Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 68)



  60. When do you expect the results?
  (Professor Bourne) From the economic studies?

  61. Yes.
  (Professor Bourne) These were rather short term studies. Again from memory, I think one was 12 months; the other was two years. If I could refer you back to our report last February, we were not suggesting any degree of urgency for this economic study because we realised it would not take too long to do and I think MAFF have moved very quickly on this.

  62. It is nice to hear such exceptional praise of MAFF. You say at five, "Some further points": "Assuming some effect of culling is found, the second objective is to provide a basis for a culling policy." You then suggest a strategy: "if and only if the projected breakdown rate in an area (a county perhaps) exceeds some threshold rT, institute (or allow or encourage) reactive culling over a distance d from the affected farm". How do you fill those figures in? What does it mean?
  (Dr Donnelly) We would not be able to say until we analyse the data as it comes in and examine the proximity of breakdowns to the culling effectiveness in those areas, looking at the resulting incidence in what the breakdown is.

  63. The incidence would tell you the distance? Is that what you are saying?
  (Dr Donnelly) Yes. We will know where badgers were culled, where infected badgers were found in both proactive and reactive culls and where the breakdowns are.

  64. It is just a question of the distances?
  (Dr Donnelly) We will know the locations of all those things.

  65. You comment about the usefulness of the TB Forum. Has it been shot down now the NFU has walked out? Does it have a future and, if it does, what is your role in it?
  (Professor Bourne) I think it has a future. I certainly do not think it has been shot down because the NFU have, I hope temporarily, left the table. You will recall that we did recommend, along with the NFU, in our letter that we wrote to the Minister in June 1999, that the TB Forum be put in place with interested parties to consider what might be done in the interim to better control cattle TB while waiting for the outcome of the research work that we had in place. I believe in that respect TB Forum has done a very good job. One of the most important things we have done over the last couple of years is change attitudes towards cattle TB. It is a disease of cattle. There are elements of its control which have to be multifactorial. You cannot just focus on the badger issue, which has been done in the past. We have moved thinking a long way in moving towards this multifactorial approach. This of course is why we have put in the broad research programme that we have, which includes a lot of work now on better understanding of the disease in cattle and better handling of the disease in cattle, better disease management. That is what TB Forum is about. I think it has done a good job. The NFU claim, as you are aware, that TB Forum is prevaricating. I think it is inevitable, given the spectrum of interest in TB Forum, that there is going to be some initial prevarication. I do think it is moving in the right direction and does have a really real job to do in better disease management. I would refer you to the recent paper at the last meeting of the BCVA which I think is a very constructive paper on how better disease management can be put in place now on which one would hope we can improve when we have better information and better scientific evidence of other aspects of disease.

  66. Is the NFU sulking because it has been bashed by the conservationist groups? Perhaps you ought not to answer that question. What is your role? Is it to act as a kind of mediator between the two?
  (Professor Bourne) No, not at all. We did play a role in establishing TB Forum because we saw the importance of it. Our role now is simply to contribute as a member of TB Forum along with the 20 or so other members of TB Forum.

  67. What short term options do you want to see alongside the trials?
  (Professor Bourne) Short term options for what?

  68. On the whole issue. There are so many recommendations flying about, so many alternatives available. The trials are going on. What should be done short term?
  (Professor Bourne) I think precisely what we are doing. We have a research base in place. We are kicking it as hard as we can to get results as quickly as we can. TB Forum are looking at short term issues with respect to better disease management. I do not think there is any more that can be done. If you are referring to the possibility of culling animals outside of the trial area, our views have been clearly expressed again in the appendix of our second report in a letter that we wrote to the Minister I think in June 1999. We have no reason to shift from that position.

  Chairman: You have given us some very useful things we want to ask the Minister who is now waiting outside. I propose that we give you your dismissal and invite the Minister in. Thank you very much for coming to see us. I have a feeling that we may see each other again at some stage. Since you began by saying that we were talking about 2004 and perhaps later, I have a feeling that a certain amount of revisiting will occur from time to time. That will no doubt be a pleasure for all of us. Thank you very much indeed.

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