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Bovine Tuberculosis - proposals to amend the Tuberculosis (Scotland) Order 2007: consultation

We are gathering views on specific proposals relating to bovine tuberculosis, including diagnostic testing, cattle movements, isolation requirements and unclean cattle.


Part B: Proposed amendments to the TB Order

Section 1: TB Diagnostic Testing

Amend the provisions for the application of diagnostic tests, to include a requirement for the prior written permission of Scottish Ministers where non-statutory and private samples are taken with the intention of applying a diagnostic test for TB.

1.1. Occasionally cattle keepers, research companies, or other third parties, seek permission to take samples from Scottish herds to undertake TB testing in private laboratories, either within Scotland or elsewhere. Written consent is needed from the Scottish Ministers to apply a diagnostic test for tuberculosis to a bovine animal in Scotland. However, samples taken in Scotland may be sent to laboratories for diagnostic testing/validation studies in countries outside of Scotland without prior written permission from Scottish Ministers and without disclosing the sample numbers or results. This is not consistent with a competent authority's responsibility for notifiable disease control. This arises because:

  • While the application of diagnostic tests to bovine animals in Scotland requires Scottish Ministers consent, the taking of blood or milk samples and then sending them to other jurisdictions / abroad for diagnostic TB testing is not expressly restricted;
  • While there is an obligation on laboratories in Scotland which identify the presence of M.bovis in a sample to notify a laboratory approved by the Scottish Ministers for further investigation, that obligation does not apply to laboratories outside of Scotland
  • We are committed to facilitating the development of new diagnostic tests for TB, but have no current powers to oversee the process, monitor sample numbers or results.

1.2. We would like to ensure that Scottish Government have full knowledge of the sampling and results for non-statutory / private diagnostic testing for tuberculosis in Scotland.

1.3 Requiring the prior permission of Scottish ministers where samples are taken with the intention of diagnostic TB testing, could include the pre-condition of information about sample types, numbers, farm locations and results.

Consultation questions on TB diagnostic testing

Q1. Do you agree with the proposed change which would mean that no samples should be taken in Scotland for TB with the intention of applying a diagnostic test, either in Scotland or elsewhere, without permission from the Scottish Ministers?

Section 2: Cattle Movements

a) End the practice of using a clear final short interval test at the end of all TB breakdowns as a valid pre-movement test, including for moves into Scotland. Cattle to be moved out of such herds will need to have a further (bespoke) pre-movement skin test with negative results.

2.1. No diagnostic test has 100% specificity and there remains a possibility that infection is undetected and remains in a herd at the end of a breakdown. This can happen especially in high incidence TB areas where recurrence of tuberculosis is a feature. The risk is that infected, undetected cattle may move from a herd and infect the new recipient herd.

2.2. A similar policy for persistent breakdowns (breakdowns of 18 months and over) has been in place in Wales since 2017[1]. In November 2021 the Welsh Government launched a consultation document to seek views on whether this should be extended to all breakdowns.

b) Shorten the period during which a pre-movement test with negative results remains valid from the current 60 days to 30 days after tuberculin injection for skin testing of cattle, including for moves into Scotland, to align with new EU Animal Health Law requirements to facilitate continued trade with EU member states.

2.4. Shortening the period that the pre-movement test remains valid, from the current 60 days to 30 days, would reduce the risk of a negative testing beast becoming infected in the period between the test and the movement to the new destination. This would lower the risk of TB being spread to the post-movement destination.

2.5. This change also aligns with the requirements of the EU Animal Health Law. The EU Animal Health Law came in place on 21April 2021 and the accompanying Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/688[2] Article 10 (1)(d)(ii) requires that the traded animals have been subjected to a test for infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex with negative results, during the last 30 days prior to departure, and would bring the requirements for cattle moving between domestic countries in line with export requirements. Additionally the OIE recommendations for importation of bovids states that they should 'originate from a herd free from infection with M. tuberculosis complex and have been tested for infection with M. tuberculosis complex with negative results within 30 days prior to shipment'[3] and thus changing this period would mean we remain in line with the international standard.

Consultation questions on Cattle Movements

Q2. Do you agree with ending the practice of using a clear final short interval test at the end of all TB breakdowns as a valid pre-movement test, including for domestic moves into Scotland?

Q3. Do you support the proposal to shorten the period during which a pre-movement test with negative results remains valid from the current 60 days to 30 days after tuberculin injection for skin testing of cattle, including for domestic moves into Scotland?

Section 3: Unclean Cattle

3.1. Cattle must be clean when they are presented for slaughter, and Food Standards Scotland provide guidance on producing clean cattle for slaughter[4]. If hides are unclean at the point of slaughter there is a risk of the meat being contaminated with bacteria such as E.coli or salmonella, which can present a risk to human health. Subsequent cleaning of an unclean animal presented at slaughter can result in delays and extra costs to producers and abattoir operators. As such, it is important the cattle are clean both in the interest of human health, and for efficiency.

