Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2007
Q360 Mr Williams: You say your consideration
was based on the ISG report. Did you gather any other scientific
evidence to consider when you were reviewing that?
Sir David King: As I say, we had
experts who are very much up to scratch with publications in the
literature right up to the present time. Their knowledge was absolutely
crucial to this, not my own and not the papers I was reading alone
but their very broad-based knowledge.
Q361 Mr Williams: Did that include
an assessment of the work in Ireland on the Four Areas trial?
Sir David King: Yes, it did, so
one of our experts was actually from Ireland and was well versed
in that work.
Q362 Mr Williams: What conclusions
did you draw from that work that you were able to feed into your
consideration of the ISG?
Sir David King: We were aware
of the fact that the Irish had taken the decision to have a badger
cull policy. I think we were also aware of the fact that the incidence
of TB in cattle has been reduced in Ireland, both through that
and through the better controls on TB in cattle, and at the same
time we are aware of the fact that badger behaviour in Ireland
is different because of lower densities of badgers, different
movement patterns amongst badgers, and of course there is a different
approach within Ireland to the methodology of culling, an approach
that would not be available to us.
Q363 Mr Williams: You say that the
parameters set by the Secretary of State were that you had to
consider these issues with regard to the scientific evidence that
was available to you, yet you come to this recommendation that
strong action needs to be taken now. Was that the expectation
of the type of advice that was expected by the Secretary of State
when he asked you to carry out this work?
Sir David King: Is it possible
to distribute a map because I think this really underlies the
basis of it?
Q364 Chairman: Yes, it is possible
to give us guidance.
Sir David King: The map shows
the distribution density of the breakdown of cattle herds in Britain
Q365 Chairman: Before you go on,
on one small point of definition in paragraph 3, you said, "I
have considered whether the removal (killing) of badgers in areas
of high TB prevalence might ... ." What is the definition
Sir David King: Fortunately, that
is effectively shown on this map. What we are showing in the map
is simply the herd TB prevalence in the UK. The red dots indicate
that prevalence at the present time. This is spreading at the
rate of about an additional 18% per annum. This means we have
that doubling period I previously referred to as four and a half
years. This spread has occurred consistently since about 1972.
What we can anticipate is that therefore in four and a half years'
time this will have spread beyond the areas currently indicated
there. There are hot spots which have been referred to. We believe
those hot spots can be traced back to cattle movements, particularly
cattle movements following a foot-and-mouth disease epidemic when
people were restocking cattle. We certainly do not attribute the
hot spots, if I go back to the previous question, to spreading
through badgers. That would be cattle movement and quite possibly
cattle-to-badger infection occurring in those areas. The question
was put to me: effectively, was my advice concerning the need
for action soon based on science? This really is my scientific
Q366 Lynne Jones: Could I clarify
that your report was submitted to David Miliband on 30 July?
Sir David King: Yes.
Q367 Lynne Jones: Would you care
to comment on why it has taken until this Monday to make that
report public, or even to make it available to the ISG?
Sir David King: That is a question
that should be put, I think, to the Secretary of State. My reports
to Government are always made with the knowledge in Government
that I am going to put my reports into the public domain. I have
done that now for six years very consistently on the basis that
if I am going to maintain public trust, then everything that I
do in terms of advice to Government should be available for external
judgment. The Secretary of State knew that I would wish to put
this into the public domain, but I have always said, "It
is your call when it actually is put into the public domain".
Q368 Lynne Jones: Returning to the
point you have just made, I am afraid I do not quite follow you.
I agree we do have a very difficult situation as regards bovine
TB. Whether or not strong, as you put it, action is advisable
would depend on whether that is going to make it any better. I
am not at all clear from what you have just said. You have just
shown us there are areas where the infections are higher but I
do not really think that answers the question as to why that means
that the report of the ISG should be overturned.
Sir David King: It would have
been better if I had had maps showing the spread over the last
15 years. We do have such maps and we can provide them for you.
What I am really trying to say is that it is spreading geographically.
It is not only numbers of cattle herds; it is also spreading geographically
across the country from the south-west towards Gloucestershire
and back into Wales. That spread has occurred. I am simply saying
that we should not wait for another 10 years of experimentation.
This is the time for decision making and action.
Q369 Lynne Jones: But not if you
are going to do something that is going to make it worse. This
is the question, is it not?
Sir David King: Absolutely, and
I would certainly not be advising that we do something that would
make it worse. As I have indicated to you, by reading that publication
from members of the ISG, the ISG do not believe that the action
I am proposing would make it worse.
Q370 Lynne Jones: May I say that
that is not strictly true. The very same comment that you made,
which you say was published in March of this year, was actually
published in March of 2006I have it in front of me in The
Veterinary Recordat a meeting in Bristol at which Professor
Dan Collins, who was your expert from Ireland, was also present.
