THE GOVERNMENT‘S independent committee on bovine tuberculosis has advised DEFRA that it should implement tougher controls to combat cattle-to-cattle spread of the disease.

The Fourth Report of the Independent Scientific Group, published on Thurs (Feb 10) says that due to the inadequacy of the tuberculin skin test, “which fails to accurately identify infected animals,” enhanced cattle-to-cattle controls need to be introduced.

“Regardless of the role of wildlife intervention… we [the ISG] believe it is essential in both the longer term and in the short term that more effective disease control measures directed at cattle should be put in place without further delay,” says the report.

The report also rules out wide scale culling of badgers due to “insufficient scientific evidence upon which to design a possible badger culling strategy”.

But the ISG does recommend the immediate implementation of an appropriate study to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the gamma-interferon test.

It also recommends that existing data and future data should be subjected to more rigorous interrogation as an integral part of TB surveillance.

The group calls on DEFRA to maintain the current programme of research on developing a vaccine.

Junior DEFRA minister, Ben Bradshaw, welcomed the report saying the department will consider the recommendations of the report when the formulating the delivery of a new TB strategy, due to be announced soon.

“This is a substantial document. Farmers and farming organisations, animal welfare groups, veterinarians, scientists, economists and many of the general public will find its chapters of interest,” said Mr Bradshaw.

“The department will be discussing the recommendations with the group at the earliest opportunity.

“We will then consider them carefully while recognising that, in deciding policy, we must also make take issues such as cost and practicality into account,” he added.