Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from which organisations the Department takes advice on the control of TB in cattle. [140291]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) is a group of independent scientists who advise the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how best to tackle the problem of cattle TB. The ISG was set up following the acceptance by Ministers of the recommendations contained in the Krebs Report (1997).

In addition, the TB Forum aims to bring together experts and interested parties to consider new measures which might be taken to control TB in cattle. Membership consists of representatives from the British Veterinary Association, the British Cattle Veterinary Association, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Country Land and Business Association, English Nature, the Farmers Union of Wales, The National Farmers' Union, NFU (Wales), Wildlife Trusts, the National Federation of Badger Groups, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the National Beef Association, the Tenant Farmers Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Professor John Bourne, Chairman of the ISG is also a member of the Forum, which is chaired jointly by the Chief Veterinary Officer, Jim Scudamore, and the Head of the Animal Health Group at Defra, Peter Nash.

Mr. Owen Paterson To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the estimated population of badgers in England was between 1973 and 1980; and what the estimate is for 2003; [140292]

    (2) how many closed dairy herds in England are registered with the Department; [140294]

    (3) what steps farmers can take to ensure that their cattle are not exposed to M. bovis infection where pasture might be frequented by badgers actively shedding M. bovis vacilli; [140295]

    (4) if she will make a statement on the conditions under which a badger is capable of transmitting TB to cattle; and what the mechanism of transmission is; [140302]

    (5) what protocol was adopted for the ecological survey carried out as part of the Krebs trials; [140303]

    (6) what the potential maximum period of infectivity of adult badgers demonstrating active lesions of M. bovis infection is; [140305]

    (7) what assessment she has made of the success rate, in terms of the percentage of badgers killed in a defined area, of the policy of gassing setts adopted prior to 1986; [140311]

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    (8) how many cows have been subject to post-mortem examination for TB in each of the past 10 years; how many were found to be TB reactors; and how many of the reactors revealed tubercular lesions in the udder capable of contaminating milk. [140315]

Mr. Bradshaw: I will write to the hon. Member with this information shortly.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what advice the Department have given to farmers on keeping closed herds. [140293]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Department has provided a significant amount of advice and codes on the health and welfare of livestock. The Defra leaflet, "TB in Cattle—Reducing the Risk" suggests that farmers consider moving to a closed herd system. However, such a system still needs to be combined with other disease prevention measures to reduce risks of disease introduction and spread.

Due to loss of livestock during FMD, there was a need to replace livestock from outside sources. Defra produced a leaflet "Golden rules for a healthy herd" that gave specific advice on preventative strategies for avoiding introduction of the most important cattle diseases during restocking.

Defra has also produced a concise list of disease prevention measures (including the need to always know the health status of animals being bought or moved) in the form of a yellow card which was developed with livestock industry representatives and vets. It was sent to all livestock farmers in 2002, and is available on the Defra website.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether perturbation becomes a significant factor in the spread of TB to cattle where there has been incomplete clearance of badgers in a Krebs reactive area. [140296]

Mr. Bradshaw: We do not know the significance of badger perturbation in the reactive culling areas of the Krebs trial. However, it is known that badgers in a culled population do exhibit changes in their ecology and behaviour which may result in an increased risk of disease transmission.

Research on perturbation is being carried out on behalf of Defra by Oxford University and the Central Science Laboratory. Results will published once the research programme has been completed.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what actions are required of dairy farmers in respect of their premises following removal of (a) TB reactor and (b) infected cattle from their premises. [140299]

Mr. Bradshaw: Movement restrictions are imposed on all cattle herds when TB reactors are disclosed at the TB test. In the case of dairy herds, the Chief Environmental

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Health Officer will be informed, to enable decisions to made about protecting public health. If disease is confirmed, the Consultant in Communicable Disease Control will also be informed.

Immediately following their identification, all reactors should be isolated from contact with any other cattle. These cattle must remain in isolation until removal for slaughter. Animals that react inconclusively to the test must also be isolated both from the herd and from the conclusive reactors. They must remain in isolation pending retest.

After removal of reactor(s) or affected animals a Cleansing and Disinfection Notice is issued to the owner. The notice covers the isolation building and any other areas of the farm identified by the Veterinary Officer as likely to be infected. Up to a month is allowed to carry out the disinfection and cleansing.

Movement restrictions remain in place until the herd has tested clear at least once (twice where infection is confirmed after post-mortem).