3.2. Where Scottish Ministers require the slaughter of cattle for TB purposes, the carcase belongs to the Scottish Government who will organise the disposal of the carcase through a slaughterhouse. Where the meat would be safe for human consumption, the Scottish Government may receive some money from the slaughterhouse, known as 'salvage'. Any income received by the Scottish Government will be less than the compensation which Scottish Ministers pay to the owner of the cattle. In the instance that the animal is unclean at the slaughterhouse, the meat would not be considered as safe for consumption and the salvage would not be granted to the Scottish Government.

3.3. Proper cleaning of cattle is behaviour which we would already expect of farmers, and as such a change in legislation should not require a significant change in practice across the sector, but rather acts as a means of providing consequence in the instance that this basic requirement is not met.

3.4. Defra introduced legislation in November 2018 which reduced compensation by 50% for animals which could not be processed for human consumption because they were unclean when brought to the slaughterhouse[5]. In practice, this is a very small proportion of the TB-infected cattle that are sent to slaughter, with only around 20 cases of this nature each year[6]. There are no known cases where animals have been rejected for slaughter due to being unclean in the abattoirs which serve Scotland, but it is considered necessary to have a statutory provision which protects against the potential loss of salvage.

3.5. We consider that Scottish legislation should be amended to provide for reduced compensation in incidents where cattle are presented for slaughter with dirty hides. This could incentivise owners to take better biosecurity measures.

Consultation questions on Unclean Cattle

Q4. Should a financial penalty, such as a reduction in compensation, be introduced for cattle which are presented as unclean at slaughter?

Q5. If you agree with a financial penalty, would you agree with a 50% reduction to compensation for cattle which are presented as unclean at slaughter? If not, what amount would you suggest that compensation should be reduced by?

Section 4: Isolation Requirements

4.1. These measures are being proposed following incidents where failures to isolate reactor / test positive cattle or inconclusive reactors (IRs) are considered to have initiated the spread of disease within herds. Failure to properly isolate test positive cattle or IRs can result in the unnecessary spread of bTB within the herd, more cattle being slaughtered, and a significantly higher amount of compensation being paid.

4.2 We propose to introduce statutory requirements for isolation, and to specify that a location within the holding should be identified for the isolation of affected animals to ensure that isolation is being carried out properly and the risk of onward spread is mitigated.

(a) include requirements for 'isolation' in legislation to ensure that proper isolation of reactors and inconclusive reactors is undertaken

4.3 Isolation is defined in the current APHA Notice 'Requiring Isolation of Inconclusive Reactors' as 'the animals must be kept on land or in accommodation where no airspace is shared with other cattle and where no other cattle can access manure, slurry or drainage from that accommodation'.

4.4 Including statutory requirements for 'isolation' within the TB Order would make the specific legal obligation clearer, when cattle keepers are required by Notice to isolate their cattle, where a reactor or inconclusive reactor is disclosed at testing, or when they suspect an animal is affected with tuberculosis.

4.5 In Wales, isolation is defined as 'kept on land or in accommodation, where no air space, drainage, or manure storage is shared with other cattle'.

Consultation Question

Q6. Do you think it would be useful to include statutory requirements for "isolation" in the TB Order to ensure that keepers of bovine animals are aware of the expectations when an animal is affected, or suspected of being infected, with TB?

(b) Strengthen the TB isolation requirements by specifying a location for isolation to take place

4.6. The legislation could provide powers to specify a location within the holding for the isolation of affected animals when the need arises to prevent the spread of TB.

Options for next steps:

4.7 The isolation of reactors or inconclusive reactors should be taking place in the part of the premises which is specified within the existing isolation notice. A location for isolation could either:

  • be agreed with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and recorded in the notice at the point of disclosure of the reactor / IR, or
  • require that cattle keepers take responsibility by making themselves aware of the definition of isolation (made available either through the TB Order, the notice, or both) and be subject to enforcement if it is found the cattle are not adequately isolated.

Option 1: Require isolation to be undertaken in a specific part of the premises, as specified within the notice following APHA inspection, or

Option 2: Require farmers to identify a suitable location for isolation and undertake ad-hoc enforcement activity where cattle are found not to be isolated following the disclosure of a reactor or IR.

Consultation Question

Q7. Upon the disclosure of a reactor or IR, do you agree with Option 1 or Option 2?

Include a reduction in compensation where subsequent reactors in the herd are found as a result of a failure to properly isolate a reactor or IR

4.8. Compensation for test positive cattle could be reduced where they have been exposed to cattle which should have been isolated under a statutory notice.

Potential measures to introduce

Where animals are not being properly isolated, and may subject further animals in the herd to infection, there should be a penalty.

Measure 1: Reduce compensation for test positive cattle when there is a failure to isolate cattle, and / or

Measure 2: Reduce compensation for subsequent reactors in the herd that are considered to have been infected as a result of failure to isolate test positive cattle.

Consultation Questions on Isolation Requirements

Q8. Do you agree with measure 1 that a reduction in compensation should be introduced for any test positive cattle which are not isolated?

Q9. Do you agree with measure 2 that a reduction in compensation should be introduced for all subsequent test positive cattle in the herd that are considered to have been infected as a result of a failure to isolate animals affected, or suspected of being infected, with TB?

Q10. Would you agree with a 95% reduction in compensation for a failure to isolate? If not, what amount would you suggest that compensation should be reduced by?

Contact

Email: BovineTB.consultation@gov.scot

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