We are being told by the media that Britain has sunk into a pit of debt which is five times deeper than previously feared, with the country now owing the equivalent of £200,000 per household!
Instead of the £1 trillion reading normally presented as the nation's debt, the UK is in the red by closer to £5 trillion, figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal.
The oft-quoted £903bn figure for public sector net debt is a borrowing sum calculated by the ONS according to international standards. But a broader set of ONS figures taking in Government liabilities show unfunded public service pension obligations could add another £1.2 trillion and liabilities in unfunded state pension schemes a further £1.35 trillion.
In reality it does seem that bovine TB is not really the threat to human health some claim so why are we spending so much money on compensation, research, fighting legal cases, killing cattle ...
3 Nov 2012, 4:14 PM
Welsh public don't want badger cull, were the wise words of Welsh deputy farming minister Alun Davies who recently squashed any hopes that a badger cull will take place in Wales to combat bovine tuberculosis.
At the NFU Cymru conference in Builth Wells on 1 November, Mr Davies said that the arguments for and against a cull were over and that culling was no longer on the agenda.
He told farmers that "When I was campaigning for re-election it was clear that there was no support in the Welsh public for a badger cull; in fact there is active opposition. Politicians in every constituency would lose their deposits if they were campaigning for a cull today. We can constantly look back and wish that things were different but there is no support among the Welsh public or indeed the Welsh government to go ahead with a badger cull. There is simply not a majority in the Senedd to pass the policy you require; it is a matter of mathematical reality.''
He insisted that the Welsh government was the only UK administration that was actively tackling the reservoir of TB in badgers. The first cycle of a five-year badger vaccination programme was completed last month. "I know we have a policy that is in tune with the public mood," Mr Davies added.
He sympathised with farmers whose herds were infected by bovine TB. "One of the great tragedies of the debate is that it is centred on the future of the badger and not the future of Welsh agriculture," he said.
Prof Robbie McDonald (chair in natural environment, University of Exeter and former head of wildlife science and deputy chief scientist of the Food and Environment Research Agency) says culling or vaccinating badgers will yield "unimpressive" results in controlling TB.
Prof John McInerney (emeritus professor of agricultural policy, University of Exeter) says cost of each pilot trial £1.5m. Will save £970,000 in disease costs
Prof Christl Donnelly, professor of statistical epidemiology, MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Imperial College London says the badger cull won't lead to the greater benefits NFU claim.
The overwhelming public opposition against the cull (around 160,000 signatures on the Government e petition (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257) has resulted in a parliamentary debate on the matter set for 25th October. The call for the parliamentary debate was supported by a cross-party group of 36 MPs. Six hours have been set aside for the debate. It is not only the public who are opposing the cull trials. Many of the top scientists have come out publicly against the proposals over the last few months. Only last weekend the UK's leading animal disease experts wrote to the Observer demanding that the 'mindless'" cull be abandoned and stating that much stricter measures on controlling the spread of TB between cattle and a vaccination programme were necessary.
Angela Smith MP, chair of the all-party group on wildlife, said: "I am delighted because public opinion on the proposed cull is clearly against it. It is only right, in the interests of democracy, that parliament should be able to make a decision."
"If we win the debate in the Commons, it will be incumbent on the government to respond. If they ignore parliamentary opinion they will stand accused of arrogance in the face of parliament, public opinion and science."
Jeff Hayden, of the Badger Trust, said: "Government policy must reflect the wishes of the people and that is expressed through parliament. Now the possibility of the cull has become real and near, more people are starting to understand the facts. We are now confident that an even bigger majority of people oppose the government's cull."
The Badger Trust's solicitors have written to Natural England, which issues culling licences, stating: "In light of the government's own evidence that starting a cull only to stop it shortly afterwards would make matters worse in terms of spreading the disease, please confirm that Natural England will not set a start date until the debate has taken place."
The motion to be debated states: "This house recognises that significant, independent scientific research has demonstrated that culling badgers will have little effect on reducing the rate of bovine TB; acknowledges that culling may even exacerbate the problem; notes that the e-petition against the current plans for culling passed in a very short period of time the 100,000 figure required to make it eligible for debate in parliament and that it continues to attract impressive levels of support from members of the public; calls on the government to stop any planned or present culling of badgers; and further calls on the government to introduce a vaccination programme and measures to improve biosecurity with immediate effect."
