FOURTH SPECIAL REPORT
The Agriculture Committee
has agreed to the following Special Report:
The Committee has received the following memorandum
from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, constituting
the Government's Reply to the First Report from the Committee
of the 2000-2001 Session, Badgers and Bovine Tuberculosis:
Follow-Up, made to the House on 20 December 2000. A letter
to the Chairman from the Minister of State (Lords) in response
to a request for a note on the impact of foot and mouth disease
on the bovine TB research programme is appended.
* * *
1. The Government welcomes the Committee's Followup
Report, published on 10 January 2001, which assesses the state
of play on the Government's strategy to tackle bovine TB. The
Committee's support for the strategy in general and in particular
its conclusion that the badger culling trial remains "the
only feasible way of obtaining the information essential to establishing
the relationship between bovine TB in cattle and badgers and whether
culling is a viable option" is welcome.
2. The Government is carrying forward its fivepoint
strategy announced in August 1998. The five points are:
- improved liaison with the Department of Health
to monitor the incidence of M. bovis infection in humans
- research to develop an M. bovis vaccine;
- other research to improve knowledge of the disease
and its transmission to and between cattle and other species;
- continued regular testing of cattle herds for
TB and slaughter of suspect animals, and where possible strengthening
- a badger culling trial to test the effectiveness
of badger culling in reducing TB in cattle.
3. The Government is committed to tackling TB in
cattle and is determined to press on with finding a solution based
on best possible scientific advice. All known areas are under
consideration. £45 million has been allocated by MAFF in
this financial year for controls to contain the spread of disease
and to fund a comprehensive scientific research programme. A breakdown
of this expenditure is attached at Annex A, together with outline
projections for future years.
Latest statistics on TB in cattle
4. Provisional figures for January to November 2000
show there have been 933 new confirmed incidents of bovine TB
in GB cattle herds, compared with 804 in January to November 1999.
7,666 cattle were slaughtered as reactors to the tuberculin test
or as direct contacts in the first eleven months of 2000 compared
to 6,373 in the same period in 1999.
5. There have been a number of developments since
the Committee reported on 10 January. MAFF is consulting on amendments
to the Tuberculosis (England and Wales) Order 1984 for England
to improve and clarify the cattle testing arrangements. Changes
are also being made to bring forward TB testing in parishes not
subject to annual testing. The Government's response to the independent
Husbandry Panel report was published on 18 January and sets out
how it intends to encourage greater uptake of good husbandry practices
against TB by farmers.
6. An independent audit of badger surveying in the
field trial was published on 8 February. This concluded that there
were no flaws in the operational procedures.
7. Finally, the Committee will be aware that Britain's
first outbreak of foot and mouth disease for twenty years was
confirmed on 20 February. Veterinary resources are being directed
to contain and eradicate the outbreak as soon as possible as a
matter of priority. Some impact on TB work is inevitable in the
short term, but it is too early to say precisely what the effect
Specific Recommendations in Agriculture Committee
The scientific basis of the trial
We believe that a more positive approach from
the ISG towards constructive criticism of their analysis would
be helpful, whether this consists of undertaking analysis to convince
this Committee or of involving in their work other academics who
have serious concerns about the scientific basis of the trial.
8. MAFF has consulted the Independent Scientific
Group on Cattle TB (ISG) on the Committee's comments on the scientific
basis of the badger culling trial. The ISG welcomes the Committee's
support for the trial and its recognition that it is the only
feasible way of obtaining information essential to establish the
relationship between bovine TB and badgers and whether culling
is a viable policy option. The Group welcomes constructive dialogue
with any organisation or individual with an interest in any aspect
of its work, which ranges beyond the badger culling trial, focusing
as it does on gaining a better understanding of the epidemiology
of the disease in both cattle and wildlife. The ISG has worked
with the independent statistical auditor, Professor Mollison,
and noted with satisfaction his endorsement of its approach and
of the statistical design of the trial. It will continue to work
closely with Professor Mollison throughout the course of the trial
as the Committee had previously recommended and invites Dr Mathews
and others to discuss in detail any concerns over the trial and
other parts of its recommended research programme.
