Badger culling to stop the spread of tuberculosis in livestock will be phased out and replaced by a vaccine, the government announced, in a significant policy u-turn.
Defra, the department for the environment, has stated that trials of a cattle vaccine will take place over the next five years, with plans to vaccinate more badgers in the interim.
The first cull zones were created in 2013 in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Opponents of the cull have repeatedly made the argument that it is inhumane and ineffective, but the government has been steadfast in support of the policy.
In September 2019, badger culling was extended to 40 areas including Bristol, Cheshire, Devon, Cornwall, Staffordshire, Dorset, Herefordshire and Wiltshire. Now Defra plans to gradually phase out “intensive culling” following a breakthrough by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha).
Previously it was not possible to vaccinate cattle as tests for the disease could not differentiate between vaccinated animals and those infected by bovine TB, but Apha has developed an “effective” test which can be trialled alongside the BCG vaccine.
Environment Secretary George Eustice claimed: “The badger cull has led to a significant reduction in the disease as demonstrated by recent academic research and past studies.
“But no-one wants to continue the cull of this protected species indefinitely so, once the weight of disease in wildlife has been addressed, we will accelerate other elements of our strategy, including improved diagnostics and cattle vaccination.”