Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Question No. 61
To ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food if it is proposed to continue the culling of badgers to curb the spread of bovine tuberculosis; if his attention has been drawn to the claims that the culling of badgers in the UK has led to an increase in the incidence of bovine TB; the number of cases of bovine TB to date in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29205/03]
WRITTEN REPLY (3rd December, 2003)
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):
I am aware of the recent announcement from DEFRA in the UK, on suspending the culling of badgers in their reactive areas at an early and incomplete stage in their original experimental design. I cannot comment on the decision until such time as the data leading to the decision is published and has been reviewed from an epidemiological perspective.
A similar study was undertaken in this country over five years from 1997 to 2002, inclusive. The results of the trial will be published in the new year. Its findings will be taken into account in determining future Irish policy in the area. In the meantime, the removal or badgers under licences will be continued.
In the medium term one of our key objectives is to develop a vaccine for use in badgers that would lead to a reduction in the level of TB infection in that species. It would reduce the numbers of organisms being shed and subsequently the level of transmission to the cattle population. Work on the objective is progressing.
As regards the incidence of bovine TB, there has been a steady decline in the numbers of TB reactors here since 1999 when 44,900 reactors were identified compared with less than 29,000 in 2002. Up to 5 November 22,600 reactors had been identified and the year end total is projected to be lower than in 2002.