The European Commission has approved Defra’s plans to tackle bovine TB in 2015, ensuring England will receive funding of around £12 million towards its 25-year TB Eradication strategy.
In total roughly £25m will be provided to the UK from the EU, the single largest allocation for a member state’s animal disease eradication programme. The funding received will be split between England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Defra said the funding would help it pursue elements of England’s TB strategy, including for on-farm cattle tests and laboratory work.
This is the sixth year running funding has been allocated, after the EU first approved the UK TB eradication programme in 2010.
Approval of England’s plans follows an audit by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office in September 2014.
Defra said its plans for 2015, endorsed by the European Commission, include measures such as the new zero-tolerance approach to late TB tests, the badger vaccination scheme in counties in the ‘edge’ area of England, and badger culling in areas where the disease is rife.
But news of the funding comes amid continuing uncertainty over the future of badger cullling in England. Defra is due to publish details of its analysis of the second year of the Gloucestershire and Somerset pilot culls soon, including the numbers of badgers removed and an assessment of humaneness.
This is likely be accompanied with an indication of the coalition Government’s stance on roll out, although the situation will be complicated by the May 2015 General Election. Labour has said it would, not only scrap plans to roll out the policy more widely but would abandon the current pilots before the end of their four-year term.
Defra said its approach of tackling the problem in both cattle and wildlife has worked overseas in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and is supported by leading vets.
A Defra spokesperson said: “England has the highest rate of bovine TB in Europe which is why we are taking strong action to combat this disease.
“This endorsement from the European Commission is further evidence that our comprehensive strategy including tighter cattle movement controls, vaccinations and culling is the right approach.”