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Lots of independent and reliable information about bovine TB.

TB Free England. Lots of independent and reliable information about bovine TB. Unbiased information about bTB, its causes and methods of control.

Questions over reliability of TB culling tests

Chris Benfield of the Yorkshire Post reports on worrying figures about the number of animals slaughtered following positive bovine TB tests where post-mortem tests have raised doubts Only about one in three of the farm animals slaughtered in order to contain TB in cattle over the past few years has been confirmed as infected after death, a Yorkshire Post inquiry has discovered. In most cases, there has been no post-mortem examination, despite scientific advice to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs to prove the reliability of its tests. The checks that have been made have produced nearly as many inconclusive results as confirmations.

Current TB policy

The main repository for DEFRA information on TB.

'The best prospect for the control of TB in the British herd is to develop a cattle vaccine' (Krebs, 1997)

DEFRA's report, 'Options for vaccinating cattle against bovine tuberculosis', by the Veterinary Team bTB Programme, Food and Farming Group (last updated 12 July 2007), said that cattle vaccination has potential benefits to reduce prevalence, incidence and spread of bTB in the cattle population. The BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin, the human TB vaccine) was suggested as the lead vaccine candidate in the short to medium term.

DEFRA revealed, several times, in the 2010 consultation document, Bovine Tuberculosis: the Government's approach to tackling the disease and consultation on a badger control policy' (September 2010, para 62), that a vaccination (BCG) for cattle would be licensed in 2012 (with the DIVA test). Professor Glyn Hewinson of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency at Weybridge also confirmed this during the BBC's On the Farm broadcast on 19th December 2010 and again in September 2012 when Hewinson indicated the license had been applied for but we are apparently still years away from cattle vaccination being legalised and actual field trials can't start because of current EU regulations. . This is just not good enough and if the political will existed we could get a derogation..The BCG vaccine will not give 100% protection (estimates range from 50 -70%) and is not perfect – but then neither is the existing skin (or blood) test (estimates range from 70%). Vaccination does not give absolute immunity but it significantly increases natural resistance to the disease and can provide herd immunity. Bearing in mind the average lifespan of cattle, it could therefore be used as the basis for a successful control, rather than eradication, policy. It will be easier for farmers and cheaper in the long term too as cattle would no longer have to be slaughtered needlessly (with subsequent compensation costs) just because they are reactors or unconfirmed reactors to an unreliable skin or blood test.

The stumbling block, we are told, is the EU and procedures involved, which, according to Defra could not be completed until 2015 but more recently this date has changed yet again even further into the distant future. This is not good enough and derogation should be sought NOW so a vaccination programme can be started for cattle as a matter of urgency.

Vaccination has been successful in trials in Ethiopia and Mexico (New Zealand and Argentina too are considering vaccination) where the BCG vaccination can still be used. Countries like Ethiopia insist they cannot afford to keep culling cattle needlessly - can we here in the UK? Interestingly, the BCG vaccination was only made illegal here in the 50's when the skin test became compulsory. This was because vaccinated cattle showed up as reactors to the test.

If cattle are vaccinated there may then be no need to tackle wildlife reservoirs, thereby saving these costs too. In these times of severe financial restraint and public cuts affecting so many people, the onus is on our politicians to choose affordable options. The Government has persistently failed to adequately justify the need for the existing expensive, archaic and draconian bovine TB policy, either on the grounds of human or animal health or even on economic grounds. Change is needed - and now!

Testing procedures and skin test

The Agonizingly Slow Search for a Vaccine

Medical science and public policy: handling uncertainty, managing transparency

The different perspectives of the scientist and the public can be summarised by saying that scientific experts seek to reduce uncertainty while stakeholders and the public aspire to learn the truth. The scientific method is rarely suitable to be applied by itself when taking decisions on public policy. This paper draws on the author's knowledge of how some real policy decisions were made and seeks to draw general conclusions on the best way to make judgements in these circumstances ...

TB blood test has bloody results

The reason for this mass slaughter was that last November a highly controversial new blood test, lately favoured by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had shown 89 of the Yewdalls' north Devon herd to be infected with TB.
But when the cattle were subjected the same day to the long-proven "skin test", only one showed a positive reaction. The discrepancy was so glaring that Tony Yewdall, twice president of the Guernsey Society, pleaded with Defra for a re-test. Local officials were sympathetic but were overruled by London, which insisted that no further tests could be allowed - and eventually all 89 animals were destroyed.
Defra claims its blood test picks up TB "in its early stages". But post mortems last week showed only five cows to have been infected. If the test was reliable, TB should by now have been raging in them all. Thus 84 healthy cows were unnecessarily killed, costing taxpayers nearly £100,000 in compensation alone. The farm's losses are estimated at £100,000 more.

