Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?
22 Jul 2010, 6:43 PM
Prof John Bourne, who conducted the infamous ten year, government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled what he was told by a senior politician:
"Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers."
This strand on the forum deals mainly with the wildlife reservoirs involved in the bovine TB saga. In the UK this is, as we are probably all aware by now, believed to be mainly the badger. No other mammal has been studied in the UK as intensely as the badger so actually we don't really know just how other animals are implicated. In other countries different species are implicated. There are some anomalies too, including the example below.
Has anyone an explanation for the following!
According to last issue of Gwlad, Australia is now bTB free after 27 years of trying. We are told it has no wildlife reservoir. New Zealand is still aiming for eradication. It has a wildlife reservoir - possums - which are considered a pest species as not indigenous so are being culled - and vaccinated!
HOWEVER - possums ARE native to Australia and bTB was rife in country for years so - why are the Australian possums not a reservoir?
10 Mar 2017, 7:46 PM
So, hunting probably does help spread bovine TB? The news that the Kimblewick Hunt's hounds are infested with bovine TB has come as a shock to farmers and hunters, writes Lesley Docksey in the Ecologist on 9th March 2017 (http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988743/bovine_tb_found_in_foxhounds_and_nothing_to_do_with_badgers_now_what.html).
The news finally broke cover a few days ago, news which the Kimblewick Hunt had been sitting on since December.
The Kimblewick is an amalgamation of three former hunts, and hunts over land in six counties, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. 25 of its foxhounds had to be put down because they were infected with bovine TB, with a further 120 undergoing testing, has made both wildlife organisations and farmers sit up. Information given to Hounds Off claimed that at least 40 hounds had been culled.
The same problem could be lurking in hunts across the British Isles.
The League Against Cruel Sports, which gives an account of just how the bTB outbreak was made public through the work of Hounds Off, is demanding that all hunting should stop until the problem has been fully investigated.
Defra says that bTB in dogs is not a notifiable disease, but an outbreak of this size in dogs that work across farmland must surely now be taken seriously. Just how many other packs are infected?
And of course hound-to-cattle bTB transmission, perhaps via hound excrement left in fields pastured by cattle, is entirely plausible - a fact that concerned farmers are waking up to. Hound excrement may even be infecting badgers with bTB.
Some farmers, belatedly trying to protect their cattle, have banned hunts from their land. Those local to the hunt kennels are refusing to let the hunt exercise the hounds on their land.
The hounds fed TB-infected 'fallen cattle' meat
The answer is simple. The hounds have been fed raw, TB-infected meat. Although this would be a contravention of meat hygiene rules and bTB controls, rules have never bothered either the hunts or farmers.
For years hunts have removed 'fallen cattle' from farms, a favour that works both ways - hunts get meat to feed their hounds and farmers get rid of unwanted carcasses. During the 2001-02 foot and mouth epidemic, the government broke its own rules by paying hunts to slaughter cattle and remove the carcasses because their own staff could not cope.
The fact that such cattle fed to hounds may have 'fallen' due to disease will be is ignored. Or perhaps not. It would make sense to many farmers that, if they suspect one of their beasts is infected with bTB, they should get it slaughtered and removed before it is tested positive and Defra puts the farm under restrictions.
You would think the farmer would rather have a disease-free herd. But more than one has been prosecuted for swapping ear tags (an individual identification tag that all cattle must have), allowing a poor but disease-free cow go to slaughter rather than the good milker which also happens to have bTB.
It should not come as a surprise that the hounds are open to this disease. A 2010 Republic of Ireland study into the diseases of hounds and the reasons why they are culled, found bTB in some of the hounds they autopsied, along with a lot of other painful conditions. Being a foxhound is not a comfortable life.
Will Defra take real action?
Two or three years ago the Northern Ireland hunt saboteurs managed to film the kennelman of the North Downs Hunt butchering cattle carcasses that had come from local farms. Government officials apparently issued a warning at the time, and the sabs thought that there had been previous warnings, due to the risk of spreading bTB.
If NI government officials recognise the risk, why are they not cracking down on it? And will Defra follow suit?
While packs of hounds exist, whether they are being used illegally by fox hunts or legally by drag hunts, the hunts will seek supplies of free meat for their hounds. And sadly, pro-hunt farmers will go on offering it, regardless of what disease they might be passing on.
And in the meantime, of course, the badger will still be blamed by some for spreading bTB.
16 Feb 2017, 9:44 PM
Colin Loveless The ibtb website shows North Cornwall incidents of BTB shot up 10 fold in 2016, ironically the year they relaxed rules on farmers moving cattle within 10 mile area & the start of officially culling badgers. Prior to this incidents were extremely rare. Check it out www.ibtb.co.uk
9 Jan 2017, 4:27 PM
The two-year Badger Found Dead survey, undertaken in Wales, indicates that, as of early December, only 6.6% of badgers tested positive for M.bovis. In detail, the results so far show an interesting picture as regards any connection between badgers and cattle herd breakdowns: the Intensive Action Area has one positive BFD (almost hidden on the map available at the WAG website, by all the negatives), and only two pendings. The whole of West High TB Area has only five more positive BFDs, with another three which look (on the map) to be outside its eastern edge, and about 25 pendings. Overlaying these with open and multiple-closed breakdowns on the ibtb database, there seems little or no co-incidence. Obviously we have to wait until all pendings are tested before coming to conclusions on this, but so far there seems little likelihood of showing that it “can be demonstrated” that badgers are a problem … in fact, this evidence is to the contrary. It is likely that any decision to cull badgers on Wales will be challenged on a strict evidence basis.
