Badgers and Bovine Tuberculosis

House of Lords written question – answered on 16th July 2008.

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Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any research is being undertaken on other species in relation to bovine tuberculosis; and whether such research covers any link between badgers, the loss of hedgehogs and dwindling bee populations.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

Previous research undertaken by the Central Science Laboratory and Oxford University has shown that the only wild mammalian species which act as reservoirs of bovine tuberculosis, and thus are a risk to cattle, are badgers and some species of deer. Other species may be infected with TB but are end hosts (ie do not transmit the disease further).

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. The indication from research is that the prevalence of TB infection in deer is not high and is estimated to be generally less than 5 per cent. The ecology and behaviour of wild deer makes it unlikely that they would have any close direct contact with cattle.

Defra has commissioned a wild deer density and disease prevalence study to ensure that our evidence base is robust enough to allow the department to take decisions on possible future disease control measures for wild deer.

Previous research has shown that there was a rise in hedgehog populations in areas in which badgers were culled in the randomised badger culling trial. There is no current research identifying links between badgers, the loss of hedgehogs and dwindling bee populations.

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