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10 Dec 2003 : Column 522Wcontinued
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans the Department has to evaluate the impact on efficacy of culling of the use of anaesthesia in badger setts prior to lethal gassing. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department has no plans to evaluate the impact on efficacy of culling of the use of anaesthesia in badger setts prior to lethal gassing. The gassing of badgers has been discounted as a culling option because it is considered to be inhumane.
Mr. Bradshaw: It is not known precisely how long M. bovis (the causative organism of bovine tuberculosis) may survive in badger setts. The organism is killed by exposure to ultra violet light and extremes of temperature and humidity, as well as the growth of other bacteria and fungi. The lack of light and relatively constant temperature and humidity conditions found inside a badger sett would favour the survival of M. bovis.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what predictions were made, in explanatory material made available to farmers by her Department as to the percentage of badgers which were to be killed by culling teams engaged in the Krebs trials. 
Mr. Bradshaw: In their first report, the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, reported that informal estimates suggested a capture rate of up to 80 per cent. could be expected using cage traps alone. Information made available to farmers by leaflet, refers to "Proactive culling as many badgers as possible from a whole area (about 80 per cent.)" based, in part, on post-culling assessments of trapping efficiency. These assessments were based on field signs and are therefore largely
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subjective. They are, however, carried out by experienced personnel and give a useful indication of the extent of badger population reduction in proactively culled areas.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information she has collated on whether significant damage is caused by badgers to ground nesting birds. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Badgers are known to predate on ground nesting birds, although such predation is likely to be largely opportunistic. The impact of badger predation on bird populations has not been specifically quantified, but is not thought to significantly affect populations nationally. Locally, however, the situation may be different.
Bird remains are typically found in about 7.5 per cent. of badger dung in the U.K., and diet studies confirm that badgers eat eggs, nestlings and adult birds. These studies are unable to distinguish between scavenged and killed birds, and do not quantify the importance of birds in the badger diet.
Defra is currently funding research aimed at providing a scientifically vigorous assessment of the importance of badger predation for ground nesting birds. The project involves a review of current knowledge and intensive field investigations to assess to extent of predation by badgers. The project, which is being undertaken by the Central Science Laboratory, will report its findings in March 2005.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the welfare implications are for badgers infected with TB; at what stage in the disease they suffer; and how long that suffering can last. 
Mr. Bradshaw: In a study by the Central Science Laboratory and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, TB as a cause of death accounted for less than 7 per cent. of badgers found dead. It is difficult to make objective assessment of whether these animals suffer. Typically, individuals may live for many months or even years while infected, showing no overt signs of clinical illness and maintaining normal body weights. Infected female badgers often give birth and successfully rear litters. However, post mortem findings where advanced pathological changes have occurred, particularly in the lungs, indicate that during the final stages of disease there would undoubtedly be an effect on the quality of life of such an animal. This stage is thought to last for a few weeks at most.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many times in each of the reactive areas of the randomised badger culling trials badger clearances were carried out. 
|Reactive trial area||Number of reactive operations completed(12)|
(12) Individual reactive operations vary in the extent of the geographical area involved and the number of herd notifications for reactive culling included
(13) Includes an operation halfway through the culling period at the time of suspension of reactive culling on 4 November 2003.
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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on (a) the adequacy of the resources allocated to the reactive cull component of the Government's randomised badger culling trials and (b) the adequacy of the number of personnel allocated, with particular reference to clerical personnel with sufficient skills, training and experience. 
(a) It has at times been difficult for MAFF/Defra to carry out reactive culling in response to a herd breakdown as quickly as the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) anticipated its First Report. Resource limitations, including difficulties inherent in the recruitment and retention of appropriately skilled staff, have played a part. Difficulties became apparent in 2002 when, in effect, the impact of the suspension of TB testing in 2001 due to foot and mouth disease meant that two years1 worth of breakdown notifications required reactive culling, alongside the servicing of culling in the proactive areas. Defra has worked hard since FMD to meet the ISG's expectations both in terms of the time between breakdown and culling, and the number of operations completed. The ISG has helped by making some pragmatic decisions by assisting with priorities and by setting realistic, yet challenging, targets which Defra has either met or exceeded.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how long a reactive culling area must be maintained for statistically valid data to be obtained from the trial in that area. 
Mr. Bradshaw: As set out in the Second Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISO), the design of the trial is based on accumulating a maximum of 50 triplet years of data to provide a probability exceeding 90 per cent. of detecting a 20 per cent. effect. The ISO committed itself at the outset, to carry out an initial analysis of the data once 100 new breakdowns had been accumulated in trial areas, and to repeat the analysis at six-month intervals.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many reactive culling areas were designated during the randomised badger culling trials; and what the dates were on which the trials commenced in each area. 
