Thursday, January 22, 2004

Parliamentary Questions

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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research she has evaluated in which badgers have been systematically removed from an area, and the area kept free of badgers, where the incidence of TB in cattle has declined; and what conclusions she drew from this work. [148660]

Mr. Bradshaw: Four large-scale badger clearances have been carried out, at Thornbury in Avon (104 sq km), at Steeple Leaze in Dorset (12 sq km), at Hartland in North Devon (about 62 sq km) and in an area of East Offaly in the Irish Republic (738 sq km). All four clearances were followed by a reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle.

However, none of the previous TB control strategies that involved badger culling have been assessed in a properly designed experiment to establish their efficacy. While removal operations may have had an effect on the prevalence of TB in badgers and on herd breakdowns,

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other factors may also have influenced these. In the absence of scientific controls, it is not possible to separate out the effects of badger removal from these confounding factors.

A complete assessment of previous TB control strategies can be found in the 1997 Report on Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers by Professor John Krebs and the Independent Scientific Review Group (the "Krebs Report"), available in the House Library.

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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of the resources necessary to ensure that a given area is cleared and kept free of badgers, with particular reference to (a) number of visits and (b) personnel employed; [148651]

(2) what (a) financial and (b) human resources are allocated to the (i) clearance of badgers and (ii) the maintenance of badger-free areas in the Krebs proactive areas. [148659]

Mr. Bradshaw: As part of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), ten areas are subject to "proactive" treatment. As many badgers as possible within the design of the trial are culled in these areas (each approximately 100 sq km) and badger numbers are kept as low as possible. After the initial cull, the work involves an annual re-survey and cull of all proactive areas. However, the human resources for "proactive" work cannot be separately identified, except at disproportionate cost.

Information on the costs of trapping as a "proactive" culling method in the RBCT cannot be used to assess the resources required to clear an area of badgers, because this would require the use of snares, poisoning or gassing which have been ruled out by the Government on welfare grounds. The RBCT clears as many badgers as possible from proactive areas using cage traps, but this removes, at best, 80 per cent. of badgers.

The average number of field staff employed by the Veterinary Directorate Wildlife Unit for field operations in the RBCT and the associated costs by financial year are given in the following table:

WLU Field Staff and Costs
Year Number of Field Staff Total cost of Wildlife Unit(£ million)
1998–1999 62 2.9
1999–2000 90 4.2
2000–2001 110 5.5
2001–2002 136 5.5
2002–2003 127 5.6
2003–2004(1) 133 6.8
(1) projected

For most of 2001, field staff were reassigned to dealing with the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. Over the first three years of the Trial, contracts to carry out initial Triplet surveying were negotiated with the Central Science Laboratory and ADAS and additionally small numbers of staff were deployed from elsewhere in the Department to support major proactive cull operations. Badger culling, however, is always carried out by Wildlife Unit personnel.

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