HL Deb 12 January 1998 vol 584 cc176-8WA
Lord Hardy of Wath

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the Krebs Report on Badgers and Bovine TB will be published.

Lord Donoughue

My honourable friend the Minister of State of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was pleased to announce that Professor Krebs Report on Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers was published 16 December 1997, as was the Government response to the report.

In November 1996, Professor John Krebs, FRS began a scientific review on behalf of the then Government into the links between bovine tuberculosis and badgers. His terms of reference were:

"To review the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle and badgers and assess the scientific evidence for links between them; to take account of EU policies on reducing and eliminating the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle; to take account of any risk to the human population; and accordingly to review, in the light of the scientific evidence present government policy on badgers and tuberculosis and to make recommendations".

Professor Krebs was assisted in his review by Professor Roy Anderson, FRS, Professor Ivan Morrison, Professor Douglas Young, Professor Tim Clutton-Brock FRS, and Dr. C. Donnelly, as well as by two research assistants.

The Government are most grateful for the vigour and rigour with which Professor Krebs and his team have tackled their remit. They believe that their report represents the best available scientific advice across this difficult area which is of great interest both to farmers, whose livelihood can be badly affected by bovine tuberculosis, and to conservation groups. The Government are disposed to accept the recommendations in the report in principle, subject to further consideration of the public expenditure, legal and practical implications.

The report concludes that the available evidence, albeit largely indirect, strongly supports the view that badgers are a significant source of TB in cattle; but that it is not possible to state how large a contribution badgers make to cattle infection.

The main recommendations are that:

  1. (a) the current policy of limited culling of badgers should end, and be replaced by a policy of no culling in most of the country;
  2. (b) a trial should be set up in certain areas with a history of repeated occurrence of TB to quantify the efficacy and cost effectiveness of badger culling to control bovine TB. Culling of all badgers will take place in some of the trial areas on a carefully designed experimental basis. This will be compared with the culling of all badgers assumed to be linked with bovine TB outbreaks in other trial areas, and no culling of badgers in a last set of trial areas. The aim will be to establish a rigorous scientific foundation for policy in the future, which should benefit all with an interest in this area;
  3. (c) outside the culling trial areas, there should be an experimental comparison of the effectiveness of different cattle husbandry methods in controlling bovine TB. The livestock industry should take the lead here, with help from Government;
  4. (d) the Government's research strategy for bovine tuberculosis should be redirected, and in particular there should be new work on developing a vaccine to protect cattle against TB.

The Government recognise that the subjects covered by the report are of profound concern both to those in badger conservation groups, and to livestock farmers. Account also needs to be taken of the fact that bovine tuberculosis can be transmitted to humans, although the number of cases is very low because of measures such as milk pasteurisation. The Government are therefore setting a period of two months (until 27 February 1998) for comments on how the recommendations should be implemented.