Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Fourth Report


58. The ISG's Sixth and Final Report was published on Monday 18 June 2007. On badger culling, it stated that :

    On the basis of our careful review of all currently available evidence, we conclude that badger culling is unlikely to contribute positively to the control of cattle TB in Britain.[83]

59. The Chairman's overview was even more conclusive in its dismissal of the option of badger culling. Professor Bourne, on behalf of the ISG, concluded:

    After careful consideration of all the RBCT and other data presented in this report, including an economic assessment, we conclude that badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain.[84]

Results of the RBCT


60. As we said in paragraph 44, the RBCT found that "reactive" culling, targeting specific badger social groups which could have caused TB breakdowns in cattle, appeared to increase the incidence of confirmed cattle breakdowns by 27%. The ISG hypothesis for this increase was that culling badgers disrupted their social organisations, causing the increase of the prevalence of the disease in the remaining badgers who then would range more widely and spread the disease, an effect known as "perturbation".[85] The most recent research published supports this.[86] In addition, the removal of badgers within an area led to an increase in badgers from outside the area immigrating. This was particularly true when the removal area had no "hard boundaries" such as coastline, major rivers and motorways to prevent the immigration or perturbation of badgers.[87]


61. Proactive, or widespread, culling was associated with a reduction in the number of TB breakdowns by 23% inside the culling areas. This equated to the prevention of 116 breakdowns over five years. However, the trial also found that proactive culling was associated with an increase in the number of TB breakdowns on land neighbouring the trial area which equated to an additional 102 confirmed breakdowns.[88] Like reactive culling, this "edge effect" was caused by perturbation of badgers as a result of the cull. Proactive culling removed approximately 70% of badgers in an area, but the ISG did not believe that the beneficial effects would have been greater if more badgers had been removed.[89]

62. Over time, and successive culls, the beneficial effects of a proactive cull increased and the negative effects decreased. However, the ISG calculated that the economic costs of a proactive cull over five years, together with the negative effect of breakdowns that it caused, greatly outweighed the modest beneficial effects it produced in the number of breakdowns it prevented.

63. The ISG calculated that in order for five years of annual proactive culling to achieve a 95% confidence interval for a beneficial effect across the whole area (culling area and the neighbouring area) a culling area of 265km² was necessary.[90] In order to exclude detrimental effects across the whole area, it would be necessary to have a culling area that was larger than that 455km². However, the ISG found that culling on this scale still would be unlikely to generate net benefits in economic terms.


64. The ISG considered whether culling performed under licence (e.g. farmers or landowners individually or in groups would apply for a licence to cull badgers under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992) would provide an economically viable method of TB control. This is on the basis that a farmer-managed cull would have significantly fewer costs that a cull organised by Defra. The ISG discounted small areas of localised culling as likely to make matters worse, but noted that, in principle, a licensed cull conducted over a large area (100km², the same size area as the RBCT) could achieve an overall beneficial result. However, the ISG concluded that it would be highly unlikely that farmers would be able to conduct a co-ordinated, simultaneous cull over a large area, to be sustained over several years. Furthermore, the logistical considerations, the level of expertise necessary and consequential badger welfare concerns led the ISG to believe that a licensed cull would entail a substantial risk of making the situation worse.[91]


65. The ISG estimated that badgers were responsible for only 30-40% of cattle TB breakdowns.[92] Therefore, the ISG concluded that it was weaknesses in the cattle testing regimes that mainly contributed to the steady increase in the spread of the disease, and the ISG were confident that "rigorous application" of cattle-based measures alone could contain the spread of the disease and reverse the incidence rates.[93] Cattle-based measures recommended by the ISG included: the parallel use of the tuberculin skin test and the gamma interferon test; annual testing for all herds in high risk areas; more rapid follow-up testing upon the identification of a herd breakdown; the use of post-movement testing in some situations; and the possible introduction of movement controls between high and low risk farms or regions.

66. The ISG advised that the Government should concentrate on avoiding further geographical spread of the disease, as elimination of cattle TB in hot spot areas should only be considered as a very long term goal.[94] Efforts in hot spot areas should concentrate on prompt detection of infected animals and rigorous movement testing. The ISG referred to evidence that the suspension of cattle controls during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 had led to increased rates of infection in badgers which suggested that increased cattle controls might also lead to reduction of TB in the wildlife reservoir.