12 Oct 2012, 6:11 PM
Understandably the RSPCA is concerned regarding its Freedom Food status being used by those farmers who intend to participate in badger culling. It has told members of its Freedom Food scheme that they will be suspended if they take part in the English badger culls, which are due to start this autumn. letter sent by Freedom Food to its members says participation by them in the cull would ‘bring the scheme into disrepute’. It says that, ‘based on the current science, welfare concerns and a realistic assessment of what is practical, a widespread cull of badgers is totally unacceptable to the RSPCA’.
The letter tells members the scheme’s position on the badger cull is reflected by the provisions on wild animal control set out in these welfare standards ‘that must be applied by all Freedom Food scheme members’. Under the standards, Freedom Food members are required to apply ‘all reasonable non-lethal and humane methods of wild animal exclusion/control’. The RSPCA adds that it believes it is ‘unacceptable to use lethal methods of wild animal control as routine practice’. As such Freedom Food would regard it as unacceptable for any of its members to voluntarily take part in a badger cull for the above reasons. To do so would also bring the scheme into disrepute and be a clear breach of the membership agreement, resulting in suspension.
This seems fair bearing in mind the overwhelming public opposition and confusion regarding the science and proper justification for such culling. What is of great concern, however, is the apparent response from the current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson. In what could be considered as veiled threat/attempt to blackmail, he has warned the RSPCA to be ‘wary’ that its political campaigning activities do not compromise its charitable status!
Tewkesbury Borough councillors have decided against passing a motion at a meeting on Monday which would have backed the government scheme to cull badgers. Last Thursday, Forest of Dean District Council voted to ban any culling of badgers on land it controls.
Taunton Deane Borough Council in Somerset is due to vote later on the issue.
Info from BBC www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19784170
30 Sep 2012, 12:07 PM
We have received an email from a farmer in Glos that refers to the current DEFRA Badger/Cattle bTB Transmission survey. This was commissioned by DEFRA in August 2012 and is a two-year scientific study to examine the interactions between cattle and badgers at a cost to the taxpayer of £1,136,449 - see Defra Science & Research Projects.
The farmer is extremely concerned about the amount of public opposition to the culling proposals and consequential bad PR for the farming sector. The farmer cannot understand why, just one month after the report was commissioned, the two 'trial' culls have been sanctioned.
'If the results of this survey, due in 2014, show that transmission of bTB between badger and cattle is the result of poor husbandry and bad bio-security, which is more than likely, then the decimation of Gloucestershire badgers will be even more indefensible.
Commissioning the survey is commendable and necessary but refusing to wait for the results is completely unscientific and an appalling waste of taxpayer's money.'
If the Government decisions are based on science then surely the decision on the badger cull should be deferred until this survey has concluded or the farming sector risks losing even more credibility in the eyes of the electorate?
30 Sep 2012, 11:59 AM
Early day motion 509
Session: 2012-13 Date tabled: 12.09.2012 Primary sponsor: Galloway, George Sponsors: Davidson, Ian Hancock, Mike Hemming, John Leech, John Riordan, Linda
That this House opposes the mass cull of badgers; urges the Environment Minister to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly by implementing a vaccination programme with increased levels of testing and improved bio-security as a more effective way to tackle bovine tuberculosis long-term; notes that vaccination is the more sustainable and humane solution which has already been shown to significantly reduce the potential transmission of tuberculosis and that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' own advisory body, Natural England, has said that it has little confidence in the cull delivering the predicted long-term benefits; and further urges the Minister to halt the imminent cull which could make the situation worse and lead to the badger population in some areas being entirely wiped out.
30 Sep 2012, 11:56 AM
Excellent letter from a farmer published in the Independent that sums up the situation very well (www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters-badger-culling-is-emotive-but-debate-over-scientific-evidence-is-ignoring-established- facts-8182022.html)
'We've allowed the facts about bovine TB to be buried by the furore surrounding the proposed badger cull and negative reporting on the part of farming bodies has painted a picture of an entire cattle industry brought to its knees by the effects of the disease. But this is misleading. Defra reports on its website that "11.5 per cent of herds were restricted in 2011". They could equally report the positive side, which is that 88.5 per cent of herds were not restricted in 2011. Only a small proportion of the national herd is affected by bovine TB.
The impact on an infected herd is not caused by the disease itself. The heartache is caused by the "test and cull" policy deployed by our government in response to an EU directive which demands eradication of bTB and simultaneously bans the use of cattle vaccine, thereby making it impossible to achieve the goal they set.
