(Conservative Party Press Release 15th December 2005)
Another consultation on Bovine TB crisis creates an unnecessary delay
Commenting on the DEFRA consultation on tackling Bovine TB, Shadow DEFRA Minister, Jim Paice said:
“The proposed consultation is another unnecessary delay in making the inevitable though distressing decision to cull badgers in hot-spot areas. Removing individual animals will not work. Studies have shown that use of Polymerase Chain Reaction tests can indicate whether a sett contains badgers carrying TB. Where this is the case the whole family should be humanely culled.
“The Government should then develop a means of relocating badgers from clean areas into those from where badgers have been removed, after a suitable time period. We do not want to create long term badger free zones but unless the Government gets a grip we will soon see cattle free zones.
“The whole farming world believes the Government has spent 8 years putting off a difficult decision. Unless robust measures are taken, badgers, cattle and farmers will continue to suffer.”
For further information, please contact Jenny Parsons 020 7984 8077
Commenting further Jim Paice said:
“Bovine TB is having an increasingly devastating effect on cattle, wildlife and farmers. “Since Labour took office there has been an eightfold increase in the number of cattle being slaughtered, with over 2,000 farms now affected with Bovine TB. The Government’s record in this area is of tough talk followed by inaction. The announcement of yet another consultation does not inspire confidence that the disease will be dealt with effectively.The Conservative Party wants to see a healthy cattle population alongside healthy wildlife. We welcome the introduction of pre-movement testing for which we have been calling and we support the extension of gamma-interferon testing. However, reducing cattle-to-cattle transmissions will not alone resolve the problem because of the reservoir of infection which clearly exists in some badger groups. The triplet trial results indicate that the low rate of cull – down to 30% in some areas – created serious disturbance, causing infected badgers to move to adjoining areas thus spreading disease.
2) Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs Jim Paice has forced the Government to defend its statement on Bovine TB. Mr Paice tabled an Urgent Question on measures to tackle the disease, resulting in a half-hour debate on the subject.
3) Mr Paice is addressing the Exeter NFU this evening - bovine TB will form a key part of his speech .
Yesterday saw the publication of results from the Randomised Badger Culling Trials. DEFRA followed this by announcing new measures to tackle Bovine TB. These include:
- A 12 week public consultation on the control of badgers to reduce the disease in high incidence areas.
- The introduction of a requirement for the pre-movement testing of cattle to reduce cattle to cattle spread. This will apply to cattle over 15 months of age moving from 1 and 2 year tested herds.
- Changes to compensation arrangements that will bring into line payments for bovine TB and three other cattle diseases.
- Extending the use of the fame interferon test to improve diagnosis of TB in cattle.
- Setting up a new independent stakeholder group to provide policy advice on Bovine TB
Jim put the following questions to Ben Bradshaw:
· Will there be any regional basis for pre-movement testing or will it apply across the country?
· Will he publish the proposed table for compensation? Will there be an appeals process?
· Is it not clear from other countries that Gamma Interferon and Polymerase Chain Reaction can significantly improve test results?
· Why has the Government not published specific proposals for badger culling?
· Isn’t it clear that the low level of trapping in the triplet studies has caused massive disturbance – making badgers move into adjoining areas thus spreading the disease?
· Does the Minister agree that only by efficient and humane culling of whole family groups can we be certain on removing infected animals?
Hansard Written Answers 12 December 2005
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the proposals are for the BCG vaccine in badgers trial planned for Gloucestershire; what the scale of the trial will be; what the timetable is for the trial; and in what area it will take place. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The field study for the badger vaccine will cover an area of approximately 50 km squared near Cirencester, Gloucestershire and up to 500 badgers. Preparatory work is now under way to obtain landowners' permission and plan the initial field work (surveying setts and bait-marking) which will start in early 2006. Trapping and sampling of badgers will commence in June 2006. Vaccination will be carried out in September 2006, and then annually. The study is likely to run for three years.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the incidence of bovine TB caused by cattle-to-cattle transmission was in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The evidence in this area is complex. It is difficult to pinpoint sources of infection for individual herd breakdowns, particularly when infection by wildlife is a possibility, and the regional variation in the incidence of the disease complicates the overall picture. It is, therefore, not possible to put a precise figure on the number of cases of bovine TB (bTB) that can be attributed to cattle-to-cattle transmission (or to any other source of infection). It is clear, however, that "cattle-to-cattle transmission is of critical importance" (Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB, 3rd report, p41) and in low bTB incidence areas there is evidence that it could be responsible for around 80 per cent. or more of cases.
