Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
40. Where you talk about protests, how likely
is it that protests that have taken place could influence the
reliability of the trials themselves?
(Professor Bourne) The actual interference that we
get from protesters rather than non-co-operation?
41. That is correct. I suppose both, but I am
really thinking about the active protests.
(Professor Bourne) There have been degrees of protest.
This is probably a question that is better addressed to MAFF than
me. They are in a better position to give you line and verse on
this. Certainly from our perspective, the degree of protest has
not been any more than we might have originally expected.
42. So what do you think the impact will be
on the trials, if any?
(Professor Bourne) At the outset the trial was designed
so that it would be robust. We expected there would be non-participation,
we expected there would be protester activity, and we indicated
in ourI think it was the first but certainly the secondreport
that for it to have a serious impact on the trial the non-co-operation
and protesting activity would have to be massive. It certainly
has not been anything to that degree. Co-operation has been at
a very high level, and while protest has occurred it has varied
from one triplet to another, and it has not, in our view, been
seriouswith respect to the integrity of the trial. That
is not to under-estimate the impact it has had on MAFF staff.
You can imagine it is very disturbing for staff in the field to
be faced by protesters in the way they are, and it has led to
damage of a large amount of MAFF property. I think that is a question
you need to address to MAFF and to the Minister.
43. Moving on to the question of humaneness,
I think the independent auditor did do an investigation into humaneness
of despatching badgers but not of trapping badgers. Have you made
an assessment of the humaneness of the trapping process?
(Professor Bourne) You are right in that the actual
trapping procedures were not part of the humaneness audit, although
clearly I did discuss that with the auditor at a personal level.
It is something we take very seriously within the ISG. You probably
are aware that we have asked for research to be doneand
research that is being doneon various trap designs. We
have had an initial report on that work, and in fact it is one
of the items for the ISG meeting this afternoon. We do take these
welfare aspects very seriously, as you would expect us to.
44. Can we expect some kind of report about
the humaneness of the trapping procedures then?
(Professor Bourne) There certainly will be precise
measurements of damage to badgers in traps, and this is conducted
on post mortem examinations, so it does involve quite a serious
recording of these sorts of damages.
45. Does that include non-target species?
(Professor Bourne) I was going to say, also there
have been records of non-target species being caught. Again, MAFF
will give you details of the number of species that have been
caught and those that have been found dead in traps and those
that have been destroyed on humane grounds. We are aware of that
and we asked for that information to be forwarded to us. Again,
that does relate to the work being done on cage trap design.
(Dr Woodroffe) I wonder if I could perhaps add that
the levels ofhaving trapped badgers as part of research
for years myself and having experience of doing thisinjury
to badgers in traps is extremely minor. We are talking about losing
fur off their wrists or maybe from the nose. It is uncommon to
see more severe damage than that. Of course, that is not quantifying
the stress of being sat in a trap all night, but I would add that
these are standard procedures which are frequently used in research
as well as in this sort of operation. We are not talking about
46. I have got an issue on traps, but I will
resist that. I also want to know about lactating sows when you
actually catch them. How many cubs are affected, do you think?
What are you doing to locate the cubs when you trap lactating
(Dr Woodroffe) We designed the close season with a
view to avoiding the capture of females with dependent cubs that
would be left to starve below ground. The design of the close
season was based upon existing data, on the best available data
on the timing of reproduction in badgersmostly coming from
intensive field projects, such as my own that I used to run in
Oxford. The aims of the close season in these circumstances are
slightly different from close seasons adopted by other authorities,
because the culling process means that if cubs can be captured
cubs themselves can be humanely despatched. Experience indicates
that cubs are more easily trapped than adults. So whilst one might
wish to avoid disruption at or around badger setts over, perhaps,
a wider period during a cub's period of dependency, given cubs'
trapability one is able to capture cubs and humanely despatch
them not long after they start moving above ground. We keep the
close season under constant review, obviously, with a view to
altering it if that would prove to be necessary, based on the
available data. On that basis I carried out an analysis of the
capture of lactating females and cubs in the Poulshott area in
Wiltshire, which was proactively culled in the last two weeks
of May of this year. The sizes of the cubs that were captured
at that time did not differ in any way that I could detect statistically
from data from my own study in Whithill over a three or four year
period. That suggests that in that area breeding was no later
than in the population from which I took most of the data. That
suggested that the data that I used to derive the close season
were applicable to that area. The figure on the number of breeding
females that were caught during that period, I think, were given
in Parliament earlier this year, and given as 51. That was based
upon the subjective assessment of the people out trapping in the
field. They get the badger out of the trap, turn it over and they
look at the underside of the female to try to determine whether
she has bred that year. Given that these females would either
be lactating or have recently stopped lactating, that is quite
a good subjective assessment of a female's breeding status. With
51 lactating females we would expecton the basis of average
litter sizesto catch between 120 and 150 cubs. Actually,
162 were caught, according to my evaluation of the data. So that
is consistent with us having caught the majority of the cubs that
were present. Of course, that subjective assessment is not conclusive
evidence of a female having bred. The only conclusive evidence
that a female is actively lactating can be gathered at post mortem,
when you can try to express from the teats, or you can cut into
the mammary tissue and see whether milk comes out. Only three
females were actively lactating of the animals that were captured
in Poulshott that year. I followed up what happened subsequently
at the setts where those females were captured and in two cases
two cubs were caught subsequently and another in the other case.
