We have been working in liaison with the Bovine TB Eradication Group for England, epidemiologists and other key industry and stakeholder groups to identify criteria for selecting the areas where the bovine TB badger vaccine deployment project will take place. We anticipate the areas will be announced shortly.
The Bovine TB Eradication Group includes representatives from DEFRA's Food and Farming Group, Animal Health, the farming industry and the veterinary profession.
In addition, the TB Advisory Group, which played a key role in obtaining stakeholder buy-in to TB control policies, also included representatives from the veterinary profession. The group disbanded on 8 April after publishing its final report to Ministers.
As part of planning for the badger vaccine deployment project, we have recently met with representatives of key veterinary organisations to discuss both their input into the project and the best ways of communicating to and through local vets.
Also on a recent visit to the south-west I met local animal health vets and affected farmers to learn of the growing TB problem and the challenge of tackling the disease.
I am aware from discussions with representatives from the farming industry and veterinary profession, and the recent report from our TB Advisory Group, that testing fatigue can become an issue in areas with high numbers of TB breakdowns. We are considering the report in detail.
The TB Eradication Group for England (TBEG) was set up last year to consider, and advise on, the TB control framework, including the cattle testing programme. Part of their remit is to look at options for helping farmers in high incidence areas maintain viable businesses, which may include options for managing the impact of TB controls on the farming industry and the veterinary profession.
Regular skin testing of cattle herds is an important part of our TB programme, both for tackling disease in cattle and ensuring the risk to public health remains low. Regular TB testing is also legally required if herd owners wish to retain their officially tuberculosis free (OTF) status and their ability to trade.