Implementation of the trial
The Committee also noted the concern raised by
the absence of a trial area in Wales despite the high incidence
of bovine TB in Wales. We reiterate our support for the trial
as the only feasible way of obtaining the information essential
to establishing the relationship between bovine TB in cattle and
badgers and whether culling is a viable policy option, and reaffirm
our belief that it is in the wider interests of the farming community,
as well as in the longterm interests of conservation and
animal welfare organisations, to cooperate fully with the
trial. There are lessons to be learnt from the slow implementation
of the trial but nothing to be gained from abandoning it, before
it has had time to achieve robust results.
9. The Government welcomes the Committee's continued
support for the TB research programme. It accepts that there were
problems with resources and logistics in the early stages of the
trial. As acknowledged in the Committee's report, these have now
been resolved. The ISG has stated that the trial is now on course
despite protest activity aimed at MAFF staff and farmers. Initial
proactive culling has been carried out in seven of the ten areas,
with follow up culls in three. Initial culling will be carried
out in the remaining three trial areas during 2001. The ISG has
advised that results are likely to be available by the end of
2004 and possibly earlier.
10. The following table shows the number of badgers
culled in the trial up to 31 January 2001:
|North Wiltshire||744|| -
|West Cornwall||451|| -
11. The ISG advised MAFF that there was no compelling
scientific need for a trial area to be sited in Wales. The Assembly
Secretary for Agriculture and Rural Development for the National
Assembly for Wales decided that, in the light of that advice,
she was content for the trial to proceed on an England only basis.
12. During the oral evidence session on 15 November
2000, the Committee asked for information on TB outbreaks in cattle
herds in trial areas prior to the start of the trial. The data
is set out in Annex B.
The road traffic accident survey
We recommend that MAFF make it a priority to provide
sufficient resources to enable the road traffic accident survey
to be carried out according to the directions of the ISG.
13. The Government shares the Committee's regret
that the operational demands of the Classical Swine Fever outbreak
diverted SVS resources from the road traffic accident survey.
This resulted in a later start and muchreduced level of
badger carcass collection and post mortem than was originally
envisaged. In the first three months of the exercise, 93 carcases
have been collected and 77 postmortem examinations performed.
SVS resources have now been redirected to support the survey,
and the Ministry, together with the ISG, is reviewing survey arrangements
in order to improve its coverage and ensure that the sample size
required by the ISG is achieved. MAFF will be seeking cooperation
of local practice vets and others to ensure the required number
of carcases are collected. However, in the short term there is
likely to be some impact on resources devoted to the survey due
to the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
Reactors in the food chain
We note that the concerns of the HSE at laboratory
staff handling possibly infected badger carcases led to part of
the delay. We also note that these concerns do not appear to have
been reflected in the handling of definitely infected cattle and
the passing of meat from these animals into the food chain. The
Government should seek advice on the appropriateness of current
14. The MAFF and Department of Health Liaison Group
on M. bovis continues to review the incidence of M.
bovis in cattle and humans and to identify issues for the
respective departments to take forward. The number of cases of
M. bovis in humans remains very low, at about 40 per year,
and shows no correlation with the incidence in cattle in terms
of geography or occupational group.
Risk from TB infected carcases
15. The Government is seeking advice on the appropriateness
of current controls. The Food Standards Agency has asked the Advisory
Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food to review the
possible health risks associated with consumption of meat from
animals with evidence of Mycobacterium bovis infection,
including animals with no post mortem evidence of disease which
have reacted positively or inconclusively to the tuberculin test,
and to advise on the adequacy of current control measures. The
Committee has established a working group and hopes to be in a
position to advise the Agency before the summer. The Agency intends
to commission a short study (69 months) by limited tender
to investigate the distribution of M. bovis in the edible
tissues of salvaged carcases from cattle that have reacted to
the tuberculin test or show evidence of M. bovis infection
at post mortem inspection. The study will aim to determine the
level of contamination in each of the tissues examined. The study
will also review published data on transmission of infection to
humans and estimate the likely infectious dose by mouth for humans.