The WAG consultation on its Refreshed TB eradication Programme closes 10th January 2017.
9 Jan 2017, 4:24 PM
“Transmission routes” are frequently mentioned, particularly by farmers re badgers and cattle.. In reality we know little about these, and the notion of a ‘wildlife reservoir’ is a hypothesis only. The little we do know is that badgers and cattle seldom come into direct contact (e.g., Badgers prefer cattle pasture but avoid cattle implications for bovine tuberculosis control – Rosie Woodroffe et al – August 2016 – Ecology Letters http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12654/full ). What they both do is graze or forage some of the same land, so it is possible that they both get TB from soil and vegetation which is already contaminated with M. bovis. This would explain why despite removing infected cattle quite thoroughly (as in Wales) or culling thousands of badgers (as in England) TB is so persistent. It would also explain why herd depopulation and replacement does not always guarantee freedom from infection. The assumption that badgers ‘give’ TB to cattle is simplistic. So the next question is, how does a grazed/foraged environment become contaminated. There will some disease level in badgers and other wildlife, as there is in humans, but intensive grazing by large herds of cattle, especially immune-compromised dairy cattle, slurry spreading, and frequent introduction of new cattle, is likely to be the main cause.
9 Dec 2016, 11:42 AM
The 'Save Me' Trust calls for an evaluation of the role of badger vaccination, alongside a proper review of the effectiveness, if any, of badger culls on bovine TB in cattle.
It also draws attention to the fact that it is no longer possible to believe that badgers are the main cause of the spread of the disease, or even a significant component of its transmission. The principal mechanism of reinfection now being confirmed to be in undetected, infectious cattle in the herds themselves.
In the latest research revealed this week on Bovine TB management, science has once again put an end to speculation - with the ZSL’s new paper published this week - ‘Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin’.
Two years ago, a cattle vet in Devon speculated that vaccinating badgers might disrupt their behaviour, thus spreading TB to new areas. His ideas were based on no evidence at all; nevertheless they were repeated in the media as though they were facts, undermining support for badger vaccination.
Research published today by the Zoological Society of London confirms that vaccination, in fact, has no detectable effect on badger behaviour. In the ZSL experiment, badgers were trapped, vaccinated and released, and were subsequently tracked with GPS collars. It was found that they travelled no further than those which had not been vaccinated.
This is encouraging news for badgers and cattle alike. ZSL’s research confirms that vaccination does not have the same potential to increase the incidence of TB in cattle as culling. Culling DOES disrupt badger behaviour and, while it’s now also clear that badgers are at most a very small part of the re-infection of cattle herds, scientists believe that the Government’s present policy of culling badgers is likely to make matters worse.
ZSL’s new research shows that vaccination has no negative effects. Undisrupted, ‘normal' badger behaviour sees badgers in tightly defined communities, which give the best opportunity for vaccination to be effective. Since vaccination is also cheaper and more publicly acceptable, the choice between vaccination and culling should be straightforward. Bovine TB is a major problem for British cattle farmers, so TB control efforts must be based on the best available evidence. Hopefully, this new research will encourage proper studies of the role that vaccination could play in TB control.
However, to put this in perspective, recent evidence confirms the fact that transmission of TB has very little to do with badgers. At least 96 per cent of re-infection is due to undetected carriers of the bTB Micobacterium in the herd. Current Government policy forces farmers to rely on the infamous skin test to detect and remove infected cows, a course of action which is demonstrably failing. Only an enhanced testing regime can give hope to farmers who are, at present, locked in a hopeless situation.
We must review all the new available science and remove this expensive, ill fated and ineffective policy. It doesn't support the science, the badgers, the cattle or the farmers.
7 Dec 2016, 1:08 PM
Since 2013 it is now estimate that the government has spent over £30 million of tax payer’s money to kill over 10,000 badgers.
None of the badgers killed have been tested for TB and many have died as a result of an experimental ‘free shooting’ method, which has been condemned as inhumane by both the government’s Independent Expert Panel and the British Veterinary Association.
After four years of badger culling, few can doubt the policy has been a disastrous failure on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds. We could kill every badger in England but bovine TB will continue to spread in cattle herds due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements, and poor bio security controls.”
6 Dec 2016, 10:56 AM
bTB in possums. (Very little it would appear 54 out of 119,342 i.e. 0.045%- see below. From previous scientific evidence the same situation could well apply to badgers. The UK government are even refusing to test badgers culled - are they worried the results would prove badgers are merely being used as a scapegoat for this long term failed policy?
New Zealand Parliament Written Question from Richard Prosser MP to Hon Nathan Guy Minister for Primary Industries. ￼ Information Date: 18 May 2015 Subject Primary Industries
5862 (2015). Richard Prosser to the Minister for Primary Industries (18 May 2015):
How many, if any, possums were dissected to look for Tb for each of the past ten years, and of these, how many were found to have Tb?
Hon Nathan Guy (Minister for Primary Industries ) replied: Reply due: 26 May 2015
Question: How many, if any, possums were dissected to look for Tb for each of the past ten years, and of these, how many were found to have Tb?