Tell the Welsh Assembly to "Back Off Badgers"  Rate it

Skanda Vale  Rate it

This is a link to the web page for Shambo, the Temple Bull at Skanda Vale in South Wales. It tells the whole story, right from the start of their battle with the ministry, to the slaughter of Shambo.

TB test on cattle (video on You Tube)

This link is a video of a TB test undertaken in February 2008. Please note that the tester appears to be relying on his hands to 'feel' for any swellings and is not using calipers.

TB in Alpacas - My Story So Far  Rate it

In September 2008 – I lost my first beloved male alpaca to Bovine TB. When I got the PM results and was told it was TB I was devastated. At the time all I needed and wanted was to talk to someone else going through the nightmare. I had a million and one questions that I needed answering and only someone going through it would have been able to help. My first call was to BAS (British Alpaca Society) who had very little information on the subject despite at the time they told me 14 other alpaca farms were under restriction to TB. I asked them to put me in touch with a fellow sufferer as I needed advice and support as there was no information available to me. They never put me in contact with anyone and I felt I was the only one this has happened to and I felt very alone and totally isolated. For the past 2 years I have been Regional Group Welfare Rep and was therefore surprised I hadn’t been informed of how many losses there were to TB nor how we can deal with the problem. We received over 20 emails from them on Blue Tongue but none on TB. I have questioned them many times on this and they still haven’t explained why.

Pembrokeshire against the cull

PAC is a local group formed in response to the Welsh Assembly Government's decision to cull badgers in North Pembrokeshire. Unfortunately, the belief still exists in some quarters that culling badgers will help reduce the incidence of Bovine Tuberculosis in cattle even though recent scientific trials show this not to be the case. PAC is deeply concerned about the impact of bTB on the farming community but believes other methods including vaccination and cattle control measures to be the correct way to tackle the disease.

Woodchester Park staff don't have bTB  Rate it

So the Fera employee (Woodchester Park, Glos) with suspected TB did not have the disease and neither did anyone else at the centre. One member of staff was found to have a latent infection but is apparently well, with no clinical symptoms and is at work - if he was an animal he would be culled.

Hidden costs of bTB testing  Rate it

In the desire to meet political targets and deadlines the 'hidden' costs of the policy in terms of human (and animal) suffering are ignored. The only report to deal with this area is by the independent group Farm Crisis Network

TB testing fraud  Rate it

There are cases where cattle owners have tried to get positive test reactions so they can claim compensation for their animals. Some are discovered, how many are not?

TB testing fraud  Rate it

There are cases where cattle owners have tried to get positive test reactions so they can claim compensation for their animals. Some are discovered, how many are not?

TB testing facts and figures  Rate it

Well referenced Bovine TB testing report dated 2006 which reveals some interesting facts and statistics relating to both the skin test and blood test.

Public Health and Bovine Tuberculosis: What's All The Fuss About?  Rate it

Paul R. Torgerson and David J. Torgerson believe policy needs to change. They are authors of the report published in November 2009, Public Health and Bovine Tuberculosis: What's All The Fuss About? In their report they propose that bTB control in cattle is irrelevant as a public health policy. They provide evidence to confirm that cattle-to-human transmission is negligible. They also state that aerosol transmission, the only probable route of human acquisition, occurs at inconsequential levels when milk is pasteurised, even when bTB is highly endemic in cattle. Furthermore, they believe there is little evidence for a positive cost benefit in terms of animal health of bTB control. Such evidence is required; otherwise, there is little justification for the large sums of public money spent on bTB control in the UK.

Badger culls 'not cost-effective'  Rate it

Badger culls are unlikely to be a cost-effective way of controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle, a report from the Imperial College London and Zoological Society of London (commissioned by DEFRA) warns.

bTB is devastating for farmers  Rate it

Farmers are being severely affected by the policy which is ruining businesses and causing associated problems as this recent case proves.

UK Animal Health Policy - Bovine TB  Rate it

An interesting site with useful and interesting discussions on the subject of bovine TB. It is regularly updated.

Devastating effects of bTB breakdown on farming business  Rate it

Revealing the devastating effects a herd breakdown can have on a well established, and well respected farming business.

