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Eighty years of battling bovine TB

Our timeline shows the ups and downs of battling TB over the years, from the 1930s to present day.

1930s – bovine TB rampant in Britain, with 40 per cent of dairy cows infected. In 1935 Government introduces voluntary cattle testing and slaughtering policy, plus movement restrictions.


1950s – Testing and slaughter programme made compulsory in 1950. Compulsory Eradication Areas in introduced two years later.


1960s - Reactor rate drops significantly, to zero in some parts, by mid-1960s. Yet disease incidence exceeds expectations in some areas, notably West Cornwall and Gloucestershire.


1970 - MAFF investigates persistently infected areas and introduces tougher cattle measures.


1971 – Badgers linked to problems after dead badger, found to have bTB, discovered on infected Gloucestershire farm.


1973 – Badger culling, using gassing, deployed as supplementary control measure, after Badger Act introduced permitting culling to prevent spread of disease.


1975 - Badger clearance trial at Thornbury, near Bristol begin. Results from this and similar trial at Steeple Leaze, Dorset, indicated badger clearance with gassing substantially reduced bTB levels in local cattle populations.


1980 – Substantial drop in TB reactor cattle, compared with early 1970s. Gassing brought to a halt on welfare grounds. Lord Zuckerman asked to investigate alternative control methods.


1982 – Based on Zuckerman recommendations, clean ring strategy introduced using cage traps to cull out areas of infected badgers.


1986 – TB reactors at all-time low - 638 cattle slaughtered, compared with around 5,000 in early 1970s. Clean ring strategy is abandoned after Professor George Dunnet expressed concerns about efficacy of trapping and shooting. Interim strategy introduced under where culling only deployed locally in response to TB incident where badgers are blamed.


1992 – Badger Protection Act introduced, introducing new controls on badger culling. TB incidence in cattle starts to rise again.


1997 – Report by Professor John Krebs concludes ‘compelling evidence’ badgers involved in TB spread but recommends trial to assess effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of culling. New Labour Government imposes effective moratorium on badger culling outside the trial.


1998 – Randomised Badger Culling Trail begins.


2002 – Massive leap in disease levels in cattle – around 24,000 slaughtered. Increase blamed partly on suspension of cattle TB testing during 2001 FMD outbreak.


2004 – Defra introduces enhanced cattle testing and control measures.


2005 – Republic of Ireland ‘Four Counties’ trial reinforces evidence badger culling can reduce TB levels in cattle. Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw launches consultation proposing badger cull in England. Policy ultimately rejected.


2006 – Pre-movement testing in hotspot areas introduced in England and Wales. Table valuations for slaughtered cattle introduced in England.


2007 – The Independent Scientific Group (ISG) concludes, based on results of RBCT, that badger culling ‘cannot meaningfully contribute’ to TB control in Britain. Months later Government chief scientist Sir David King reaches opposite conclusion in report.


2008 – Defra Secretary Hilary Benn announces rules out a badger cull but says is investing extra £20m in TB vaccine research. Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones announces plans for badger cull in Wales. Record 40,000 cattle slaughtered across GB.


2010 – Coalition Government commits to badger controls, including culling and vaccination, after winning election. Consultation proposing cull, as part of package of measures, launched in September. Defra badger vaccination project cut from six areas to one. Plans for Welsh badger cull put on hold after Badger Trust wins legal challenge in court of appeal.


2011 – Welsh badger cull delayed again, after new Labour administration announces review of science. In England, cull finally announced in July after decision expected for February and May postponed.


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