67. The report also provided advice on the control strategies needed for cattle TB and on the need for Defra to adopt more effective operational structures. The ISG noted that there was some considerable reluctance within Defra and its agencies to accept and embrace scientific findings. It suggested this was due in part to Defra's organisational structures which enforced a separation of policy development from the scientific evidence on which the policy should be based.[95]

68. The ISG also said that "it is unfortunate that agricultural and veterinary leaders continue to believe, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary that the main approach to cattle TB control must involve some form of badger population control."[96]

69. Defra issued a Written Ministerial Statement on the "Publication of the Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB". The then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said at the end of the statement that:

    I have always made it clear that we will base our approach to tackling bovine TB on all the available evidence. The publication of this report makes an important contribution to the now extensive evidence base on this disease. We will be considering the issues it raises very carefully and will continue to work with the industry, government advisers and scientific experts in reaching a final policy decision on this serious issue.[97]


70. The ISG sent Ministers a "near-to-final" draft of the Final Report on 23 May 2007. The report was based on scientific publications, most of which were already in the public domain and had been sent to Ministers at the time of submission to scientific journals. The Chairman's Overview was not seen by Ministers until 15 June. [98]

71. The Sunday Times of 3 June 2007, in an article headed "Miliband will allow badger culling again", reported that the Secretary of State had sent Cabinet colleagues a letter the previous week telling them that the ISG's results showed "that co-ordinated, efficient culling over areas larger (than 100 km²) could be beneficial if sustained for a number of years".[99] The Daily Telegraph and the Western Morning News ran similar stories the next day.[100]

72. The National Farmers' Union (NFU) told the Committee of their confusion over the conclusions of the Final Report, which were unexpected to them. The Deputy President of the NFU said "I have been involved in discussions with officials, with Ministers, and I do not need to say that there were articles in The Sunday Times, and, I believe, in The Daily Telegraph, leading up to the release of the report, we were extremely surprised when the report was made public."[101] The NFU Bovine TB Spokesman told the Committee "Yes, we did at various levels in Defra firmly get the impression for a period of time that the report was going to conclude that there were circumstances in which a cull could be beneficial."[102] The NFU then suggested to the Committee that the final conclusions had been "slanted" at the last moment before publication to favour cattle-based measures,[103] a claim vehemently refuted by the ISG.[104]

73. In order to explain why Defra had, in the run-up to report's publication, been signalling that an announcement on badger culling could follow soon after, Lord Rooker told the Farmers Guardian:

    I have to say we only saw the report virtually when everybody else did. I don't deny there was a draft, but it was not a full copy. John Bourne's letter accompanying the report, his introduction and his interview on Farming Today last week were much stronger than we had been led to believe. The nature of the interview and the vehemence of the letter took a lot of people by surprise.[105]

74. Professor Bourne told the Committee that at meetings held with ministers and Defra officials between 24 April 2006 and 1 February 2007, the ISG told Defra that: cattle-based measures were likely to achieve more in terms of TB control; reactive culling made things worse; and proactive culling over areas as large as 300km² would only have modest positive gains. In a letter to the then Minister of State for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare on 23 May, Professor Bourne stated what would become the overall conclusion of the final report: "On the basis of a careful review of all the available evidence, we conclude that badger culling is unlikely to meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain […] we therefore recommend that future control strategies focus on cattle measures."[106] The ISG remain insistent that, since the final data of the RBCT have been available, it has not changed its opinion or the tone of its advice to Ministers concerning the impact of culling on incidence of cattle TB and the role that culling could play in cattle TB control. [107]

Commissioning of the King Report

75. Shortly after Professor Bourne wrote to the then Minister of State for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare on 23 May 2007, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs contacted Professor Sir David King, the then Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science, and told him that: "it would be important to have an assessment from [Sir David King] of any scientific issues relating to the role that badger culling could play in controlling and reducing levels of cattle TB in England."[108] Sir David agreed to carry out a short assessment of the key scientific issues in this area. Sir David King collaborated with a group of five independent experts in the field of cattle TB and badger ecology. He did not consult ISG members to discuss their work or even inform them that the work was being done. The ISG were unaware of the Report's existence until the morning of its publication in October.[109] We consider it unfortunate and unsatisfactory that Sir David King and his group of experts did not meet the ISG to discuss their work as we believe that if they had done so, a more constructive dialogue between the two groups of experts might have been established. We welcome the fact that Professor Bourne and Sir David King have now met to discuss their conclusions, and we would encourage this dialogue to continue between the former members of the ISG and the new Government Chief Scientific Adviser.

