Bovine TB is a serious disease which threatens the future of our beef and dairy industries. Between 1997 and 2010, the incidence of the disease increased nine-fold with 26,000 cattle having to be slaughtered in 2014 alone. This is clearly an unsustainable situation, especially when our agriculture industry is already under huge strain. TB is not a burden that our farmers can afford to bear and I am pleased that the Government is committed to delivering its 25-year strategy to eradicate this devastating disease from England. The measures include strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, vaccinating badgers in areas where TB is spreading, and culling badgers where the disease is rife.
Cattle movement controls and testing are being strengthened to stop infection spreading between herds, and owners are being encouraged to improve their own biosecurity. The regime for tackling the disease in non-bovine farmed species is also being strengthened.
The Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme is supporting badger vaccination projects in parts of the country that border the high-risk areas of the South West and West Midlands. Vaccinating healthy badgers in these areas should create a buffer zone to help prevent spread to new areas where the current incidence is low.
As part of this comprehensive strategic approach culling continues to have a vital role to play. Overseas experience shows that to eradicate the disease the problem must be tackled in both cattle and wildlife. This approach has delivered results in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland and is supported by leading vets.
I fully believe that these strategies should be trialled unimpeded if we are to find the best solution moving forward. Bovine TB is a terrible disease which is devastating our cattle and dairy industries and causing misery in rural communities. We need to do everything we can to make England TB free and disrupting these trials is entirely counter-productive and damaging to the UK’s agriculture industry.