To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how his Department plans to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis involving badgers.
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a complex issue which must be considered in the round, not in terms of badger culling versus cattle controls. We know that the disease can be spread by both cattle and badgers.
Our improved cattle control measures, including pre-movement testing and the increased use of the gamma interferon blood test, are having a positive effect by helping detect infected animals that would otherwise have been missed. We have also been working with stakeholders to raise awareness of simple biosecurity measures to keep cattle and badgers apart. We intend to continue to work with farmers and vets to encourage a high level of compliance with these vital measures.
We are also investing in an extensive programme of research, including improved diagnosis of the disease and developing a vaccine for cattle and/or badgers.
No decision has yet been made on badger culling to control TB in cattle. However, we are carefully considering all the evidence, including the Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, the assessment of the evidence on badger culling produced by the former Chief Scientific Adviser, and the recently published report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
Any decision will need to take account of the impact of any proposed measure on the disease, the science, public acceptability and the practicalities of implementation. Whatever the decision, cattle controls will continue to be vital in our fight against bTB.