Skip to main content

Bovine Tuberculosis

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 29 October 2009

Since November 2008, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has worked alongside the farming industry and veterinary profession as part of the bovine TB eradication group for England. On 8 October, the group published a progress report including a number of recommendations now being implemented. We are pursuing the future use of vaccination through vaccine research and development of a badger vaccine deployment project, alongside our current control measures.

Far too many good dairy cows have been put down in my constituency of Congleton in Cheshire and elsewhere. While I welcome the progress made by the bovine TB eradication group, will the Secretary of State accept that veterinary surgeons who are members of the British Veterinary Association and the British Cattle Veterinary Association believe that he should reassess his criteria for targeting and culling badgers in certain circumstances?

I am well aware that, as the hon. Lady points out, others take a view different from the judgment that I formed and reported to the House last year. For me, the overwhelming requirement has been to take action that will be effective in dealing with the disease. As I indicated earlier, I understand completely, having talked to many, many farmers, how devastating the disease is, but we have to do things that will work in the circumstances. I had to have regard to the scientific advice given to me on the basis of having tried culling.

Has the Secretary of State come to a conclusion about what he will do when the injectable vaccine is trialled and diseased animals are found? Will they be euthanased?

As I have indicated to the right hon. Gentleman previously, there is no simple cage-side test that can be used—[Interruption.] With respect, no test is reliable enough to indicate whether a badger is infected with tuberculosis. However, as I also said to him previously, if someone is of the view that an animal is in such distress that it would be a kindness to put it down, the law provides for that. However, that person would have to be satisfied that the animal was in such a condition.