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Bovine TB

Volume 447: debated on Monday 12 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department has undertaken regarding methods of badger culling; and if he will make a statement. (75583)

My Department undertook a desk study of possible culling methods and identified shooting, snaring and gassing as the methods most worthy of further investigation. This research is currently under way. A full report will be published when the work is completed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Home Secretary regarding the issuing of licences for authorising badger culling. (75584)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when his Department expects to make its response to the public consultation on bovine tuberculosis and badger culling. (75585)

At this stage we cannot give an indication on the specific timing of a response to the consultation or a decision.

However, given the seriousness of the disease situation we aim to proceed as quickly as possible while giving the issue the thorough consideration it requires.

The decision is not a simple one. We are taking into account all the evidence, including the science.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department has a preferred method of culling badgers. (75586)

No decisions have yet been made on whether or not it is appropriate to cull badgers in order to prevent the spread of bTB, nor by what method if a cull was considered appropriate.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will visit Shrewsbury constituency to meet a farmer who has had a recent outbreak of bovine tuberculosis to discuss the Government's plans to help farmers fight this disease. (74759)

Defra Ministers receive many invitations to visit individual farmers around the country to discuss their circumstances. Unfortunately, it is not possible to accept all of them. However, Ministers and officials meet regularly with organisations representing farmers and cattle keepers to discuss a variety of important matters, including bovine TB.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made by his Department of the (a) movements, (b) relocation and (c) displacement of protected species, with particular reference to badgers, resulting from work by transport infrastructure companies required for (i) health and safety, (ii) environmental and (iii) other reasons; and whether badgers relocated in such circumstances are routinely tested for bovine tuberculosis. (74984)

[holding answer 5 June 2006]: Defra issues licences to allow the interference with badger setts to prevent serious damage to property, and to permit agricultural, forestry or drainage operations. The majority of licences involve interference to exclude badgers from part or all of a sett, sometimes followed by sett destruction. Very few licences for translocation of badgers are granted. Some licensed activities include maintenance works undertaken by transport infrastructure companies.

Badgers typically have more than one sett which they use in their territory. Thus there is no reason to believe that the closure, or partial closure, of a sett would necessarily cause badgers to move outside their normal range. My Department has commissioned a study which involves looking at badger movements when licensed sett interference is carried out in urban situations. However it is too early to draw any conclusions from this work which is currently under way.

Defra's wildlife management advisers ensure that a proportion of licences is assessed through monitoring. The method, timing and amount of monitoring will vary depending upon a number of factors such as the species, site or activities being licensed. Defra aims to monitor around 30 per cent. of badger licences. A proportion of these will be targeted towards sensitive or complex cases such as those involving translocation or cases that have attracted a high level of public attention. The results of monitoring are recorded and if a breach of licence conditions has been identified Defra will consider an appropriate course of enforcement action.

English Nature issues licences to permit the disturbance of badgers and destruction of setts during the course of development activities, which would include some activities associated with the maintenance of transport infrastructure. English Nature does not license the translocation of animals in these cases—it licenses disturbance to setts, and where setts are to be lost as a result of the activity the licence allows animals to be excluded from the sett before it is destroyed. Where no suitable alternative setts are available nearby for the badgers to move to, an artificial sett must be constructed within the animals' existing territory, before they are excluded from their existing sett. No significant movement of badgers is likely to result from these activities.

In the very few cases where Defra has licensed the translocation of badgers to another part of the country, it has been a condition of the licence that all badgers caught must be tested for bTB.