After the NFU lost its legal battle over the Derbyshire cull decision, Hannah Binns asks where it leaves the Government’s 25-year bovine TB strategy.
Farmers in Derbyshire are hopeful a 2020-2021 badger cull licence will be granted despite the NFU’s judicial review ending in High Court defeat.
Farmers Guardian understands Derbyshire will be grouped in cull licence applications for 2020 which are still being assessed by Natural England.
In addition, seven supplementary licences have been authorised in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall, to begin operations in 2020, a Defra spokesperson has revealed.
But concerns have emerged about the Government’s direction of travel for future bovine TB (bTB) policy, with the launch of a short six-week consultation on ’no-cull zones surrounding vaccination sites’ confirming Defra’s ambition earlier this year to move towards a non-lethal approach towards wildlife control, while maintaining the option to cull.
Figment of Defra’s imagination
The idea of no-cull or ’buffer’ zones, documented in the Derbyshire judicial review proceedings, has been branded a ’figment of Defra’s imagination’ by Cheshire dairy farmer and Farmers Guardian contributor Phil Latham.
Mr Latham said: "Buffer zones are a new idea which has bypassed all industry consultation and are not established bTB policy.
"It would be absolute nonsense and counterintuitive to think buffer zones, alongside vaccination, will reduce bTB disease levels.
"No single paper shows vaccinations have a meaningful effect on reducing bTB levels and buffer zones will make it harder to control the disease and culling less effective.
"The whole idea is based on a political, social whim to earn votes and we should not be entertaining it."
Due to conclude on June 26, the consultation will explore Government’s proposal to manage both vaccination and culling in edge areas of England.
Defra has stated ’any decision on the implementation of no-cull zones will take into account consultation responses, scientific evidence and recommendations of the UK Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser’.
It is also understood the no-cull zones could be implemented from the 2020 season, with only vaccination sites licenced last year to be considered.
But the NFU has warned the proposed measure of introducing mandatory no-cull buffer zones for vaccination sites in the edge area had the potential to ’disrupt members’ ability to effectively control bTB and jeopardised the long-standing industry-Government partnership’.
An NFU spokesperson said: "These proposals step away from science and evidence-based policy and seem inappropriate given the success of the culls, as seen in the latest peer reviewed data in the Downs report.
"Now is the time to build policy on existing evidence and to stop giving the false equivalence to vaccination and culling.
"The NFU will continue to engage with its members on this consultation and its proposals, and we will respond to Government in due course."