The skin test poses real health and safety risks for farmers.  Rate it

The skin test poses real health and safety risks for farmers. In April 2010 an Irish farmer (from Moyne, North Longford), was injured whilst his cattle were being tested for bTB. He was pronounced dead when he reached hospital.

Starting to effect more than just the farming community.

Is this example of heavy-handedness by the Welsh Assembly Government going to become commonplace? Are our rights for peaceful protest being eroded? For some reason bovine TB has become an excuse to exercise draconian powers.

Badgers and bovine TB

Government reports and other information relating to badgers and bTB

Vaccinating cattle against bTB

Vaccinating cattle against bTB - the options.

Bovine TB: The Government's Strategic Framework for the supposedly sustainable control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Great Britain, 2005/2015

Bovine TB: The Government's Strategic Framework for the supposedly sustainable control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Great Britain, 2005/2015

Tuberculosis Alert by Mark Purdey - Dispatches from behind the iron curtain of a British 'biohazard'.

Tuberculosis Alert by Mark Purdey - Dispatches from behind the iron curtain of a British 'biohazard'. European livestock farmers dread the day when their cattle succumb to a tuberculosis breakdown. The implications are severe; a ruthless cull of infected cattle and badgers, with all remaining healthy cattle impounded behind an iron curtain of government mandated movement restrictions and red tape. The knock on effects have virtually paralysed small farming businesses into a state of financial melt down. Mark Purdey, 'seeking the truth through science' was a scientist and an organic dairy farm who was not afraid to speak out on subjects that were politically sensitive if he felt there were vested interests and doubts regarding policy. He investigated and wrote about BSE, organophosphates and TB. Sadly he died suddenly in November 2006 but his work remains very relevant.

'Heavy Vetting' by Mark Purdey, further despatches from the front line of the UK's 'hazard' zone.

The current approach of the UK veterinary establishment towards the control of TB remains rooted to the reductionist mindset of bygone times; the uncivilised world of blanket slaughtering and badly managed "Badgerogeddons" that are naively aimed at achieving the impossible – to annihilate the TB agent from the face of the earth.

Options for vaccinating cattle against bovine

Cattle vaccination has potential benefits to reduce prevalence, incidence and spread of bTB in the cattle population. Vaccination could help prevent breakdowns by preventing herds becoming infected by any source - wildlife or cattle and could also reduce the severity of a herd breakdown. Vaccination that is less than 100% effective will not guarantee all cattle are fully protected from infection and therefore vaccination alone cannot be used to define disease free status. Lead vaccine candidate in the short to medium term is BCG.

Various archived DEFRA etc reports on bovine TB: testing and controls

Matt Raven from badger culls to gurkhas and voting reform!

Interesting links to bovine TB information and debate, with particular reference to culling of badgers.

Questions to the Minister for Rural Affairs

Questions to the Minister for Rural Affairs. Others are starting to question the wider programme.

Tb in alpacas (and other camelids)

This websites (run by Dianne Summers, alpaca owner and Gina Bromage, a vet) provides detailed help, information and advice to those who suffer a bTB breakdown in their herd. It provides information to owners through the sometimes traumatic experience that bTB brings. It is also to educate all camelid owners about bTB with the hope that the advice given will greatly reduce the risks involved.

Small Farms Association - Bovine TB and Politics

The Small Farms Association's view on TB is that there should be a concerted effort to put in place a nationwide TB vaccination programme for cattle, which could be administered by vets, on behalf of DEFRA, for the first time following a negative herd TB test. Future boosters to be administered, by DEFRA vets, as and when necessary. The government should continue to look for a vaccine which does not cloud the TB test results, but this problem should NOT prevent something being done now to avoid the huge costs and waste, not to mention the distress and economic problems to cattle farmers.

Summary of Defra's work on Bovine Tuberculosis, Evidence Plan 2011/12

Evidence Plans are part of Defra‟s business planning processes. They have been developed for each policy programme, ongoing function or hub with a substantial evidence base. This one relates to bovine TB.

Badgers and Dairy Farming Blog Post from CE of Peak District National Park

A cull of badgers significant enough to work will generate a huge public reaction and raises big questions about our relationship with the natural world.

Mycobacterium bovis Spoligotype Database

Website, and associated databases, initiated in response to the need of the Mycobacterium bovis molecular typing community for standardisation of nomenclature. The website is supported by DEFRA and the VLA, Weybridge.

