TO the disappointment of farmers battling bovine tuberculosis, intensive badger culls will no longer be licensed after 2022.

Responding to its own consultation on the future of bovine TB control measures, the UK government has confirmed its plan to retreat from lethal control of the wild badger population which acts as a reservoir of the disease.

England's National Farmers Union condemned the new policy for going against the science and evidence which supports the use of badger culling to control the spread of bTB, alongside other methods.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “This decision clearly ignores the government’s own peer-reviewed evidence in the Downs report that showed badger culling in Gloucestershire reduced bTB incidents by 66%. It also ignores its own evidence in its consultation which showed the current strategy, which includes badger controls, delivered reductions in TB incidents in cull areas by 51% after four years.

“This disease continues to have a devastating impact on farming families across the country, causing them huge emotional, mental and financial strain," said Mr Roberts.

“Many farming families have struggled with bTB for a very long time. In recent years, they have started to see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel but this announcement will drive a coach and horses through this positive hope.

“It is incredibly disappointing and frustrating that the government is pressing ahead with its proposals to abandon badger culling, a hugely successful element of the strategy," he said. "The government should be making decisions based on the science and evidence, which clearly shows that badger culling is effective in controlling the spread of this disease.

“Every farmer wants to make this strategy a success and ensure it delivers a TB-free England. However, the pursuit of unproven and untested methods, such as badger and cattle vaccinations, is irresponsible and could lead to the further spread of this disease at a time when the current strategy is making inroads in tackling it," he warned.

“Throughout this process we have championed policy based on robust data that demonstrates success, not arbitrary dates. It’s apparent from this decision the government have abandoned making policy based on science and evidence. This in itself is a very worrying direction of travel.

“I want to be very clear – this decision will potentially have far-reaching and severe impacts for cattle farmers across the country.”