[holding answer 6 March 2007]: The Government will only consider introducing a policy which would allow the culling of badgers to control and reduce bovine TB, if the available evidence suggests that it would be successful in the long term, and that a cost-effective, practical, sustainable and humane policy could be developed and implemented.
Over the last year, DEFRA has been discussing, with interested parties, the questions around how the TB reservoir in badgers could be addressed. My ministerial colleagues and I have been considering the scientific and organisational questions around badger culling. We will need to reach conclusions on these issues before a decision can be made.
I am not aware of a recent upsurge in tuberculosis (TB) cases among the badger population. However, bovine TB is the most serious animal disease in this country at the moment and the main reservoir for the disease in wildlife is in badgers.
We continue to make progress with our research on vaccine development. We have started testing candidate vaccines in naturally infected cattle and badgers, as well as work on developing novel vaccine delivery systems, and we have committed to future funding of approximately £5.5 million per annum for this.
Nothing has been ruled in or out on the question of badger culling. We need to examine scientific and organisational questions about how the reservoir of the disease in the badger population can be addressed in a way which contains the disease rather than spreading it.
We also need to see cattle controls, including the recent extension of pre-movement testing to younger animals, as sensible precautions in and of themselves. Cattle controls have an important role to play in tackling this disease regardless of any decision on badger control.