Do we need a badger cull to control TB ? Not according to InfluentialPoints.

An interesting site full of useful, well researched information. InfluentialPoints concludes: 'We are not saying here that vaccination is the silver bullet to eradicate bovine TB - it is not. But, if we want feasible cost-effective control of bovine TB, we need to vaccinate both badgers and cattle now.' 'The proposed reactive (and no doubt very patchy) badger cull makes no sense scientifically, and may well worsen the situation.' 'Given these facts, could it be the UK government has adopted' a dysfunctional disease control policy merely to placate wealthy livestock farmers and avoid spending money?' InfluentialPoints provides information and training in statistics for students and professionals working in: Clinical and Epidemiological Medical Research Livestock Health and Production Agricultural, Fisheries and Environmental Science Ecology, Biodiversity & Wildlife Conservation.

Yet another veterinary practice not testing properly

A spokesman for the Animal, Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) part of government’s DEFRA department said: “Following an audit of TB testing procedures, which identified a failure to follow standard operating procedures, AHVLA has suspended a private veterinary surgeon working in North Wales from operating as a panel 1a (bovine TB testing) official veterinarian, pending re-training.

Oscar, the Badger

Something for the youngsters - promoting the joy of wildlife, and in particular badgers.

Why industrial farming wants to blame the badger for Bovine TB

The badger is the scapegoat. Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust's Chief Executive (and a scientist) talks about badgers and the British Farming Industry.

TB Free England

TB Free England. Unbiased information about bovine TB, its causes and methods of control. This is a totally independent site and nothing to do with the NFU which also has a website with a similar name.

Another farmer killed whilst bTB testing his cattle.

In January 2013 another person lost his life (an Irish farmer was killed in 2010) whilst involved in bTB testing his herd. He was crushed by a bull. bTB testing is more frequent. Many involved sustain injuries. Cattle too are killed or injured in the process. The Health and Safety Executive is investigating alongside Dyfed-Powys Police Is the existing policy now having more of an adverse impact on human and cattle welfare than the risks from the disease it is aiming to control/eradicate?

The 'imperfect' test for bovine TB is not even carried out properly

This report (The Control of Bovine Tuberculosis in Northern Ireland) by the Northern Ireland Audit Office reveal just how unreliable the skin test can be and also refers to fraud. Bovine TB testing procedures (Part 2 of the Report) • the limitations of the Bovine TB Skin Test in detecting infected animals • the cost of testing carried out by Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs) • the quality of work being carried out by a number of PVPs • Departmental supervision of PVP testing • disciplinary action against PVPs who breach procedures

Bovine TB, badgers and cattle - politics, research and social impact

Interesting news, research, poliitical views and comments relating to bovine TB from Dr Gordon McGlone.

Badgergate: Bovine TB Fact, Fantasy and Politics

Badgergate is the result of a not-for profit collaboration between Amanda Barrett and Sultana Bashir. Amanda has made wildlife documentaries in many countries for both UK and international audiences. Sultana is a wildlife biologist by training who works internationally on environment and development. Amanda and Sultan are part of an independent team drawn together by the realisation that culling badgers as a measure to control bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is both risky and misguided. They are following the bTB saga closely and are profoundly concerned that politics is driving current policy rather than the best available evidence from science, economics and other relevant disciplines.

Farmers against badger culling

Articles by farmers against the UK badger cull

Tewkesbury farmer fined after selling milk from cattle with bTB

The cattle which had tested positive for TB but the farmer, Timothy Juckes, refused to believe the cows had the disease. He sent four cows without the disease to the slaughterhouse instead of the infected animals, Gloucester Crown Court heard on 28th June 2013. He then took compensation from Defra for the livestock, which should have been destroyed. The court heard Juckes was not motivated by greed to commit the crime, but by his previous experiences of losing cattle because of the TB regulations of Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Juckes was ordered to pay back £5,398 in compensation to the government department. He was also told to pay back the £12,592 he made from continuing to milk the infected heifers and sell their produce. The 36-year-old was also fined £14,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs after he was prosecuted by Gloucestershire's Trading Standards department for 10 counts of fraud in connection with selling the milk. Judge Hart said it was an expensive lesson for the farmer whose reputation had also suffered as a result of his actions. The court heard no public or animal health offences were committed. Three cows were found to have the disease in October 15, 2010, and another the following month.

