Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (J15)
PROGRESS REPORT BY MAFF ON THE RECOMMENDATIONS
IN THE FIFTH REPORT (1998-99 SESSIONHC 233) BADGERS AND
This report outlines the Government's progress in
implementing the recommendations in the Agriculture Committee's
Fifth Report (1998-99)
since the Adjournment Debate on 10 February 2000. The Government
is continuing to carry forward its five point research and control
strategy announced in August 1998 to tackle TB in cattle.
Improved liaison with the Department of Health
to monitor the incidence of M. bovis infection in humans and animals
The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Veterinary
Officer met in January 2000 to review progress on the public health
aspects of Mycobacterium bovis. Last year 41 cases of M
bovis were found in humans in the UK, confirming the position
of no change in the trend of recent years.
Guidance has been issued to all Chief Environmental
Health Officers/food authorities on issuing of heat treatment
notices for milk from TB Outbreak farms.
Guidance is being issued to operators of red
meat slaughterhouses about the health and safety implications
of handling TB reactor cattle.
Continued regular testing of cattle herds for
TB and slaughter of suspect animals, and where possible strengthening
A comprehensive review of the frequency with
which cattle are tested for TB has been completed to ensure compliance
with the relevant EU legislation.
Following consultation with the TB Forum cattle
movement restrictions and reporting requirements are being strengthened.
Further measures are under discussion.
MAFF has started a pilot trial into the effectiveness
of the gamma interferon blood test as an additional way of detecting
TB in cattle.
Research to improve knowledge of the disease and
its transmission to and between cattle and other species
A further £1.2 million per annum has been
added to MAFF's research programme to fund laboratory and field
studies on cattle to cattle transmission and pathogenesis of TB.
Research projects are in place looking at TB
in wildlife other than badgers, notably deer, mink, rats and foxes
and to examine clinical samples for M. bovis from live
trapped wild mammals in order to determine the risk to cattle.
The report of the Independent Husbandry Panel,
established in response to one of the Committee's recommendations
to identify how cattle husbandry practices might help control
cattle TB, was published on 16 May 2000. The Government, ISG and
the TB Forum are considering how to take forward the report recommendations.
Research to develop an M bovis vaccine
A progress report on MAFF's tuberculosis vaccines
for animals research programme was published on 14 August 2000.
Copies of the report, by Dr Jo Colston, Head of Mycobacterial
Research at the National Institute for Medical Research, have
been passed to the Committee.
The main focus of the vaccine programme involves
the development of a TB vaccine for cattle, although the option
of a vaccine for badgers is being retained.
Some possible vaccine candidates have been identified.
Work is continuing on the possibility of developing a test to
distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated cattle.
A vaccine steering group, chaired by the Chief
Veterinary Officer, has been set up to co-ordinate the activity
of those Government Departments with an interest in the development
and regulatory clearance of an M bovis vaccine.
A badger culling trial to be carried out to test
the effectiveness of different badger culling policies
Ten triplets have been enrolled in the badger
culling trial in line with the advice from the ISG and in accordance
with its timetable.
Initial proactive culling has been carried out
in five triplets, with two more operations planned this year and
three in 2001.
The Independent Scientific Group has advised
the Government that the trial remains on course to produce robust
results by the end of 2004, possibly earlier.
An independent auditor's report into the despatch
procedures used in the badger culling trial was published on 16
October. It concluded that the procedures followed by MAFF staff
met high welfare standards.
A detailed account of the Government's progress
on each of the Agriculture Select Committee's recommendations
is set out below.
Lessons from the previous policies on the control
of bovine TB
". . .it is essential that future policy
in this area is based on sound science and conclusive evidence
and commands the full commitment of all parties involved".
1. The Government accepted this recommendation.
Other wildlife species
"We recommend that MAFF ensure that a
thorough and well designed sampling procedure of wildlife species
other than the badger be put in place in the badger removal areas
to determine if M. bovis can persist in other species when
badgers are removed . . ."
2. The two research projects in place, one
run by Oxford University and one by the Central Science Laboratory,
are continuing and will last 'till 2002-03 respectively. Results
will be published in full when they become available. The CSL
project looking at the contribution of other wildlife involves
collecting wildlife carcases. By 31 August 570 carcases from 25
species of wild mammals other than badgers had been collected
and are being analysed in the laboratory. Results are not yet
available. The Oxford University project is examining clinical
samples for M bovis from live trapped wild mammals in order
to determine the risk to cattle. Nearly 1,000 samples have been
examined so far and several mycobacterium isolates are undergoing
final confirmatory tests to establish if they are M bovis.
