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Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his policy is on badger culling as it relates to the control of bovine tuberculosis. (228910)

In a statement to the House on 7 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1153-55, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) announced the Government’s policy that no licences will be issued for culling badgers to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle. We remain open to the possibility of revisiting this policy under exceptional circumstances, or if new scientific evidence were to become available.

We are strengthening our programme of research to develop cattle and badger vaccines and plan for their deployment. Cattle-based TB control measures continue to be critical.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contingency plans his Department has in the event that cases of bovine tuberculosis spread across the UK. (229328)

[holding answer 23 October 2008]: We aim to slow down and prevent the geographic spread of bovine TB to low incidence areas through a comprehensive and risk-based control programme. This includes a surveillance programme of routine testing for all cattle herds and compulsory pre-movement testing of cattle from high-risk herds.

In the event of the disease spreading to new areas across the country we implement measures to try to root out the disease and prevent it from becoming established. In all cases where TB is identified, the herd is placed under movement restrictions until all the eligible cattle in it have cleared two further short interval tests. In addition, in the low incidence areas of the country we use the more sensitive gamma interferon blood test alongside the skin test to identify as many infected cattle as possible at the earliest opportunity and try to clear out infection in the herd quickly.