But rather than tackle the EU to allow cattle vaccination, ministers have sanctioned a mass badger-shoot to placate a minority of vociferous farmers who seem hellbent on decimating the badger population. The fact that a badger cull spells disaster in PR terms for the entire farming industry must have eluded them all'.
G E Purser (A badger-friendly farmer), Clapton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire
25 Sep 2012, 2:10 PM
Clearly the public are not happy with the badger cull trial proposals in Gloucestershire and Somerset. The online e-petition on the government site which asks the government to stop the planned cull stands at over 113,000 - reached in just 2 weeks. It is currently the most active petition on the site with 905 signatures in the last hour.
As the e-petition has now passed the threshold of 100 000 signatures, the Leader of the House of Commons should write to the Backbench Business Committee, who are responsible for the scheduling of debates on e-petitions, informing them that the petition has reached 100 000 signatures and it should then be debated in Parliament.
It seems there will be a well organised effort to disrupt the shooting when it starts. Night-time clashes between protesters against England's imminent badger cull and armed farmers pose a clear risk to public safety, ministers have been warned. The Guardian reports (when the petition had just over 50,000 signatures) (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/19/badger-cull-public-safety-risk) that superintendent Adrian Tudway, national co-ordinator for domestic extremism at the Association of Chief Police Officers, has warned the government that the cull poses a safety risk to the public.
Let's hope the politicians take note and work together to push for a rethink on bTB policy, based on cattle vaccination.
30 Mar 2012, 5:37 PM
Interesting letter from M Griffiths in this week's Tivyside Advertiser -Elin Jones is an Assembly Member and responsible for the original badger cull policy for Pembrokeshire. I am sure many of us share his concerns
'Elin Jones not only lost her bid to be leader of Plaid Cymru, she also lost her credibility as Assembly Member for Ceredigion with her recent irresponsible remarks in The Senedd.
Responding to The Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, John Griffiths’ announcement that he would not cull but vaccinate badgers in North Pembrokeshire as part of the programme to eradicate Bovine TB.
Elin Jones said, “Today, farmers have been severely let down by your Government. You are failing to allow them to protect their cattle from TB infection. Do you agree with me that farmers will now have to consider how best to protect their cattle? I, for one, would not blame them however they choose to do that“
I believe that this remark condones the illegal killing of badgers and in effect encourages farmers to take the law into their own hands. Elin Jones when Rural Affairs Minister, tried on two occasions to introduce a badger cull and is well known in the farming community for her pro cull views. When she claimed that farmers would now "have to" consider how best to protect their cattle, it is in effect an incitement to illegally kill badgers.
Such remarks are totally irresponsible and I have asked the Commissioner for Standards at the National Assembly for Wales to investigate if she has broken the Code of Conduct for Assembly Members. I think Elin Jones should publically withdraw these irresponsible remarks, apologise for her gross error of judgment and consider whether she is a fit and suitable person to represent Ceredigion at the Welsh Assembly.
17 Jan 2012, 5:50 PM
Blog post at Rethinkbtb (http://www.rethinkbtb.org/blog.html#home)
So far all Stephen Crabb has managed to extract from Jim Paice (see "Vanishing Vaccine” below) is confirmation of all sorts of things that everyone knew already, such as “research takes time” and “changes will be required to EU legislation”.
The questions remain:
Defra stated in 2010 that they aimed to have a cattle vaccine licensed by 2012.
Why and on what evidence was this statement issued?
What has changed since?
Why is no estimated or target date available?
We do have an assurance from Stephen Crabb (but not from the Minister) that “my colleagues will take all necessary steps to ensure that the vaccinations can be deployed as soon as they are available”. That is reassuring but hardly a full answer to the final question:
Will steps to amend EU law (which prohibits cattle vaccination against TB) be taken when a cattle vaccine is licensed, or are they being taken now in anticipation of licensing?
There is a certain skill to answering questions in a helpful manner. Greater skill is needed to avoid answering while leaving your interrogator convinced you have answered. Jim Paice has exhibited neither.
Farmers and taxpayers deserve complete and open answers. We will now try the Freedom of Information Act.
17 Jan 2012, 5:48 PM
Press Release from Badger Trust dated 16/1/12.