But the situation is quite different in the high incidence areas of the country where 85 to 90 per cent. of all confirmed breakdowns occur. Some herds in these areas are also infected by purchased cattle, but wildlife is a major source of new herd infection and in some counties it may be a more important source than cattle.
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Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether animals suspected of being infected by bovine tuberculosis after an initial test are permitted further tests at the animal-owner's request; 
Mr. Bradshaw: Approved testing procedures and standards for cattle TB are set out in EC Directive 64/432/EEC, a trade directive covering health requirements for cattle and pigs. These arrangements are incorporated in domestic legislation the Tuberculosis Order, which are under sections 32 and 34 of the Animal Health Act 1981.
TB is confirmed by identification of visible lesions in the slaughterhouse and/or laboratory testing. Animals that react to the TB skin test are valued, removed from the farm and slaughtered. The farmer is compensated for 100 per cent. of the market value of the animal.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farms in England have had animals slaughtered as part of the measures to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis in each of the last three years. 
Farms affected by bovine TB
Number of farms affected January-December 2002 2,876 January-December 2003 3,127 January-December 2004 3,109 1 January-30 September 2005 2,854
Provisional data downloaded from the State Veterinary Service Data Warehouse on 2 December 2005. Subject to change as more data become available.
Mr. Bradshaw: The domestic legislation which provides for the notification of disease, compulsory testing, slaughter, valuation and compensation, and restriction of the movement of affected herds is set out in the Tuberculosis Orders made under sections 32 and 34 of the Animal Health Act 1981.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether officials investigating cases of bovine tuberculosis have the power to refer farmers to (a) trading standards officers and (b) other authorities. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Officials from the State Veterinary Service (SVS) will report all breaches, or suspect breaches, of the TB order to local trading standards officials. The officers are also notified of all TB herd movement restrictions that are served as a result of overdue TB tests as well as when the disease is identified.
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Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farms in England have produced positive skin tests for bovine TB 60 days after the first test in each month since 2001; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The number of farms in England that produced a positive skin test for bovine TB 60-days after the first test in each month since 2001 are given in the following five tables. All animals were subsequently slaughtered.
Table 1: Data for 2001(1)(2)
Number of farms January 106 February 106 March 0 April 7 May 26 June 29 July 41 August 42 September 56 October 73 November 68 December 113
Table 2: Data for 2002(1)(2)
Number of farms January 203 February 269 March 352 April 437 May 318 June 204 July 351 August 190 September 315 October 201 November 401 December 288
Table 3: Data 2003(1)
Number of farms January 380 February 397 March 487 April 346 May 345 June 406 July 273 August 271 September 333 October 209 November 324 December 191
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Table 4: Data 2004(1)
Number of farms January 351 February 295 March 451 April 329 May 240 June 289 July 230 August 247 September 185 October 245 November 382 December 236
Table 5: Data 2005(1)
Number of farms January 322 February 317 March 280 April 381 May 281 June 210 July 167 August 70 September 62 Total January 2001 to September 2005 13,664
(1) Provisional data downloaded from the State Veterinary Service Data Warehouse on 2 December 2005. Subject to change as more data becomes available.
(2) In 2001, the TB testing and control programme was largely suspended due to the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak. When testing resumed in 2002, resources were concentrated on herds with overdue TB tests which would have had a longer period in which to contract the disease. Also the proportion of high risk herds tested immediately after the FMD outbreak was greater than that prior to the outbreak. As a result, data for 2001 and 2002 are not comparable with other years.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farms have gone out of business (a) three months, (b) six months, (c) 12 months, (d) 24 months and (e) 36 months after being closed by her Department after a suspected case of bovine tuberculosis. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at what meetings the Minister responsible for Animal Welfare discussed bovine tuberculosis in the last 12 months.