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Bovine TB

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

7. What the cost was of compensation for cattle which tested positive for bovine tuberculosis in each of the last five years. (219293)

In England, the following amounts were paid in compensation for cattle slaughtered under bovine tuberculosis controls in each of the last five calendar years: £26 million in 2003; £25 million in 2004; £27 million in 2005; £16 million in 2006, and £15 million in 2007.

The Secretary of State’s rapid production of the figures will not disguise the fact that, over the past 10 years, some 200,000 cattle—most of them perfectly healthy—have been slaughtered. Their carcases have been burned, needlessly, at a cost some £600 million to the public purse so far. This year, 40,000 cattle have been killed, at a vast cost, and the predictions are that £300 million a year will be spent on TB across England by 2012. Does he accept that that is appalling wasteful for the public purse, and that it is a tragedy that those animals are being slaughtered needlessly? Does he also accept that farmers in hot-spot areas such as North Wiltshire are distraught at his announcement this week that he will ignore the recommendation from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that some culling of badgers in some areas may have some effect on restraining this appalling disease?

I would say to the hon. Gentleman and his constituents that bovine TB is an appalling disease that has a terrible impact. I have ignored nothing, however: I have looked at the science and, in the end, I have to make a judgment. I have reached my decision about what will be effective in dealing with the problem. As I explained to the House in my oral statement last week, the science and the practicality tell me—and the House—that badger culling will not contribute. That was the view of Professor Bourne, so we have to use the means currently at our disposal. That is why I want to sit down with the industry to discuss what further steps we should take, and it is also why we are significantly increasing the investment in vaccines.