The Rt Hon. David Cameron, the Prime Minister said on BBC Countryfile : “When you’ve got all this evidence that culling should be part of a balanced packet of measures do you just sweep it under the carpet and announce a further review or do you get on and make this work . . .”
The only source of evidence the Government itself has acknowledged  to be a rigorous scientific trial is that from the £50 million Randomised Badger Culling Trial of 1998 – 2006 . It points the finger firmly at the need for cattle-based measures.
The ISG chairman’s letter to the Secretary of State, June 2007 said: “First, while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better.
“Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone”.
A subsequent report of a Coalition Government review of the scientific evidence in April 2011  said, in précis, that the more that a future culling policy deviated from the conditions of the RBCT (and the proposed free shooting of badgers is an important example of deviation) the more results would differ one way or the other and if not coordinated, sustained and simultaneous could mean a smaller benefit or even be detrimental. The minimum criteria are: covering at least 70% of the land within the culled area, and an area of 150 sq km (eight miles by eight). Also, the average net benefit over nine years would be smaller, at about 3-22%, with a central figure of 12.4% or in some cases 16 per cent
Mr Cameron also said: “In the end the aim is healthy cattle and healthy badgers. The last Government just put it off and put it off for too long”.
In fact the last government only put it off once – it killed off the proposal because of the scientific evidence. The trial cull announced by Caroline Spelman in December  would be non-selective. Almost 90 per cent of the badgers killed would not be infected, and as the ISG pointed out, the prevalence of disease after culling in the remaining badgers is higher not lower [3, para 5.45].
Mr Paice revealed that cattle vaccine for TB could be in laboratories in “a year or two”.
Then it would be a question of negotiating with the EU Commission to get beef from vaccinated cattle accepted in European law, which would not be easy because only the UK and the Irish Republic would want the concession.
“Realistically we think a cattle vaccine is still six years away,” he said.
Some of our supporters have been writing to their MPs about the 'vanishing' vaccine. A letter and standard response received is set out below. We ask why, when they have had decades to work on this, the BCG vaccine for cattle is STILL not available, despite assurances that it would be licensed in 2012.The person who forwarded these letters to us says: 'I am writing back to my MP re the Paice response. I am also planning to issue a FOI request to try and find out why the change from 2012 to some time never!'. We hope others will do the same.
Letter to MP: 'During the English consultation on badger culling in September last year Defra stated that they “aim to have a licensed cattle vaccine by 2012” along with the accompanying ‘DIVA’ test capable of distinguishing infected from vaccinated cattle.
The vaccine is BCG which has been used on humans for decades and has been trialed in Ethiopia by a team including UK scientists. Martin Vordermeier and Glyn Hewinson from TB Research Group VLA and Doug Young from Imperial College(see attached report). This year Defra are saying that they are “continuing to invest heavily in developing a cattle vaccine and an oral badger vaccine but both are still many years away and we simply can’t say with any certainty when they might be ready to deploy.”
This is hardly progress. From an estimate of two years there is now an indefinite delay. There must be a reason for the delay and there must have been an announcement of the change with full reasons. Can you please ask the Minister for a full explanation. Can you also find out what steps the government has taken to change EU law to allow vaccination in anticipation of licensing.'
Here is the unsatisfactory response from Jim Paice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food: 'Whilts Defra’s research programme has been designed to minimize the time required to deliver licensed vaccines, research by its nature takes time and a significant proportion of the work can only be carried out sequentially, rather than in parallel. There are defined steps in obtaining a licence (Marketing Authorisation) from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for vaccines, which include studies to demonstrate both vaccine safety and efficacy. These studies must use the final formulation and therefore cannot start until this formulation is available. Also, large animal experiments take time to run; TB is a chronic disease with a long incubation period, and pathology takes time to progress.
Currently there is no licenced cattle vaccine available. Defra is funding the development and licencing of a vaccine for use in cattle. However, vaccination of cattle against TB is currently prohibited by EU legislation because the BCG vaccine interferes with the tuberculin skin test. Vaccines based on BCG will potentially react to the current tuberculin skin test as if they are infected with TB. Therefore, an important part of the research programme involves developing a test to Differentiate Infected from Vaccinated Animals (a so-called ‘DIVA test). Changes will be required to rhe EU legislation before vaccination can be used. This will not be quick or easy and so is still likely to be many years before a cattle vaccination can be used in the field. Even then other measures will be needed.'
