A five-week public consultation has been opened by Defra on potential changes to bovine TB control policy in England.

The government aim is to eradicate TB by 2038, with a “new targeted approach” proposed in badger cull areas mainly in the south and south-west of England.

The existing badger control policy has been in place since 2013, with animals mainly culled by controlled shooting. Reports suggest over 200,000 badgers have been removed in that period.

Looking ahead, the changes proposed include using regular analysis of data to identify “clusters” where culling can still be undertaken.

These clusters would be areas of high TB incidence, where there is evidence to suggest badgers are contributing to disease spread.

Once culling is underway in a cluster, a sample of culled badgers will be tested for TB to help inform an annual assessment of disease in the area. When disease rates in cattle fall or there is a significant reduction in the prevalence of TB in badgers, a badger vaccination policy would then be implemented in the area. A similar policy is being rolled out in the Republic of Ireland.


In his forward to the consultation, Defra Secretary Steve Barclay highlighted the “ever-improving” TB statistics for England, which show the lowest number of new TB breakdowns since 2004 and the herd incidence rate at its lowest level since 2007.

“I want to be clear. A major element of this success has been the industry-led cull of badgers,” he said, adding that culling will continue “for as long as is necessary, led by the evidence”.


The Defra consultation also sets out proposals to provide additional information on TB test history of individual cattle, with the aim to help inform purchasing decisions by farmers.

“The longer a herd has been TB free, whilst regularly tested, the lower its risk of harbouring undetected TB-infected animals,” states the Defra consultation.


Work is also continuing in England and Wales on a new skin test that can differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals, which would open up the possibility of vaccinating cattle against the disease.

However, the Defra consultation is clear this will be an additional tool that will sit alongside current TB control measures, which include badger control.

It is hoped the new test will be deployable “within the next few years.”