Portfolio: Primary IndustriesMinister: Hon Nathan Guy Date Lodged:18/05/2015
Answer: TBFree New Zealand (previously the Animal Health Board) have been carrying out necroscopy surveillance of possums and other wildlife since 2007.
In the 2007/2008 year 4871 possums were surveyed with no Tb infections found,
in 2008/2009 13,874 surveyed with 9 found,
in 2009/2010 23,339 surveyed with 6 found,
in 2010/2011 17576 surveyed with 1 found,
in 2011/2012 25,103 surveyed with 9 found,
in 2012/2013 18,682 surveyed with 12 found,
in 2013/2014 10,930surveyed with 17 found and
in the 2014/2015 year 9,838 possums were surveyed with no infected possums found.
Attachment: NoneDate Received:27/05/2015
Richard Prosser MP New Zealand First List Bowen House, Parliament Buildings Private Bag 18 888 Wellington 6011 P +64 4 817 8363 : M +64 21 243 1199
2 Dec 2016, 5:32 PM
Strikingly, there were only 40 TB badgers out of 584 sampled over nearly 2 years from the whole of Wales, and 37 of these were clearly spillover from the high cattle TB incidence, there has never been any widespread self-sustaining reservoir of TB in badgers, so badgers are not the problem after all. Between 1972 -1996, there were only 46 TB badgers out of 2363 sampled, half from the original Pembroke hotspot. The hidden reservoir of TB has been within the problem herds with chronic TB in hotspots all along, and a different late TB blood antibody test is the simple answer : ENFER, ENFERPLEX, IDEXX Ab, or RPA/ Phage for bacilli directly. Since cattle normally catch TB from prolonged close aerosol "contact" in barns, it has never been coming from badgers in the first place. Helpful, that both Chief Vet. Dr. Christianne Glossop, and new Minister Lesley Griffiths , have ruled out any large scale indiscriminate badger culls.
Despite killing most of their badgers in the Republic of Ireland over 14,000 cattle react to TB test in first 10 months of 2016. Figures obtained by Agriland from the Department of Agriculture show that the herd incidence of bovine Tuberculosis nationally currently stands at 3.12%.
This means that some 14,151 head of cattle have tested positive for the disease in farm herd tests since the beginning of the year.
More proof that culling badgers does not prevent bTB?
As Morse said, "Neglect of the obvious always leads to unwisdom". So as regards the two most pressing issues currently confronting DEFRA are the spread of bovine TB, and increase in flooding in recent decades in low lying areas such as around Tewkesbury and across the Somerset levels, the answers are so simple that no-one can apparently "see "them .
Flooded levels have been happening since the long ago reign of King Arthur in the Vale of Avalon at Camelot/ Glastonbury . But rather simply, there has always been a huge tsunami of top-soil rushing down rivers from the surrounding high ground. Which silts up watercourses, decreasing depth , so spillover to surrounding flat-lands is inevitable. I recall a few years ago an interview with a man who regularly used to dredge out these channels as a matter of course annually; allowing the rivers/ canals/rhines etc to do their drainage job efficiently. Common-sense measures gradually forgotten. No need to invoke climate changes or sea flood surges, etc. for this "new" problem.
And as regards the oft-repeated mantra that "Badgers as the main spreaders of TB"; 3 recent DEFRA & the current Welsh Consultations on enhanced cattle/ badger controls, have actually proved that badgers have never been the problem in the first place ( http://bit.ly/20JSGpR ). There have always been two types of reactors to the skin test :- the newly infected cattle which have No Visible Lesion in the lungs, so-called Unconfirmed cases , and later reactors which have reached the Visible Lesion stage. Traditionally, everyone has assumed that these NVL cases were "false positive" reactors and did not have TB. But c. 40 years late, DEFRA have finally now realised that these are merely newly infected cases. So all the new Unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" have simply been by bought-in NVL cattle. So, both the DEFRA and Welsh consultations now recognise that the spread of TB has simply been from High Risk Areas , through Edge/Intermediate Risk areas to the Low Risk Areas. The greatest risk that such local movement of NVL reactors will spread TB is predictably from high incidence adjacent areas : - Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Oxford/Warks. from neighbouring Worcs./Hereford/Glos.; and also from these reservoirs back into the High Risk Border area of Wales from Powys to Gwent. Strikingly, there were only 40 TB badgers out of 584 sampled, so badgers are not the problem after all.
From his questions asked in parliament, Rob Marris MP has discovered that the development of a tuberculosis vaccine for cattle has been sacrificed in favour of a costly compensation scheme for farmers.
Since 1998 the government has paid out an £341 million1 in compensation to farmers for the slaughter of cattle infected with TB, but has spent only £35 million on research to develop a vaccination and associated diagnostics. (2)
Rob Marris said: “Prevention is better than cure for both farmer and badger – yet these astonishing figures indicate a skewed set of priorities. Since 1998, government has spent on average £19 million per year in compensation and only £1.9 million on research.3 If the government keeps focussing on compensating farmers at the expense of developing a vaccine, we’ll all end up paying out for evermore.”
The development of a vaccination would help both farmers and badgers – animals which are currently facing the largest ever cull, with the government recently announcing a tripling of the areas where badgers can be culled.
