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Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control

Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the relationship between badger populations and the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle, with particular reference to East Sussex. (310141)

[holding answer 11 January 2010]: Since November 2008, DEFRA has worked alongside the farming industry and veterinary profession as part of the Bovine TB Eradication Group for England to tackle Bovine TB and move towards its eradication. On 8 October, the group published a progress report that covered a range of issues including bovine TB and badgers and included a number of recommendations which have now been implemented.

While we do not have any studies specifically relating current badger populations to cattle TB incidence, DEFRA is funding a number of research projects that further analyse the extensive dataset collected during the Randomised Badger Culling Trial carried out in the South West of England between1998 and 2005. This trial looked at the impact of two badger culling methods on cattle herd TB incidence.

No trial areas were located in East Sussex because it is predominantly a relatively low TB incidence county with a well recognised small endemic area of infection on the coast between Brighton and Eastbourne. The latest figures show that of the 16,390 reactors slaughtered in 2009 up to 31 August in England, 18 were from herds located in East Sussex.

DEFRA is, however, funding work at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency as part of its TB surveillance contract, which looks at relationships between local badger and cattle strain types.