The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is calling on government to place focus on cattle-based measures to reduce tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.

The society make this remark, among others, in a statement released today (Thursday, May 26) in response to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra's) announcement, also today, of introducing a simpler process to obtain a licence to vaccinate badgers against TB.

As of today, applicants will no longer need to apply for an individual licence, provide extensive information in support of that application and wait up to 30 working days for a decision.

The new licence to trap badgers for vaccination enables those trained to undertake this activity to register as an ‘authorised person’.

In response to this, the RSPCA said:

“The RSPCA recognises Defra’s willingness to make it easier for trained people to vaccinate badgers, because it may reduce bTB [bovine TB] in badgers, but if the aim of Defra’s policy is to eliminate bTB in cattle, then the focus should be on cattle-based measures since research shows that the overwhelming majority of bTB comes from cattle infecting cattle.

“The RSPCA has always maintained that the elimination of bTB in cattle requires more frequent and improved cattle testing, better management of cattle movements and incentives to improve biosecurity in herds.

"We believe that badger vaccination is an important tool that has a role to play in certain situations as an alternative to culling and to protect badger populations, but we cannot support its use as an exit strategy from the badger cull which should be ended immediately. 

“We are calling on the government in England to immediately end culling, fast track its proposed improvements to cattle-based measures, along with cattle and badger vaccination, which will be the best solution for badgers, cattle and farmers.”

The society said that field trials are ongoing in the area of cattle vaccination against bTB. It urged Defra to roll out the vaccines as soon as possible..