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expert reaction to the UK Government’s strategy to combat bovine tuberculosis, in response to the 2018 independent review led by Prof Sir Charles Godfray

The Department for Environment Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has issued it’s response to the 2018 review into Bovine TB in the UK. 


Prof Rowland Kao, Sir Timothy O’Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science, University of Edinburgh, said:

“The emphasis on cattle vaccination is welcome – field implementation is going to be a significant challenge but one that will only happen if there is a substantial dedicated effort to accomplish it. The benefits if successful would be substantial. It should not be forgotten however, that the role of infected badgers is well established, and future projections of Tb risk in cattle must continue to consider this. Other species such as deer may also play a role, as for example, is a rising concern in Ireland. As future farming landscapes will be shaped by the need to promote increased afforestation for carbon storage and wildlife diversity, these risks may very well increase.”


Prof Rosie Woodroffe, Senior Research Fellow, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), said:

“The government’s long-awaited response to the Godfray Review of its bovine TB strategy is very welcome. Rightly, the response highlights cattle-based measures (development of cattle vaccination and improved cattle testing). This focus is appropriate, because the best estimates show that most cattle herds that acquire TB are infected by other cattle herds. Nevertheless, media attention is likely to focus on the government’s plan to gradually phase out large-scale badger culling and replace it with badger vaccination. It is appropriate to manage TB infection in badgers because, although cattle TB incidence could almost certainly be reduced by managing cattle alone, the government plans to eradicate TB, not just reduce it. TB cannot be eradicated from cattle until it is also eradicated from badgers. Vaccination is the most promising form of badger management because, unlike culling, it has the potential to eradicate TB from badgers, as well as being cheaper, more humane, and more environmentally friendly. The government has laid out a sensible transition from culling to vaccination. It would be impossible to immediately replace culling with vaccination, both because capacity to train vaccinators can only be built up gradually, and because there is a clear need for scientists, farmers, and veterinarians to develop a shared understanding of the evidence which justifies vaccination over culling. Nevertheless, the government proposes sensible first steps, including piloting of vaccination in areas which have recently been culled, and support for vaccination in areas where farmers have chosen not to cull. Overall, this is a seismic shift in an area of government policy which has been highly controversial for many years.”


Prof Sir Charles Godfray, Director, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, said:

“We are pleased by the Government’s response to our Report and the positive reaction to our advice and recommendations.  We appreciate the challenges for the industry going forward, especially the fact that needed interventions such as more stringent testing and further restrictions on cattle movement will have financial costs.  Nevertheless, we hope that implementing our advice and recommendations, and investing in new knowledge, will ultimately stop the damage done by bovine TB to British farming and wildlife.”

This quote was compiled by several authors of the report; Charles Godfray, Christl Donnelly, Glyn Hewinson, Michael Winter & James Wood


Government Response, March 2020

Independent Review, October 2018


Declared interests

Prof Kao: “I have contributed to some Tb modelling work done in support of the response, and also sit on SAC with Charles Godfray and James Wood.”

Prof Woodroffe: “Rosie Woodroffe has received research funding from Defra in the past, and also receives in-kind support in the form of badger vaccine for an ongoing (separately funded) research project.”

None others received.

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