76. The conclusions of Sir David King's review are set out in paragraphs 85 to 108 below.

77. In the weeks after the publication of the ISG Report, the Minister for Sustainable Food, Farming and Animal Health appeared to criticise the ISG for offering opinion beyond its scope and for not providing more information on the route of transmission of TB between badgers and cattle. He was reported by the Farmers Guardian as saying:

    I have gone back and looked at what we were told the trials would deliver 10 years ago—that we would find out the extent of TB in the badger population, how badgers transmit TB to cattle, that we might have a vaccine, and that we would have all the answers. Well, frankly we haven't, have we? The fact that they can't tell us how TB is spread from badgers to cattle, other than it's respiratory, is not a lot of bloody help to us.[110]

The Farmers Guardian also reported that Lord Rooker had criticised the ISG for going beyond its remit and "deviating off into practical and financial issues, which was not really what they were asked to deal with".[111]

78. Subsequently, in the House of Lords on 26 July, Lord Rooker repeated his concerns:

    I have reread some of the original statements made in 1998 and 1999 as advice to Ministers. We were told that if we set up the Krebs trials, within five years we would know about the transmission route between badgers and cattle, if it exists, the cost benefits involved and what needed to be done in terms of policy. The fact is that we do not.[112]

79. Professor Bourne has written to the Committee in rebuttal of Lord Rooker's comments saying: "Understanding the route of transmission of disease was not a specific objective of the trial, though it was recognized that it would be helpful […] and was covered within our wide recommendations to Defra on associated research".[113]

80. On issues of practicality, Professor Bourne added:

    The complex relationship between badger abundance and cattle TB risks, as revealed by our work, means that the practical issues—which determine how, where, when and on what scale badger culling might be conducted—are absolutely critical in determining whether culling would reduce or increase the incidence of cattle TB. We consider it was not only a clear part of our remit, but our responsibility, to comment and advise on a number of culling approaches that might be considered to cull badgers.[114]

81. Professor Bourne stated that the issue of the cost-effectiveness of badger control strategies was discussed by the ISG with MAFF before the RBCT was launched. As a result of those discussions, Lord Rooker (then Mr Rooker) appointed an agricultural economist to the ISG with a responsibility for economic matters. Professor Bourne considers that the ISG had a clear remit from Ministers to "take into account an economic assessment of 'possible sustainable TB control policies'."[115]

82. On the comment to the Farmers Guardian that the ISG had not provided information on the extent of TB in the badger population, Professor Bourne pointed out that evidence on TB in badgers in the trial areas and in the counties adjacent to trial areas was considered "in detail" in several papers, made available to Defra and was summarised in the final report.[116]

83. Following the publication of the ISG report on 18 June, Ministers did not meet the former members of the ISG to discuss the report's conclusions until 24 October when Professor Bourne briefly met Lord Rooker.[117] The new Secretary of State told the Committee on 24 October 2007 that he intended to meet Professor Bourne and organisations with an interest in the matter and to consider the conclusions of this Report, before making a decision on what policy Defra would take on cattle TB. The outbreaks of Bluetongue and Foot and Mouth, and the flooding during the summer, had meant that he had not had the opportunity to do so before.[118] We have learned that since then, the Secretary of State met Professor Bourne on 19 December.

84. The Secretary of State's undertakings to meet Professor Bourne and others, and to consider the conclusions of our report, are welcome as an indication that he will take personal responsibility for the final decision on how to control cattle TB. However Defra ministers' apparent reluctance to meet Professor Bourne to discuss the final results of the work he and the ISG have been doing for Defra and its predecessor for 10 years is both very disappointing and discourteous.

Conclusions of the King Report

85. Sir David King was asked by David Miliband, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to carry out a "short objective assessment of the key scientific issues in relation to the role that badger removal could play in controlling and reducing the levels of cattle TB in England."[119] The Report was submitted to the Secretary of State on 30 July 2007, but was only published on 22 October 2007. The delay was due in part to the changeover of ministers following the cabinet reshuffle and the events over the summer which preoccupied Defra: the serious flooding, and the outbreaks of Bluetongue and Foot and Mouth disease. However, Lord Rooker admitted that it was regrettable that the report was not made public until that late date: "A new team of ministers had arrived and it was simply parked. There was no ulterior motive."[120]

86. As part of his inquiry, Sir David King considered the ISG Report and "other scientific evidence" with a group of five experts. The group met for just over a day to discuss the ISG report which they had had for some weeks.[121] When asked why he did not consult with members of the ISG, Sir David told the Committee: "In this instance, it was my judgment that this was not necessary because we had before us the publications and a very detailed report […] we were not challenging the scientific basis of those reports. We have provided a commentary but we are not challenging those reports."[122]

87. The group focussed on whether badger culling in hot spot areas would prevent or reduce the incidence of TB in cattle. The group did not consider the efficacy of cattle-based measures, vaccination of cattle and/or badgers; contraception of badgers; or whether measures would be cost-effective, but some regard was given to the practicality of the measures.[123]

Comparison of the ISG and King reports


88. The main conclusion of the King report differs from the ISG's conclusion that badger culling could not contribute to the control of cattle TB in Britain. The King group concluded that:

89. Despite the main conclusion being very different to the ISG's, Sir David told the Committee "I am not disagreeing with the science".[125] Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist and member of Sir David's group of experts, denied that there was an attempt by the group to undermine the statistical analysis of the data: "in no sense is Sir David's report intended to rubbish the work of the extremely competent group that the ISG represents", but said that "the conclusions are equivocal."[126]