The loss of cattle can be heart-breaking for farmers, and is not a short-term problem. Nor can it be solved through compensation. According to the ‘Farm Crisis Network’, slaughter can have a longer term impact on the growth of a farm, and only one third of farmers said the compensation covered the loss.(4)
Mr Marris commented: “It is right that there is a compensation scheme for farmers whose cattle are devastated by the spread of TB, but it is wrong that the government spends such a relatively small amount of funding into a viable vaccination. That discrepancy must not continue. There is a clear economic argument to implement a stronger policy of ‘prevention’ (vaccination) rather than the ‘cure’ (compensation) which is costing the taxpayers tens of millions a year.”
Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust & Policy Adviser Born Free Foundation said:
"Trials in Ethiopia and Mexico have shown that a TB vaccine could be 58-68% effective in preventing the spread of bovine TB in cattle. For the past 5 years the government has stated it will trial a TB cattle vaccine in the UK. In 2014 Defra commissioned a consortium including Triveritas UK, scientists from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Cambridge University to design field trials in the UK.
“Triveritas, which specialises in undertaking livestock field trials, was to design the trial for the vaccine together with a new diagnostic test for differentiating between infected and immunised cows
“Despite the importance of developing an TB cattle vaccine, Defra announced in 2015 that it had called off the trial on cost grounds.
“This decision causing anger and concern in both the farming and wildlife conservation sectors. However the government has made no new commitment to move forward with a TB cattle vaccine trial since the 2015 General Election.
“We are now calling on the Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadson to urgently move forward with a TB cattle vaccine in the UK, as this will provide a highly effective means of lowering the spread of bovine TB in cattle, without having to waste tens of millions of pounds of public money on a scientifically ineffective and cruel badger cull.”
1 George Eustice MP. 2016. Written questions and answers. [ONLINE] Available at: parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/writtenquestionsanswers/?page=1&max=20& questiontype=AllQuestions&house=commons%2clords&member=1468. [Accessed 3 November 2016]. 2 George Eustice MP. 2016. Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control. [ONLINE] Available at: parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/writtenquestion/Commons/2016-10-26/50605. [Accessed 28 October 2016]. 3 George Eustice MP to Robert Marris MP, October 19, 2016, Bovine Tuberculosis Letter, DEFRA Ref: MC412912/AD 4 Farming Community Network. 2009. Stress and Loss: A report on the impact of bovine TB on farming families. [ONLINE] Available at: tbfreeengland.co.uk/assets/4200. [Accessed 1 November 2016].
9 Nov 2016, 11:01 AM
The government response to e-petition ‘End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas’ was so inaccurate and selective that it appears to represent a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. The government responded to this petition when it received 10,000 signatures. Unfortunately, the government’s response was so inaccurate and selective that it appears to represent a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. There are four key inaccuracies in the government response: (1)The response claims that recent experience in Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Dorset has shown that licensed culling “is safe, humane and effective in reducing the number of badgers needed to bring down disease levels in cattle”. This statement conflicts sharply with the available evidence. An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) established by Defra to evaluate the first year of culling concluded that the free shooting approach did not meet their standards for humaneness1. When a second year of culling yielded no evidence of improvement, the British Veterinary Association called for free shooting to be abandoned2. Ministers responded by simply stating that “we don’t agree”3. The government’s claim that licensed culling is “humane” is thus not shared by respected authorities on animal welfare.
Likewise, evidence indicates that the culls have not been “effective in reducing the number of badgers”. Defra has repeatedly stated an intention to reduce badger numbers by at least 70%, relative to their pre-cull levels, acknowledging that failing to do so would risk increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it4. The IEP concluded that the first culls fell far short of that aim1. Since then, Defra has reiterated its aim of reducing badger numbers by “at least 70%”, while quietly setting targets with only a slim possibility of achieving this aim5. Defra’s claim that the culls are “effective” is thus not consistent with available evidence.
(2)The government’s claims about the outcomes of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) are highly selective. Its response refers to many earlier studies, even though it commissioned the RBCT precisely because these earlier studies were inadequate6. The government’s response indicates that the RBCT “confirmed what the previous exercises had shown”, ignoring the unique (and vitally important) insight of the RBCT, namely, that badger culling can increase cattle TB as well as reducing it7,8. Large-scale RBCT culls reduced cattle TB inside the culled areas, but consistently increased it on adjoining land and in areas where small-scale culling occurred7,8. In referring to the RBCT, the government cites a maximum reduction in cattle TB of 54%, which it says occurred “when the full benefits began to appear”. In fact, the 54% figure refers to just 18 months in the middle of a ten-year monitoring period, and only to the areas culled and not adjoining land. When the full monitoring period and affected area are taken into account, the estimated net benefit is 12%4.
(3)The government claims that its approach “has successfully eradicated bovine TB in Australia and is working in Ireland and New Zealand”. This statement ignores evidence from Britain itself which shows patterns fundamentally different from those in the three countries mentioned. The major challenge of reducing cattle TB by culling badgers is that culling disrupts badger social behaviour9 in ways that increase TB transmission between badgers10,11 and from badgers to cattle7,8. There are no badgers in Australia or New Zealand; these countries tackled TB in different wildlife species which do not share badgers’ social behaviour. Although badgers are involved in Ireland’s TB problem, baseline densities are much lower than in Britain7, which may explain why culling consistently reduced badger infection rates in Ireland12, but consistently increased them in Britain10. Given these differences, it is not clear why Defra would prioritise evidence from other countries over evidence from Britain itself. (4)Defra’s response claims that vaccination “cannot replace culling” because it “does not provide complete protection and... has no impact on infected badgers”. However, while most vaccines have no impact on individuals which are already infected, they have nevertheless controlled multiple diseases. It was vaccination that eradicated smallpox and rinderpest globally, and vaccination that eradicated rabies from mainland Europe after culling had failed to do so13. Vaccination is far more likely than culling to contribute to TB eradication, because vaccination reduces infection rates in badgers14,15, while culling increases them10.