The invitations to tender will be sent out in the next few weeks.
Risk to humans handling TB reactors
16. State Veterinary Service (SVS) veterinary officers
or official veterinary surgeons and, occasionally, meat hygiene
inspectors acting on instructions from the SVS Divisional Veterinary
Manager handle cattle being slaughtered under the TB control programme,
including sampling of carcases for TB lesions. They are required
to follow a range of precautions, such as wearing face masks and
protective clothing, and to provide evidence of a BCG vaccination.
Cattle presented for slaughter under TB control measures are processed
at the end of the slaughter line which is then cleansed and disinfected.
The length of time spent by official veterinarians with a possible
source of M. bovis infection is limited and unlikely to
be repeated every day. The precautions prescribed for such staff
are proportionate to the potential exposure and in line with Health
and Safety Executive Guidance. This position is distinct from
that of staff working in laboratory facilities dedicated to examining
carcases for indications of M. bovis, sampling them and
culturing the organism from those samples. They would normally
be in contact with possible sources of M. bovis for much
longer periods and on a more regular daily basis.
17. Slaughterers and slaughterhouse staff do not
carry out the sampling of carcases for TB lesions and so are not
subject to the same close exposure to potential infection as veterinarians.
However, they will be exposed to a degree of potential infection
in the course of their normal work killing and preparing carcases.
Slaughterhouse staff are therefore advised to adopt similar precautions
to SVS staff. MAFF issued guidance on this to all red meat slaughterhouse
owners in England in October 2000. This joint guidance between
MAFF, the Department of Health, FSA and the Health and Safety
Executive informs slaughterhouse owners of the precautions taken
by SVS staff and advises them to consider similar measures in
relation to their own staff. A copy of this guidance is at Annex
We recommend a more detailed study to run alongside
the work of the ISG
18. Since publication of the Committee's report,
the Government has published its response to the independent Husbandry
Panel report (MAFF news release 16/01 of 18 January 2001). This
sets out the measures the Government proposes to take forward
on husbandry. MAFF is commissioning further research into the
extent of badger visitation of farm buildings and food stores
and survival of M. bovis in slurry. A contract let with
a market research company in February to assess how effective
the 1999 MAFF advisory leaflets "TB in Cattle Reducing the
Risk" and "Farm Biosecurity Protecting Herd Health"
as well as identifying better ways of providing farmers with advice
on husbandry has been postponed, in view of the current outbreak
of foot and mouth disease. Once we are in a position to move forward
with the research it will take about two months to complete and
results will be published on the MAFF TB website. The market research
will be used as a basis for a revised strategy on encouraging
farmers to adopt better husbandry practices to minimise TB risk.
19. The Government has also decided to undertake
a pilot project in one county to test the feasibility of categorising
farms according to their TB risk status for husbandry purposes.
This will be based on ideas put forward in the British Cattle
Veterinary Association's "Herd Health Strategy" paper.
We recommend that MAFF make an absolute commitment
to its implementation as a priority.
20. The Government is fully committed to continuing
its epidemiological questionnaire (TB99) and its database is expanding
steadily; by 17th January 2001 the database contained 1,770 reports.
The data for incidents which occurred outside the culling trial
during the second half of the year 2000 is incomplete on account
of the diversion of SVS staff to emergency swine fever duties;
however the data for incidents within the culling trial areas
will be complete for the whole year. The TB99 case and control
questionnaires have been revised in the light of recommendations
received and the new forms are being used for all cases from 1st
January 2001. The TB99 data has been submitted to the ISG for
analysis. The Government will endeavour to keep the impact of
the recent foot and mouth disease outbreak on the level of resources
devoted to TB99 to a minimum.
