Skip to main content

Bovine Tuberculosis

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made on development of (a) cattle and (b) badger vaccines for bovine tuberculosis; and if he will make a statement. (177374)

The research programme for producing an effective vaccine against tuberculosis in (a) badgers and (b) cattle remains broadly in line with the timetable outlined in the Krebs report (1997).

Identification of candidate vaccines and development of differential diagnostic tests started in 1999 and is ongoing. Experimental investigations of vaccination protocols are progressing, including a natural transmission study in cattle looking at various candidate vaccines. Badger vaccines are further advanced with a three and a half year vaccine field trial to gather safety data and assess the efficacy of injectable Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), and a project on the development of oral formulations.

Badger vaccines are likely to be available sooner than cattle vaccines. An injectable badger vaccine could be available within three to five years, and an oral badger vaccine in five to seven years. It will probably be at least eight years before a cattle vaccine is available. As with all research there is no guarantee of success

In addition to developing the vaccine itself, there are a number of important legal, commercial, regulatory and policy issues surrounding the implementation of a bTB vaccine. Work has begun to identify and address these issues so we are able to make full use of a vaccine once it becomes available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when he expects to make a decision on policy on badger culling; and if he will make a statement; (177375)

(2) what assessment he has made of research on the effects on cattle health of culling badgers as a response to bovine TB; and if he will make a statement.

The question of whether badger culling has a role to play in controlling bovine TB in cattle is complex and presents very difficult choices.

Results from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial show that small-scale badger culling can increase levels of bovine TB in cattle. However, they also suggest that co-ordinated and efficient culling carried out over areas larger than the RBCT and sustained over a number of years could prove beneficial. However, Professor John Bourne’s report said that culling could not meaningfully contribute to the control of bovine TB.

The Secretary of State has been clear that the next step is for DEFRA’s ministerial team to have discussions with interested parties. He has already met with former members of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, including Professor John Bourne, and separately with the former Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir David King.

While we are keen to make progress on reaching a decision, there is no specific timetable for doing so.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many times and in what circumstances his Department used its powers to appoint an independent valuer in cases of bovine tuberculosis; and what the outcome was regarding compensation paid on each occasion. (177631)

Since 1 February 2006, compensation for cattle compulsorily slaughtered for bovine TB control reasons has mainly been determined through table valuations. However, where inadequate (or no) sales data have been collected for a particular category, and a previously determined market average price is not available, the level of compensation is determined by an independent valuer.

Since table valuations were introduced, compensation has been determined in this way in approximately 2 per cent. of cases—which equates to about 635 animals between February 2006 and November 2007. When independent valuers are appointed, their decision is binding on both DEFRA and the cattle owner.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent estimate has been made of the percentage of (a) badgers and (b) cattle affected by tuberculosis in hotspot areas. (178359)

The randomised badger culling trial (RBCT), which ran from 1998 to 2006 and was centred on areas of high bovine TB risk, found evidence of Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) infection in badgers in all RBCT areas where culling took place.

During the RBCT, patterns of M. bovis infection were also investigated in badgers killed in road traffic accidents (RTAs). The overall prevalence of M. bovis infection in RTA badgers (15 per cent.) was similar to that recorded in badgers culled in the "proactive" RBCT areas (16.6 per cent.) between 2002 and 2005. However, when a sample of the proactively culled badgers were subjected to a more detailed post mortem analysis, prevalence levels nearly doubled.

The following table lists those counties in Great Britain with a TB herd incidence greater than the national average in January to November 2007.

Worst affected counties in Great Britain

TB incidence1 (percentage)

Gloucestershire

10.9

Hereford and Worcester

8.8

Gwent

7.9

Devon

6.8

Wiltshire

6.0

Powys

5.8

Shropshire

5.8

Cornwall

5.4

Avon

4.9

Staffordshire

4.7

Somerset

3.7

Great Britain

3.7

1 Confirmed new TB herd incidents (breakdowns) as a percentage of the number of tests on unrestricted herds (not including pre-movement tests). Provisional figures, subject to change as more data become available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment has been made of the merits of (a) pre-movement testing of cattle for bovine tuberculosis and (b) the previous rapid tracing system. (178360)

Pre-movement testing has not replaced the system of bovine tuberculosis (TB) tracing carried out by Animal Health following the confirmation of the disease in a herd. The two measures are complementary. Pre-movement testing is designed to reduce the risk of the disease spreading between herds. However, it does not apply to all herds, just one and two-yearly tested herds, and no policy can be 100 per cent. effective. Tracings remain essential in containing the risk from animals which have moved out of herds that are subsequently found to be infected.