90. Both the ISG and the King Report agree that proactive culling led to a reduction in herd breakdowns in the removal area. The ISG found that there was a 23% reduction in the incidence of herd breakdowns in the removal area (equivalent to the prevention of 116 breakdowns in the ten 100km2 proactive removal areas over 5 years). This calculation used data from all years of the trial. However, King stated that data from the first year of culling should be disregarded, because of the "time lag between removal of badgers and detection of changes in infection in cattle". The ISG had also performed this calculation, which gave a 27% reduction in the incidence of herd breakdowns, but had disregarded it as the ISG considered it valid to include the first year's results.

91. The ISG reported a 25% increase in the incidence of breakdowns in areas up to 2km outside the removal zone. This effect is almost, but not quite, statistically significant.[127] The ISG estimated that this is equivalent to 102 induced breakdowns in ten 100km2 areas over five years. In Sir David King's analysis he again discounted data from the first year, giving a smaller increase of 20%. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that there is "some evidence for an increase in cattle TB outside the removal area". Whether or not the first year is included does not alter the statistical significance of the results.

92. The ISG report combines the estimated five-year benefits within the removal area with these figures for the surrounding area. The overall effect is a net prevention of 14 breakdowns after proactive culling in ten 100km2 areas for five years. These figures are based on calculations that include the first year's results from the proactive trials. It is possible that excluding the results from the first year, as recommended by Sir David King, would yield slightly better results for the overall effect.

93. The ISG report considers the likely effects of an increase in the cull area. As the cull area is increased (assuming it is circular), it also increases in size relative to the 2km-wide surrounding area, so the overall effects of the cull become increasingly dominated by the effects in the removal area, rather than the surrounding area. With the most conservative estimate, culling will become beneficial when the removal area is at least 80km2. However, to be 95% certain that culling will be beneficial; an area of at least 455km2 is needed.

94. A less conservative estimate assumes that the benefits of culling are greater in the centre of the removal area, further from the boundary. The ISG reports some evidence for this (also highlighted by David King), although this is not statistically significant. In a larger cull area, more of the area is further from the boundary, so the beneficial effects might be predicted to be greater overall. Based on these assumptions, culling will become beneficial on average when the removal area is at least 70km2, and to be 95% certain of a benefit, an area of at least 265km2 is needed.

95. Based on these two different estimates, the ISG includes graphs in its report (figure 5.4) which show the theoretical outcomes of cull areas of up to 300km2. As stated in oral evidence to us, Sir David concludes that at 300km2, culling "would have a significant effect on reducing TB in cattle".[128] Professor Bourne of the ISG expresses disagreement with this, and refers instead to a "modest difference".[129]

96. The impact of a more prolonged period of culling is uncertain. The ISG reports a trend towards an increase in the beneficial effect inside the removal area with repeated culling, and a decline in the detrimental effect in the surrounding area with repeated culling. Neither of these effects is statistically significant. Sir David King also drew attention to these trends, and acknowledged that they are not statistically significant.

97. The ISG found that culling increased the ranging behaviour of badgers, and used this to account for the apparent rise in TB in cattle on neighbouring un-culled land. Sir David claimed not to be fully persuaded by this "perturbation theory", but acknowledged that it could be "a plausible explanation" and did not offer an alternative hypothesis.

98. The ISG reported that "culling might be more effective in areas bounded by coastline, major rivers, motorways and large conurbations", i.e. "hard boundaries" which are relatively impermeable to badgers. Sir David proposed that these boundaries, together with badger-proof fencing, be used to reduce the detrimental effects of culling resulting from badger movement. However, the ISG claimed that there are few such natural or man-made barriers in TB-affected areas.[130] The group highlighted the cost of badger-proof fencing, but mentioned that it might be appropriate for some farms. The ISG concluded that culling within artificially-constructed boundaries is likely to contribute to TB control only on a very local scale.[131]

99. The ISG observed that the detrimental effect of culling could also be eliminated if "neighbouring areas had either no badgers, or no cattle".[132] This adjoining land would form a "soft boundary". Sir David proposed the use of soft boundaries, i.e. strips of land with no cattle which are at least 1km wide as a means of minimising the edge effect.[133] In the evidence session he claimed that this would act as an effective boundary, because the movement of badgers would have no effect if there were no cattle in the area. The origin of the figure of 1km is unclear. The ISG report questioned the practicability of creating cattle-free strips of land in hot-spot areas.[134]


100. As seen in paragraph 44, from data produced by the reactive culling trials, where badgers were culled on and around farms following TB outbreaks but not elsewhere, the ISG had concluded that reactive culling was associated with a 27% increase of incidence in TB breakdowns. Nevertheless, Sir David stated that because of the early suspension of trials by Ministers in 2003, it was not possible to draw firm conclusions about whether or not reactive culling can contribute to the control of TB.

