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  From the EFRA report published July 23 2008

"Badgers and cattle TB: the final report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB: Government Response to the Committee's Fourth Report of Session 2007–08"

(pdf file in full can be found here)

Extracts

We are extremely disappointed that the response was so tentative in many areas. It also appears to play down the serious nature of this disease, asserting that the problem is a regional one, that the Government's cattle TB policies are working effectively, and that the position is not as “bleak” as our Report suggested. 

*The response indicates that there is little in the Government's strategy, beyond the current policy of surveillance, testing and slaughter, to tackle the disease in the short-term. This is not good enough - it fails to recognise fully the seriousness of the situation.

 

Cattle-based measures  -  Cattle Testing

*We ask Defra to the Committee with the analysis it has already undertaken of the costs involved in increased testing and increased use of the gamma interferon test, and also to provide details of the work to be undertaken on increasing understanding of the gamma interferon test and its accuracy. The Committee would also value details of any further work which Defra is undertaking to assess the efficiency of the skin test.

 

 *We are concerned that important discussions and decisions on cattle-based measures will be delayed should the industry not be prepared to participate in the work of the Bovine TB Partnership Group.

 

Epidemiology and Biosecurity

*The Government must clarify what it means by considering new ideas about the transmission of the disease between cattle and badgers and provide further explanation as to why a conclusive answer on the spread of cattle TB cannot be produced.

  *Further information on the real benefits of improved animal husbandry in the fight against cattle TB is unlikely to be available in the near future. We urge Defra to make the results of the biosecurity research available as soon as possible. It should use its close working links with the Welsh Assembly Government to learn from its experiences on the Welsh animal husbandry intensive treatment area, and make preparations to introduce a similar scheme in England on a pilot basis at short notice.

* The Government should provide more information on what this means, and on the incentives it might provide to farmers in hot spot areas for implementing biosecurity measures.

Vaccines

  *Vaccines still remain a long-term solution and there are many administrative, hurdles both in this country and the EU, before a vaccine strategy could be implemented. The Government should commit to early discussions with the European Commission to establish clearly under what circumstances it might accept a vaccine solution to cattle TB as we are unique in Europe in pursuing this approach.

   *The Government should announce as soon as possible the terms of reference of the new vaccines research to be funded by the Government, together with the total amount of funding that it intends to invest in the injectable badger vaccine deployment project. The Government should provide the Committee with further information on all the Government-funded vaccine research projects currently underway, including breakdowns of the funding provided on each project, together with a clear timetable for licensed badger and cattle vaccines. Also, Defra should include in its Departmental Annual Report to Parliament a detailed update on the progress of its vaccine development work.

 *Defra should provide the Committee on a six monthly basis of details of any other scientific research into cattle TB that is under way.

Compensation

*We await with interest Defra's decision on whether to appeal against the High Court judgment, but reiterate that if Defra wishes to continue with its policy of costsharing, and regain the confidence of the cattle industry, it must be prepared to pay a fair price for cattle which are compulsorily slaughtered.

*We ask whether representatives of the camelid industry have been invited to sit on the Bovine TB Partnership Group to assist Defra's work on a wider policy on cattle TB in species other than cattle.

The decision not to cull

 *Defra should set out what assessment it made of the NFU's plans for an organised, long-term and large-scale coordinated cull.

*The Government should provide a clearer indication of the evidence it would need, and the circumstances that would be required, for it to revisit the policy of culling. In particular, it should state whether there is any scientific research currently under way that could produce new evidence?

Scientific advice

 We are surprised that the Government has based its decision not to cull on the ISG's final report, but does not wish to make further use of the Group's expertise.

  *We ask Defra to respond to the points raised in this report. We will also be asking the Secretary of State to give oral evidence on his response to our original Report.