15 Dec 2011, 7:58 PM
Email from BH 15/12/11:
Have you seen the latest costings re costs for 2 areas where cull is set to proceed next autumn? They don't add up at all, everyone is out of pocket.
Description and scale of key monetised costs by ‘main affected groups’:
Farmers in cull area: surveying, culling and limited vaccination operations, administration and coordination £1.40m.
Farmers in neighbouring area: financial cost of initial increase in cattle TB incidents £0.05m.
Government: licensing, monitoring, policing, financial cost of initial increase in cattle TB incidents £3.11m.
Description and scale of key monetised benefits by ‘main affected groups’:
Farmers in cull area: financial benefit of avoiding cattle TB incidents £1.13m.
Farmers in vaccination area: financial benefit of avoiding cattle TB incidents £0.03m.
Government: financial benefit of avoiding cattle TB incidents £2.52m.
4 Nov 2011, 7:40 PM
Following is from blog at www.rethinkbtb.org/blog.html#home
From Hansard (13 October 2011): Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): In a parliamentary answer to me on 5 September, the Minister said that the science showed that his badger cull would lead to five fewer herd breakdowns a year in each cull area. Last year there were more than 2,025 confirmed herd breakdowns in England, so even with 10 cull areas after 2013 the cull would prevent just 50 herd breakdowns a year, a reduction of only 2.5%. However, the cost to farmers in cull areas will run to tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds. Why should they bother?
Mr Paice: I suggest that the hon. Lady asks the farmers. .... [brief attempt to score political point deleted] .... Of course it will be expensive for the groups of farmers involved, but that is up to them. This is one part of a large package of measures, all the rest of which the Government are doing.
So it seems that Jim Paice agrees that his badger cull proposal does nothing to help the vast majority of English cattle farmers, on a national count 97.5% of them, and would not be cost effective.
He might have just pointed out, as Rethink has argued, that the principal role of badgers is to distract everyone from the real issues.
What is the “large package of measures” and will it deal with the remaining 97.5% of BTB breakdowns? It amounts to little more than minor enhancement of the cattle testing regime and “Clarifying TB breakdown terminology”.
It really is time for a Rethink.
4 Nov 2011, 7:25 PM
Press Release from Badger Trust dated 4/11/11
Caroline Spelman lets badger consultation cat out of the bag
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman told a Commons Select Committee (1) that the “difficult Government decision . . . of how to eradicate bovine TB was taken through a very detailed process engaging all the stakeholders as much as possible in making that decision in order to minimise the potential for public adverse reaction”. But there was a further purpose, revealed when she said: of the “different parties” involved “; they are likely to go out and engage with the pubic themselves and help to explain why it is such a difficult decision”.
The Badger Trust has been one of those parties and regards the decision not as difficult but as perversely pandering to the pressure of a stubborn and ill-informed cattle industry.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The Badger Trust is a stakeholder and has responded to consultations in good faith to inform the decision-making process, but not to have its “potential for adverse reaction” minimised nor to act as a messenger for government”.
Ms Spelman also said “the reaction to that [badger culling] decision was significantly less than other decisions we have made in relation to forests." Mr Williams commented that the comparison was entirely false: ”Decisions about the control of bovine tuberculosis involve sophisticated science whereas the Coalition Government’s sell-off policy on forests was based on creating commercial opportunities and saving public expenditure.
“Unfortunately the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties foolishly committed themselves to killing badgers without thinking through the complexities and dangerous consequences. Such recklessness may be fine in opposition, but now they are reaping a poisonous harvest and are having to save face by cynically manipulating the public and pushing the costs on to the farmers involved.
“The Coalition should forget badgers, rigorously enforce and supervise better cattle controls and deal with farmers who break the rules”.
The Commons have been told that plans to cull badgers to deal with TB in cattle will reduce herd breakdowns by 2.5 per cent but cost farmers "hundreds of thousands of pounds". Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, has said official figures revealed just five herd breakdowns a year would be prevented in each cull area.
Speaking during departmental questions, Creagh said: "In a parliamentary written answer to me on September 5 you said the science showed your badger cull would lead to five fewer herd breakdowns per year in each cull area. Last year there were over 2,025 confirmed herd breakdowns in England. So even with 10 cull areas after 2013, the cull would prevent just 50 herd breakdowns a year, a reduction of just 2.5 per cent in actual herd breakdowns. Yet the cost to farmers in cull areas will run to tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds. Why should they bother?"