101. It is therefore clear that Sir David King does make a number of criticisms of the ISG report: the way in which data were analysed (e.g. the ISG's use in its calculations of data from the first year following culling); the way these data were interpreted in order to draw conclusions (e.g. the ISG's conclusion that the reduction in TB incidence in the removal area was largely offset by the increase outside the area, the ISG's interpretation of the figures when assessing the detrimental effects outside the removal area, the ISG's failure to consider that the detrimental effects outside the removal area might be transient, and the ISG's interpretation of the results of the reactive culling trials); and the final conclusion that is drawn from the research, the statement that "badger culling can not meaningfully contribute to badger culling in Britain" was described by Sir David as "unqualified".[135]

102. The main conclusions of the two reports appear to differ mainly because the ISG concluded that it was not practically or economically feasible to carry out culling on the scale necessary to gain beneficial effects. Sir David King's group of experts, on the other hand, did not include the practicalities or costs of culling in their considerations. On this point Sir David told the Committee that he had not considered questions such as whether it was logistically possible to cull over areas as large as 300km² or whether areas of that size with sufficient boundaries to reduce the detrimental edge effect existed : "These are issues that can be addressed by officials". Sir David noted also that even if a cull were not possible to implement practically and it were proved that a cull would not be economically viable, the scientific findings that a proactive cull could reduce the incidence of TB breakdowns would remain the same.[136] However, the King Report was criticised as "unbalanced and inexpert" by Professor Denis Mollison, the Independent Statistical Auditor for the RBCT.[137]

103. In reaction to the King report, Professor Bourne said that it underplayed the effects of perturbation, and overestimated the impact that geographical boundaries could have on the success of a culling strategy.[138] He also reiterated the ISG's conclusion that farmers would not be able to successfully carry out licensed culling: "our advice is that it was totally inappropriate to expect farmers to do this. It could only be done using expert fieldsmen who would require an immense organisation and logistical activity to do it."[139]


104. As already noted, both the ISG Report and King Report agree that the scientific data supports the conclusion that there might be an overall beneficial effect on the incidence of TB in cattle in hot spot areas but only if the culling of badgers:

105. The ISG drew attention to the practical difficulties and unlikely economic benefit of such a cull and considered that there were few viable hard or soft boundaries in hot spot areas.[140]

106. The King report stated that whilst the group was not fully persuaded by the theory of perturbation it was seen as a "plausible explanation". However, subsequent to his meeting with the former members of the ISG in December, Sir David told the Committee that he agreed with the ISG that badger culling prompted the following ecological effects:

  • immigration of badgers into culled areas;
  • the disruption of badger territories;
  • the expanding ranging of badgers;
  • reduced clustering of infection in cattle outside the culled areas and the clustering of infection in badgers, and
  • and elevated prevalence of cattle TB within the decreased population of badgers.[141]

107. Other recommendations of the King Report that were not inconsistent with the conclusions of the ISG report were that the incidence of TB in cattle in removal areas should be monitored annually, with monitoring taking place outside the removal area to detect any adverse effect. The population of badgers should be monitored also, and, in addition, after four years, the badger removal programme should be reviewed (which might entail some assessment of the prevalence of TB in badgers).[142]

108. The King report also recommended that should vaccination become available in the long term, it should be used as an alternative, or additional, means of controlling TB to badger removal.[143]

What is still unknown about badgers and Cattle TB


109. One of the most important questions posed by the increasing spread of the disease, the exact nature of the mechanism for transmission of infection between cattle and badgers, remains unanswered. The ISG conclude, and Sir David King agreed, that inhalation of infected droplets from the lungs of other infected animals, or oral ingestion of mycobacteria from farm environments, are the most likely means of transmission.[144]


110. The ISG report states that it is still not clearly understood why some herds are predisposed to breakdowns, and what constitute on-farm risk factors for cattle TB and what effect they have on the incidence of TB.[145] This is because it is not known whether transmission requires direct contact between badgers and cattle or whether infection can occur through contamination of the cattle's environment. It is unclear to what extent badger faeces, urine, saliva or pus are the principal sources of infection. The extent to which the contamination of cattle pastures and feedstuffs inside buildings, and the longevity of M.Bovis in different environmental conditions in Great Britain, contribute towards the spread of the disease is also unknown.