Monitoring of the impacts of TB pre-movement testing is ongoing and key statistics are produced each month and published on the DEFRA website. Evidence to date shows that new TB incidents are being prevented by pre-movement tests. Infection is also being picked up earlier in high risk herds. Between 27 March 2006 and 30 November 2007 635 reactors were detected in 344 herds in England from pre-movement tests1.

1 The published figures are an underestimate of the impact of the policy and show the minimum benefits only. The number of reactors identified do not take into account the benefits of herd owners utilising Government paid TB surveillance tests as pre-movement tests or the number of inconclusive reactors identified by pre-movement testing which have become reactors when retested.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many officials in his Department have worked on bovine tuberculosis and related matters in the last five years. (178365)

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is one of DEFRA’s top animal health priorities. While there are teams in core DEFRA and the relevant agencies—Animal Health, the Central Science Laboratory and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency—with roles dedicated predominantly to bTB policy, delivery and research, others have roles in which bTB-related work forms only part of their responsibilities. Additionally, resources are deployed flexibly in response to changing business demands.

Therefore, a full response to the hon. Member's question could be made only at disproportionate cost to the Department.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases of bovine tuberculosis in cattle there were, and how much compensation was paid for affected cattle, in each county in the last five years. (178369)

The information is as follows:

Table 1 sets out the number of cattle slaughtered under bovine tuberculosis control measures and compensation paid in Great Britain in each of the last five calendar years for which full-year data are available.

Table 2 sets out a full county breakdown of the number of cattle slaughtered over this period. A full county breakdown of the amount of compensation paid is not available.

Table 1: Cattle slaughtered under TB control measures in Great Britain and compensation paid: 2002-061

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Cattle slaughtered

23,744

23,821

23,064

30,081

22,242

Compensation paid (£)

23,138,512

38,216,249

33,785,023

42,844,857

28,169,269

1 Includes cattle slaughtered as reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts. 2005 and 2006 figures are provisional, subject to change as more data become available.

Table 2: Cattle slaughtered under TB control measures in Great Britain, by county, 2002-061