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what class of pathogen bovis is. [140300]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra classify animal pathogens for the purpose of administering the Importation of Animal Pathogens Order 1980 and the Specified Animal Pathogens Order 1998. Mycobacterium bovis is classified as a Group 2 animal pathogen.

Pathogens classified as group 2 are disease producing organisms which are either exotic or produce notifiable disease, but have a low risk of spread from the laboratory.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what estimate she has made of the likely incidence of TB breakdown in cattle in Krebs reactive areas, if 100 per cent. culling of badger population in the areas had been carried out. [140301]

Mr. Bradshaw: Under the protocols for the Krebs trial, badgers are culled using cage trapping, which is estimated to remove around 80 per cent. of the badger population. Analysis of the trial data from reactive areas is therefore only able to indicate what effect this level of removal on and around farms which have had a TB breakdown will have on the incidence of TB breakdown in the reactive area as a whole. It is not possible to estimate what effect an alternative capture method, which would remove 100 per cent., rather than 80 per cent., of the badgers would have.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether cattle-to-cattle transmission of TB has occurred in the Krebs reactive trial area. [140304]

Mr. Bradshaw: It is highly likely that some cattle-to-cattle transmission of TB has occurred in all Krebs trial areas, although it is impossible to quantify the number of herd breakdowns which might have been due to this means of infection.

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An epidemiological survey in the Krebs badger culling trial areas, known as "TB99", is looking at risk factors in TB outbreaks. A preliminary analysis is set out in the Third Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the OIE limit of the incidence of TB in cattle necessary to maintain TB-free status trading for the UK, expressed as a percentage of the national herd. [140308]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Office of International des Epizooties (OIE) provides expertise for the control of animal diseases.

Article of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code states that for a Country or zone to qualify as officially free from bovine tuberculosis, shall satisfy the following requirements:

    Bovine tuberculosis is notifiable in the country;

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    99.8 per cent. of the herds in the considered geographical area have been officially free from bovine tuberculosis for at least the past three years as disclosed by periodic testing of all cattle in the area to determine the absence of bovine tuberculosis.

Periodic testing of all cattle is not required in an area where a surveillance programme reveals that 99.9 per cent. of the cattle have been in herds officially free from tuberculosis for at least six years.

Defra statistics on the incidence of bovine TB are not collated in a format that allows for a comparison with the OIE incidence of TB.

Table 1 as follows shows the percentage of the national herd that was under restriction between 2001 and 2003.

Current EU restrictions relating to BSE prevent export of live bovines from the United Kingdom. Export of beef and beef products are permissible under the Date-based Export Scheme (for UK origin beef), or, the XAP Scheme (for beef of foreign origin). Beef fromcattle under TB restrictions cannot be exported.

Table 1 percentage of national herd under restriction

Year 2003(10) 2002(11) 2001(11)
Total number of herds registered on Ventnet 96,865 99,584 105,714
Of which were under TB2 restrictions because of a TB incident at some time during the year 4,740 4,174 2,511
Percentage of national herd under restriction (cumulative figure for the year) 4.8 4.1 2.3

(10) Data represents 1 January 2003 to 30 September 2003–11–24

(11) Data for 2001 and 2002 are not comparable to other years, because TB testing was significantly reduced during the foot and mouth outbreak, and when testing resumed, it was targeted at higher risk herds.

Mr. Paterson : To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of registered cattle herds in the UK are under TB restriction. [140309]

Mr. Bradshaw: The data requested is not available for the UK. However, between 1 January and 30 September 2003 approximately 4.9 per cent. (4,740*) of cattle herds in Great Britain had been under TB restriction.

    * Provisional data downloaded from the State Veterinary Service database on the 20–21 October 2003—subject to change as outstanding TB test and culture results become available.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many carcases produced from cows not reported as TB reactors originating from farms in England were found to be positive for M. bovis or otherwise infected with bovine tuberculosis as a result of samples taken at slaughterhouses in the last 10 years. [140314]

Mr. Bradshaw: All cattle slaughtered in licensed slaughterhouses are subject to inspection by Meat Hygiene Service officials. Where lesions suggestive of TB are found at post-mortem, samples are sent for laboratory culture of M. bovis, the causative organism of bovine tuberculosis. Cases identified by the MHS (but not sent for slaughter as reactors) are "slaughterhouse cases".

Confirmed slaughterhousecases
Total slaughterhouse cases Number Percentage
2002 385 132 34
2001 194 65 36
2000 239 114 48
1999 178 92 52
1998 94 50 53
1997 10 4 40
1996 10 3 30
1995 4 3 75

Data not currently available for 1994 and 1993