Foundation for Science and Technology
Policy choices for the reduction of bovine tuberculosis
Last week, the Foundation for Science and Technology met at the Royal Society to discuss bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in the UK and what policy choices might be available to the Government. Bovine TB strategy in the UK hinges primarily on cattle controls, but it is generally agreed that there is a need to address the sylvatic reservoir of disease in badgers. Unfortunately, the Report of the Independent Expert Panel on Pilot Badger Culls (IEP Report) was due to be released by the time the meeting was convened, but it was not released until two days later (04/04/14).
The speakers were as follows:
- Adam Quinney: Farmer and former Vice-President, NFU
- Professor Rosie Woodroffe: Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
- Dr Miles Parker OBE FSB: Senior Research Associate, Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge
We were also due to hear from Professor Ian Boyd, Government Chief Scientific Adviser at DEFRA, but due to the impending release of the IEP Report he was unable to attend.
Mr Quinney summarised the history of bTB controls in the UK and highlighted the distrust between the farming community and DEFRA. Professor Woodroffe gave a talk to explain how infections spread, what factors affect the reproductive rate of an infection and her thoughts on vaccination as a strategy for badgers. Dr Parker came third with a talk about trends in the incidence and prevalence of bTB since the FMD outbreak in 2001/02. He outlined methods for managing bTB and re-iterated the point that vaccination alone is not wholly effective; a comprehensive strategy is necessary.
In summary it was agreed that whilst there is much polarisation over some aspects of bTB control, there is widespread consensus on others. It is important to build a strategy upon those latter aspects. It would also be great to hear a projection for cattle vaccine introduction that isn’t perpetually ‘about 10 years away’.