In response, agriculture minister Jim Paice said the measure would be "expensive" for the farmers involved, but said the industry was anxious for something to be done to tackle the disease. He did not challenge the figures given by Creagh, so if these are correct the whole exercise is disproportionate and not good value for money, whether paid for by the government or farmers..
He said: "Of course it is going to be expensive for the groups of farmers that will be involved, but that is up to them. The fact is this is one part of a large package of measures, the rest of which the government is doing."
Creagh retorted: "You say do something, but surely doing something effective is more useful than just doing something." She referred to comments by home secretary, Theresa May, who in earlier news stories has been reported as suggesting the proposed cull could take up police time and divert 'scarce resources' from next year's Olympics. Paice emphasised that no final decision had been made and said the department was in talks with the Association of Chief Police Officers about the cull.
The minister was responding to a question from Graeme Morrice (Lab, Livingston) on what representations have been received from the scientific community on the plans to pilot the free shooting of badgers.
Morrice said the government had 'blindly' cancelled five out of six vaccination trials that had been planned by the last government..
13 Sep 2011, 6:41 PM
... and in New Zealand, constantly being held up as a good example of how they are dealing with bovine TB ...
"The death of keas in Westland's Okarito due to 1080 poison is a loud alarm call for a cessation of the use of 1080, and an explanation and apology from the Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson is called for", says Larry Baldock leader of the Kiwi Party.
"Surely the Minister should now be demanding answers from the Department of Conservation following on the news of the death of 7 radio-tracked keas after a recent 1080 aerial drop", continued Baldock.
"Although a supposed kea repellent was used, any person should realise keas are highly inquisitive parrots which, repellent or no repellent, are almost certain to investigate any poison bait.
"Questions surround the whole use of 1080. What was the purpose of the aerial toxin drop? If it was aimed at the possum, is there actually a possum problem? Reports from the West Coast indicate low numbers, verified by an almost complete lack of road kills. If it's bovine TB, that is the Animal Health Board's responsibility not DOC's. In any case the TB issue also demands scrutiny since the TB skin test used on cattle has a 20 percent error rate which in essence means one in 10 cattle with TB is not detected by the test.
"A solution to the possum problem is to see them as a resource which could be used to harvest fur and meat for a potential $300 million export return. In doing so, possum numbers would be managed and kept low.
"What does the Minister think or is she mute with embarrassment and shame?", concluded Baldock.
This really is a must read! The notes from the seminar held for MPs in 2004 contain some useful information - it reveals how little we have progressed and how little is known about this disease and the efforts to control or eradicate it ...
Bourne's comments are particularly enlightening. He acknowledges skin test has failed yet it would seem that in reality we STILL have no real prospect of change in the near future (despite next year being given as date for cattle vaccination to be licenced with Diva test. There is the continuing obsession with badgers which - yet again, monopolize the debate. Bourne admits if badgers were eliminated overnight the disease would remain ...
We have pulled out a few of the extracts we found most interesting and reproeduce these below.
To answer the question, 'What is the good news that I can take back to my farming friends?', we have this response: 'there is a lot of good news. We better understand the disease in cattle. We recognise that the diagnostic test as it has been applied in the past 20 years has been inadequate for controlling the disease in cattle and has to be improved. The nettle has been grasped with respect to that and the use of the tuberculin test is now being looked at more forcibly and also changed in the field. There is also development in other tests'
So where is the real progress re this now we are in 2011?
'We also recognise the dangers of moving infected cattle around the countryside. Farmers must recognise that they have a responsibility for treating it as an infectious disease and putting in place rather simple biosecurity measures to prevent the transmission. We have moved a very long way in a very short time. The culling issue is still vexed, but I honestly believe that, if one eliminated badgers at a stroke over night, we would still be left with a very serious cattle disease that would have to be tackled in a way that would have to be more effective than has been used in the past 20 years'.
Page 9 .... 'Although we have talked continually about a reservoir of infection in badgers, on the basis of work that has been in place for the past couple of years we now recognise that there is a reservoir of infection in cattle. That would not be controlled by killing badgers. It has to be tackled in some other way'.
... and on the subject of other animals ... 'Other wildlife reservoirs have been mentioned. We recently completed a report in which we concluded that deer, especially fallow and red deer, may constitute maintenance reservoirs of tuberculosis'.
