HC Deb 30 October 1980 vol 991 cc356-8W
Mr. Peter Lloyd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the outcome of Lord Zuckerman's review of the problem of badgers infected with bovine tuberculosis.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am pleased to welcome publication today of Lord Zuckerman's report, "Badgers, Cattle and Tuberculosis", and to express my gratitude for his masterly assessment of a complex and hitherto controversial subject. I should also like to join him in thanking all those who contributed to the review. I have arranged for copies of the report to be placed in the Libraries of Parliament, together with copies of my Department's fourth report on bovine tuberculosis in badgers which is also published today.

After carefully considering Lord Zuckerman's conclusions on the part played by badgers in harbouring bovine tuberculosis and transmitting it to cattle in some parts of the South-West, I have accepted his recommendation that control operations of the type suspended since September last year should be resumed. After giving notice where necessary, Ministry staff will resume as soon as possible in the problem areas of the South-West the gassing of sets where there is evidence of bovine tuberculosis in badgers associated with an outbreak of the disease in cattle.

I have also decided that the remainder of Lord Zuckerman's recommendations should be implemented by my Department as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. Lord Zuckerman's suggestion for revision of the Ministry's gassing policy objective, however, acknowledges that the relevant evidence for decisions on the safe level of the disease in badger populations is not yet fully available and this suggestion must therefore be a matter for the longer term. It will be considered in the overall review which I propose to initiate, as recommended, at the end of three years. This review will draw on the advice of the consultative panel on badgers and tuberculosis which is to continue, and the results will be published.

I urge those who have had doubts about the disease link between badgers and cattle to reconsider their attitude in the light of Lord Zuckerman's findings and his conclusion that badgers in Britain as a whole are not at risk from the Ministry's disease control operations. I also ask that wild badgers are not disturbed and that farmers, who may be be concerned about the risk to their cattle, should continue to refer any doubts to their local animal health offices and not take action themselves against badgers.

To help my Department monitor the health of badger populations I would ask the public to notify the location of any dead badgers they may find to the nearest Ministry office so that the carcases may be collected for veterinary examination. Members of the public should not, however, handle the carcases themselves.