Defra begins its response by stating that “it is essential that we eradicate bovine TB”. Achieving this aim demands eradicating infection in badgers as well as in cattle. Eradicating a disease demands that either the proportion of infected animals, or the area affected, be reduced over time. Yet, as noted above, culling increases the proportion of badgers infected10,11 and spreads the infection both within and beyond the culled land7,16. It is hard to see, therefore, how badger culling can contribute to TB eradication.
Defra committed to a science-led policy to tackle TB4. Unfortunately, its response to this e-petition undermines all confidence in Defra’s respect for science, and hence in the likely outcome of its TB control strategy. It is sad to see such distortion of facts being sent out by the government to the public .It is time we got together to resolve this serious issue by looking at the facts, instead of continuing to rely on folklore, hearsay, and politics.
Anne Brummer, SAVE ME TRUST References 1. Independent Expert Panel. Pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire – Report by the Independent Expert Panel. (https://http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pilot-badger-culls-in-somerset-and-gloucestershire-report-by-the-independent-expert-panel, 2014). 2. British Veterinary Association. BVA calls for change to badger culling method and wider roll-out in England. (http://www.bva.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News,_campaigns_and_policies/Policies/Farm_animals/Final position on bTB and badger culling AGREED at Council 15 April 2015.pdf, 2015). 3. Bowern, P. Farming minister rejects vets' call for end to shooting of 'free-running' badgers. (http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/farming-minister-rejects-vets-end-shooting-free/story-26568952-detail/story.html - fS7jy01tvICXas94.03, 2015). 4. Defra. The goverment's policy on bovine TB and badger control in England. (http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13691-bovinetb-policy-statement.pdf, 2011). 5. Woodroffe, R. Badger cull didn't kill enough badgers to be effective. (https://theconversation.com/badger-cull-didnt-kill-enough-badgers-to-be-effective-36388, 2015). 6. Krebs, J. R., Anderson, R. et al.Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers. (H.M.S.O., 1997). 7. Donnelly, C. A., Woodroffe, R. et al. Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on cattle tuberculosis. Nature 439, 843-846 (2006). 8. Donnelly, C. A., Woodroffe, R. et al. Impact of localized badger culling on TB incidence in British cattle. Nature 426, 834-837 (2003). 9. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Effects of culling on badger (Meles meles) spatial organization: implications for the control of bovine tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology 43, 1-10 (2006). 10. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America103, 14713-14717 (2006). 11. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers in localised culling areas. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 45, 128-143 (2009). 12. Griffin, J. M., Clegg, T. A. et al. in Selected Papers 2002-2003. (eds J.D. Collins & R.F. Hammond) 1-12 (Veterinary Epidemiology and Tuberculosis Investigation Unit, University College Dublin, 2003). 13. Anderson, R. M., Jackson, H. C., May, R. M. & Smith, A. M. Population dynamics of fox rabies in Europe. Nature 289, 765-771 (1981). 14. Chambers, M. A., Rogers, F. et al. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination reduces the severity and progression of tuberculosis in badgers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences278, 1913-1920 (2010). 15. Carter, S. P., Chambers, M. A. et al. BCG vaccination reduces risk of tuberculosis infection in vaccinated badgers and unvaccinated badger cubs. PLOS One 7, e49833, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049833 (2012). 16. Jenkins, H. E., Woodroffe, R. et al. Effects of culling on spatial associations of Mycobacterium bovis infections in badgers and cattle. Journal of Applied Ecology 44, 897-908 (2007).
28 Oct 2016, 1:33 PM
Wales has achieved enviable success in reducing bovine TB in its cattle herds without killing badgers, writes Lesley Docksey. The farming lobby is still demanding an England-style cull, but the Welsh government's 'refreshed' policy on bTB remains firmly science-based and no badgers will be killed without 'objective evidence' of infection.
WHY ARE THE FACTS NOT BEEN CONSIDERED? WHY ARE WE STILL WASTING SO MUCH MONEY ON UNPOPULAR BADGER CULLS?
Martin Hancox, MA Oxon, ex-government TB Panel,says: 'I particularly liked Mike Rendle's view in "Fate" that in Eire, 2012 a cull of 6939 badgers at a cost of 3.4 million euros, had no effect on cattle TB, just 55 reactors fewer than 2011, and culling c. 110,000 badgers since 1984 has halved the population from Small's 1995 survey to Sleeman 2009, but has had Nil impact on cattle TB . The £50 million Krebs/ RBCT Cull of 11, 000 badgers had nil effect either, same accumulated herd breakdowns in reactive cull versus no cull areas 356 vs 359 , and no effect on unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" .. a pity the ISG did not check that there were no TB badgers involved (ISG 2007). So culling badgers simply doesn't work !' http://bit.ly/2dLMUr8 www.fire-raven.co.uk
Lesley Docksey writing in the Ecologust says: 'Thirty years ago, there was no evidence that badgers spread bovine TB among cattle, writes Lesley Docksey. Nor is there now. Yet badgers are still being slaughtered in a futile attempt to control the disease.'