I think that the ISG would disputethey will be able to
make the point if I have this wrongthat a large area is
very much larger than 100 square kilometres, which would not be
considered to be a large area, certainly in terms of the Irish
Professor Woolhouse: The areas
in the Irish trial were exactly in the range of 200 to 300 square
kilometres. The ISG report does extrapolate their figures up to
300 square kilometres, so there is a consistency there. The ISG
make a number of points, and this was brought up earlier, about
comparing the Irish trial with the RBCT. I agree that the comments
are different. I agree with the statements the ISG makes there.
I think it is very important to try to understand these differences.
One candidate for understanding those differences is that the
Irish trials took place with a larger area than the RBCT trials.
Q371 Lynne Jones: Whether we can
replicate that here is a moot point, is it not?
Professor Woolhouse: It is a practical
point but the scientific evidence in the view of the people they
assembled suggested, let us put it this way, that if removal of
badgers or any other badger control is going to be effective,
it has to be implemented over larger scales and for longer time
periods than the units of study that the RBCT implemented. The
RCBT work was not, as I understand itand I was part of
the Godfray Committee that reported to you in 2004 on this issuea
practice mock-up of an actual bovine TB control programme. Initially
it was a research experiment to try to understand better this
link between cattle and badger TB. It is not surprising, scientifically
or on any other basis, that you will want to move beyond the immediate
RBCT trial in order to design an effective national bovine TB
Q372 Lynne Jones: The work stopped
in 2003 after the initial 2003 report.
Professor Woolhouse: Only for
one arm of the trial of the RCBT.
Q373 Lynne Jones: I am referring
to the work of the ISG. You criticise them in one of your paragraphs,
I think paragraph 24, and say that the trial should have continued
for longer. Of course it was Defra that decided to discontinue
Professor Woolhouse: The issue
of the reactive cull trial has been debated many times. I think
there is a general consensus that it is unfortunate that that
trial was curtailed quite early. Nonetheless, we do have some
valuable data now from the proactive culling trial. As a scientist
at this table, in no sense is Sir David's report intended to rubbish
the work of the extremely competent group that the ISG represents.
It is not supposed to do that. As Sir David made very clear, in
fact I personally and the other members of the group agreed with
the data and what the report suggested up to the point where they
conclude that there is no role for removal or controlling badgers.
I would like to hear their views on that. We agree with their
assessment that if it is going to be effective, it has to be over
large areas and for a longer time.
Lynne Jones: It will boil down to the
practicalities of achieving that, which we will go on to discuss.
Q374 Dan Rogerson: Where you part
company is on whether you feel it is your role to say it is possible
or not just purely on the science. If something can be done on
a big enough scale that is humane and of the relevant intensity,
you feel it could make a contribution. That is where you find
the major distinction between the ISG report and
Professor Woolhouse: There is
a number of publications making the same extrapolation.
Sir David King: What we are all
agreed on as scientists is that if we really want to eliminate
TB in cattle herds, then it is not going to happen while there
is still TB in wildlife. While there is still a reservoir of TB
in wildlife, it will come back into cattle herds continuously.
Q375 Mr Drew: What about deer?
Sir David King: I said wildlife.
Q376 Mr Drew: Deer are wildlife and
out there feeding.
Professor Woolhouse: The main
reservoir of bovine TB in wildlife is in badgers. There may be
other reservoirs too.
Q377 Mr Drew: You have never tested
Professor Woolhouse: The main
reservoir is badgers and that clearly has to be the initial one
Q378 Patrick Hall: Sir David, when
you opened your presentation, you gave us an example of your role
of questioning and challenging a group of people with regard to
scrapie. Did you do that after you had been asked to carry out
the work that you have just done? Did you do that with regard
to the ISG itself? Did you call them in and discuss and challenge
not only the science but the very important conclusions and interpretation?
Sir David King: In this instance,
it was my judgment that this was not necessary because we had
before us the publications and a very detailed report. As a matter
of fact, as has been made very clear I think today, we were not
challenging the scientific basis of those reports. We have provided
a commentary on them but we are not challenging those reports.
Q379 Patrick Hall: You are challenging
the interpretation of the scientific data. Is that correct?
Sir David King: I think it would
be fair to say that in our advice we have stayed outside the area
of including economics and, if you like, practicality issues.
What we are actually saying is exactly the same as the ISG concludes.
If this is done in large enough areas, if we can reduce perturbation
of badgers (movement of badgers) by using wherever possible natural
boundaries, and if we can do this over a sustained period of time,
as said in the report, we would expect that the incidence of TB
in cattle would be reduced, and we would need to couple this with
action on cattle as well.
5 Animal Health 2006: The Report of the Chief Veterinary
Officer, p37 (http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/cvo/report/2006/report-2006-full.pdf) Back