111. Various cattle husbandry and environmental practices have been suggested anecdotally as predisposing farms to TB breakdowns. An effort by Defra to collect in-depth data on all herds experiencing breakdowns, via the TB99 questionnaire used by Animal Health, was disrupted between 2001 and 2003 owing to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The questionnaire collects information such as cattle herd composition and health, cattle movements, the type of farm enterprise (including land type/use, soil type, presence of other domestic species, and the presence of potential wildlife sources of TB infection) and also husbandry factors (such as grazing practices, fertiliser use, effluent management, water sources, housing/bedding arrangements, supplementary feeding practices, steps taken to avoid contact between cattle and wildlife). The previous EFRA Committee attached great importance to the collection of the TB99 data as a contribution towards the identifying of on-farm risk factors, with the goal of improving the efficiency of on-farm biosecurity.[146] As a result of the FMD disruption to the completion of the TB99 form, Defra introduced an additional shorter, simpler questionnaire with the same objective of investigating on-farm risk factors for TB, but designed as a one-year study for four hot spot areas. It was called the Case Control Study 2005 Farm Management Questionnaire (CCS2005).[147]

112. The ISG concluded that an analysis of the TB99 and CCS2005 studies showed that no farm level risk factors had been found to be consistently correlated with the risk of a herd breakdown over time and across geographical regions.[148] However, the results suggested the possibility that cattle movements, herd contacts, use of fertilizer, housing and feeding practices could all have an impact on the risk of a herd experiencing a breakdown. The ISG advocate caution in that the analysis identified associations rather than causes, but thought that there was sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that if farmers employed biosecurity measures it would be possible to reduce the risk of cattle becoming infected by other animals.[149] We return to on-farm biosecurity measures in Part Four.


113. Sir David King suggested several areas of the ISG results warranted further consideration. He recommended that further mathematical modelling should be applied to the data on the beneficial effect on cattle TB of culling, specifically on whether continued removal beyond four removal operations would increase benefits further, and on whether the beneficial effect would increase as the size of the area increased. Sir David also recommended that the detrimental effects seen up to 2km outside the removal areas should be monitored to assess whether the detrimental effects were transient.[150]


114. The King report noted that not all badgers responded in the same way to TB infection and that an important gap in the knowledge was the extent to which infected animals were infectious.[151]

115. In addition, the relative proportion of herd breakdowns attributable to cattle or badgers is the subject of debate. Based on the effects of culling in the middle of the proactive areas, the ISG found that badgers are responsible for 30-40% of breakdowns,[152] but vets and Animal Health believe that it is closer to 70% in hot spot areas.[153] However, in low-risk areas where the disease is unknown in badgers, it would seem clear that cattle-to-cattle transmission is the dominant factor.


116. The ISG did not undertake a cost-benefit analysis of its cattle-based recommendations. However, the implementation of the wider use of the gamma interferon test and the introduction of post-movement testing is significantly likely to increase the current costs to the taxpayer and to the farming industry respectively. Defra have yet to undertake a cost-benefit analysis on the cattle-based measures recommended in the ISG's Final Report.[154] Lord Rooker told the Committee: "We know from officials it will cost tens of millions. We have not set a team up to go to work on this at the present time."[155] As we have been told by Lord Rooker that cost is a significant issue for the Government when deciding upon cattle TB policy, particularly in the light of the publication of the Government's responsibility and cost sharing consultation,[156] we are surprised and concerned that, in the six months since the publication of the ISG's Final Report, Defra has not yet initiated a cost-benefit analysis of the options based on cattle controls recommended by the ISG in order to inform its decision on future policy on cattle TB. It should do so.

117. It is important that research continues to fill the gaps in the scientific knowledge on cattle TB identified by the ISG and others, and Defra must ensure that funding for this research is found. In particular, we recommend that the Government decides in the next six months whether further research on establishing the exact means of transmission is necessary.

Lack of a clear strategy to tackle Cattle TB

118. It is clear that despite the implementation of the current ten-year strategic framework and the existing policy of surveillance, testing, compulsory slaughter and compensation, cattle TB in Britain is not under control. Instead, in the words of Lord Rooker, Defra has "learned to live with it".[157] But it is steadily getting worse. In his report to the Secretary of State, Sir David King said "Strong action needs to be taken now to reverse the upward trend of this important disease."[158]

119. A specific commitment of the Government's strategic framework was to "establish a new national bTB stakeholder body to advise on the development of bTB policies, including how best to ensure regional focus".[159] The Defra TB Advisory Group was established in November 2006 and recruited a small number of members with different backgrounds and interests to ensure a balance of experience across farming, veterinary, conservation and welfare issues. The Chairman of the Group wrote to Lord Rooker in October 2007 that the Group was "not convinced that there is sufficient clarity about the objective of the Government's TB policy —particularly about whether we are aiming for control or eradication".[160] The Group also advised that a decision on whether or not to deal with the reservoir in wildlife was critical if further progress was to be made on further cattle control measures.

