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Bovine TB

Volume 646: debated on Thursday 13 September 2018

I want to update the House on the implementation of the Government’s strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England by 2038.

Today the Animal and Plant Health Agency has published data showing there has been a drop in TB incidence in the first two cull areas, where the number of new confirmed breakdowns has dropped by around 50%. In Gloucestershire the incidence rate has dropped from 10.4% before culling began to 5.6% in the 12 months following the fourth cull, while in Somerset it has dropped from 24% to 12%.

Data on TB incidence in the next eight areas has also been published today although, as we anticipated, it is too early to see any impact on TB in those areas.

Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK and the Government are continuing to take strong action to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries. Today I am announcing further steps to enhance and strengthen our eradication strategy; opening a new round of applications to our badger vaccination grant scheme and issuing new licences for badger control in 2018.

Although it does not provide complete protection or cure infected animals (which continue to spread TB), badger vaccination has a role to play and three projects have received Government funding in 2018 to vaccinate badgers in the edge area of England. Therefore, applications for the “Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme” will be re-opened later this year, with grant funding available to private groups wishing to carry out badger vaccination in the edge area. Groups will receive at least 50% funding towards their eligible costs.

There is broad scientific consensus that badgers are implicated in the spread of TB to cattle. This year, following the effective licensed badger control operations in 2017, culling operations will take place across 39% of the high-risk area. This includes a further 10 new areas which have been licenced to undertake culling operations in 2018. Alongside our robust cattle movement and testing regime, this will allow us to achieve and maintain long-term reductions in the level of TB in cattle across the south-west and midlands, where the disease is widespread.

In order to eradicate a pocket of infection in both cattle and badgers in the low-risk area, we have also licensed an area within Cumbria to undertake culling operations in 2018. Along with six-monthly cattle testing, movement restrictions and good biosecurity on farms this approach offers the best opportunity to deal quickly with this real and serious threat in the low-risk area.

To ensure we have a successful and resilient industry as the UK enters a new trading relationship with the world, we are determined to implement all available measures necessary to eradicate this devastating disease as quickly as possible. To aid this, a review, led by Professor Sir Charles Godfray, is looking at options to take the bTB strategy to the next phase and will report to Ministers by the end of September 2018. The findings will be published in due course along with information on next steps.