Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
120. Okay. Second question, will MAFF commission
the collection and publication by independent observers of data
on the survival of badgers within the trial areas including the
sites where permission for culling was denied? There is a question
here on how effective the culling is going to be, therefore we
do need an independent assessment of its effectiveness.
(Baroness Hayman) Yes, and the work that Chris Cheeseman
is doing, going in after culling to look at the comparison of
the survey work and what comes out after the cull, is to provide
exactly that sort of information.
121. That will be provided and made available?
(Baroness Hayman) Yes. I think we need to know what
proportion of the badger population is being affected by the cull.
122. What local badger groups seem to be finding
is that more badgers survive than might be viable.
(Dr Reynolds) There are two research projects trying
to establish the number of badgers from signs of their activity,
from surveying, because that is an unknown piece of the jigsaw.
There are two projects looking at that. Then after culling has
taken place in the trial areas there are revisits to assess the
amount of activity in trial areas, both shortly afterwards and
at regular intervals throughout the trial.
Mr Mitchell: Finally, will the Veterinary Laboratories
Agency release historical data on the proportion of badgers culled
in previous badger removals which were found to have open lesions
on post mortem?
Chairman: I think that is one to reflect on.
123. It is important for building up the epidemiology
of the issue.
(Baroness Hayman) That is absolutely right. As I say,
as a general rule, evidence that is available, information that
is available, I am very happy to make available. I think one does
seriously have to say the reason you have set up an Independent
Scientific Group bringing together experts in this field is to
try and focus your resource on getting the information that will
be most effective in building into policy. That is not ruling
out individuals and others who think there are important things
which need to be explored but I do not think you can completely,
carte blanche, say that anyone who wants any piece of information
can divert resources from mainstream work where you have set up
an Independent Scientific Group to guide you as to what is the
most useful information. That is my only caveat, those individual
requests, if I could look at them and see if we can meet them.
124. Just a quick question, if I may, Minister,
on things away from the trial and also on to the other research
path which this Committee recommended and the Krebs' recommendations
have been followed up really. Looking at those very briefly, the
research into transmission, I take it the fact this is being undertaken
means you accept the thrust of the recommendations of this Committee's
report, Recommendation t, that this was not an area to be ignored.
Could you give us some idea as to when you are hoping the results
will be published referred to in the update we have been given?
You say the research is taking place until the end of December
2003. Does that mean we will be getting all the data coming together
at about the same time as the trial finishes?
(Baroness Hayman) I know that is something that John
Bourne is anxious to have. In order to have an approach to the
problem that brings in all the factors and is comprehensive it
would be helpful to have the results from that pathogenesis work
at the same time as the results from the Krebs trial and that
is very much the timetable to which we are working, yes.
125. Looking at one other aspect on wildlife
species, the same question almost. From what you told us there
the results will be published when they are available but the
intention there is, I assume, that will also be available at the
(Baroness Hayman) Yes. I think possibly a little earlier
as far as the wildlife is concerned.
(Dr Reynolds) Yes.
126. As a matter of passing interest, given
we have been told it is impossible to reliably detect TB in badgers,
work at Oxford in particular where other wild mammals are being
detected, is it equally difficult there and the results are open
to question or is it that in some of the other mammals it is easier
(Baroness Hayman) Are you talking about live testing
127. The Oxford University project in paragraph
2 of your report I am referring to.
(Dr Reynolds) Yes. The Oxford University project is
taking samples from living wild animals and then releasing them.
The tests on those samples has a much lower likelihood of finding
TB than a full post mortem which is why the approach to finding
TB in badgers must depend on a full post mortem. The Oxford work
will mean that samples can be taken and stored and it is possible
that there may be advances which mean that those samples can be
examined subsequently by new tests. Equally that applies to samples
from the badger culling from our trial.
(Baroness Hayman) There is also a research project
on carcases of wildlife and deer that are dead, which have not
been killed for the trial but are dead and we are getting the
results from those as well. There are two separate wildlife trials
going on, one on carcases and one on live animals.
128. It does seem as though in those two areas,
the wildlife species and transmission, you will have the data
at the same time roughly as the trial but the same does not seem
to be the case when one is looking at the vaccine programme where
I think 10 to 15 years hence is the constant answer. Is it still
10 to 15 years or are you more hopeful?
(Baroness Hayman) I think every Minister has been
told that it is 10 to 15 years since the question started to be
asked. I think the conference that we had in August, the international
conference, was very positive in terms of some of the work going
ahead on a vaccine and being helped by the worked that has gone
on on genome sequencing. One of the things that I think is particularly
interesting, while Krebs was very clear that we must pursue the
possibility of a cattle vaccine, there are particular difficulties
around that because you are testing and differentiating between
vaccinated and infected animals. That is not such a problem if
you are dealing with a wildlife vaccine because you are not testing
in the same way. I think that particularly in New Zealand they
have shown interest in using the BCG vaccine, which does exist
and does not have to be developed, and therefore does not have
to have the same kind of time frame on wildlife. Now, before getting
too enthusiastic about that, I think experience of BCG on human
beings in different environments around the world makes us cautious
between being able to extrapolate simply from one wildlife species
to another in terms of the effectiveness of vaccinations, particularly
with BCGs. It is an area the Republic of Ireland is interested
in doing some work on badgers in and we are discussing potential
collaboration on that. It might be that both a wildlife vaccine
and a cattle vaccine are measures you want in your armoury in
the approach to tackling M bovis. That is rather a long answer.
