What's the issue?
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a devastating chronic disease of cattle and a major challenge facing large parts of the UK cattle farming industry today. Beyond cattle, the disease can also affect badgers, deer, camelids, goats, pigs, dogs, and cats.
bTB can also pass from animals to humans. However, the risk of infection is very low for the vast majority of the population.
bTB is one of the UK's most difficult animal health issues, with control measures costing the livestock industry and government millions of pounds a year.
Scotland achieved Officially Tuberculosis Free Status (OTF) in September 2009. OTF is recognition of the relatively low and stable incidence of bTB found in Scottish herds. Controls in Scotland are focused on maintaining this status.
What's our view?
We support a holistic approach to tackling bTB that makes use of all the available tools in the toolbox. We know human behaviour plays a role in the spread of infection. Therefore, behavioural science is front and centre of our approach to tackling this devastating disease.
At the heart of our recommendations is empowering vets and farmers, and supporting their pivotal relationship. Key recommendations include:
- Rewarding farmers for good biosecurity practices through a framework for earned recognition
- Empowering private vets to advise their clients with timely, localised data
- Better data-sharing and communication between government vets and private vets
- Support for knowledge-based livestock trading
- Long-term funding for bTB advisory services
- Directing research funding to the areas which would have the greatest impact
Since the publication of BVA’s bTB policy position in 2020, a considerable amount of new research had been published in this area, alongside a number of developments in government policy across the UK. To ensure that our policy was able to respond to this new context, a review of the emerging research was carried out.
The review group brought together key perspectives from a range of experts, including epidemiologists and statisticians, colleagues from specialist divisions such as the British Veterinary Zoological Society, British Cattle Veterinary Association and Association of Government Vets, as well as representatives from our Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel.
Our review was wide-ranging and covered several new research papers across three key areas – badger control, cattle control and human-behaviour change.
After thoroughly reviewing all the evidence and developments in government policy, the review group concluded that there was no need for any material change to the existing BVA policy, other than the creation of an addendum document to provide an update to the research priorities. The addendum can be viewed here.
Contact our policy team for more information.