.. and on subject of closed herds .. page 14, Professor John Bourne: 'The TB 99 epidemiological analyses suggest that there is no such thing as a closed herd. People claim to have a closed herd, but they simply do not exist'.
--- and on subject of cattle vaccination Page 23 ... 'It has been said that, epidemiologically, we can only get it right about half the time. I understood that cattle vaccination through the normal vaccination that we would give people is only about 60 per cent. effective. Surely, if we can reduce the amount of bovine tuberculosis by 60 per cent. we will have done a tremendous amount of good'.
Professor Doug Young said; 'Vaccination will reduce it by 60 per cent., but it depends on what is defined as a reduction. That does not mean that 60 per cent. of the animals do not have any disease at all. It tends to reduce the amount of disease in individual animals, so they would still remain, for example, tuberculin positive. It would be a problem with the current BCG. We have to go further than the current BCG to really get to a stage where we do not have the significant number of lesions in the animal to make it worthwhile.'
'The progress that we are moving to in terms of better BCG would be that, since the Krebs report, there has been an active programme of cattle vaccination in place. People have been looking in laboratory experimental challenge conditions and now have vaccines that look better than BCG. We are now trying to put those out into a natural transmission setting, so in the laboratory we are looking at quite an unfair situation where we give cattle a very large dose. It may well be that, under natural conditions, they see a lower dose and our vaccines may be suitable for that. At the moment, we have had five years in the lab. We are now going into a five-year phase where we can evaluate the new vaccines under natural transmission settings. We have plans in place. We can go ahead'.
WE ARE STILL WAITING!
Bill Wiggin MP: 'Is more money being used to do that quicker?'
Professor Doug Young: 'We are certainly going to use more money over the next year. That has been put into the DEFRA programme. At the moment, a certain amount of money has been going into the basic research to produce the candidates. Our plans for testing them in natural transmission settings mean that we need to assemble herds of reactors in some kind of contained facility and put in our vaccinated animals and see what happens. That experiment is quite expensive. It will cost several millions of pounds ...'.
4 Sep 2011, 5:54 PM
I would ask too if we can trust the NFU? They say they represent the views of farmers but they are obsessed with badger culling and not interested in getting the rubbishy testing regime changed.
Came across reference to this on another forum and it does indeed seem to sum up the NFU well - see www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=1088 and in particular this bit: 'Another reason that some farmers consider the NFU to be undemocratic is its historically close relationship with government, often parroting the government or MAFF line. Indicative of this is the fact that successive presidents have received knighthoods or greater honours. Whether this is a cause or a symptom of the NFU's general complicity with government policy is unclear.' And, of course, we have ex NFU officers in government and involved in the legislative processes too.
Referring to Spelman's announcement of the Government's intention to sanction the slaughter of badgers he says ' she has ridden rough shod over the opinion of scientists and the public'.
He goes on to say, 'DEFRA's announcement was closely followed by the publication of the results of last year's public consultation on the Government's Badger Control Policy. It was released without fanfare - without any press release or statement but instead was buried deep in the archive section of DEFRA's website. Since the consultation closed in December 2010, DEFRA sat on the results and resisted disclosure, only finally publishing them following a Freedom of Information request from Humane Society International/UK'.
He says the reason is clear:. 'DEFRA initially promised that the views of the general public would inform their badger policy. The problem for DEFRA is that when they asked the general public what they thought, 69% of them opposed the slaughter of badgers'. He said that DEFRA had a similar problem with scientists - the government started out claiming that their badger strategy would be 'science-led' however when they were inundated with evidence from prominent independent scientists almost unanimously condemning a badger slaughter, the 'science-led' strategy came rather unstuck.
As most of us will know plans to slaughter badgers have been criticised by former members of the Independent Scientific Group charged with assessing the results of the ten-year Randomised Badger Culling Trial, Lord Krebs (now Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee), and the Medical Research Council, as well as a host of conservation and animal welfare experts including Sir David Attenborough and the RSPCA.
Jones' goes on to say 'Whilst the majority of the scientific community have vociferously opposed DEFRA's strategy, it saddens me to see the British Veterinary Association jumping on board the badger slaughter bandwagon. As a veterinarian, my profession's version of the Hippocratic Oath is very important to me. I vowed that 'my constant endeavour will be to ensure the welfare of animals committed to my care.' Clearly the BVA seems to have little time for the welfare of badgers, given its apparent support for the untried and untested "free-shooting" method of slaughter proposed by the government. This is truly alarming because whilst it's difficult to say exactly who will benefit from DEFRA's strategy, there is no doubt that badgers will suffer. Tens of thousands of these iconic and well-loved animals will be shot by landowners or their agents who often possess dubious firearms competence. Animal injury, suffering and death will once again become commonplace in our countryside'.