Research into transmission
"We recommend that further research be
undertaken into the relative importance of cattle to cattle transmission
of bovine TB and means of controlling it".
"We disagree with the suggestion that
it is unnecessary to prove how a disease is spread in order to
deal with it successfully, as it would answer much of the debate
if the transmission routes were to be identified".
"We recommend that MAFF provide more
funding for research modelling spatial distribution of transmission
patterns and routes commissioned from the best scientists in the
3. During 2000, on the advice of the Independent
Scientific Group, the Government initiated a research programme
to investigate the pathogenesis and transmission of tuberculosis
in cattle. This programme includes laboratory experiments and
field studies. The aim is to obtain a clearer understanding of
how and at what stage of infection transmission of M. bovis
occurs between cattle, and to improve knowledge of the immune
responses detected by diagnostic tests so that testing procedures
can be improved. In addition to the modelling studies already
in place, part of the new cattle pathogenesis work includes development
of a mathematical model for TB in cattle. This work is of fundamental
importance in advancing control of the disease. Results from this
research, which started in July 2000 and finishes in December
2003, will be published when available. MAFF has also advertised
for new approaches on molecular epidemiology to address this area,
research proposals submitted in response to the open competition
launched in May 2000 are currently undergoing appraisal by independent
4. The recently started projects investigating
pathogenesis and transmission of TB in cattle will help to answer
some questions on the importance of cattle to cattle spread. Molecular
epidemiology studies on the different strain types of M. bovis
will help to link sources to outbreaks of infection. A study at
the University of Bristol is investigating potential routes of
infection to cattle from grass contaminated by infected badgers.
Public health implications of the rise in incidence
of bovine TB
"The public health risks of the situation
are extremely low . . . We wish to emphasise that there is no
call for the public panic on [BSE] to be re-ignited over bovine
". . . the risk . . .`is not great' and
we believe it should not be overplayed. We are concerned that
the rise in bovine TB in cattle may be misunderstood and misrepresented
in the media as being linked to the disturbing rise in the number
of human TB cases . . ."
5. The joint MAFF/DOH quarterly meetings
have continued throughout 2000. The Chief Medical Officer and
Chief Veterinary Officer reviewed progress on the public health
aspects of Mycobacterium bovis TB in January 2000. They
confirmed that the levels of infection in humans remain low (about
40 cases per year) and that the management of risk to human health
through pasteurisation of milk, meat inspection at abattoirs and
advice on occupational exposure remains appropriate. Advice has
been issued by the Food Standards Agency to Local Authorities
on heat treatment of milk from restricted herds and by the Department
of Health to Consultants in Communicable Disease Control on screening
of people in contact with infected cattle. Advice is also being
issued to owners of abattoirs which receive cattle.
Conclusions on the rise in incidence of bovine
"The rising incidence of bovine TB is
a serious problem, with implications for public finances, the
farming industry and animal welfare".
"The consequences to the farming industry
if current levels of TB incidence are maintained, or worse continue
to increase, clearly warrant the attention now being paid to the
6. The Government accepted these recommendations.
". . . We believe that MAFF should pay
more attention to identifying the principal cause of [the increased
rate of herd breakdowns]. . ."
7. More than 1,200 TB 99 epidemiological
reports have been entered on the database. Data from 688 reports
of incidents which occurred during 1999 has been summarised for
the Independent Scientific Group; we are awaiting their advice
as to whether the data summary should be published at this stage.
The Krebs review
"We agree with Professor Krebs that the
terms of reference for his review were appropriate and not restrictive,
but we understand the concern of the conservationists about the
fact that the title of the review was "Bovine tuberculosis
in Cattle and Badgers".
8. The Government noted this conclusion.
"We accept Professor Krebs's conclusion
that the evidence of a link between badgers and cattle TB is compelling
but not conclusive and that a field trial is required to test
and quantify the link between badgers and cattle".
9. The Government welcomed this conclusion
and sees the field trial and related research as a vital element
of its strategy to control TB in cattle in the future. Answers
are needed on the contribution badgers make to TB in cattle and
whether culling badgers helps to control the disease in cattle.
"We conclude that, seen in context, the
number of badgers likely to be culled in the trial will not substantially
affect the overall UK badger population and is justified in pursuit
of a soundly-based policy which should save unnecessary slaughter
of both badgers and cattle in the future".
10. The Government agreed with this conclusion.
Professor Sir John Krebs estimated that around 12,500 badgers
would be culled in the trial lasting five years. As a comparison
the badger population of Great Britain is estimated to exceed
300,000 and over 50,000 badgers are believed to be killed on the
roads each year. By 1 September 2000, in the trial triplets where
culling had been carried out so far, 1,953 badgers had been culled.