So, again, that is consistent with us having caughtwith
an average litter size of between two and threethe dependent
cubs of two of the three lactating females. So as far as we can
judge, one lactating female was left (and I am not able to assess
whether they caught the cubs because I have not got the survey
maps at the moment) but I think what those data suggest is that
the numbers of cubs that would have been left to starve must have
been very low.
47. Fifty-one out of how many?
(Dr Woodroffe) Fifty-one out of a total of 602 badgers.
(Professor Bourne) I think what is important is that
only three of those were lactating at the time of capture.
48. I will not ask you to give an update on
the stuff you have in paragraph 19 because there is quite a lot
of it, but when do you think we will be able to hear the information
and the update of the logical consequences of the investigation?
(Professor Bourne) The majority of those projects
are full three-year projects. The ecological consequences one
is actually over four years. One would not expect some useful
data to emerge from that until the end of those projects, which
would be in about three years' time. Other studies are further
down the track. For instance, studies relating to genetic analysis.
That data is emerging continually, and will be assessed and analysed
on a continual basis. The effect of badger removal on badger social
organisation is being conducted over a three-year time period,
and there may be some data before the end of that period. Projects
relating to measuring population density, again, are on-going
and they are three-year projects, but we may have some useful
data before the end of the three-year period. It is pretty well
all within a three or four-year time frame.
49. Will it be before the final results of the
(Professor Bourne) It could well coincide, actually,
with the useful data we get from the trial. Equally, it could
coincide also with data we get from the pathogenesis study on-going
with cattle, which are, again, in a three to four-year time frame.
(Dr Woodroffe) I would like to pick up on the ecological
consequences project, very briefly. The Environmental Impact Assessment,
of course, is a key part of assessing badger culling policy, and
its outcome as well as the economic studies will help to answer
the question that was raised earlier about the minimum reduction
in cattle TB that one would consider needed to advocate badger
culling in future. I just wanted to add that because it is part
of assessing not the impact of the trial as a phenomenon but the
impact of badger culling as future policy it is appropriate that
that lasts for a long period.
(Professor Bourne) These projects are being reviewed
at a two-day meeting next week in London. So we will have much
more detailed information after that.
Mr Öpik: I would be grateful if you could
pass them on. Thank you for that. I just want to ask you to, maybe,
revisit the case for having a tripletalbeit latein
50. Can I move on to husbandry? Firstly, an
observation which you may want to respond to. Given the length
of the other aspects of the trial, I am interested in why the
husbandry working group were asked to report in such a short time
(Professor Bourne) That is a question, I think, that
should be more properly addressed to MAFF. MAFF are responding
to your suggestion and respond they did. It is their report, not
51. Can I immediately ask you what value you
would put on that report?
(Professor Bourne) I think you probably have not seen
yet the response that we sent to MAFF on that. I do not think
MAFF have finally considered that.
52. No, we have not.
(Professor Bourne) Certainly we regarded it as being
a useful scrutiny of the literature, but we did make the point
that it was more a laying out of the literature and what it did
not have was any careful scrutiny or assessment of the literature.