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

England

Avon

798

523

567

591

325

Bedfordshire

2

0

0

0

2

Berkshire

4

4

3

2

1

Buckinghamshire

16

43

1

11

51

Cambridgeshire

0

2

0

0

1

Cheshire

393

874

425

248

149

Cleveland

1

2

1

0

4

Cornwall

2,983

2,494

2,415

3,490

1,692

Cumbria

109

275

510

168

114

Derbyshire

372

356

321

608

463

Devon

3,125

3,767

4,758

6,660

4,468

Dorset

398

408

413

450

336

Durham

37

5

3

3

0

East Sussex

107

31

48

58

125

Essex

1

1

0

0

1

Gloucestershire

2,773

1,926

1,287

2,427

1,506

Greater London

0

0

2

0

0

Greater Manchester

2

2

13

3

3

Hampshire

8

13

17

21

30

Hereford and Worcestershire

2,788

2,680

2,686

3,698

2,817

Hertfordshire

2

0

0

0

0

Humberside

6

1

9

5

27

Isle of Wight

1

1

6

0

0

Isles of Scilly

0

0

0

0

0

Kent

2

4

1

3

10

Lancashire

12

9

4

45

19

Leicestershire

42

82

104

44

90

Lincolnshire

4

4

11

66

23

Merseyside

0

0

0

20

3

Norfolk

1

1

2

0

1

North Yorkshire

37

23

169

71

11

Northamptonshire

64

19

18

26

45

Northumberland

517

27

11

31

28

Nottinghamshire

5

1

17

1

5

Oxfordshire

57

11

15

16

20

Shropshire

493

473

757

856

877

Somerset

918

1,051

932

965

915

South Yorkshire

0

1

1

0

1

Staffordshire

1,157

1,205

626

1,297

1,051

Suffolk

1

0

2

0

13

Surrey

0

2

10

1

0

Tyne and Wear

0

0

0

0

0

Warwickshire

46

34

47

129

89

West Midlands

4

1

0

1

2

West Sussex

12

15

10

3

11

West Yorkshire

0

0

4

5

3

Wiltshire

1,145

1,180

1,080

1,100

660

Total

18,443

17,551

17,306

23,123

15,992

Wales

Clwyd

60

55

96

36

117

Dyfed

3,087

3,559

3,906

4,540

4,020

Gwent

994

1,038

542

1,000

650

Gwynedd

16

37

16

12

12

Mid Glamorgan

19

14

12

2

24

Powys

810

953

821

1,002

1,075

South Glamorgan

14

2

0

2

9

West Glamorgan

60

76

122

183

133

Total

5,060

5,734

5,515

6,777

6,040

Scotland

Aberdeenshire

12

22

23

21

53

Angus

0

2

5

0

0

Argyll

8

7

15

2

0

Ayrshire

5

5

17

7

35

Banffshire

8

4

5

3

2

Berwickshire

4

22

4

0

1

Bute

3

5

2

0

0

Caithness

0

0

0

0

0

Clackmannan

0

5

0

0

0

Dumbartonshire

1

0

0

0

0

Dumfriesshire

18

26

2

96

91

East Lothian

4

3

5

1

1

Fife

4

2

10

0

1

Inverness-shire

4

1

2

1

0

Kincardine

0

21

0

0

2

Kinross

0

0

3

0

0

Kirkcudbright

63

27

17

13

0

Lanarkshire

1

339

0

2

2

Midlothian and Edinburgh

0

0

6

1

0

Moray

4

1

0

0

0

Nairn

43

1

2

0

0

Orkney

0

0

0

1

0

Peebles

0

1

0

0

0

Perthshire

10

5

10

8

2

Renfrew

1

0

2

1

0

Ross and Cromarty

0

3

0

0

0

Roxburgh

1

6

3

0

0

Selkirk

3

0

0

0

0

Shetland

0

0

0

0

0

Stirling

0

2

2

0

4

Sutherland

0

0

1

1

0

West Lothian

0

0

0

0

0

Wigtown

44

26

107

23

16

Total

241

536

243

181

210

1 Includes cattle slaughtered as reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts. 2005 and 2006 figures are provisional, subject to change as more data become available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will review the tabular valuation system for compensating farmers for animals slaughtered following infection with bovine tuberculosis to make provision for organically-reared cows and steers. (178981)

The Government recognise that the current table valuation-based compensation system is a cause of concern to some stakeholders, including some organic cattle farmers.

While DEFRA has not ruled out the possibility of changes to the compensation system, any changes would need to be justified and take into account the interests of all parties, including taxpayers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects a licence for the use of the BCG vaccine against bovine tuberculosis in badgers to be granted; and if he will make a statement. (178340)

Before it can be widely used, there is a requirement for BCG to be licensed for use in badgers. There are defined steps in achieving this licence. An experimental safety study performed to Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) accreditation was completed successfully at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in 2004-05 and two projects are ongoing: a three year field safety study (Project CB0115) and a demonstration of the efficacy of the vaccine (Project CB0116). An independent consultant with experience in the veterinary pharmaceutical industry is monitoring the study.

In addition to these licensing projects, work is also underway on developing an oral vaccine and bait delivery systems for badgers (Project SE3223).

The earliest date a licensed injectable badger vaccine may be available is the end of 2010, and the earliest a licensed oral vaccine may be available is the end of 2013. However, as with all research, there is no guarantee of success.

Even if a licensed vaccine were available, there are a number of significant non-technical barriers to successful rollout surrounding acceptability, practicality, legality and the relative costs, responsibility for costs, and benefits of use.