This would suggest the Krebs figure is unlikely to be exceeded:
NUMBER OF BADGERS CULLED
11. In no trial area will eradication of badgers occur. Due
to the limitations of cage trapping a residual population of around
20 per cent will be left. This will be supplemented by immigration
"We conclude that Krebs' approach of combining a culling
trial with other research is the correct one and we see no reason
why any of the Krebs proposals should be abandoned. We agree broadly
with Krebs' conclusions and recommendations".
12. The Government agreed with this conclusion.
"We are convinced that more attention should have
been paid by Krebs to the role played by husbandry in preventing
TB breakdowns . . ."
"We recommend that MAFF appoint a small panel of experts
to undertake a fast track review of the available scientific evidence
on husbandry, taking evidence from the industry and the veterinary
profession as appropriate . . ."
"We recommend that the Government finance the cost
of accelerated research investigating the most promising husbandry
practices likely to assist in the control of bovine tuberculosis".
13. An Independent Husbandry Panel was established on
17 January 2000 chaired by Dr Clive Phillips of the University
of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine, with the other
members being a dairy farmer, a zoologist and a veterinarian.
The Panel took evidence from a large number of interested parties
and reviewed the available literature on the subject. Its report
was published on 16 May 2000 and is available in the Library of
the House. The Panel's recommendations identified a number of
husbandry measures farmers might take to reduce the risk of infection
to their cattle, while making clear that the transmission routes
for bovine TB are not fully understood. The Government is examining
these recommendations in consultation with the Independent Scientific
Group and the TB Forum so as to assess which are likely to be
effective against TB and practical for farmers. Many of the findings
confirm the advice already contained in the Government's advisory
leaflets, issued in 1999, but the Government will consider what
more can be done to encourage farmers to adopt better husbandry
measures in respect of cattle TB. The Government expects to publish
its response to the report before the end of 2000.
Implementation of the Krebs report
"We regret the delay between the publication of the
Krebs report in December 1997 and the Government's announcement
of 17 August 1998, two years after the start of the Krebs inquiry,
especially given that no policy to control bovine TB was in place
at all during that period".
14. The Government accepted that an earlier announcement
would have been desirable. However, the regular testing of cattle
herds and examination of animals at slaughter for TB, which is
the principal means of controlling TB in cattle, continued uninterrupted
throughout the period in question along with controls to protect
". . . It is essential therefore that a test is developed
in line with a vaccine for cattle which allows the distinction
to be made [between infected and vaccinated animals] and which
is accepted throughout the EU and by the European Commission.
The Government should keep the EC informed of developments in
"We assume that the Bourne Group's responsibility
for advising Ministers on vaccines and vaccinations includes the
monitoring of progress on vaccine development recommended by Krebs
but would welcome clarification of this point".
". . . We recommend that the Government review its
entire TB vaccination strategy to ensure that sufficient funding
is given as a priority to human vaccine development, that research
is conducted into the difference between TB in cattle and humans,
and that UK scientists have access to the latest developments
in this field".
"The difficulties with delivering a badger vaccine
persuades us that a cattle vaccine offers more potential in the
control of bovine TB, although we advocate the continuation of
research into a vaccine for badgers".
15. The major focus of the TB vaccine research programme
involves the development of a cattle vaccine, although the option
of a vaccine for badgers is being retained. The initial approach
of developing vaccine candidates is similar irrespective of the
target species. A report on the progress made in the TB vaccine
research programme in the period July 1999 to June 2000 has recently
been published and is available on the MAFF TB website (www.maff.gov.uk/animalh/tb).
16. A project on M. bovis genome sequencing and
analysis is expected to provide inputs into the vaccine development
programme, for example potential subunit vaccine candidates, identification
of novel virulence factors and diagnostic reagents.
17. UK researchers working on TB vaccines are in regular
contact with leading international experts and groups on cattle
TB, notably in New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland. There
is also specific co-ordination with the WHO/NIH vaccine screening
programme for human tuberculosis. Promising candidates generated
in that programme will be forwarded for testing in the M. bovis
18. At present the programme is focusing mainly on developing
new candidate vaccines, and assessing these in laboratory small
animal models and in cattle. Their performance is to be compared
with BCG vaccination. An advantage of working on cattle vaccines
is that candidates which show promise in laboratory small animals
can then be tested in the natural host species before progressing
to clinical trials. Differential diagnostic tests for cattle using
peptide antigens which can distinguish vaccinated animals are
also being developed to address the problem of induced tuberculin
19. Closely allied to the research into promising vaccine
candidates is that on developing improved diagnostic reagents
and tests for use in live badgers. Various methods of delivering
potential oral vaccines to badgers are also being investigated,
including aerosol generating capsules and baits.