I think in that respect it was less useful than it could have
been. Nonetheless, it did identify husbandry factors which may
have relevance to farming practice with respect to control of
bovine TB, and I think those have been taken on board subsequently
by TB Forum and are being relayed to the farming industry. With
respect to the research proposals, they did find, of course, that
they did endorse the approach we were taking with respect to an
epidemiological risk analysis approach rather than doing direct
experimentation on farms. It did, nonetheless, make some recommendations
for research activity, and again we have responded to that. I
do not have the details with me, but, for instance, there was
a suggestion from the husbandry group that work on diagnosis was
not important. We strongly disagreed with that. Improved diagnostic
techniques, we believe, are absolutely critical. They highlighted
the need for studies on genetic resistance, and we believe that
should not be a high priority, for reasons we have gone into in
detail in our response to MAFF. There is probably no point in
my going into that detail now. However, in essence we valued the
report, we recognised it for what it was and what it was not and
we responded to the research proposals that they were suggestingthe
main proposal of which we disagreed with.
53. Are you saying that you would want MAFF
to generate further research in this area, and would that then
in turn have some impact on your work?
(Professor Bourne) What we are saying is what we stated
at the outset: we believe the best approach to identify risk factors
is initially through an epidemiological survey because there are
many risk factors and no one knows the quantitative significance
of them. On the basis of TB99 and the analysis of TB99 data, we
then may be able to point more, focus more objectively, on particularly
high risk factors and ask for more work to be done in the field
situation on those factors. It is possible, yes, but it does depend
on the outcome of the analysis.
54. Is this not rather urgent in the sense that,
if husbandry is going to be one of the possible remedies, somebody
somewhere had better do some work fairly quickly if it is going
to in any way influence?
(Professor Bourne) Absolutely, which is why we insisted
that TB99 was put in place as quickly as it was, that we should
analyse the data as quickly as we can and why we were so disturbed
because there were some suggestions that TB99 would not be adhered
to in the way that was agreed as a result of the swine fever activities
in East Anglia. We made our views very clear to MAFF about the
urgency of TB99. We have highlighted the importance of this work
in the whole tranche of research activities that we have in place.
(Dr Woodroffe) TB99 is not operating in isolation.
We are aware of at least three retrospective studies of husbandry
which are ongoing, again using epidemiological questionnaires,
one funded by the Milk Development Council and the second retrospectively,
TB49, by MAFF, which will report relatively soon as well. Quite
shortly I think we are looking at seeing a number of studies which
could direct future action on research.
55. The NFU in their resubmission for this inquiry
are adamant that farmers are taking particular measures with regard
to animal husbandry to reduce the risk of transmission. What scientific
objectivity is there to say that is the case?
(Professor Bourne) That farmers are doing this?
(Professor Bourne) There is none. Equally, there is
no scientific evidence to suggest that what they are doing is
the appropriate thing to do. That is the whole point of us doing
a risk analysis, to identify what the major husbandry factors
might be in influencing cattle TB.
57. I find that compelling. We have not seen
this but are you now making recommendations to MAFF that they
must re-examine not just the literature but do some actual controlled
experimentation in the area of animal husbandry?
(Professor Bourne) No, we are not, because we do not
believe that is an appropriate thing to do at the moment. We do
not know what the major risk factors are and if one tried to put
in place farm experiments there are so many variables that it
would be a worthless exercise. This is why we are insisting on
and have put in place the risk analysis through TB99.
58. Are you not looking at the effect rather
than the cause? Is it not worthy of at least some cognisance on
your part of the fact that husbandry is an important contributing
(Professor Bourne) We believe that husbandry could
be. There is no evidence that it is. We are looking at retrospective
data. Rosie mentioned TB49. I am bound to say the likelihood of
that being valuable to us is not very high because that information
was not collected on the basis of providing for an epidemiological
study; it was for disease management. A project nonetheless is
coming to an end which was funded in part by the Milk Development
Council, again looking at retrospective data. For our part, we
have done an initial analysis of TB99 on farms outside of trial
areas, for which there are no controls. We would expect, by the
time we publish our report in March, to have analysed the data
that we have available from trial areas which would include controls.
It is possible on the basis of that that useful information could
be relayed to farmers, but we will not know until we have completed
those analyses. We recognise the urgency of this. We have recognised
it from the outset. I think you will agree that we moved very
speedily to design the questionnaire which we believe was appropriate,
which in fact you believe was too complicated and too long. Experience
in the field has suggested otherwise and we are very anxious to
get this data in and get it analysed.
59. You say in paragraph 27 that you recommended
that MAFF should commission studies on the economic impact of
the disease. They now have done that and you are being consulted
on the kind of projects that are suitable. What kind of projects
(Professor Bourne) We need information at two levels.
One is at farm level and the other would be at a more national
level. Those projects have been considered by a group, in which
we played a part. Whether the final decision has yet been made
to fund these I am not sure, but they have been considered. I
would imagine that MAFF are moving towards agreeing the funding