22 Oct 2016, 9:17 PM
The Northern Ireland TVR is apparently progressing well and is approaching the end of its third year.
This is a vaccination-led project although it has been reported in the media as a cull.
Badger Trust welcomes Welsh government’s decision not to cull
The Badger Trust has welcomed the Welsh government’s decision not to cull badgers as part of their increasingly successful policy of eradicating TB in cattle. The decision was made despite persistent lobbying for an English-style cull by the Farming Union of Wales (FUW) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
Commenting on the decision Badger Trust CEO, Dominic Dyer said:
“This is an excellent decision based on sound scientific principles and clear evidence that the Welsh approach to eradicating TB in cattle is working well. We congratulate Chief Vet Christianne Glossop for sticking to a winning formula and Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths for recognising this and for her courage in withstanding the powerful vested interests calling for an all out badger cull.
“It is clear from the figures that new herd incidents are down by 19% and farms with OTF status withdrawn down by 30% in the last year alone. Whilst the pro-cull lobby have tried to suggest the rise in cattle slaughtered backs their calls for a cull, this claim has been comprehensively debunked by showing that the rise is entirely down to more rigorous and accurate testing of cattle. The Welsh model is finding and removing diseased cattle faster and more efficiently than anywhere else in the country, and this will show up in vastly improved figures over the next few years.
“We acknowledge that Wales is considering limited badger removal for individual sites with a longterm history of persistent TB breakdown but that this will be restricted to only those badgers testing positive for the disease. The policy will be subject to a full consultation with all stakeholders before it is introduced and the Badger Trust will participate fully in this dialogue.
“The Badger Trust applauds the sheer ambition of the Welsh government to bear down on cattle TB and their determination to stick with proven scientific methods over the crude, uncontrolled mass killing of wildlife seen in England, which has wasted millions of pounds in taxpayer’s money with no detectable reduction in the disease.”
Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin comments further:
“This decision is a major setback for the pro-cull lobby and where it leaves the BVA, FUW, NFU and Defra is now uncertain. First Ireland and now Wales have rejected culling as unworkable so it seems the government in Westminster must now conduct an urgent review of its own strategy or face continued failure.
“The latest scientific research has shown that badgers actively avoid contact with cattle, which casts considerable doubt on the role they play, if any, in cattle infections. It is clear that cattle are constantly contaminating their own environment with TB and that badgers, among many other mammal and invertebrate species, are simply victims of what is essentially a form of industrial pollution.
“TB policy in England is in complete disarray compared to Wales where a disciplined, rational approach has begun to make significant inroads into the problem of bovine TB. Politicians and Whitehall advisors must stop pandering to the powerful vested interests and lobby groups calling for further badger culling and instead learn from Wales. Their current obsession with badgers is a dangerous distraction from tackling this disease and is costing the lives of thousands of animals, destroying farmers’ livelihoods and wasting millions in taxpayer’s money.”
21 Oct 2016, 9:48 PM
A large scale of cull of badgers has been ruled out as part of a "refreshed" approach to tackling TB in cattle in Wales. Ministers will consider whether to allow cage-trapping and killing by injection of infected badgers found on affected farms.
Individual action plans will be developed for farms with long-term bovine TB issues.
Other measures involve deeper and more sensitive testing of herds.
But Wales' chief vet stressed there would be no "large scale, indiscriminate cull of badgers" - and any infected badgers found would be dealt with humanely.
On Tuesday, the Welsh Government unveiled new plans which include dividing up Wales into different areas with low, intermediate and high incidence of the disease.
Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and counties alongside the border with England will be classed as "high", while north west Wales is classified as "low".
A tailored approach will be developed to reflect the varying disease conditions and risks. The aim is to try and avoid the disease from spreading to north west Wales and to work towards eradicating it in areas of high prevalence.
During a 12-week consultation, the Welsh Government will seek views on the measures that should be applied to each area.
For farms where there are persistent breakdowns, individual action plans will be developed in partnership with farmers, vets and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
The very costly and publicly unpopular badger cull is NOT evidenced based so why is the current government supporting it?
The culled badgers are not being tested to see if they have bTB.. In fact it is known, from previous researchm, that very few badgers actually do have bTB.
It is interesting to note that NZ recently was forced, due to a FOIA action, to release their statistics, having tested each and every possum that was culled. It turns out that of 124,000 possums killed over a 10 year period, 54 of them were infectious. The wildlife cull was meaningless and ineffective, and only farming measures that were implemented alongside the cull, effected any reduction in bTB.
14 Oct 2016, 8:11 PM
The Fate of the Badger': the great badger scapegoating conspiracy - republished.
Thirty years ago, there was no evidence that badgers spread bovine TB among cattle, writes Lesley Docksey. Nor is there now. Yet badgers are still being slaughtered in a futile attempt to control the disease. This timely republication of Richard Meyer's 1986 book reveals the belligerent ignorance of the officials, politicians and farmers driving the failed policy.
