Crispell et al Combining genomics and epidemiology to analyse bi-directional transmission of Mycobacterium bovis in a multi-host system
- Godfray Bovine TB Strategy Review