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Badger Culling

Volume 630: debated on Thursday 26 October 2017

5. How many culled badgers have been found to be infected with tuberculosis since new cull licences were issued in September 2017. (901404)

We do not carry out post-mortem examinations on every badger removed in cull operations. However, we know from previous research that the prevalence rate of the disease in badgers in the high-risk area is typically around 30%. However, we do want to monitor trends as the cull is implemented, so a small sample of badgers is being collected and tested this year to explore different testing protocols that could be deployed to track the prevalence of TB in badgers culled in future years.

I thank the Minister for his response, but will he tell us what has provided the scientific basis for the wider roll-out of the cull?

The basis for the roll-out of the cull was the randomised badger culling trials carried out under the previous Labour Government. Those trials showed that there would be a reduction in the disease through a badger cull. Indeed, research carried out earlier this summer by Christl Donnelly has confirmed that there is a 58% reduction in the disease in cattle in Gloucester and a 21% reduction in Somerset. That is within the range we would expect, based on the RBCTs.

In calling the shadow Minister, I hope the House will want to join me in congratulating the hon. Gentleman, who in the few years when he was out of the House acquired a doctorate in rural economy.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think I can dine out on that for a few more days.

I hear what the Minister says, but now that the culls are coming to an end, it is estimated that between 20,000 and 33,000 badgers were caught and dispatched in the roll-out. Is he seriously telling me that we will not test a significant proportion of those badgers so that we can at least have some scientific efficacy and know that there is some sense in what the Government are trying to do, even though Labour Members totally oppose it?

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my earlier answer, he would know that I said precisely that we want to monitor trends in this disease, which is why we are starting to collect and test a sample of badgers to develop these protocols. A lot of post-mortem analysis was done during the RBCTs, and we know from that—it was not conclusive—that the typical prevalence rate of the disease in the badger population in the high-risk area is 30%.