Bovine TB vaccination

Written evidence submitted by DG & GE Purser

We own a 48ha farm in Gloucestershire and have kept beef cattle since the 1980's in a TB 'hot-spot'. The business has included a commercial beef and calf rearing unit but the herd has never been under TB2 restrictions.

Summary

1) Concern that Defra has distorted the extent of bovine TB infection in England and Wales

2) BCG cattle vaccine and the Diva test are available

3) A trial of cattle vaccine should be rolled out in areas with repeated outbreaks of bTB

4) An earlier Defra report models cattle vaccination policies in great detail

5) History gives us the example of Brucellosis which was successfully eradicated via a cattle vaccination program

6) Defra must ensure that the EU prioritises work on the New Single Regulatory Framework for Animal Health

7) Role of the EU

8) Conclusions

9) References/links

1) Concern that Defra has distorted the extent of bovine TB infection in England and Wales

The object of the exercise when addressing the issue of bovine TB should be to adopt an approach which is not detrimental to the business of cattle farming and which takes account of good public relations. But the more that Defra has become fixated on the idea of a badger shoot, the more the department appears to have ignored public opinion and distorted the extent of bTB infection in this country.

For example, Defra Minister Owen Paterson recently made a statement in the House of Commons on the badger cull - widely reported in the press - which included the claim that "bovine TB is the most pressing animal health problem facing the UK today" and he described the incidence of bovine TB as an 'epidemic'. ¹

But Defra's own statistics simply do not justify these alarmist claims.

According to Defra's latest figures published on 12th December 2012, the number of cattle slaughtered each year for bTB control has remained stable for the last ten years at a figure averaging just half of one percent of the national herd, year on year ². This figure is easily outnumbered by fallen stock and cattle slaughtered annually due to lameness, infertility, mastitis etc.

Defra present their bTB ‘Key Facts & Figures’ for 2011 negatively but we can still see from these figures that 88.5% of herds in England and 76.4% of herds in the hot-spots went about their business completely unaffected by bTB for the whole of that year and most of the remaining herds were only restricted for a short time ³

There are ‘TB maps’ on the Defra website with areas shaded red but they contain far too many red dots to correspond with half a percent of the national herd slaughtered for bTB control annually and there is nothing on the web page to explain what each of the red dots represent. If each dot is a bTB incident then each dot must be removed when the incident is cleared otherwise the map is nothing but a misrepresentation of the true extent of infection 4 .

Clearly it is Defra’s ‘test and cull’ policy which causes the most grief to the cattle industry so it is vital that the incidence of bTB infection is properly presented and that the minority of herds affected are precisely identified in order to ensure that any future plan for control is proportionate.

2) Cattle vaccine and the Diva test are available

Cattle vaccination is the only long-term solution to bovine TB and this approach could be pushed through with the right political will.

Cattle vaccine and the Diva test are available as reported on the Defra website as follows:

a) "Licensing studies demonstrating the safety and efficacy of BCG have now been completed by Defra’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) and in January 2012 an application for marketing authorisation (required to place a veterinary medicinal product on the market) was submitted to the UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) "

b) "Our plan is to make an application to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) in summer 2012 for international certification of the [diva] test. Providing the OIE is satisfied with the fitness for purpose of the test, the earliest we could have OIE validation and certification would be the end of 2012"

NB. This page on the Defra website was referred to during the Commons debate on the badger cull on 25th October but the reference to the 'diva' test was subsequently removed from the web page on 5th Nov 2012. However, a cached version of the original web page from the Defra web site on 29th Oct 2012 is attached for reference 5.

3) A trial of cattle vaccine should be rolled out in areas with repeated outbreaks of bTB

Defra need to apply to the EU for a derogation to allow UK field trials of the cattle vaccination and the Diva test to begin.

A trial of BCG cattle vaccine could be rolled out to individual herds which are identified as having repeated outbreaks of bTB along with 'ring fence' vaccination of surrounding herds.

In addition, a cattle vaccine trial could be offered as an option to all farmers/keepers with pedigree, single-suckled or dairy herds who currently have to trust to luck to avoid having their breeding and foundation stock wiped out by Defra's test and cull policy.

None of the vaccines we use for our livestock gives 100% protection but, as it states on the Defra website 7, a vaccine against bTB can reduce the prevalence, incidence and spread of TB in the cattle population and also reduce the severity of a herd breakdown, regardless of whether infection is introduced by wildlife or cattle.

The status of vaccinated cattle could be certified by stamping the animal's individual passport.