10 Dec 2003 : Column 525W
|ReactiveTrial Area||Number of reactive operations completed(14)||Date of Field Operations(15)|
|A1||10||3 July 2000|
|B1||10||24 May 1999|
|C1||20||15 May 2000|
|D1||4||25 August 2003|
|E1||(16)10||17 June 2002|
|F3||10||29 July 2002|
|G1||7||19 August 2002|
|H1||4||15 January 2003|
|11||3||16 May 2003|
(14) Individual reactive operations vary in the extent of the geographical area involved and the number of herd notifications for reactive culling included
(15) Date that traps are first set to catch badgers
(16) Includes an operation halfway through the culling period at the time of suspension of reactive culling on 4 November 2003
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what concerns Professor Bourne has raised with her on the effect of delays in obtaining culture test results for bovine samples on management of the randomised badger culling trials. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Professor Bourne wrote to the then Parliamentary Secretary (Commons), Mr. Morley, on 9 May 2003 enclosing a number of reports including one reviewing the implementation of the reactive strategy in the randomised badger culling trial. This pointed out that clearance of the TB testing backlog, caused by the suspension of testing during the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, had overwhelmed culture facilities and contributed to delays in the notification of TB herd breakdowns that triggered reactive culling operations. The paper brought the concerns of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB to the Minister's attention but concentrated on advising the Department on what it could do to improve notification and reactive response times.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the projected expenditure is by her Department for the next five years on developing vaccines for protecting (a) bovine animals and (b) badgers against TB infection. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The content and funding for the future TB research programme is currently under discussion within the Department and is taking account of external scientific advice. TB vaccine development is likely to form an increasingly important part of the research programme.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total expenditure since 1973 by her Department and its predecessors has been on developing vaccines for protecting (a) bovine animals and (b) badgers against TB infection. 
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The major effort on TB vaccine research, in relation to cattle and badgers, started in 1998, subsequent to the Krebs Report on Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers. The following table shows vaccine related research costs for the financial years 199899 to date.
|Financial Year||Vaccine related research cost|
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions her Department has had with pharmaceutical companies on the Government's efforts to identify a candidate vaccine for bovine TB. 
Scientific Group's Vaccine Scoping Study Sub-Committee, whose report is to be published shortly. Officials are also engaged with representatives of the animal medicine industry to discuss possibilities for Government/industry partnerships.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many bovine animals were compulsorily purchased and slaughtered as a result of TB infection between 1994 and 1998. 
(17) TB Reactors plus dangerous contacts. Veterinary OfficerAnimal Health 1998
The Report of the Chief
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many bovine animals have been compulsorily purchased and slaughtered as a result of TB infection since 1998. 
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(18) TB Reactors plus dangerous contacts. Source: The Report of the Chief Veterinary OfficerAnimal Health 2002
(19) In 2001, the TB testing and control programme was largely suspended due to the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. Since testing resumed in 2002, resources have been concentrated on herds with overdue TB tests which would have had a longer period in which to contract the disease. Also the proportion of high risk herds being tested post-FMD is greater than that prior to the outbreak. As a result, the number of TB reactors identified and slaughtered in 2002 is not comparable to those identified and slaughtered in previous years.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on her recent decision to end badger culling as a means of countering TB in cattle. 
Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 9 December 2003]: The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISO) was appointed by Ministers in 1998 to design and oversee a large-scale field trial, the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), aimed at evaluating badger culling as a means to reduce the incidence of cattle TB. The trial involves three experimental treatments: (i) proactive culling, which aims to reduce badger densities to very low levels across entire trial areas, (ii) reactive culling, which seeks to remove only those badgers geographically close to recent cattle TB outbreaks on particular premises, and (iii) no culling (survey only).
The ISG has advised Ministers that its interim analysis of trial data so far indicates that there has been a 27 per cent. increase in the number of cases of bovine TB (breakdowns) in cattle herds occurring in reactive culling areas compared to the related survey-only areas (where no badger culling took place). The culling of badgers in reactive treatment areas of the RBCT was suspended from 4 November, because of the risk that a further three months of culling would cause additional TB breakdowns.
On the advice of the ISO, operations will continue in proactive areas because the data for these areas does not yet yield a statistically significant result. The survey-only (control) areas will also continue to be monitored.
This is a significant step forward in the development of a strategy to control bovine TB. Although we have now effectively ruled out small-scale, reactive culling of badgers, it gives us and the industry a greater impetus to focus our attention on other measures, such as the development of an improved diagnostic test, improved biosecurity and husbandry, and the development of a vaccine.
10 Dec 2003 : Column 528W
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research she has undertaken on whether effective control of bovine TB can be achieved solely by means of herd bio-security and good animal husbandry. 
Mr. Bradshaw: An investigation, costing approximately £0.5 million, of potential badger/cattle interactions and how cattle husbandry methods may limit these is being funded by Defra. The final report will be published after the investigation ends in December 2005.
A survey known as TB99 is under way and assesses potential risk factors that may predispose herds to TB outbreaks. The survey was delayed because of the foot and mouth disease outbreak but is back on course.
Advice leaflets on the health and welfare of livestock are available from Defra's website. Important advice on preventative strategies for avoiding introduction of cattle diseases, such as bovine TB, can be found in the leaflets "Golden Rules for a Healthy Herd" and "TB in CattleReducing the Risk".
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice is given to farmers by her Department on bio-security measures aimed at preventing infection of cattle by TB. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Defra has produced a concise list of disease prevention measures (including the need to always know the health status of animals being bought or moved) in the form of a yellow card which was developed with livestock industry representatives and vets. It was sent to all livestock farmers in 2002, and is available on the Defra website.
The Defra booklets "TB in CattleReducing the Risk", "Golden Rules for a Healthy Herd" and Farm BiosecurityProtecting Herd Health", which contain guidance on disease control measures, are also available from the Animal Health Divisional Offices or on the Defra website.
Mr. Bradshaw: In the majority of cases TB infection would have been confirmed on gross pathology, in abattoirs, by the presence of visible lesions, so culture results are of significance in only the non-visible lesion cases which were positive to the tuberculin test. Delays in culture results will have contributed in part to delays in the notification process but administrative and logistical delays, including the no cull period, would have a greater significance.
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