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Avian Influenza

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to monitor flocks of under 50 birds not included in the Great Britain Poultry Register for signs of avian influenza. [52958]

Mr. Bradshaw: We are actively encouraging owners of less than 50 birds to register their flocks under the GB Poultry Register, because this will help us to communicate with them as effectively as possible.

However, we have made—and continue to make—close contact with poultry keepers of all sizes. Everyone keeping poultry should follow the biosecurity advice that has been made available, and take commonsense hygiene precautions as a barrier to disease.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risk of avian influenza being spread by gamebirds raised for commercial shooting; and whether gamebirds will be registered on the Great Britain Poultry Register. [53041]

Mr. Bradshaw: Gamebirds reared or kept in captivity will be treated in the same way as other kinds of poultry. They need to be registered in the same way. And they will be subject to the same kinds of movements restrictions in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many badgers (a) culled and (b) examined as part of the road traffic accident trial were diagnosed with bovine TB in each local authority area; and what proportion of badgers culled and examined these figures represent. [52229]

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Mr. Bradshaw: No badgers were culled as part of the Road Traffic Accident Survey. Rather, it was designed to establish if the level of bovine TB infection in dead badgers, collected from road accidents, reflected disease prevalence in the wider badger population in an area. This has been done by comparing survey data with findings from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).

Post mortem examinations were carried out on 3,769 badgers during the course of the survey and results show that around one in seven of these animals had TB (based on 2002–04 figures). The overall prevalence figures were 17 per cent. in 2002 (95 per cent. confidence interval (CI) 14–21 per cent.), 13 per cent. in 2003 (95 per cent. CI 10–15 per cent.) and 15 per cent. in 2003 (95 per cent. CI 13–18 per cent.). Not enough badgers were collected, however, to allow parish-level prevalence estimates to be made.

The results of the RBCT are still being collected and analysed by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG), which is responsible for it. The detailed information requested has not yet been made available, but figures from the initial proactive culls in all 10 RBCT areas showed prevalence ranged from 2 per cent. to 38 per cent.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research is being undertaken to evaluate the various means of gassing badgers; and what assessment her Department has made of the minimum time period required before a strategic culling of badgers by gassing could be implemented. [52615]

Mr. Bradshaw: We are currently consulting on both the principle and method of a badger culling policy. No decisions have yet been made.

However, a review undertaken for the consultation (http://defraweb/corporate/consult/badgers-tbcontrols/index.htm) identified sett-based fumigation, using carbon monoxide (CO) gas, as a possible feasible and humane technique. The main issue in relation to humaneness and effectiveness is that lethal concentrations of CO gas will be attained quickly throughout most parts of any sett. If that can be achieved then concerns .about sub-lethal dosing, either with CO or other contaminants in the exhaust gases, will be reduced because toxic concentrations of gas will kill quickly. Work is currently underway to assess this.

While some early results from this work should be available by the end of March, the delivery of the full report, with any recommendations for future work, should be ready by May 2006. If the model is validated then this will allow us to predict the risks and effectiveness of different strategies. If the model proposed in the consultation is not validated then the data from the field trials will allow determination of whether using a suitable, de-tuned, vehicle petrol engine is a viable method of producing lethal concentrations under specific circumstances. If the trial work demonstrates that lethal concentrations can be achieved through most of a sett, then there may be confidence in gassing as a technique for killing badgers during 2006. However, further work is very likely to be needed to ensure, efficient and safe mechanisms for delivery of gas.
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Data supporting the use of CO will also need to be submitted for approval as a vertebrate control agent. The earliest it is foreseen that this further research work could be completed would be March to May 2007.

Battery Cages

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take steps to ensure that other EU member states are planning to implement EU council directive 1999/74 prohibiting conventional battery cages by 2012. [52773]

Mr. Bradshaw: The European Commission is responsible for ensuring that Community legislation is properly implemented and enforced. The Food and Veterinary Office carries out inspections to check member states' compliance with EU standards on animal welfare.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many locations in each county hold in excess of 40,000 birds. [52562]

Mr. Bradshaw: We are aware of the locations of large poultry keepers and we are in close contact with them through the work we are doing to disseminate guidance on effective biosecurity arrangements, for example. Definitive information on which of these have more than 40,000 birds will be available once the deadline for registration under the Great Britain Poultry Register has passed on 28 February.

Bovine TB

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the success of governments since 1986 in eradicating bovine tuberculosis as required by EC Directive 77/391; and if she will make a statement. [52610]

Mr. Bradshaw: The long-term bovine TB trend in Great Britain (1986–2004) has been an 18 per cent. annual increase in confirmed new herd incidents.

This Government are committed to action to control bovine TB. And the development of our framework strategy for dealing with TB in cattle over the next 10 years is an important addition to the measures currently available to address this disease.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis there have been and (b) cattle have been slaughtered due to infection with bovine tuberculosis in each year since 1986. [52611]

Mr. Bradshaw: The number of new TB herd incidents and number of cattle slaughtered under TB control measures in Great Britain between 1986 and 2005 are presented in the following table 1 :

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New TB herd incidentsCattle slaughtered(71)

(71) TB reactors plus direct contacts.
(72) In 2001, the TB testing and control programme was largely suspended due to the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. When testing resumed in 2002, resources were 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 tested immediately after the FMD outbreak was greater than that prior to the outbreak. As a result, data for 2001 and 2002 are not comparable with other years.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research is being undertaken in the UK on the production of a bovine tuberculosis cattle vaccine; and what the Government's position is on sanctioning the use of such a vaccine. [52612]

Mr. Bradshaw: Developing a TB vaccine for cattle is a long term goal and forms a substantial part of Defra's research programme. Defra is funding research, in collaboration with New Zealand, into vaccinating cattle with BCG and other vaccine candidates, and to develop a test to differentiate vaccinated animals from infected animals.

In January the Veterinary Laboratories Agency began further work on looking at new vaccine candidates and delivery protocols in a natural transmission study in cattle.

Before they could be used as tools in TB control, any suitable vaccine candidates would be required to go through formal licensing procedures to ensure safety and efficacy, and to comply with relevant EU directives. At present, vaccination of cattle in the field against TB is illegal under EU law because of the risk of interference with current diagnostic tests.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the contribution that (a) testing all badgers found dead for bovine tuberculosis and (b) recommencing the nationwide road traffic accident survey for disease surveillance would have upon eradicating bovine tuberculosis. [52613]

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Mr. Bradshaw: There are no plans to test all badgers found dead for bovine tuberculosis. However, as part of the package of measures announced on 1 November 2004, the State Veterinary Service carries out localised wildlife surveys in and around new potential hotspots across England.

The Road Traffic Accident survey (RTA) finished at the end of 2005. It was carried out in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial counties of Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire. Shropshire and Dorset were also targeted as comparison counties.

Officials are analysing the data in conjunction with herd breakdowns around the infected badgers found. This will help to inform decisions on the value of continuing RTA surveys in high and/or low TB risk areas in England.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact that pre-movement testing only on animals over 15 months of age from 20 February will have upon the prevention of the translocation of bovine tuberculosis as a result of cattle movement. [52614]

Mr. Bradshaw: It is estimated that, in the initial phase, approximately 285,000 cattle movements may be subject to testing, and that pre-movement testing may prevent around 500 new incidents of bovine tuberculosis a year.

Once the second phase is introduced, and animals over 42 days old are subject to pre-movement testing, approximately 560,000 cattle movements may be eligible. Around 700 new incidents a year may be prevented.

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