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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the extent to which the spread of tuberculosis by infected cattle in the re-stocking period immediately after foot and mouth disease was eradicated in the UK during 2001 was influenced by the absence of pre-movement tuberculosis restrictions in cattle herds.
We are aware that cattle to cattle spread of bovine TB has taken place as a result of restocking following foot and mouth disease and Defra is funding research, by Warwick University, that aims to (i) identify and estimate risk factors associated with the introduction of bovine TB in restocked farms and (ii) model transmission dynamics within cattle populations. The modelling work will take account of the exposure of cattle to badgers. The research project is due to end in 2006 and results will be published on the Defra website.
While no specific assessment has been made of the possible impact that pre-movement testing would have had on bovine TB in herds restocked following FMD, Government recognise that pre-movement TB testing is important as a mechanism to help prevent further spread of the disease. Defra's advice to farmers, published in the booklet 'TB in Cattle—Reducing the Risk', has always been to consider private TB testing and isolation of any animals bought in to a herd. This advisory booklet has been available to farmers, free of charge, since 1999. Officials are currently working with stakeholders to develop detailed proposals to make pre-movement TB testing of cattle from the areas of the country most badly affected by bovine TB compulsory.