UK Politics

Badger contraception 'an option' to tackle TB

badger Image copyright SPL
Image caption An independent panel of experts is due to report on the safety and effectiveness of the two pilots

Contraception for badgers could be included in the government's new strategy to tackle tuberculosis in cattle, MPs have heard.

Culls have been carried out and TB vaccines for badgers and cattle remain in the strategy, Environment Minister George Eustice said.

The strategy would be published "soon" and look "at other areas such as contraception for badgers and increased cattle movement controls", he said.

Contraception would be by injection.

Many ministers and farmers believe badger culling is needed to control TB in cattle, which can catch the disease from them. However, opponents say it is not an effective solution and is inhumane.

Six-week pilot badger culls took place in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year. In total, 921 were killed in Gloucestershire, while 940 were shot in Somerset.

Neither pilot scheme managed to remove the 70% of the badger population thought to be needed to make the cull effective in reducing TB in cattle herds in the area, despite a five-week extension in Gloucestershire and a three-week extension in Somerset.

Discussing future plans, Mr Eustice said the government was looking at "a range of measures we should pursue here, including developing vaccines".

He added: "We are doing some work to try to develop an oral vaccine for badgers including cattle vaccines - and also even looking at other areas such as contraception for badgers and increased cattle movement controls.

"So there's a whole range of different issues that we are looking at to try to solve this difficult problem."

An inquiry into the effectiveness of the cull is due to report later this month.

Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George said it was "highly unlikely" to be favourable and that ministers should look for a "plan B".

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