The British Veterinary Authority (BVA) has said it can no longer support the continued use of controlled shooting of badgers as part of control policy.
It has called for the four-year culls of badgers in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire to be completed using the ‘tried and tested’ method of cage trapping and shooting only.
The authority says that after a discussion at BVA Council it concluded that the results from the first two years of culling have not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely based on the criteria that were set for the pilots.
It says it remains supportive of the use of badger culling as a necessary part of the comprehensive strategy for control and eradication of bovine TB.
It is now calling on the government to revert to the method of cage trapping and shooting only, which can deliver a safe, humane and effective cull, as demonstrated in the earlier Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).
The RBCT found that culling badgers can deliver a net benefit in terms of a reduction in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle.
Now, the BVA is calling for badger culling to be rolled out using cage trapping and shooting only to other areas where badgers contribute to the high incidence of TB in cattle.
The BVA says that there was agreement among the council that the disproportionate focus on badger culling in the public debate about bovine TB fails to acknowledge that no single measure can effectively tackle the disease.
It says that there must be a comprehensive eradication strategy using all available measures, including surveillance and control in cattle, biosecurity, badger culling and vaccination, surveillance and control in other non-bovines (eg camelids), and research and development.
The BVA’s President John Blackwell said that the BVA’s support for badger culling as part of the bovine TB eradication strategy has always been predicated on it being delivered humanely, effectively and safely.
“BVA supported the pilots to test the use of controlled shooting but data from the first two years of culling has not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely based on the criteria that were set.
“However, BVA remains convinced that if we are to tackle this disease then we need to control the infection in the wildlife population, and badger culling must form part of the comprehensive strategy for tackling bovine TB,” he said.
The BVA President also said that the continuing spread of bovine TB within cattle and wildlife has an unacceptable impact on animal health and welfare, and has the potential to pose a risk to public health.