The government has announced that badger control in the Low Risk Area (LRA) of England will be permitted in areas identified as hotspots by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

According to the statement, badger control in the LRA is expected to be permitted only in very exceptional circumstances where veterinary epidemiologists judge an area to meet the published criteria for a bTB ‘hotspot’. Any decision on whether to implement badger control in a specific LRA location will be taken by the Defra Secretary of State after considering all relevant scientific and veterinary advice.

BVA president John Fishwick said: “BVA is supportive of the principle of badger controls within the LRA of England where there is a demonstrated need and where it is done safely, humanely and effectively as part of a comprehensive strategy. We recognise the expertise and professional judgement of veterinary and scientific colleagues in government to safeguard animal health and welfare, but the lack of detail on the evidence base behind the proposed badger culling methodology in the LRA means we cannot give our full support to the proposals as they stand currently.

“In our response to the consultation on this issue we called for greater clarity on the decision-making process on how and where badger controls would be introduced in the LRA, but the published criteria don’t offer adequate insights into this process.

“We are also concerned that the culling will be industry-led, whereas we support a centrally controlled, government-led cull which we believe would give better land coverage than can be achieved by an industry-led programme.

“Today’s statement and consultation response suggests that the government favours introducing an approach to badger control that is flexible and can be assessed on a case-by-case basis, whereas BVA are calling for a more rigorous and transparent method that clearly communicates the decision-making process and how it will be evaluated.”

The ministerial statement also announced reductions in the compensation for the slaughter of infected cows when a healthy cow has been moved onto a risky herd which will be introduced in November 2018. The government proposal to increase the frequency of testing in cattle in the High Risk Area to once every six months will be introduced in early 2020.