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8 Dec 2003 : Column 210Wcontinued
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether badgers infected with tuberculosis are capable of depositing infectious tubercular material sufficient to cause infection in cattle on open pasture and other areas to which cattle have access. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Although it is likely that badgers infected with tuberculosis are capable of infecting cattle, the routes of transmission of Mycobacterium bovis (the causative agent for bovine tuberculosis) from cattle to cattle, and between badgers and cattle, are not fully understood.
The Randomised Badger Culling Trial is designed to provide information on the role of badgers in cattle TB. Other research investigates the pathogenesis of M. bovis in cattle. These form part of a broad programme or research designed to deliver information on improved diagnostics, how TB is transmitted, how TB develops in affected animals, and on the interaction with wildlife.
Mr. Bradshaw: Badger latrines are areas where the animals habitually defecate. Typically, they comprise several small pits 10 to 20 cm diameter containing badger droppings, usually contained within an area up to five metres across. Latrines are found within and on the periphery of badger social group territories. Badgers also urinate around latrines and smear their scent on the ground. Badgers infected with M. bovis (the causative organism of bovine tuberculosis) may excrete the organism in their faeces and/or urine. Therefore if badger latrines occur on pasture, or in areas frequented by cattle they may pose a risk of M. bovis infection for cattle.
Mr. Bradshaw: It is possible that a sow badger infected with M. bovis (the causative organism of bovine tuberculosis) may transmit infection to her cubs through contaminated milk, or by aerosol in the confines of an underground nest chamber. Badgers may also infect each other by bite wounding, either during play fighting or through more aggressive territorial and mating encounters.
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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the estimated incidence of TB in (a) badgers and (b) cattle in England was in the last year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The last year for which data is available on TB in badgers in England is the period 6 October 1998 to 5 October 1999. Table 1 shows the number of badger carcases tested and found positive for Mycobacterium bovis (the causative organism for bovine tuberculosis) in this period, while Table 2 shows the incidence of TB in cattle for the same period.
|Number and percentage|
|Number of badger carcasses tested||1,038|
|Number of badger carcasses M. bovis positive||104|
(4) Data from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) and the associated current Road Traffic Accident (RTA) survey is not available. Data is sourced from the previous RTA survey and sources other than from Badger removal operations, and pre-dates the current RTA survey and RBCT.
(5) It is not possible to provide incidence rates for TB in badgers in the absence of data about the date badgers became infected.
|Incidence of TB in cattle|
|Tests on unrestricted herds||28,353|
|Confirmed new incidents||702|
(6) Data downloaded from the State Veterinary Service database on 1 December 2003.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what conclusions have been drawn on routes of transmission from post-mortem examination of badgers for TB in the past 10 years. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Post-mortem examination of badgers is used as part of the process of determining if badgers are infected with Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis. Post-mortem findings do not provide a basis for ascribing the source or route of infection. However, the location of visible lesions may be indicative of the route of infection e.g. lesions in the lung tissue would suggest a respiratory route of infection. The distribution of lesions in badgers examined by Defra from 199099 indicates that infection may have occurred through the respiratory or oral routes, as well as through infection from bite wounds.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate has been made of the optimum badger population in England; and what assessment has been made of the effect on the local environment of colonies extending beyond the optimum size. 
Mr. Bradshaw: No estimate has been made of the optimum badger population in England, and therefore no estimate can be made of the effect on the local environment of colonies extending beyond the optimum size.
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Defra is funding a project designed to assess the impact of removing badgers from the ecosystem. The results will shed more light on the ecological interaction of badgers with other species, which share their environment.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the percentage of badgers which can reasonably be expected to be killed in a defined area when the culling teams rely solely on trapping. 
Mr. Bradshaw: In the absence of any means to estimate badger populations accurately, either prior to or post culling, it is always going to be difficult to make such assessments. In the randomised badger culling trial, post-culling surveys have indicated that, in the best conditions and allowing for a proportion of trap-shy animals, about 80 per cent. of the population may be culled using cage traps. In less than optimal conditions this figure can be substantially lower.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where the main TB lesions have been found on those badgers which have been subject to a post-mortem examination for TB by or on behalf of her Department, in England in the past 10 years. 
|Location of lesion||Occurrence|
|Chest cavity tissues apart from lymph nodes||418|
|Abdominal cavity tissues apart from lymph nodes||191|
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action is taken by the Department when its badger traps are found to be removed or otherwise interfered with. 
Mr. Bradshaw: When badger traps are found to be removed or otherwise interfered with, traps are replaced or resited or, alternatively, more discrete trapping sites are selected. Incidents of trapping interference are reported to the police.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many field staff, as full-time equivalents, are employed by her Department both directly and on contract, on randomised badger culling trials; and how many were employed in (a) 2002 and (b) 2001. 
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For most of 2001, field staff were reassigned to dealing with FMD. Over the first three years of the Trial contracts to carry out initial Triplet surveying were negotiated with CSL and ADAS and additionally small numbers of staff were deployed from elsewhere in the Department to support major proactive cull operations. Badger culling, however, was always carried out by Wildlife Unit personnel.
Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made of the extent of barn owl deaths caused by traffic; and what steps are being taken to prevent them. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Research on this issue was commissioned by the Highways Agency with a final report produced in 1999Impact of Roads on Barn Owl Populations. This year, the Barn Owl Trust published Barn Owls and Major Roads, the results and recommendations of a 15 year study. Both reports confirm that major roads present a significant hazard to barn owls. They act as barriers to dispersal and reduce barn owl populations in the adjacent countryside.
The Highways Agency commissioned Highways and Birdsa best practice guide, published in 2001. This investigates the potential value of land alongside major roads to birds and provides generic best practice guidance for engineers and ecologists on highway design and management techniques of benefit to bird populations. These aim to minimise the risks to birds associated with traffic while making best use of the habitat within areas of the road verge where birds are considered to be at a safe distance from the carriageway.
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