5 Oct 2016, 9:06 PM
Dear Prime Minister, Minister, DEFRA, 3rd October 2016
1986 must have been a good year for badgers, with the publication of the magnificent eulogy to badger watching in Chris Ferris's Field Journal of a Night Naturalist, Richard Meyer's Fate of the Badger (new edition just out), and Ernest Neal's 2nd edition of The Natural History of Badgers (including my tooth wear age criteria), Michael Clarks, Badgers Whittet was 1988, new edition very shortly. Having been a keen badger man since c. 1959, I saw 4 & 7 last night, 6 on the 30th Sept., and 5 + 7 at 2 setts the 29th, including 3 boisterous cubs reoccupying their main over-wintering breeding sett, and . But, they were mostly just white blurs , at the very Edge of Darkness. So , it is difficult to see how farmer coalitions will have been able to cull up to 14, 213 badgers from 4090 sq.km. over the last 4-5 weeks since the pre-bank holiday announcement on the 30th of August of 7 New Pilot Culls + 3 Consultations of how to stop the spread of bovine TB (by bovines .. the 3 Pilot culls so far 2013-2015, Glos. Somerset, Dorset, removed 3943 badgers, maybe 50 or so of the infectious super-excretor type which might have been a risk to cattle , from 790 sq.km., contrasting with 112,500 cattle for this same period). DEFRA News 30th Aug. :- https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/bovine-tuberculosis-bovine-tb Click to Badger control value for money 2016, Minimum and maximum numbers* required for Natural England Licences, Authorisation for 7 Pilots (BUT actual areas redacted).. Hence:- Area 1. GLOS, 2 SOM'ST, 3 DORSET //4 CORNWALL, 5 CORNWALL, 6 DEVON, 7 DEVON, 8 DORSET, 9 GLOS.,10 HEREFORD *Max.No. 642 544 610 1763 1187 2609 1949 1740 1986 1183 sq.km. 311 256 223 400 300 600 500 500 700 300 total 1796 from 790 sq.km. ................// & 12,417 FROM 3300 sq.km. // TOTAL OVERALL 14,213 from 4090 sq.km. I would be surprised if they will have managed to cull more than 2000 or so, way below the mythical 70 % target. And whilst Meurig Raymond and the NFU were delighted, that this "science based cull" has now been extended to the 10 most critical areas ; WITH quite likely the Welsh Asembly WILL have voted 28th September, for an IAA Cull next year since the vaccine trial has been a total waste of money £5 million , 4500 badgers, Nil Effect on cattle TB .............in fact 4090 sq.km. is actually a tiny area within the southwest problem area:- CLICK to Map in 4 below .. Devon/Cornwall Salcombe & Padstow, Bude, Dorset nr Dorchester.. A rather Costly Exercise ? The above Value for money 2016 analysis, reveals the rather bizarre notion that culls will perhaps cost c. £ 2.03 million, to achieve a net saving of prevented herd breakdowns of around £0.56 million, which does not seem terribly cost-effective. The key imponderable is the cost of Extra Policing, which might run to £610,000 / area ... the 3 pilots so far cost c. £25 million with £7 million in extra policing, so these 10 pilots weill have probably cost over £30 million. Very strikingly, the Value assessment 30th Aug. notes :- ""Evidence on the effect of removing badgers on the incidence of TB in cattle from the three licence areas is not yet available to inform this assessment "" .. which is Odd, IF the cull were really going to achieve a 50 % reduction in cattle TB, then surely there ought to be a hint of this by now.. there was no evidence of perturbation either. In fact the £50 million RBCT cull of 11,000 badgers had NIL Effect on cattle TB, accumulated breakdowns in reactive cull versus no cull areas 356 VS 358 (Lefevre 2005, in ISG 2007).
So the need for culls and supposed proof that they work are all based on a DUBYA total "MISUDERESTIMATION" of the reality (CLICK to 2 & 3) . Sad that these "science-based" cull ideas are based on such dodgy pseudoscience.. and DEFRA, seem to be unaware that Donnelly 2013 downgraded the badger contribution to cattle TB from 50 % to 5.7 % .. OR Actually see bottom of Table 2 in 1 below, a mere 3.7 % with confidence interval of 0 to 100 % ie. the badger input is probably ZERO since no-one in 50 years has actually explained how badgers might give cows a respiratory lung infection (CLICK to links 5 & 6 below ).
In conclusion, I cannot help wondering whether allowing Natural England to licence these 10 Pilot culls, with wildly impractical and unachievable targets, has been a very clever way of getting farmers, vets, and country landowner pro-cull factions to do a selfie U-TURN , and call the whole omnishambles off .. any further badger culls or vaccinations are an utterly pointless waste of time and money , which will never have the slightest effect on stopping the spread of TB , since the spread has been within the cattle population all along ! An insane solution to an utterly non-existent problem. sincerely, Martin Hancox, ex-government TB Panel
1. DONNELLY 2013 http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to-cattle-tb-incidence-in-high-cattle-incidence-areas/ Badgers with TB have merely been a Spillover from cows all along , the most TB badgers hence arose in the 3 Triplets recruited into the RBCT/Krebs culling trial AFTER the foot & mouth 2001 lack of cattle testing jump in cattle TB D ,I, J . Table 1 , based on Woodroffe 2005, RBCT proactive areas, re. 1 triplet, 2 herd breakdowns & 3 reactors in previous year , 4 TB badgers from 1st cull :- 1. A B C D E F G H I J /TOTALS 2. 8 15 8 11 4 4 7 11 15 8 91 confirmed cattle herd breakdowns 3. 57 70 62 187 34 14 23 36 154 215 852 cattle reactors 4. 8 13 14 102 29 13 29 12 82 65 357 TB badgers ......D , I , J the most TB badgers from worst cow TB It is a perverse misuse of the science base to assume this cattle spillover TO badger transmission rate can inversely predict the hypothetical badger to cattle transmission risk.. besides, transmission in cattle TB is a respiratory broncho-pneumonia or "consumption", badger TB is a dietary ingestion "scrofula" like human TB from unpasteurised milk
2 Oct 2016, 11:43 AM
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
Calls on the Welsh Government to take decisive action to tackle bovine TB by committing to use the most effective measures to control and eradicate bovine TB and ensuring that testing and movement restrictions are proportionate to the disease status of an area.