TB Forum (cattle testing)
We would suggest that the increased incidence
of herd breakdown and the lack of prospect of any new direction
until the trial is complete requires further action. An increase
in the frequency of tests and a requirement to produce test data
on sale both appear prudent. We are also disappointed that progress
has not been more rapid towards the development of a more accurate
test and hope that work will be pressed forward in this area.
21. The Government accepts the need to increase the
frequency of herd tests in response to new incidents of the disease.
This happens all the time at local level where new herd breakdowns
trigger both immediate testing of contiguous herds and in many
cases (depending on local circumstances) will result in the whole
of the parish in question being put on more frequent testing.
In addition, the 2000 annual review of parish testing frequencies
is close to completion. This involves assessing testing frequencies
across the country in the light of new TB incidents, taking into
account epidemiological criteria, for example by creating buffer
zones of more frequent testing areas around those which have had
a herd breakdown. This review is likely to result in an increase
in testing frequencies in some 400 parishes, which will be implemented
22. Since publication of the Committee's Report,
the Government has also announced that it is planning to bring
forward a number of routine herd tests in those parishes currently
on 2, 3, and 4 yearly testing, so as to ensure that a proportion
of the herds in all such parishes are tested each year (MAFF news
release 16/01 of 18 January 2001). This will be implemented over
the coming year and will result in a significant increase in testing
as a proportion of herds will be tested at a shorter interval
than the normal frequency for the parish in question. Both the
annual review and this initiative to spread tests more evenly
in those areas not on annual testing will help increase the effectiveness
of disease monitoring.
23. In December 2000 a new facility was introduced
to enable farmers to request a copy of their most recent herd
test certificate (form TB52) which they can then make available
to potential buyers of cattle to demonstrate the date of their
last herd test. The Government is not convinced that making production
of proof of testing at sale compulsory would achieve sufficient
benefits to justify the administrative burden on the industry.
It should be borne in mind that the fact that a clear herd test
has taken place does not represent a guarantee in relation to
individual animals, as a herd test does not include animals under
6 months of age at the time of testing. Where farmers are buying
stock from areas with a high incidence of TB, especially if the
animals are intended for breeding, the Government already advises
farmers to consider undertaking private premovement testing.
However, the Government will keep this area under review.
24. Improvements to the diagnostic test are an important
part of MAFF's research programme. A feasibility study into the
use of the gamma interferon blood test, alongside the tuberculin
skin test, has been underway since October 2000 (MAFF news release
367/00 of 18 October 2000). The purpose of this study is to provide
information on the logistics and cost of carrying out the blood
test in normal field conditions in Great Britain. The herds involved
have undergone initial blood testing and the study is expected
to be complete by July 2001. In addition, other elements of the
Government's TB research programme, such as work on the immunological
response of cattle to M. bovis, the cattle pathogenesis
studies and the development of novel diagnostic antigens, will
contribute to improving the accuracy of current testing methods.
We believe that Ministers have to recognise that
this might mean deciding to extend the trial beyond the enddate
or beyond its current scope or it might mean finding some Plan
B, which does not seem to be in development at the moment. It
is the responsibility of Ministers, not of the ISG, to make the
ultimate decisions and we believe that this process must be put
in train now and not delayed until the crisis of no clear results
from such an expensive and controversial programme is upon us.
25. The Government agrees with the Committee's conclusion
that, with the TB research programme well underway and due to
deliver results in two to three years, now is the time to start
developing possible future policy options. It shares the Committee's
concern that given the continued increase in TB in cattle, there
should be no delay in moving to implement new policies when appropriate.
26.The Government agrees that Ministers have the
responsibility for decisions on policy in relation to TB. This
should be on the basis of the best possible scientific advice.
The Government is grateful to the ISG for its role in devoting
much time and effort in producing high quality advice in relation
to the trials. MAFF is also, as part of its response to the Phillips
Inquiry report, reviewing all the arrangements for the provision
of scientific advice across the Ministry's work.