4) An earlier Defra report models cattle vaccination policies in great detail

A Defra report entitled "Options for Vaccinating Cattle Against Bovine Tuberculosis" produced in 2008 and endorsed by numerous prominent stakeholders, including the NFU, set about modelling various vaccination programs, including the lead option of compulsory vaccination of high risk herds in annual testing parishes 6.

The model showed that this option, funded by the govt, would save up to one fifth of the costs of the current 'test and cull' policy, as follows:

"The model predicts vaccinating cattle in yearly tested parishes would cost around £170 million to £180 million over the period from introduction in 2012 to the end of the modelled period in 2026. It predicts benefits from fewer breakdowns and less routine testing of between £150 million and £250 million, potentially saving up to one fifth of the costs of the current policy measures. The benefits from vaccinating cattle in yearly tested parishes are likely to justify its costs over this period." (Para 1.2 'Economic Assessment of Lead Option').

The report also suggests that certifying vaccinated cattle would save on resources in terms of the Diva test (Para E14, E15). Cattle now have individual cattle passports so these can be stamped to show the animal has been vaccinated.

5) History gives us the example of Brucellosis which was successfully eradicated via a cattle vaccination program

The Defra report "Options for Vaccinating Cattle Against Bovine Tuberculosis" 6 includes a detailed section on the vaccination policy which led to the successful eradication of Brucellosis (Annex 6.1.1).

This involved a combination of voluntary and mandatory vaccination, in line with the geographical incidence of disease, administered by Defra Local Veterinary Inspectors or Local Veterinary Practices and a herd accreditation scheme was established to monitor disease status.

This system could be adapted for use with bTB. Cattle now have individual cattle passports so these could be stamped to show the animal has been vaccinated saving on resources in terms of the Diva test.

6) Defra must ensure that the EU prioritises work on the New Single Regulatory Framework for Animal Health

Defra say on their website "An opportunity to provide a future legal basis for vaccination of cattle against TB is likely to be created by the proposed new European Animal Health Law, which is currently under consideration by the European Commission" 7

The EU describes the New Single Regulatory Framework for Animal Health, the so-called EU Animal Health Law, as follows:

"Current legislation does not fully support prevention. It is more reactive than proactive and doesn't provide real incentives for stakeholders (animal keepers, traders, business operators) to use mechanisms to prevent, on one hand, the introduction of the diseases to their holdings and, on the other hand, their spread to other holdings, regions and countries." 8

The AHWBE (Animal Health and Welfare Board for England) were due to publish their review of these EU proposals in 2012 but we have not received a reply to our request for a copy of their conclusions to date 9.

7) Role of the EU

In a recent statement, the European Commission confirmed that the EU Health Commissioner would advise on the exact process and timing required to implement cattle vaccination in the UK 10.

The Commission also points out in this statement that substantial financial support is provided for the UK bovine TB eradication programme adding "For 2012, EUR 31.2 million were allocated to implement a rapid eradication strategy. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers."

8) Conclusions

· Defra are using the badger shoot as a distraction and obfuscating the facts around the incidence of infection of bovine TB seemingly to avoid addressing the necessary option of cattle vaccination. The generous funding provided by the EU may be acting as an incentive to continue with the current 'test and cull' policy.

· The current Defra administration must not sideline the valuable research and information contained in the earlier Defra report entitled "Options for Vaccinating Cattle Against Bovine Tuberculosis" 6 .

· Defra should apply to the EU Health Commissioner for a derogation to allow UK field trials of the cattle vaccination and the Diva test to begin.

· Defra officials must shift their focus away from badger shooting and concentrate on the proposals from the EU for a New Single Regulatory Framework for Animal Health, the so-called EU Animal Health Law, which will pave the way for proactive and preventative cattle vaccination for the benefit of the cattle farming industry long term.

9) References/links

¹ http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/10/23/badger-cull/

² http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/files/defra-stats-foodfarm-landuselivestock-tb-statsnotice-121212a.pdf page 6

³ http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/bovine-tb/ , Key Facts & Figures

4 http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/bovine-tb/about-bovine-tb/

5 Defra cattle vaccination Google cache 29 Oct 12.mht (NB This is a cached version of the original web page from the Defra web site on 29th Oct 2012 and is an mhtml file which opens as a web page).

6 http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/vaccine_cattle.pdf

7 http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/bovine-tb/vaccination/cattle-vaccination/

8 http://ec.europa.eu/governance/impact/planned_ia/docs/45_sanco_animal_health_law_en.pdf

9 http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahwbe/files/ahwbe-forwardplan2012.pdf , page 2, Action Plan

10 http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/press_releases/2012/pr1245_en.htm

January 2013

Prepared 1st February 2013