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Hansard June 24 2008

Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps the Government have taken to assist farmers in protecting their livestock from bovine tuberculosis. [212761]


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Jonathan Shaw: Updated advice on husbandry best practice was produced last year by the bovine TB Husbandry Working Group - a partnership of key farming, veterinary and wildlife groups and Government. This free advice suggests some common sense, precautionary measures that farmers can take to help reduce the risk of bovine TB transmission between cattle and between cattle and badgers. We have also produced a CD-Rom for use by vets when giving guidance to farmers about protecting their livestock from the risk of TB.

This is in addition to a range of other cattle-based measures introduced in the last couple of years to tackle bovine TB such as the introduction of zero tolerance of overdue tests; pre-movement tests for cattle moving from high risk herds; and extension of the use of the gamma interferon test. We are also actively pursuing the future use of vaccination of either cattle or wildlife as a long term means of tackling bovine TB alongside current control measures.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps the Government have taken to establish the extent of tuberculosis infection in wild animals; [212762]

(2) what steps the Government plan to take to reduce the number of wild animals infected by tuberculosis. [212763]

Jonathan Shaw: A considerable amount of research has been carried out by DEFRA into the prevalence of TB infection, both in relation to badgers and other wildlife species.

Results from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial show that badgers are the main wildlife reservoir and contribute to bovine TB (bTB) in cattle.

The risk to cattle of infection from wild species other than badgers has been assessed through research carried out by the Central Science Laboratory (CSL). While small numbers of many mammalian species such as rats have been shown to able to be infected with bTB, there is no evidence that they can transmit the infection to other species.

Quantitative risk assessments commissioned by DEFRA demonstrate that the risk of cattle infection from deer is only likely to be significant if the prevalence of TB infection in deer is high.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps the Government have taken to protect the public from wild animals infected with tuberculosis. [212764]

Jonathan Shaw: A number of Government departments (DEFRA, Department of Health, Food Standards Agency, Health Protection Agency, Health and Safety Executive) work together to protect the public from contracting infection caused by Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). The potential risks to public health from exposure to wild animals infected with M. bovis are minimal, therefore no wildlife-specific public health protection measures are necessary. However, advice is available on the HPA website and from local animal health offices if people have concerns.


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http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm080624/text/80624w0001.htm#08062490000016