27. The Government is minded to develop a range of
policy options. If appropriate these might be tested out possibly
on a "pilot" basis in areas outside the present trials,
in order to gain experience that would help Ministers reach an
eventual decision on a national TB policy. The details of any
pilot project would need to be fully explored before it was undertaken.
28. In addition, the Government wants to see if its
work on TB vaccines can be accelerated. In collaboration with
the ISG, MAFF plans to undertake scoping studies on TB vaccination
of cattle and badgers, to provide a structured analysis of the
public health, regulatory and safety issues as well as an assessment
of the resource input necessary to develop an effective vaccine
for use in the field. This work will complement the existing vaccine
development programme. We will also closely examine recent developments
in the Irish Republic on badger vaccines.
29. The Government is determined to do all that it
can to contain the spread of bovine TB while scientific studies
are in progress, and recognises that it may not be appropriate
to wait until perfect scientific evidence is available before
taking additional measures. The Government is keeping the situation
under close review, and will not hesitate to take action if further
measures are judged to be warranted.
14 March 2001
Breakdown of the Government's expenditure
on tackling TB in cattle (£m)
|Out turn 1999/00
includes staff costs, accommodation and vehicles for the SVS Wildlife
Assumptions used for expenditure projections in years
02/03 and 03/04:
i) Cattle testing. 13% increase year on
year. Based on average of estimated
increases between1999/00 and 2001/02.
ii) Compensation. 20% increase year on
year. Based on recent trends.
iii) Culling trial. £7.0 m in both years. Based
on current levels of activity.
iv) Other research. £5.0 m in both years. Based
on current levels of research.
Historical Incidence of TB in Cattle in
Herds in Trial Areas
| Confirmed Breakdowns:
||Past 3 Years
||Past 12 Months|
Footnote: 1. The figures for triplets
in East Herefordshire, Gloucestershire
and Devon will be available following initial proactive
later this year.
2. Trial areas were selected first
and foremost on the most recent
three year period and with particular
focus on the disease
situation in the immediately preceding
year. This emphasis on
up-to-date and recent TB data was important,
as it allowed the
trial to take account of new areas where
disease is emerging.
HEALTH AND SAFETY IMPLICATIONS OF TB
REACTOR CATTLE FOR SLAUGHTERHOUSE OPERATORS
Purpose of this guidance note
1. This information is provided to assist you with
fulfilling your obligations under Health and Safety legislation
to carry out risk assessments and introduce any controls or precautions
you deem to be necessary.
2. This note is intended to provide owners and operators
of abattoirs slaughtering cattle, including those who may
receive cattle for compulsory slaughter following a tuberculosis
(TB) incident, with information on the health and safety implications
associated with bovine TB. It lists the precautions MAFF/MHS staff
take when dealing with reactor animals.
|You should consider the risk to your staff and apply some or all of these precautions to them also. Your guidance should also be explained to visitors as appropriate.
3. Abattoir personnel may be exposed to risks from
the bovine form of tuberculosis caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium
bovis. They may be exposed to the infection via three routes:
a) inhalation of aerosol, e.g. aerosols created
by coughing animals when checking ear tags prior to slaughter;
b) accidental ingestion, e.g. if correct hygiene
procedures are not followed; and
c) through broken skin, e.g. as a result of
cuts, scratches or other uncovered wounds.
4. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
Regulations (COSHH) 1999 apply and require that you carry
out an assessment of the risks from TB to your employees and identify
the precautions necessary to control that risk. You are also required
to provide suitable and sufficient information, instructions and
training to enable your employees to know about the risk and precautions
they should take.
5. Cattle from TB restricted farms, that is cattle
which have reacted positively or inconclusively to the tuberculin
skin test (used to test for TB) or have been in contact with other
animals that had TB, may be presented for slaughter by MAFF or
the herd's owner. It is possible that some or all are infected
with the bovine form of tuberculosis and their organs could be
affected by disease. Additionally, the carcases of cattle
sent for routine slaughter may occasionally show lesions of previously
unsuspected tuberculosis infection.