30 Jul 2011, 2:15 PM
According to the Independent on 29/07/11 (www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/majority-objected-to-badger-cull-before-policy-was-approved-2327913.html) there was overwhelming public opposition (69%) to the proposal to cull badgers. There were nearly 60,000 responses! Included was a submission from the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, which completed a random badger-culling trial in 2007. It challenged Defra's claim that a 16% reduction in bovine TB could be achieved over nine years through farm-based culling of badgers.
Sixty-one per cent opposed culling, but said they would consider vaccination of the badger population; 8 per cent said they wanted neither of the options, while just under one-third of respondents were in favour of both vaccination and shooting.
What is somewhat disturbing is that this evidence was apparently withheld until the Government had made its decision to go ahead with its controversial plans to allow badgers to be shot.
The Independent said, 'The consultation, which was completed in December 2010, was eventually – and discreetly – published on a Government website on the day of the much-anticipated statement following a request under the Freedom of Information Act from the Humane Society International (HSI).'
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) apparently insisted it was 'entirely normal' to publish consultation responses at the same time as policy proposals.
Culling could begin in the West and South-west of England as early as next Spring. A legal challenge may be launched by groups opposed to the plans.
13 Jul 2011, 5:07 PM
Letter from the RBCT scientists in today's (13/7/11) Times.....
Sir – Sir David King’s article (“If we want dairy farms, we must cull badgers” 8 July 2011) contributes little scientific insight to the debate on controlling cattle TB. Defra has proposed that badger culls be initiated and funded by farmers themselves. Having overseen a decade-long programme of independently-audited and peer-reviewed research on this topic, we caution that such culls may not deliver the anticipated reductions in cattle TB. King previously agreed with our conclusion that – because of the way culling affects badgers’ ecology – only large-scale, highly coordinated, simultaneous and sustained culls could have positive impacts. Delivering and maintaining such culls would raise substantial challenges for farmers, with a risk of increasing, rather than reducing, disease incidence. Defra’s own assessments suggest that participating farmers will lose more, financially, than they gain. King asserts that shooting free-ranging badgers – Defra’s preferred culling method – “would be an effective and considerably cheaper alternative”, but there are no empirical data on the cost or effectiveness (or indeed humaneness or safety) of controlling badgers by shooting, which has been illegal for decades. If the government decides to proceed with this untested and risky approach, it is vital that it also instigates well-designed monitoring of the consequences.
John Bourne, Christl Donnelly, David Cox, George Gettinby, John McInerney, Ivan Morrison & Rosie WoodroffeIndependent Scientific Group on Cattle TB 1998-2007
13 Jul 2011, 9:28 AM
Email dated 13/07/11 from PAC. Politicians take note!
REACTIVE badger culling doubles the risk of bTB breakdown on herds within one kilometre of the culled area. That's the stark warning from the latest scientific research by Imperial College.
Using rigorous analytical techniques the research , released today (July 13) underlines once again the dangers inherent in attempts to control bovine TB by killing badgers.
Commenting on the news Badger Trust chairman David Williams said: "This is yet another warning to the Government. It reinforces what we already know from the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) that localised culling makes matters worse and it underlines the message from top scientists that badger culling is not the way forward. And we have already heard from Lord Krebs that, in his view, culling--whether proactive or reactive-- is not the way to beat the disease. The estimated benefits are too small and the time frame too long. The Government must take this latest research on board and scrap any plan to cull, especially as shooting, a totally untried and untested culling method, carries a very real risk of disrupting badger populations with the same negative perturbation effect on cattle TB that we have seen in reactive culling.
Mr Williams added: "Apart from the obvious badger welfare and human safety considerations,we have it on good authority that it would be exceedingly difficult to ensure co-ordinated, sustained, efficient and simultaneous culling of badgers by "controlled shooting"--the Government's preferred description for shooting free-running badgers. The risk of making cattle TB worse is so grave that we urge the government to consider the position very seriously."
 Localized reactive badger culling increases risk of bovine tuberculosis in nearby cattle herds - Flavie Vial and Christl A. Donnelly, MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London