120. In his evidence to the Committee, Lord Rooker seemed unsure whether the Government should first decide on whether to tackle the problem of the wildlife reservoir of TB; whether the Government should first decide who would pay for the policy objectives; or whether to decide first if eradication of cattle TB, rather than controlling and reducing the disease, was the Government's primary objective.[161]

121. Advice from the ISG and others suggests that eradication of the disease at present appears to be an unachievable goal, whereas stricter cattle control measures and possibly the use of badger culling has the potential to reverse the trend of increasing disease incidence and spread.

122. In the light of the increasing incidence of cattle TB, and the cost to both the taxpayer and farming industry, Government must now make a decision on what its strategic objectives in relation to this disease are. The impact of the disease has reached a stage where further procrastination is unacceptable. Defra's first strategic goal should be to ensure that the impact of the disease diminishes every year. It must make clear that, even if it is feasible, total eradication of the disease is still a very distant goal.

123. Lord Rooker told us that no more money is available for vaccines, culling, compensation or testing and that the current cost of cattle TB to the taxpayer must be reduced. As already noted, Lord Rooker did not suggest cutting the funding for vaccine research, but of the cattle-based measures recommended by the ISG he said "it is tens of millions of pounds we do not have."[162] Of the money already spent on the Government's TB strategy he said: "you could argue we have spent a billion quid to no good effect in the last decade."[163]

124. Lord Rooker also made clear that if the Government agreed to licensed culling it would "not pay for anything". Specifically, "the Government will not be paying for any action to operate licences other than the supervision, setting up and monitoring."[164]

125. We are well aware of the financial pressures on Defra, pressures that are in part a result of its own mistakes. The indications are that the Government will be driven by financial considerations when making its decision on future policies to control cattle TB, including whether or not to include badger culling in its strategy. Cattle TB is the most serious disease facing livestock in this country. A reduction in funding at the risk of the disease spiralling out of control and eventually affecting England's export market is not justified. The rapid increase in the scale of this zoonotic disease continues to warrant Government involvement and financial support with the aim of reducing its incidence. The Government forecasts expenditure on cattle TB to increase to an annual cost of £300 million to the taxpayer if no further action is taken to control the disease. The policy options recommended by this Report will involve increased expenditure for the Government, but the Government must spend now to save greater expenditure in the future.


126. There is some concern about the absence of independent scientific advice available to Ministers now that the ISG has been dissolved. In an interview with Farming Today, Professor John Bourne (former Chairman of the ISG) was asked about how the scientific evidence had been handled by Defra. He said:

127. On 18 June, Professor Bourne told the Committee that:

    […] there should be a clear strategy of what [Defra] want to achieve, what is achievable, what resources are necessary to do that, and this should be driven by a focus group involving scientific informed individuals […] certainly with farmer input […] it would be really helpful if Defra embraced the science and stimulated discussions with the NFU based on the science to develop science-based policies".[166]

128. The ISG Final Report "strongly" recommended that "a group of external scientists with appropriate expertise is put in place to advise Defra on data collection and analysis, and to consider the systematic use of such data for local, regional and national monitoring of the disease and for assessing the impact of changes of Government policy."[167]

129. The ISG also recommended that a small, focused and dedicated team of scientific and other experts, veterinarians with field expertise and Government policy makers communicated with stakeholder groups and establish a clearly defined disease control strategy, with a sufficiently long time frame, to be reviewed at regular intervals.[168]

130. The Badger Trust has also expressed concern over the issue of scientific advice. In May 2007, a press release from the Badger Trust stated:

    Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw has suggested that a decision on badger culling is to be made in June, after the Independent Scientific Group has been dissolved. The Minister will be in a science vacuum, at the mercy of state vets, many of whom have devoted their careers to, and staked their reputations on, blaming badgers. Mr Bradshaw failed to consult with his independent scientific advisers when he launched his 2005 consultation in a bid to start a badger cull. We are extremely concerned that he is about to make the same, critical mistake again.[169]

131. In 2005, Defra accepted its own Science Advisory Council recommendation that there was a substantive need for independent science advice, both natural and social, to inform policy decisions on cattle TB issues. Defra had already outlined its intent to set up a new, independent body to advise on cattle TB science in its Strategic Framework for the sustainable control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). At that time, Defra envisaged that the group would begin its work during 2006.