6. Bovine TB is caused by a different agent to that
causing most cases of human tuberculosis (M.tuberculosis)
but it can infect humans. The symptoms are the same as for
M.tuberculosis TB (symptoms are listed at paragraph 14).
7. Disease caused by M. bovis is now extremely
unusual in the human population in this country, with only around
40 cases being reported annually in the UK as a whole. It is found
mainly in older people who are thought to have been infected when
bovine TB was more common, i.e. before the introduction of widescale
pasteurisation of milk, and occasionally in people who contracted
the infection abroad. The disease can be acquired by those handling
infected animals or their tissues, as part of their work/occupation,
although such cases are believed to be extremely rare.
8. In the past, human infection by M. bovis
was through the consumption of infected unpasteurised milk, but
occupational infection can occur either by inhalation of infectious
aerosols or possibly through ingestion. Direct contact (i.e. through
breaks in the skin) with infected material can sometimes initially
give rise to a local infection of the skin.
9. All tuberculosis in humans is notifiable under
the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to the proper
officer of the local authority (normally the Consultant in Communicable
Disease Control). M. bovis TB is also specifically reportable
to HSE under the Reporting of Disease and Dangerous Occurrence
Regulations (RIDDOR) if an individual's infection may have
been acquired occupationally through working with animals or their
products which might have been the source of infection. M.
bovis TB is a prescribed disease for industrial benefit.
Implications for Slaughterhouse personnel
10. Abattoir personnel will not be asked by MAFF/MHS
staff to carry out any detailed or close work with these animals,
other than that involved in the normal slaughtering process. Nor
will they be asked to assist with the selection or handling of
any samples which may be taken for further examination as this
is the responsibility of MAFF/MHS staff. However, staff occasionally
volunteer to help with the harvesting of tissue samples.
11. Any activities carried out by MAFF or MHS staff
on your premises will be done in such a way as to minimise the
risks to themselves and your staff. MAFF/MHS staff will comply
at all times with their own and any local Health and Safety Regulations
or requirements imposed by you.
12. Appropriate guidance should be sought from suppliers
of cleaning chemicals concerning their suitability for disinfecting
M. bovis contaminated work areas and the subsequent disposal
of waste water.
Precautions taken by MAFF/MHS Staff
13. The precautions to be taken by MAFF and MHS staff
when dealing with reactor animals at the slaughterhouse include
i) strict hygiene precautions will be observed,
to avoid ingestion of potentially infected material, particularly
by hand to mouth contact, for example hands and arms will be thoroughly
washed before eating or smoking;
ii) all cuts and abrasions will be kept
covered with waterproof dressings and protective overalls and
gloves (which are waterproof/cut-proof) will be worn;
iii) respiratory protection in the form of a
disposable face mask to EN149 FFP3 standard or equivalent respiratory
protection will be worn where MAFF/MHS staff decide there is a
particular risk of inhalation of the infectious agent;
iv) staff will be able to provide evidence
of a BCG vaccination, which provides substantial but not complete
v) staff are educated to be aware of early
symptoms or respiratory problems which may indicate TB infection
and to report the possibility of exposure to their GP;
vi) staff will be aware of the need to
report all incidents and accidents through the accident reporting
Common Symptoms of TB
14. Common symptoms of tuberculosis include fever,
night sweats, fatigue, cough lasting longer than 3 weeks, weight
loss and (later) spitting of blood.
15. Details of the Government's strategy to control
the disease can also be found at MAFF's TB Website at www.maff.gov.uk/animalh/tb/default.htm.
Alternatively, copies of the pages are available from ADC
Division at Area 104, 1A, Page Street, London, SW1P 4PQ, telephone
number 020 7904 6065.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Letter from the Minister of State (Lords),
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the Chairman of
the Agriculture Committee
Thank you for your letter of 21 March about the Government's
response to the First Report of this Session on Badgers and Bovine
I enclose a note about the implications of the foot
and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak on the Government's strategy
to tackle TB in cattle. As you will see, the current emergency
has had a significant impact on the Government's programme on
cattle TB. However, we are doing all we can within the existing
resources to minimise the impact and the time it will take to
resume normal operations once the FMD outbreak is concluded.
