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5th Sept 2011 Hansard - Badgers

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110905/text/110905w0002.htm#1109066001364

 

Badgers

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she plans to publish the names of the independent scientific experts who are to be asked to evaluate the two badger cull pilots. [68980]

Mr Paice: Further details regarding the independent panel of scientific experts that will evaluate the two pilot areas will be published alongside an announcement on the outcome of the current consultation.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria she has established for the (a) monitoring and (b) measurement of the effectiveness of the proposed badger cull pilots. [68982]

Mr Paice: Controlled shooting would be initially piloted in two areas, to test our assumptions about its effectiveness and humaneness. The evaluation of these pilots would be overseen by an independent panel of scientific experts. In parallel with the current consultation, we are drawing up details of how the pilots will be monitored and measured. These are likely to include monitoring humaneness via field observations and post mortems, and measuring the rate of badger removal. We expect the expert panel to advise on the exact specification of the monitoring work.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of badgers to be culled (a) per cull area and (b) in total in the next four years. [68983]

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Mr Paice: We would expect around 1,000 to 1,500 badgers to be culled in a 150km(2) area over four years. This is based on data available from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT). The total number of badgers culled will depend on the number of licences issued, and the size of area being culled. The number of licences issued will be limited to a maximum of 10 per year. Natural England will work with licence co-ordinators to assess the badger population in the control area and will set an upper limit on the percentage of the estimated badger population that may be killed each year in each control area.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the advice her Department has received from the Bern Convention Secretariat on the effect of a badger cull. [68984]

Mr Paice: The Bern Convention operates a "case file" system where, in response to a complaint received it may raise a file for discussion at the Bern Standing Committee. The contracting party against whom the complaint has been made will need to satisfy the Committee of action taken to address the issue and the Committee may advise what that action should be. The Bern Standing Committee will not take action before a complaint has been received.

In 2010, the Bern Bureau considered a complaint from the Badger Trust about proposed badger control action in Wales. Having considered the reasons for the action proposed, the Bureau decided to take the case off the list of the complaints in stand-by.

We are not aware of a complaint having been passed to the Bern Secretariat on the current proposal (published for consultation on 19 July 2011) for badger control in England as part of a package of measures to tackle TB in cattle.

The UK is obliged under Article 9.2 of the Bern Convention to report every two years to the Bern Standing Committee any action taken in accordance with the derogations provided for under Article 9.1. Any control of badgers undertaken would need to be included in this report.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much a badger cull licence will cost. [68986]

Mr Paice: Under our current proposals applicants would not be charged for licences.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will publish the undertakings she has provided to the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the funding of the policing costs associated with a badger cull; [68990]

(2) whether she has considered the provision of armed police to (a) protect those contracted to conduct the badger cull and (b) to police any public protests arising from culls; [68991]

(3) what estimate she has made of the cost to her Department of (a) policing the two badger cull pilots and (b) policing for all culling activity in the next four years. [68992]

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Mr Paice: I am afraid we cannot share the Home Office advice but I can assure you that we are in discussion with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and with the Home Office during the consultation period regarding the police response and associated costs related to badger culling.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average monetary guarantee groups of farmers and landowners will be required to provide to her Department for the grant of a cull licence. [68993]

Mr Paice: Participants would be required to deposit sufficient funds to cover the total expected cost of the four-year cull (plus a contingency sum) before culling begins. The amount that would be required to be deposited would vary according to the size and nature of the culling operation in each area so it is not possible at this stage to provide a figure for the average sum. Government would be able to access these funds in the event that it needed to intervene, and be able to levy additional funds from the original participants should that be necessary.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the likely reduction of bovine TB levels (a) in cull areas and (b) nationally after (i) four and (ii) nine years from the start of culling. [69043]

Mr Paice: The average effects seen during and post culling in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) can be used to estimate the average net effect of culling over different sized areas over a nine year period (average five years' culling and four year post cull period). For example, the estimated average net benefit of culling over an area of 150 km(2) and the surrounding 2 km ring is a 16.0% reduction in confirmed TB incidence (95% confidence interval: 7.9% reduction to 24.2% reduction), equating to the prevention of 47 cattle herd breakdowns. What is seen in reality will vary greatly depending on local conditions including the size of the area, local background incidence of TB, the relative contribution that badgers make to the disease and the degree to which the culled area is surrounded by barriers or buffers to minimise the perturbation effect. Any estimates of overall beneficial effect are illustrative for a defined set of circumstances.

The Government are not proposing culling over the whole endemic area at the same time. We are proposing reductions of local badger populations in order to have a local impact in high incidence areas. A controlled reduction of badger populations in the worst affected areas can make an important contribution as part of a comprehensive and balanced package of measures to tackle TB in cattle.