132. In a written answer to David Drew MP in March 2007, Ben Bradshaw (the then Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) wrote:

    Defra has broadly accepted the recommendations put forward by the Science Advisory Council (SAC) and has had lengthy discussions with SAC members to receive advice on reporting channels, body composition and terms of reference for its proposed bTB SAB. Agreement has been reached to establish an overarching bTB SAB with an independent external chair and membership drawn from existing, strengthened, independent expert advisory subgroups covering all aspects of the bTB science programme.[170]

133. On 15 January 2008, Defra announced that it had finally established the Bovine TB Science Advisory Body (bTB SAB) and that its first meeting would take place on 28 January. The remit of the Body was to "provide expert oversight of Defra-funded bovine TB research, identify gaps in the current evidence base and provide independent advice on the strategic direction of, and priorities for, all Defra-funded bovine TB-related research."[171] The Body will be chaired by Professor Quintin McKellar, Principal and Dean of the Royal Veterinary College. Other Members are: Professor Douglas Young, Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection, Imperial College London; Professor Dirk Pfeiffer, Epidemiology Division, The Royal Veterinary College; Professor Cecil McMurray CBE, Sci-Tech Consultancy; and Dr Andrew Moxey, Pareto Consulting.

134. We welcome the establishment of the new bovine TB Science Advisory Body which should help inform and monitor the effects of the policy decisions that Defra must make very soon. It should be given clearly defined roles in how it should provide advice to the Government.

135. In addition, Ministers must ensure that full use is made of the wealth of knowledge, based on ten years of dedicated work, represented by the ISG as well as the continuing work of some of their members in this field.

83   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 172 Back

84   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 14 Back

85   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 19 Back

86   H E Jenkins et al, "Effects of culling on spatial associations of Mycobacterium bovis infections in badgers and cattle", Journal of Applied Ecology, vol 44 (2007), pp 897-908 Back

87   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 78  Back

88   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 104 Back

89   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 164 Back

90   A 95% confidence interval for a particular figure is the range of values within which one can be 95% confident that the "true" figure lies. Back

91   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 170 Back

92   Q 11 Back

93   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 23 Back

94   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 14 Back

95   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 180 Back

96   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 15 Back

97   HC Deb, 18 June 2007, col 75-76WS Back

98   Ev 43 Back

99   "Miliband will allow badger culling again", The Sunday Times, 3 June 2007 Back

100   "Prospect of mass badger cull to stop bovine TB", Daily Telegraph, 4 June 2007; "Badger cull decision likely", Western Morning News, 4 June 2007 Back

101   Q 183 Back

102   Q 234 Back

103   Q 202 Back

104   Q 210, Ev 43-45 Back

105   "Rooker 'open-minded' on badger cull despite report", Farmers Guardian, 29 June 2007, p 1 Back

106   Ev 79 Back

107   Ev 44 Back

108   Ev 93 Back

109   Q 345 Back

110   "Rooker 'open-minded' on badger cull despite report", Farmers Guardian, 29 June 2007, p 1 Back

111   "Rooker 'open-minded' on badger cull despite report", Farmers Guardian, 29 June 2007, p 1 Back

112   HL Deb, 25 July 2007, col 906 Back

113   Ev 79 Back

114   Ev 80 Back

115   Ev 80 Back

116   Ibid. Back

117   Q 338 Back

118   Oral evidence taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on 23 October 2007, HC (2006-07) 1100-i, Qq 60, 69, 70 Back

119   Q 351, Ev 93 Back

120   Q 552 Back

121   Q 351 Back

122   Q 378 Back

123   Q 351, and Sir David King, Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, para 5 Back

124   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, para 51 Back

125   Q 386 Back

126   Qq 373, 380 Back

127   A finding that is "statistically significant" is one that is robust, i.e. it reflects a genuine effect, rather than just chance variation. Usually, findings are judged to be statistically significant if there is less that a 5% probability that they arose by chance alone. Back

128   Q 389 Back

129   Q 430 Back

130   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 166 Back

131   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 166 Back

132   Ibid. Back

133   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, para 7 Back

134   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 166 Back

135   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, para 41 Back

136   Q 389 Back

137   Ev 81 Back

138   Q 430 Back

139   Q 430 Back

140   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 166 Back

141   Ev 120 Back

142   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, para 7 Back

143   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, para 7 Back

144   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 121 Back

145   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 121 Back

146   Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Bovine TB, p 13-14 Back

147   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 123 Back

148   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 20 Back

149   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 138 Back

150   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, paras 24, 25, 31 Back

151   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, para 20 Back

152   Q 430 Back

153   Q 539, Ev 167  Back

154   Q 563 Back

155   Q 565 Back

156   Q 543 Back

157   Q 545 Back

158   Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers: A Report by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, October 2007, para 4 Back

159   Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Government Strategic Framework for the sustainable control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Great Britain, 2005 Back

160 Back

161   Qq 559, 561, 567, 612 Back

162   Q 541 Back

163   Q 611 Back

164   Q 542 Back

165   Farming Today, BBC Radio 4, 18 June 2007 Back

166   Qq 36, 40  Back

167   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 180 Back

168   Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, p 180 Back

169   Badger Trust Press release, 31 May 2007, Back

170   HC Deb, 29 March 2007, col 1662W Back

171   "Bovine TB Advisory Body established", Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs press release 10/08, 15 January 2008 Back

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