Last month the government approved the culling of badgers in seven new areas of England. BBC News have spoken to two people from the legal - and illegal - sides of the campaign to stop it. These people are doing sterling work to try and protect an iconic British mammal that is being used as a political scapegoat in a policy that is flawed and not science-led.
Labour will end the badger cull and prioritise ending bovine TB, Shadow Defra secretary Rachael Maskell has said.
Speaking during the party conference, Maskell said the government 'ignores scientists, academics, its own experts and many farmers' and turns its frustration on a badger.
"When every shred of evidence says bovine TB will be beaten with better testing, vaccination, better biosecurity and animal husbandry.
"Animal welfare is at the heart of what we all care about, whether our wildlife, domestically, commercially or internationally, protecting endangered species.
"With Labour launching our consultation on animal welfare, we want you to shape our policy for the future. "But whether animals, birds or our plant life, Labour will work to ensure that our whole biodiversity system thrives again."
Latest scientific research casts yet more doubt on role of badgers in cattle TB
Research undertaken by Queen Mary University of London using the largest ever mathematical model profiling a huge number of cattle and badger TB infections has cast serious doubt on the role of badgers in transmitting TB to cattle.
Using a ‘big data approach’ the science has revealed that the infection pattern between the two species is completely different and suggests very strongly that cattle are infected by other cattle, rather than by other species.
The research found little geographical overlap between farms with infected cattle and setts with infected badgers, and that the cycles of infection between the two animals are not synchronised. In badgers TB was found in clusters whilst in cattle the disease was more random and dispersed.
The findings reflect the uncommonly high level of cattle movement in the UK not seen elsewhere in the world, resulting in TB being found in unrelated and geographically widespread areas. In comparison badgers are social animals that live in small groups meaning the presence of TB is far more clustered.
Responding to the new research Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust said,
“This research builds on an ever increasing number of studies demonstrating that the contribution of badgers to the problem of cattle TB is tiny and cannot be separated from the general contamination of wildlife and the environment by the cattle industry.
We have already seen another study this year (Woodroffe, Donnelly et al 2016) showing conclusively that badgers actively avoid cattle in pasture and farm yards, and that cattle actively avoid feeding on grass where badgers urinate or defecate. Yet another study (Barbier et al, 2016) shows a significant disease risk as TB spreads from cattle faeces into the worm population where it can remain for significant lengths of time.
All in all, the case for continued intervention with the badger population is proving increasingly pointless. The reality is we could kill every badger in the country but bovine TB would continue to spread in cattle herds, due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements and poor farm-level bio-security. It is modern, intensive livestock rearing and trading that are the real culprits in the spread of bovine TB.”
Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin added,
“The government and the farming industry have become dangerously obsessed with badgers whilst all along the real problem has been cattle infecting themselves both directly and through contaminating their own environment. The debate has been hijacked by politics and economics whilst the basic epidemiology of the disease has been ignored for far too long.
Millions of pounds taxpayer’s money has been wasted on ineffective and inhumane badger culls with millions more to come as the government rolls out its policy to new areas of the country. All this has been in the face of vehement opposition by scientists and the public. Badgers have become a convenient fig-leaf for concealing a chaotic and doomed policy that has failed to get to grips with effective testing, cattle movement controls and basic standards of hygiene and husbandry on farms.
The approach to TB science in Wales has been far more open and rigorous, and has led to the lowest level of new herd breakdowns in ten years. There they have proved that vaccinating badgers is a far more effective intervention than culling, a point reinforced by this latest research. However, any intervention involving badgers is going to have a negligible impact on cattle TB as no known research has ever shown exactly how the disease can spread from badgers to cattle. All the science to date is showing that it doesn’t.
“The Badger Trust is calling for an immediate halt to any further badger culling while all the new scientific evidence is collated and assessed, and the existing science re-examined to provide a sound basis for amending and improving the government’s currently inadequate TB policy. Anything less would be a betrayal of our farmers, the taxpayer, our wildlife and the principles of science.”
27 Sep 2016, 9:01 PM
On Wednesday, Assembly Members will be debating the Welsh Government’s bovine tuberculosis policy.
Dr Gareth Enticott, a research fellow at Cardiff University has made some very interesting comments. His research focuses on the geography and sociology of animal health. He is interested in how farmers, vets, policy makers and conservationists deal with and make sense of animal health on a day to day basis and what this means for the future of animal health and rural places in the UK. He is particularly interested in bovine tuberculosis.
He is wondering of the debate is a subtle call for a (new) Welsh badger cull. The debate proposes that the National Assembly for Wales “takes decisive action to tackle bovine TB by committing to use the most effective measures to control and eradicate bovine TB and ensuring that testing and movement restrictions are proportionate to the disease status of an area”.
The motion is suitably vague and Gareth says 'The outcome of the debate and vote is more likely to show that it is not for nothing that bovine TB is known as the political disease'.