The Rt Hon The Baroness Hayman
3 April 2001
Note on the Effects of the Foot and Mouth
Disease (FMD) Outbreak on the Government's Strategy to Tackle
TB in Cattle
Almost all routine testing for TB in cattle has been
put on hold, although a small number of tests were still going
ahead as of 9 March, subject to adherence to the disinfection
and cleansing protocol, in State Veterinary Service (SVS) Divisions
which remained FMD-free. In most Divisions, reactor cattle disclosed
by testing carried out before the imposition of FMD movement restrictions
are being held on farms. Decisions on re-tests on inconclusive
reactors and Short Interval Tests (SITs) are being made on a case-by-case
basis according to the FMD situation in different Divisions. For
example, all TB control testing has been suspended in the
South-West Region. In practice, few re-tests or SITs are being
carried out compared with pre-FMD activity.
SVS colleagues are considering urgently the need
to deal with TB reactors during the FMD outbreak, and the possibilities
for carrying out routine and follow-up testing outside FMD-infected
The project to implement the staggering of herd tests
in parishes on two, three and four year testing, which was announced
at the January TB Forum meeting, had just started when the FMD
outbreak occurred. It is estimated that it will take seven months
from when planning re-starts to the first herd tests being brought
forward on the ground. This means that it is unlikely to happen
Other projects, such as this year's review of TB
testing frequencies and the validation of 1999 and 2000 TB statistics
on VetNet, will also be delayed for as long as the outbreak lasts.
The field trial
Badger culling operations were scheduled to resume
after the close season on 1 May. However, preparations for the
2001 culling programme have been delayed and it is inevitable
that this programme will be disrupted. Wildlife Unit (WLU) staff
have been made available when required to the SVS AHDO offices
to deal with FMD outbreaks. Some management functions are being
maintained to ensure that the WLU can rapidly move back into trial
operations when the FMD outbreak is over.
Field surveying has been suspended in the three Triplets
scheduled for initial proactive culls this year (Triplet D - Herefordshire,
I - Gloucestershire and J - Devon). Also the 2001 programme of
follow-up proactive and reactive operations will be disrupted.
TB 99 epidemiological questionnaire
The backlog of TB 99 investigations that had accrued
mainly as a result of the diversion of SVS resources to deal with
Classical Swine Fever in the Autumn had largely been cleared before
the FMD outbreak. However, the suspension of routine TB testing
will delay the collection of TB99 data for 2001.
Survey of badger carcasses for bovine TB (the
Re-direction of SVS and WLU staff onto FMD duties
has effectively halted the collection of badger carcasses for
the RTA survey from 22 February.
The TB research programme
MAFF has halted all field work being undertaken on
livestock farms as part of the TB research programme. A number
of research projects entail extensive field studies and for some.
Spring is an especially important time for the collection of field
data. In view of the restrictions on the movement of livestock
and the unavailability of SVS staff, we have had to postpone the
start of the planned investigation of M. bovis in in-contact
animals as part of our major project on cattle pathogenesis, scheduled
for 1 April, until further notice. In addition, the feasibility
study on the potential use of the gamma interferon test as an
adjunct to the tuberculin skin test has been suspended.
The Government response to the independent Husbandry
Panel committed MAFF to formally audit the uptake of existing
TB husbandry advice in order to determine the best way of getting
advice across to farmers. A contract to undertake this had been
signed with a market research company before 20 February but has
been put on hold as the project involves canvassing views through
meetings with farmers.
Views of the Independent Scientific Group on
Cattle TB (ISG)
At its last meeting the ISG received a situation
report on FMD and held a preliminary discussion about the impact
on the field trial and the TB research programme. The Group agreed
to keep the situation under review and to develop advice to MAFF
on the management of the trial and the research programme in order
to keep the disruption to a minimum.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Animal Disease Control Division