The number of herds of Scottish and other UK cattle infected with bovine tuberculosis has been "significantly" overestimated, official figures show.

Statistics for the incidence of new cases of the disease and the number of herds under restrictions following an outbreak of TB dating back to September 2011 were suspended last month after a problem was identified with data recording.

Revised figures show that the number of herds under restrictions following an outbreak in England in September 2013 was 3417, almost a third lower than the previously published figure of 4778 herds for that month.

Loading article content

The figures have been revised dating back to September 2011 for England, Wales and Scotland.

The number of new cases of TB has also been slightly revised downwards for both 2012, down from 5201 to 5154, and between January and September 2013 with a reduction from 3556 to 3487.

In addition, the latest figures show a slightly lower rate of new TB cases from January to November 2013 compared with the same period the previous year.

There was also a 13% reduction in the number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered in England because of TB in the January to November 2013 period, compared with January to November 2012, down from 34,896 in 2012 to 30,220 in 2013.

The Government and farmers have been pursuing a policy of culling badgers, which spread the disease to cattle, which they say is necessary to tackle rising rates of TB. But cull opponents claim it is ineffective and inhumane and that vaccination and on-farm measures should be used to curb the disease.

Dominic Dyer, policy advisor for charity Care for the Wild, said: "We're seeing reductions in all the key indicators around bTB, and all before any impact from the badger cull will be seen. A 13% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered is an excellent achievement, so why aren't Government and farmers proudly declaring the improvements are working?"