129. If I could have a numerical answer in terms
of the number of years?
(Baroness Hayman) I do not think anyone has suggested
to me that a cattle vaccine would be available in a shorter time
frame from the 10 to 15 years that is laid out.
130. Seriously, this is always what is being
(Baroness Hayman) Yes.
131. It does not sound as though it is a well
thought through figure, does it? That is always the answer.
(Dr Reynolds) If I can comment, the figure reflects
that this is a long term scientific goal and that the scientific
areas that need to be developed are quite high risk and therefore
necessarily may take some time. Even at the point of having an
effective vaccine candidate the development procedure of the field
trial determines that there is an effective vaccine candidate.
Taking that forward to a licensed product which is recognised
in the European Community is very long term.
132. Normally the time taken to do something
depends on the priority and the resources being used to address
the issue. I suppose really my concern is it may be we are doing
all we can. Given the importance of the problem we would like
to think it is not something being restricted by the resources
of the research programme.
(Baroness Hayman) I honestly do not think that it
is. Having talked to people at the two main centres here, I am
sure they would like to have more resources but they are not raising
particular difficulties about the funding. I think it is very
important that we do recognise because some of this work is expensive
that you should not have a "not invented here " attitude
about it. It is international work and there has to be international
collaboration and that can draw on what is being done across the
world. I think the constraints are much more in the time of development
from getting the scientific solution and then some of the practical
implications in terms of trade and those issues I was talking
133. Specifically referring to the report published
earlier this summer when the trials from New Zealand were being
referred to, in the report we were told that a large cattle vaccination
experiment was being carried out in New Zealand, "Progress
and comments" page six, middle paragraph. I was pinning some
hope on possibly if a large cattle vaccination experiment was
under way, possibly there was some work which could be put through
much more quickly than the ten years. I do not know if you have
a view on that. The question I want to ask is given the different
geography and conditions, if experiments like that are taking
place should we not be undertaking that sort of trial over here
at the same time? Would that speed up the process?
(Baroness Hayman) Debby is my New Zealand expert so
perhaps she could answer that.
(Dr Reynolds) The work that is being done on cattle
in New Zealand is indeed large scale. I do not think you should
misinterpret it. It still means the number of animals have been
necessarily quite small in experimental situations.
134. What does large scale mean, if it does
not mean lots of animals?
(Dr Reynolds) The scale is an experimental scale.
This is under laboratory conditions, field trials under closely
confined conditions to assess whether BCG is generating a protective
effect on cattle. On the geography point, the work that MAFF has
funded and set up has got a very close collaboration between the
work in this country and in New Zealand and the challenge approach
which has been set up in New Zealand has been exactly replicated
in this country so that a proper comparison can take place between
UK geography and New Zealand geography.
135. The TB Forum has had its problems, I suppose
one might have imagined that would be so from setting up such
a diverse body. Do you feel that it is going to contribute substantially
to the solutions in TB?
(Baroness Hayman) I think it already has helped us
in areas such as looking at the refinement of testing regimes.
I think it is important to have that Forum acting as a sounding
board which brings together disparate views on the subject. It
is not easy as you point out to get that working very smoothly
and it is not a decision making body. Policy has to be for ministers
in this area. I think it does contribute. I think its views on
the Husbandry Panel report, for example, are very important. I
think it is of value. I hope it will continue to meet but I do
not think there are silver bullets here in terms of any one or
any single policy.
136. Do you think the NFU's non-participation
makes it of significantly less value?
(Baroness Hayman) Well, I think it is very important
that we have farmers represented and producers represented on
the Committee. I was sorry the NFU felt that they had to leave
the Forum. I think they will rejoin again. I think the important
thing is we have not completely lost the producer element. I hope
that they will feel able to rejoin the Forum in the new year and
Nick Brown and I are having conversations with the NFU about that.
137. One of the possible reasons for their frustration
might have been the difficulties in producing a conclusion on
the proposal on localised culling. What is your perception of
that? A paper was produced by members of the Forum and it appears
to be following the route through the long grass at the moment
to no very obvious outcome. Is that largely what the NFU are worried
about? Do you share that concern or do you believe that is just
par for the course?
(Baroness Hayman) I think the issue of action against
badgers outside the trials is one of the very fundamental splits
between members of the Forum, even discussion of it is very inflammatory
for different sides of the argument. Therefore, yes, I would say
it was one of the issues that provoked withdrawal.
138. Would that mean that the Government intends
to take no step on this matter?
(Baroness Hayman) The Government intends to see the
trials through and at the moment it has no plans for action against
badgers outside the trials. We are reporting on our five point
plan and strategy and we will continue to do that.
139. Essentially this paper on localised culling
can wander back and forth through the long grass for quite some
time to come.
(Baroness Hayman) The paper was not only