"We agree with the Minister that because of uncertainties
over vaccine development it is necessary to proceed with the Krebs
programme on all fronts".
20. The Government welcomed this conclusion and is proceeding
with all the elements in its five point strategy to control TB
Recommendations t and usee response for recommendation
"Although we have not been persuaded that leg cuffs
would injure badgers, for the sake of public perception, we urge
MAFF not to pursue this route".
21. The Government does not intend to use leg cuffs in
the badger culling trial.
Road traffic accident survey
"We recommend that the road traffic accident survey
be implemented in the counties identified by the Bourne Group
as soon as possible in order that information may be gathered
to substantiate that from the culling trial. For counties outside
the culling trial, we recommend that the Bourne Group determine
how many badgers are necessary to identify prevalence within acceptable
limits and the cost-effectiveness of such an exercise".
22. Re-introduction of a limited RTA survey in the seven
counties recommended by the Independent Scientific Group has been
delayed, initially due to upgrading of badger post mortem facilities
at the Veterinary Laboratories Agencies laboratories and more
recently by the diversion of MAFF resources to deal with the outbreak
of Classical Swine Fever in East Anglia. The Government expects
to start the survey shortly. The information from the survey may
be helpful in understanding the underlying prevalence of TB in
badgers. It will be compared with data from the badger culling
"The Government should investigate the potential role
of trace elements in the incidence of TB in cattle . . . we
recommend that in determining future research projects the role
of trace elements in susceptibility to bovine TB in cattle and
badgers should be specifically included . . ."
23. A conclusion of the Independent Husbandry Panel report
was that it is unlikely that the trace elements most commonly
believed to be deficient in cattle are related to M. bovis
infection. Information regarding the use of mineral supplements
and any known trace element deficiency forms part of the TB99
epidemiological investigation. Information so far from the TB99
database indicates that 99 per cent of the herds give compound
mineral supplement either as free access or as a balanced feed
supplement, this suggests that primary trace element deficiency
is unlikely to be a major factor in the incidence of TB in cattle.
However, the government remains aware that trace element imbalance
can make cattle more susceptible to a range of diseases and will
take account of any epidemiological evidence in relation to TB.
Funding for research
"We recommend that MAFF ensure that funding for research
into bovine TB remain a priority and that the level of funding
is sufficient to ensure that the programme of research recommended
by Krebs be completed".
24. The Government remains committed to putting the necessary
research in place as part of the strategy to control TB in cattle.
In financial year 2000-01, in addition to the badger culling trial
and related epidemiological questionnaire, about £5 million
will be spent on research, including vaccine development and research
on pathogenesis and transmission of TB in cattle.
Implementation of the research programme
". . . We believe that the lack of information on
the research programme at a time when the culling trial was underway
contributed to the impression of MAFF bias against the badger
in the eyes of many witnesses . . . it has done much to undermine
the goodwill of the animal welfare lobby and to break the perception
of the Krebs report as a package of measures, rather than as the
culling trial alone."
25. The research programme is an integral element of
the Government's TB strategy. An overview of the research in progress
is contained in the annual reports of the Independent Scientific
Group, on the MAFF TB website, to which summaries of completed
research projects will be added. The Government accept there is
a continuing need to publicise the existence of the research and
also the results as they become available and will take every
opportunity within its communication effort to emphasise the importance
of the research work. Several MAFF contractors presented interim
reports of their findings at the recent M. bovis 2000 International
conference in Cambridge. The proceedings will be published in
the scientific publication Tubercle and Lung Disease in 2001.
Length of culling trial
"The delays in implementation carry the danger that
the trial will have to continue for seven years, two years longer
than the period which was already causing such concern to farmers".
26. The badger culling trial remains on course and the
ninth and tenth triplets were enrolled into the trial in October
2000. The Government's target is to complete initial proactive
culling in seven triplets by the end of 2000 and in all 10 by
the end of 2001, in accordance with the requirements of the Independent
Scientific Group. The ISG believes results from the trial will
be available by the end of 2004, possibly earlier depending on
the strength of the association between badgers and TB in cattle.
Related papers: Reply by the Government to the Fifth Report by
the Agriculture Committee, session 1998-99, HC 612, published
30 June 1999; Government update, February 2000, published in the
Agriculture Committee's Fourth Special Report "The Committee's
Work, Session 1998-99", Session 1999-2000, HC 480. Back