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Backbench Business — Badger Cull

Part of Royal Assent – in the House of Commons at 3:02 pm on 13th March 2014.

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Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire 3:02 pm, 13th March 2014

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that correction. I shall come to the issue he has raised in a moment.

We would not have eradicated TB in human beings if we had relied on the vaccine alone, and indeed we will not eradicate it in cattle if we rely on the vaccine alone. A range of tools must be used if we are to be successful. There is the tuberculin skin test, there is biosecurity, there is the restriction of cattle movements, and now there is vaccination. There is also badger culling in specific, focused areas where the incidence of the disease is high. I do not underestimate the contribution that a badger vaccine could make to the control of TB in cattle, but it cannot be relied on to achieve it on its own.

The problem is that we have no scientific evidence that the Bacille de Calmette et Guérin, or BCG—which was developed in the 1920s, and has not been developed further—can prevent TB in cattle. We know that it is 70% effective in providing immunity in badgers, although of course it is not effective if the badgers are already infected, but no scientific evidence has been produced to demonstrate that it reduces infection in cattle in the field.

The pilot culls are planned to continue for four years. I believe that they should continue, and that lessons should be learnt from the report that we expect to be published in the next few weeks. We should bear it in mind that the randomised badger cull trials failed to meet the cull targets—which is the point I was trying to make to Angela Smith, for whom I have high regard—but the cull trials did result in a reduced incidence of TB in cattle herds, so there is some good news.