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Bovine Tuberculosis

Volume 703: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the European Commission have confirmed that their decision not to cull badgers in bovine tuberculosis-affected areas will not result in infraction proceedings being taken by the European Union against the United Kingdom; and [HL4860]

Whether there is any legislation giving the European Commission power to start infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom for not culling badgers in bovine tuberculosis-affected areas; and, if so, what it is. [HL4861]

The European Commission has provided no such confirmation, but none has been sought. It is unlikely that infraction proceedings against the UK would be considered on these grounds and no such proceedings are anticipated.

There is no specific legislation giving the European Commission power to start infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom for not culling badgers in bovine tuberculosis-affected areas. There are of course general obligations under European law to control the spread of TB, and infraction proceedings can arise whenever the Commission considers there has been a failure correctly to implement EU law. The decision to set a policy of not issuing licences to farmers to cull badgers to prevent bovine TB has not resulted in any such failure.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they finance or direct research into claims that the spread of bovine tuberculosis is encouraged where farmers use maize as cattle feed or where badgers are found to suffer from trace element deficiencies. [HL4863]

The role of maize in the spread of M. bovis has not been specifically investigated by any Defra-funded research projects. However case-control studies carried out as part of the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT) did investigate associations between a number of feed types and risk of a herd TB breakdown. Studies TB99 and CCS2005 found an association between feeding silage and the use of grass feeding types for grazing/forage and an increase in risk of TB breakdown, respectively. The findings of these studies are in the final report of the Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB. In addition, TB99 also identified not using feeding supplements as a risk factor for confirmed cases of TB.

Defra remains open minded about the possibility of a nutritional link but because of the number of variables involved and the likelihood a causal link could never be proven, we are not inclined to fund further research into this subject.

No research projects have been carried out which specifically investigate the association between BTB and trace element deficiencies in badgers.