Bovine TB

Updated 13/11/2013

Badger Cull.
Depending on who you believe, either the BBC or the MP in charge of the cull is lying. On 1st September this year, (2013) the BBC’s Countryfile transmitted an article, presented by John Craven, at the start of the ‘Badger Cull’. During this we learnt from a research scientist that there was a Bovine TB vaccine that had been tested, which was estimated to be over 60% effective in cattle. (I am going from memory)
At the end of the initial cull, I can remember seeing on the news the MP responsible standing in Parliament, declaring that ‘there was no vaccine’ for cattle.
We also learnt that the EU forbids using this TB vaccine on cattle, but the commission is investigating the matter, and maybe, at a later date, allow it’s use.
That was about it from the BBC, so I wrote to Graham Watson, MEP for our area, to find out why.
Me to Graham Watson. (part)
My question is – why is it taking so long to get, at least, worthwhile field trials done. My suspicion is the trading of cattle for meat. I assume that unless or until a easy, cheap specific test for vaccinated cattle has been created, then us tax payers will be funding compensation payments for many years to come, plus the cost of culling and its associated costs.
Thank you for your email regarding bovine TB and hurdles to a vaccine.
At the European level there is no set policy on the best or right approach to take in eradicating Bovine TB. It remains a problem for not only the UK, but also Ireland, Spain, and parts of Italy. What does seem apparent is that bovine TB does not seem to have been carried in Badgers on the continent (bar some evidence of it in Switzerland); instead animals such wild boar seem to provide the “wildlife reservoir”.
Whilst it’s true that there is currently an EU wide prohibition on the vaccination of cattle against bovine TB, this merely reflects rules put in place internationally by the World Organisation for Animal Health. The current bar to a vaccine is based on the fact that the test for Bovine TB (the PPD-tuberculin skin test) can’t differentiate between infected and vaccinated animals. This is where “trade” reference comes in as moved the inability to distinguish infected and vaccinated animals could impact on eradication and control programmes in other states.
Nonetheless the European Commission has acknowledged that if a candidate vaccine succeeds in showing scientifically sufficient protection against Bovine TB and that it would have no interference with diagnostic tests, such a vaccine could be a useful tool to help accelerate TB eradication.
Bovine TB remains a serious animal health problem, with nearly 25,000 cattle being slaughtered in England in 2010/11 and the meetings I have had with farmers and representatives of the NFU highlight how devastating such infections can be on this industry on both a personal and financial level. However I don’t believe the cull eradicate the problem and I remain of the view that we should be putting all of our efforts into getting a workable vaccine in place.
Yours sincerely,
Sir Graham Watson
Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar

So there you have it. ‘Trade’. That is what it boils down to in the end. ‘Trade’.

One could argue that money spent on the cull should have been used for research into finding a simple, cheap and foolproof test to differentiate between vaccinated cattle and those with TB proper, and then ‘Badger’ both the World Organisation for Animal Health and the EU to then allow vaccination of cattle.

I have read that both New Zealand and parts of the USA have Bovine TB. New Zealand believe Possums are responsible for spreading the disease and are ‘culling’ accordingly, and a species of deer in the USA is thought to be a carrier.