Currently, there are no plans in Parliament to either amend the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 or to test badger setts for bovine TB. The Government is driving forward an ambitious strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England by 2038. This strategy sets out a range of evidence-led interventions to tackle the disease in both cattle and wildlife, including strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, introducing new help for herd owners to improve biosecurity measures on farms and to help manage down the risk of bringing the disease into their herds and supporting the deployment of badger vaccination.
I am aware that the evidence suggests that the badger cull has been effective in reducing bovine TB incidence in cull areas by 45 per cent after three years of culling. TB statistics for England show that disease incidence in the High-Risk Area has been decreasing since 2017. It is my understanding that the percentage of cattle herds under TB restrictions in England is at its lowest level since 2010.
Developing new and better tools is an important part of the Government’s programme of work. The Government continues to fund major research, including on cattle vaccination and improved diagnostics. That funding has already resulted in a major breakthrough by the Animal and Plant Health Agency in developing a test that can differentiate TB-infected among vaccinated cattle (a DIVA test). World-leading vaccination trials in cattle began in England and Wales in June 2021 with Ministers’ aiming to have a deployable TB vaccine for cattle within the next five years. This is an issue I will continue to follow closely.