HC Deb 28 March 2003 vol 402 cc462-3W
Mr. Gray

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice her Department gives to farmers who find TB-infected badgers on their land; how farmers should dispose of the carcase of a badger which has died of TB; and if she will make a statement. [105246]

Mr. Morley

[holding answer 27 March 2003]: It is unlikely that farmers would be able to tell whether badgers found on their land, either alive or dead, were suffering from, or had died of, bovine tuberculosis. At present there is no reliable live test to check for the disease in badgers. The presence of the bovine TB causative organism (M. bovis) is established by postmortem examination and the bacteriological culture of samples.

Government are carrying out a badger culling trial in areas of the south and west of England to establish the role of badgers in transmission of bovine TB to cattle and to find out whether badger culling is an effective or sustainable control mechanism. There is insufficient evidence to sanction badger culling outside of the trial areas and this has been made clear to farmers. Defra has encouraged livestock producers to apply basic biosecurity measures to minimise contact between cattle and wildlife, for instance by raising feed and water troughs off the ground and securing farm buildings, particularly feed stores and cattle housing, against entry by wildlife.

In relation to carcase disposal, wild animals are currently exempt from the scope of the 1999 Animal By-Products Order. However, from 1 May 2003 the EU Animal By-Products Regulation will require wild animals suspected of being infected with diseases communicable to humans, such as bovine TB, to be disposed of at an approved plant using one of the following methods:

  1. 1. incineration;
  2. 2. rendering followed by incineration; or
  3. 3. pressure rendering followed by landfill.

A limited survey is being carried out on the carcases of badgers killed in road traffic accidents (RTAs) in Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Dorset. The objective of the survey is to determine whether RTA data can provide an accurate indication of the prevalence of M. bovis in badgers by comparing it with data from the badger culling trial.

If farmers in the counties listed find a badger carcase on their land which has been killed in a road accident they can contact the survey co-ordinators, Central Science Laboratory (CSL), using a freephone number, to arrange collection. Precise details of the location of the carcase will need to be provided.