Final Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment
Title of Proposal
The Tuberculosis (Scotland) Order 2023
Purpose and Intended Effect
Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a serious infectious disease of cattle, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) and is a major challenge currently faced by large parts of the UK cattle farming industry. The disease is characterised by the development of “tuberculosis” lesions in any organ of the body. It mainly affects cattle but can be passed between most mammals. It is also a zoonotic disease which means it can be passed from infected animals to people, causing an illness similar to human TB. The risk of people contracting TB from cattle in Great Britain (GB) is however considered to be very low.
Scotland achieved Officially Tuberculosis Free Status (OTF) in September 2009, in recognition of the relatively low and stable incidence of TB found in Scottish herds, and this pattern is consistent with sporadic introductions of disease which are eradicated through testing and removal of infected cattle.
The current Tuberculosis (Scotland) Order came into force in 2007 and has been amended a number of times since. Most recently an amendment was made in November 2022 to make a minor change to the Order. This most recent proposal is to consolidate all of the bovine tuberculosis legislation in one updated TB Order, as well as making a number of amendments to the legislation. This will ensure that legislation is accessible and up to date.
The objective of this proposal is to ensure that TB controls in Scotland continue to be effective, fit for purpose, incentivise compliance with the rules and encourage farmers to follow best practice when purchasing and moving cattle throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK.
To achieve this the following policies will be put in place:
- Ending the practice of accepting a clear final short interval test (SIT) at the end of all TB breakdowns as a valid pre-movement test;
- Shortening the period during which a pre-movement test with negative results remains valid, from the current 60 days to 30 days after tuberculin injection;
- Reducing compensation for unclean cattle presented for slaughter for TB control purposes by 50%;
- Including requirements for ‘isolation’ in legislation to ensure that proper isolation of reactors and inconclusive reactors (IRs) is undertaken; and
- Reducing compensation for reactors or IRs which are not properly isolated.
The policies on ending the clear short SIT as a valid pre-movement test and shortening the pre-movement test validity period both act to reduce the risk of disease entering the country. Reducing compensation for unclean cattle slaughtered reduces risk of food hygiene contamination at the slaughterhouse. The two policies on isolation will strengthen the protection of a main herd against onward spread of infection from any reactors or suspect reactors.
The aim of these legislative changes is to support the maintenance of Scotland’s OTF status and the eradication of bTB across Great Britain. These changes are intended to further safeguard OTF status and to ensure Scottish TB policy is aligned with WOAH recommendations and new EU Animal Health Law requirements, where appropriate, to facilitate continued trade with EU member states. Losing OTF status would have a negative effect on the cattle industry.
These changes will ensure that TB controls in Scotland continue to be effective and fit for purpose. The legislative changes being introduced through this consolidation aim to support the maintenance of the low and stable levels of TB in Scotland. These changes are intended to further safeguard OTF status and to facilitate continued trade with EU Member States.
Scottish Government are of the view that these amendments and consolidation of this legislation are necessary to deliver effective TB disease control policy in Scotland.
Controls in GB
With many of these measures there are similar controls in place in England and Wales and it was considered appropriate to adapt similar policies to align with the devolved administrations.
End the practice of accepting a clear final short interval test (SIT) at the end of all TB breakdowns as a valid pre-movement test
A similar policy for persistent breakdowns (breakdowns of 18 months and over) has been in place in Wales since 2017. In November 2021, the Welsh Government launched a consultation document to seek views on whether this should be extended to all breakdowns. Whilst they have not announced next steps yet, in their consultation summary the following response was provided to this proposal:
“Although the split between those who agreed and disagreed with the proposal was very close, the majority were still in support acknowledging that there may be undisclosed infection present in the herd even after the clearing test.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) also asked for opinions in their 2021 Call for Views on a proposal that would require cattle moved out of a herd which has come out of a long-term TB breakdown (lasting 18 months or longer) to have a further test before being moved i.e. not allow the herd’s clearing short interval test to be used as a pre-movement test.
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.
Defra included this as a proposal in their Call for Views in 2021 but this has not been taken forward. Northern Ireland already has this proposal in place as it is a requirement as part of the Animal Health Regulation.
Reduce compensation for unclean cattle at slaughter by 50%.
Defra introduced legislation in November 2018 which reduced compensation by 50% for animals which were unclean when brought to the slaughterhouse.
Include requirements for ‘isolation’ in legislation to ensure that proper isolation of reactors and inconclusive reactors is undertaken.
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’, which is included in the notice provided to farmers when a breakdown occurs.
As the Scottish Government is bringing in an amendment to give powers to reduce compensation for cattle which have not been sufficiently isolated, it is important to have clear and accessible guidance on isolation available to farmers so that they are aware of the isolation requirements. By putting the definition of isolation into legislation this ensures the requirements are clear and readily available to farmers.
No similar policy is in place currently in England.
Reduce compensation for reactors or IRs which are not properly isolated.
No relevant policy is in place or under consideration in Great Britain currently.
Rationale for Government intervention
Scotland was recognised as being officially TB free (OTF) by the European Commission in September 2009. This status is currently a unique position within Great Britain and recognises the low and stable incidence of TB and the high standards of animal welfare achieved in Scottish herds. Maintaining that OTF status and Scotland’s reputation for high quality produce is crucial to the continuing success of the Scottish cattle industry. Losing OTF status would impact on Scotland’s international reputation as having healthy cattle which are free from infection, which may affect trade. It would also mean that more TB testing would have to be undertaken, at the cost of the taxpayer, as currently with OTF status you can exempt herds from testing if they are low risk and consequently 60.4% of Scottish herds do not need to be routinely tested for TB. Returning to this routine testing would be time consuming for farmers and may require extra resource associated with herd testing (such as staffing costs to help present the animals in the crush) which would come at a cost to the farmer. This would also draw upon more government resources, such as veterinary time, and time to report results.
The Scottish Government (SG) is committed to a comprehensive, practical and proportionate programme of measures to maintain the current low levels of TB in cattle and other species and to safeguard OTF status. This includes minimising the risks from all potential sources of infection and reducing the risk of disease spread as far as possible.
The vast majority of farmers abide by the rules and continue to work with the Scottish Government and its delivery partner, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), to maintain Scotland’s OTF status, which is considered by most to be too valuable and important to put at risk.
National Performance Framework
The policy change meets the following outcome from the National Performance Framework:
value, enjoy, protect and enhance their environment
Reducing endemic disease can have significant advantages for reducing the carbon footprint associated with livestock production, as healthier animals tend to grow faster and require fewer inputs, all of which will reduce the emissions intensity per kg of meat or litre that they produce. This will also improve the welfare of animals and protect public health by reducing the number of cattle which become affected by TB (and then are compulsorily slaughtered as a result) by putting in stricter legislation that protects Scottish livestock.
Introducing these changes will allow for Scotland’s low levels of TB to continue to be safeguarded and will contribute to Scotland’s National Performance Framework by maintaining Scotland’s reputation for high quality produce and helping to increase Scotland’s economic growth by increasing exports of healthy cattle and beef.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback