HC Deb 04 November 2003 vol 412 cc27-8WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

The Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB (ISG) was appointed by Ministers in 1998 to design and oversee a large-scale field trial, the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT), aimed at evaluating badger culling as a means to reduce the incidence of cattle TB. The trial involves three experimental treatments: (i) proactive culling, which aims to reduce badger densities to very low levels across entire trial areas, (ii) reactive culling, which seeks to remove only those badgers geographically close to recent cattle TB outbreaks on particular premises, and (iii) no culling (survey only).

The culling of badgers in reactive treatment areas of the RBCT will be suspended from today. The decision to suspend the culling of badgers in these areas has been taken on the basis of recent scientific findings from the ISG.

The ISG has advised Ministers that its interim analysis of trial data so far indicates that there was a 27 per cent. increase in the number of cases of bovine TB (breakdowns) occurring in reactive culling areas compared to the related survey only areas where no badger culling took place.

I have decided to suspend operations immediately because of the risk that a further three months of culling would cause additional TB breakdowns.

The results that have now emerged from the reactive culling part of the trial will be published as soon as possible in a peer reviewed scientific journal. Data on herd breakdowns from the reactive trial areas will continue to be collected and subjected to further analysis with the more detailed results being submitted for publication in a peer reviewed journal at a later date.

On the advice of the ISG, operations will continue in proactive areas because the data for these areas do not yet yield a statistically significant result. The survey-only (control) areas will also continue to be monitored.

The Government's policy on bovine TB is based on scientific advice and these findings will be taken into account in the development of the forthcoming TB strategy.

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