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what areas her Department plans to use as comparators to assess the local impacts of badger culls. [69044]

Mr Paice: The Government will take responsibility for monitoring the effectiveness, humaneness and impact of badger control, which will include monitoring of TB incidence and other epidemiological measures in cattle.

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This is likely to include the examination of historical data and future incidence of TB in cattle within licensed areas and comparative areas where no badger control is taking place. Efforts will be made to match comparative areas to licensed areas on as many epidemiologically relevant characteristics as possible, e.g. geographical location and historical cattle TB incidence.

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment her Department has made of the rate of survival of badgers injured but not killed in its previous trials of badger shooting; [68275]

(2) if she will make an assessment of the effects on the suffering experienced by badgers of (a) cage shooting and (b) free shooting. [68408]

Mr Paice: The only two culling methods that we are proposing to permit are cage-trapping and shooting and controlled shooting, on the basis that they are both considered to be humane. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) provided evidence on the humaneness of cage-trapping and shooting. No badgers were injured but not killed in this trial. Controlled shooting was not part of the RBCT, but has been effective in controlling other wild animal populations such as deer and foxes. This method has not been used to date in any trial or field test on badgers, which is why (if the Government decide to proceed with the policy following the current consultation) we intend to pilot it in two areas, to test our assumptions about its effectiveness (at removing badgers) and humaneness. These pilots would be overseen by an independent panel of scientific experts.

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what evidence her Department has assessed of the likely effects of perturbation in conjunction with the practice of free shooting in plans for badger population control. [68409]

Mr Paice: There is no reason to believe that controlled shooting will have any greater effect on perturbation than cage trapping and shooting. Provided controlled shooting adheres to the same strict licence criteria, and the same number of badgers are removed during a similar period of time, there is no reason to suppose the effect seen will be any different to that observed in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).

As there are no empirical data available on the effect of controlled shooting on perturbation, this assessment is based on consultation with experts on badger ecology.

We propose to take a precautionary approach through a pilot of the policy, initially licensing two areas in the first year.

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department plans to take to ensure the continuity of badger culling under a licensing scheme for the duration of the trials. [68412]

Mr Paice: To ensure continuity that any culling would be carried out for a minimum of four years, we propose that all participants would be required to enter into agreements with Natural England, which would set out

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participants' obligations, and if necessary as a last resort allow Government to intervene, access participating land, take over responsibility for a culling operation, and recover costs from the participants, should the participants fail to meet the conditions of the licence.

Participants would also be required to deposit sufficient funds to cover the total expected cost of the four-year cull (plus a contingency sum) before culling begins. Government would be able to access these funds in the event that it needed to intervene, and be able to levy additional funds from the original participants should that be necessary.

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals her Department has for vaccination around a badger culling area. [68414]

Mr Paice: As set out in our draft guidance to Natural England, vaccination could be used in combination with culling, for example as a buffer for areas where vaccination may help reduce the risks to vulnerable livestock of increased TB incidence, both within and surrounding a control area, as a result of perturbation from the local badger population.

Where the use of vaccination in combination with culling is proposed, the following best practice is recommended:

a. where vaccination is to be used as a buffer, it should be used at active badger setts found on, or adjacent to, land where vulnerable livestock are present and which fall within 2km of the edge of a control area;

b. vaccination should take place at least 4 weeks prior to culling to allow immunity to develop in uninfected vaccinated animals;

c. to mitigate any ongoing perturbation effect and begin to build up "herd immunity", vaccination should be carried out annually, continuing for at least the same length of time as any culling on adjacent land; and

d. where culling and vaccination are taking place on adjacent land, boundary cage-trapping (designed to cull badgers resident on inaccessible land) should be avoided.

We also intend to make available up to 250,000 a year of new funding to support farmers and landowners who plan to vaccinate badgers. More details will be published shortly.

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what requirements (a) farmers and (b) landowners will be required to meet in order to receive licences for culling badgers. [68416]

Mr Paice: Applications for a culling licence must meet a range of criteria. These are set out in the draft guidance to Natural England, on which we are currently consulting with key stakeholders, at:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/files/bovinetb-guidance-ne-110719-annexa.pdf

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to tackle bovine tuberculosis borne by badgers outside culling areas. [68417]

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Mr Paice: The Government's TB control programme is focused on reducing the incidence of TB in cattle (and other vulnerable livestock) across the whole of England. The proposed badger control policy aims to reduce the incidence of TB in cattle in areas with a reservoir of disease in badgers and where infection is cycling between the species. In such areas the transmission risks can be reduced by badger culling and/or badger vaccination. In areas without a reservoir of disease in badgers, the main TB risk is from cattle movements. DEFRA's recently published "TB Eradication Programme for England" outlines a comprehensive range of cattle measures to address bovine TB which remain the cornerstone of our efforts to control the disease right across the country.