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Volume 170: debated on Thursday 19 April 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many badgers were killed by or on behalf of his Department during 1989; and whether all those were killed under the bovine tuberculosis control scheme;(2) how many of the badgers killed by his Department during 1989 were

(a) uninfected with tuberculosis, (b) showing signs of tuberculosis and (c) capable of infecting other animals;

(3) if he will make a statement on the progress made to date in developing (a) a vaccine against tuberculosis in badgers and (b) a live trap side test for tuberculosis;

(4) what extensions have recently taken place to the scope of the badger destruction element of his bovine tuberculosis clearance scheme; and if he will make a statement;

(5) what was the total cost during 1989 of the tuberculosis eradication scheme; and of this sum how much was earmarked for badger control.

A total of 727 badgers were killed by Ministry Officers in 1989, all in connection with the eradication programme for bovine tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was not identified in 605 badgers. Tuberculosis was confirmed in 122 animals and those animals were considered capable of transmitting the disease to other animals.Collaborative research on the development of a vaccine has been carried out by workers at the Middlesex hospital and the Ministry's central veterinary laboratory. Workers from the Middlesex hospital have completed a study in the Republic of Ireland on the acceptance of the vaccine by wild badgers. A field trial of efficacy is in progress, again in the Republic of Ireland. A pilot study at the central veterinary laboratory of the possibility that the vaccine could sensitise cattle to tuberculin, and a larger study in Ireland, have suggested that this would not be a problem. An experiment at the central veterinary laboratory to investigate possible desensitisation of cattle infected with tuberculosis has been approved in principle, and is likely to start this year; it will take at least 15 months to complete.A diagnostic test for use in badgers has been developed at the central veterinary laboratory and shows some promise. It has reached a stage where a field trial is necessary to study its effectiveness and the logistics of its use. It is hoped that a trial will begin in September 1990.There have been no modifications to the policy of badger control adopted following the Dunnet review.

The total cost of the tuberculosis eradication programme in the financial year 1989–90 was £7·3 million. Of this, £0·4 million was spent on the badger control strategy.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the findings of the Stormont research laboratory on the spread of bovine tuberculosis; what action he proposes to take in the light of the reports' findings; and if he will make a statement.

I am aware of the work done by the veterinary research division at Stormont. The conclusions in no way invalidate the existing badger control strategy.