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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Sunday Times on risk to other animals from bovine TB

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The Sunday Times has reported there is a risk of bovine TB spreading to other animals including domestic cats and zoo animals, however the journalist failed to carry the briefing we provided that the risk is small.

We were clear in our statement that cases of TB in domestic animals such as cats and dogs is very rare. Our response which made it clear the reporter's assertions were incorrect was not included, and the story is based purely on anecdotal evidence and random examples.

We have measures in place to deal with the small number of sporadic cases of TB that do arise in non-bovine captive species each year.

APHA works closely with operators of zoos and safari parks to ensure any TB outbreak is dealt with swiftly. In any cases where the disease is identified in farmed animals other than cattle, controls similar to those for cattle premises are put in place, including movement restrictions and TB testing of the remaining animals.

We provided the Sunday Times with the following statement:

A Defra spokesperson said:

“There is no evidence that bovine TB is relentlessly spreading through other species. Cases of TB in animals other than cattle and badgers are rare.

“There is no single measure that will provide an easy answer which is why we are pursuing a wide range of interventions including strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, improving biosecurity on farms and when trading, and a cull of badgers where they are linked with herd breakdowns.

“However, recent figures show a fall in new confirmed TB cases in Gloucestershire and Somerset - demonstrating our 25-year TB Strategy’s progress in eradicating this disease from England.”

Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK, costing taxpayers over £100million every year, and causing devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities. We are taking strong action to eradicate the disease and protect the future of the UK’s dairy and beef industries with a comprehensive strategy including tighter cattle movement controls, more cattle testing, improving biosecurity, vaccination and culling badgers in areas where the disease is widespread.

Our Bovine TB Strategy Review is examining progress on implementation and how we can improve, enhance and accelerate our approach to fighting this disease. While the badger culls are a necessary part of the strategy, no one wants to be culling badgers forever. The review is due to end in September 2018. The findings will be submitted to Defra Ministers for consideration and a final report published in due course.

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