Farmers break law in bovine TB hop spot area

Mother and daughter Kathleen Wallis, 61, and Sarah Wallis, 23, of Appleton Farm, at Wick St Lawrence, near Weston-super-Mare, admitted 18 counts of providing false information as to the location of a number of their cattle when they appeared before Bristol Crown Court. The farmers admitted to failing to adhere to cattle disease control laws and were branded "ignorant, rotten and cruel" by a judge.
Is the existing costly and disruptive programme that aims to eradicate bTB in the UK good value for money and is it really working? NO. Is the existing policy now having more of an adverse impact on human and cattle welfare than the risks from the disease it is aiming to control/eradicate? YES. Over the last few years there have been at least two human deaths - not from bovine TB but as a result of the skin test. In April 2010 an Irish farmer died and in January 2013 a Carmarthenshire farmer died. Many farmers and vets are injured during the testing process. Cattle too are frequently injured or killed. Would it be more sensible instead to have a control policy, rather than one that aims for the impossible - eradication? YES

Since the 1950's, when the testing of cattle for bovine TB (bTB) in the UK became compulsory following its initial introduction on a voluntary basis in the 1930's, many millions of pounds have been spent on trying to eradicate the disease using an imperfect skin test. However, despite some 60 years of testing and all this expenditure, and many thousands of slaughtered cattle, little progress has been made, and the financial costs continue to escalate year on year. Perhaps more importantly, the government has done little to determine the true costs of the existing testing policy; the consequences of the enormous pressures on cattle and alpaca owners; business failures as a result of herd breakdowns, health and safety risks from cattle handling and the actual consequences of culling indigenous wildlife species ... the existing policy is a bureaucratic nightmare. It is starting too to involve an even greater number of people and animals as legislation is being brought in to test/cull wildlife and other domestic animals.

What is clear is that after 60 years of using the same old test (which is not reliable enough to be anything other than a herd test), culling thousands of cattle, and millions of pounds of public expenditure spent on compensation payments, research etc, the existing eradication (elimination!) policy is impossible to achieve and sustain whilst the bacteria that causes bovine TB is so endemic around the world and globalisation continues to increase. As this website clearly reveals, the current insistence on striving for eradication is undoubtedly causing more suffering to farmers and their animals than the risks of the actual disease itself. The Government persistently fails to adequately justify the need for such an expensive and draconian policy, either on the grounds of human or animal health or even on economic grounds. As the skin test is not used as a herd test in the UK it will be impossible to eradicate the disease and we should be learning, instead, to live with it. Countries that have used the skin test as a herd test, destroy the whole herd if any animals fail. This has enabled countries to maintain the coveted bTB free status. However, most people would probably agree that this is not an appropriate option for the UK. Instead we should be vaccinating cattle.

Are too many people now being adversely affected by the current policy? With the recent decision by WAG to bring in compulsory testing for other domestic animals, an even greater number of people will be affected. It would seem that the main reason for trying to eradicate bTB is so the UK can maintain its 'TB free status', thereby protecting the agricultural industry's dwindling cattle exports. Is it now time for a radical re-think? Bovine TB appears to be yet another area that has become 'big business'. Is it now being driven by vested interests?

The current pre-occupation with bTB may sound particularly surprising when you consider that the risk to humans these days from bovine TB is negligible - pasteurisation and cooking destroys any TB bacteria in milk and meat. In fact the risk to humans is so minimal that even the unaffected parts of carcasses of cattle slaughtered as TB reactors and found to have TB lesions are sold back into the food chain for human consumption.

Those countries which claim to have eradicated bovine TB using the skin test have achieved this by using very stringent measures, such as complete depopulation of herds, delays on re-stocking and even the removal and sterilization of soil! It is interesting to note that no country with so called wildlife reservoirs, has been able to achieve this coveted status to date.

Despite the massive costs over the last few decades, the exact details of the transmission and epidemiology of bovine TB are still not known with complete certainty and there are a number of important, unanswered questions which are fundamental in justifying the existing test and cull policy. Have we got to the stage when the huge costs and negative effects on cattle owners as a result of the existing policy outweigh any perceived benefits of the existing policy and should there be a radical re-think on the whole issue? Perhaps lessons can be learned from countries such as Ethiopia, where they just cannot afford to persistently test and kill cattle needlessly. Neither can they afford to spend millions of pounds on investigating so-called wildlife reservoirs. Instead, they are opting for control and are trialling vaccination of cattle. The results are encouraging, as have been previous cattle vaccination trials in other areas.

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