The draft strategy, launched by Environment secretary Owen Paterson yesterday (4 July) aims to reduce levels of infections in high-risk areas, particularly the south west, while ensuring that risk of the disease remains low in the north and east of England by reversing the spread of the disease in the so-called ‘edge area’.
It includes a range of measures, including disease surveillance, cattle testing, removal of cattle exposed to the disease and wildlife control through culling and vaccination. Focus will be given to the development of new technologies such as badger and cattle vaccines and new diagnostic tests for bTB.
The strategy was developed by the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) and the Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Advisory Group for England (TBEAG) and draws on successful international bTB eradication programmes in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the USA and the Republic of Ireland.
Launching the strategy, Paterson described bTB as “one of the most pressing animal health problems in the UK”, adding that it threatened both farmer livelihood and the health of cattle and wildlife populations.
“28,000 otherwise healthy cattle were slaughtered last year because of bovine TB. Today we start a countdown towards an England free from this terrible disease. We must stop bTB spreading into previously unaffected areas, while bringing it under control in places where it has taken hold,” he said.