The number of cattle slaughtered in Britain because of bovine tuberculosis (TB) fell last year, official figures show.
Some 32,620 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered as a result of TB in 2013, down from 37,734 animals in 2012.
The incidence rate – the number of previously TB-free herds found to be infected with new cases of the disease – also dropped from 4.8 per cent of herds tested in 2012 to 4.5 per cent in 2013.
The number of new herds with TB from January to December 2013 was 4,815, down slightly from 5,153 for January to December 2012, the figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show.
Ministers said the incidence rate had been at the unacceptably high level of above four per cent for a decade, and the figures showed the need to do everything possible to tackle the disease in cattle. But wildlife campaigners seized on the statistics as evidence that more stringent on-farm measures to tackle TB have worked, and attacked Government claims that culling badgers – which can spread the disease to cattle – was needed.
The Government has pushed forward with two controversial pilot culls of badgers, with plans to roll-out the scheme more widely in England if it can be done effectively, safely and humanely.
But a leaked review by independent experts assessing the pilot schemes was reported to have found that the number of badgers being killed in each area was much lower than the level needed to have a beneficial impact on TB outbreaks in herds.
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “Our efforts to control bovine TB have kept outbreaks steady over the last 10 years, but we are still nowhere near an acceptable position.”