Trials of a new vaccine for cattle to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) are set to start in England and Wales as a result of a major breakthrough by government scientists.
The trials are aimed at accelerating the planned deployment of a cattle vaccine against the disease by 2025, and part of a wider disease control strategy including badger vaccination, phasing out the culling of badgers and improving testing.
The disease is one of the most challenging issues affecting animal health resulting in more than 40,000 cattle being slaughtered in the UK each year.
However, scientists and politicians say a cattle vaccination could become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease following the necessary testing to ensure its safety and efficiency.
The field trials will be conducted over the next four years on behalf of Defra, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government, following 20 years of groundbreaking research.
“Bovine TB is a slow-moving and insidious disease which can cause considerable trauma for farmers as they suffer the loss of highly prized animals and valued herds,” said environment secretary George Eustice.
“This scientific breakthrough is a major step forwards in our battle to see the disease eradicated from this country.
“We will accelerate other elements of our strategy and start to phase out badger culling, as no one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely.”
The UK chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: “Cattle vaccination is a potential new tool for our multi-pronged approach to tackle TB and importantly prevent it, providing vital support to our farming communities.”