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Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?

 Added by  Thomas (Guest)
 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?

Largest ever cull authorised this autumn – bringing the total shot to 35% of UK’s badger population
The Wildlife Trusts are aghast that more than 70,000 healthy badgers will be shot this autumn in the government’s largest ever seasonal cull.
The move comes despite the government’s promise just six months ago to support badger vaccination and move away from shooting this protected species.
The cull will result in the deaths of badgers which have been vaccinated by volunteers in government-funded programmes.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust leads the country’s most extensive vaccination programme —Derbyshire is one of 6 new areas where culling has never previously taken place under government licences.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s CEO, Dr Jo Smith, says:
“This is a staggering government U-turn and one which will result in thousands of healthy badgers being shot across England this autumn.
“In March — following a review by Professor Godfray — the government promised to move away from lethal control. However, after seven years of badger culling, the government has failed to act on its own advice and is expanding its culling programme into new regions including Derbyshire, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire into what will be the biggest cull yet.
“We are at a critical turning point for our natural world and this latest U-turn should set alarm bells ringing — culling is an outdated policy that seeks to eradicate protected wildlife rather than addressing the real problem which is the main cause of bovine tuberculosis (bTB): cattle-to-cattle infection.
“Recent news that investment in a cattle vaccine is underway is welcome — but it is not enough. Moving the culling into areas where badger vaccinations have been taking place will also undermine this vital and under-funded work.”
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust CEO Estelle Bailey says:
“BBOWT remains adamant that a cull is not necessary for the control of bTB, if alternative approaches including vaccination are fully implemented.
“Culling does not address the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB which is cattle-to-cattle transmission, and it undermines our vaccination programmes. Culling is outdated, ineffective and immoral. This government has repeatedly said it will be guided by the science, yet it seems to be ignoring its own advice.”
The Wildlife Trusts’ latest campaign has resulted in over 14,000 people so far writing to their MPs raising concerns about the badger cull and plans to expand it into new areas.
The Wildlife Trusts oppose culling and believe the science used to justify the killing of thousands of badgers every year in the UK is flawed. Evidence shows that bTB is primarily a cattle problem, not a wildlife one. The main route of bTB transmission in cattle is between cattle.
This autumn’s cull brings the overall total of badgers shot since culling began in 2013 to over 170,000 badger deaths. This is approximately 35% of the UK badger population. The cull began in 2013 and is expected to continue for a further four years.
The Government Won't Stop the Cull until All Badgers are killed?
The Wildlife Trusts are deeply concerned that healthy, vaccinated badgers will be shot in several new areas this autumn as the Government continues its annual culling of badgers.
Expanding the cull in this way would go against Government assurances in March this year that they would move towards vaccinating rather than culling badgers (1) as part of their efforts to stem the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). According to a leaked report of this year’s upcoming cull zones, most of these new cull areas are not at high risk from the disease. Worse still, most are places where Wildlife Trusts have been vaccinating hundreds of badgers against the disease with the support of significant Government funding.
This week, the government published its response (2) to a consultation on culling and vaccination in Edge Area counties – these are counties close to those where bTB is more widespread. Some of these areas will now be targeted for Government culling. In the recent consultation the Wildlife Trusts recommended a minimum of 7km between cull and vaccination areas. However, the new consultation response says the government will allow culling with only very small buffer zones of between 200 metres and 2 km.
The small size of the proposed buffer means that badgers which have been vaccinated and are healthy may be shot – despite the fact that government funding has helped Wildlife Trusts develop badger vaccination programmes.
The Wildlife Trusts oppose culling and believe the science used to justify the killing of thousands of badgers every year in the UK is flawed. Evidence shows that bTB is primarily a cattle problem, not a wildlife one (3). The main route of bTB transmission in cattle is between cattle.
At least seven new counties could see a badger cull starting this September. These include areas of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. The new counties add to a growing list where the Government is allowing badgers to be shot resulting in a total of 54 areas of England allowing the shooting of up to 64,000 badgers.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust lead a flagship badger vaccination project coordinated with others and 50% funded by DEFRA. The Trust had hoped to expand the vaccination programme significantly over the coming year but a cull in the area will make expansion very difficult.
Dr Jo Smith, chief executive for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said:
“Derbyshire Wildlife Trust runs the largest and most established Government funded vaccination programme and we are deeply concerned that a cull will result in vaccinated badgers being shot, disrupting the evidence gathered from vaccination trails taking place across England.
“The evidence shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of bovine TB in cattle and our research published earlier this year (4) shows the evidence used to justify a cull is flawed. We are utterly horrified that a cull could come to Derbyshire.”
Estelle Bailey, chief executive of Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust said;
“We are deeply disappointed that badgers could be culled in the area for the first time. We started vaccinating badgers eight years ago. A cull will be disruptive, could see vaccinated badgers being killed and is a huge let down to our volunteers and everyone who has worked so hard. It is a shameful reversal of the government’s own recommendations.”
Earlier this year the Government said in the Godfray review (1) that it intended to move away from culling and wanted to expand badger vaccination.
Several Wildlife Trusts have started an e-action against the cull coming to their counties for the first time: Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicester & Rutland Wildlife Trusts. For more information see https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/saving-species/badgers
High Court ruling against the National Farmers Union: Derbyshire cull decision
The Badger Trust welcomes the judgement in the High Court against the National Farmers Union, on the Government decision to not issue a badger cull licence in Derbyshire in September 2019. The Badger Trust is pleased to see the Prime Minister took note of the concerns we raised with him on the scientific, humaneness and cost failures of the badger cull policy, included in our open letter of 3rd September 2019, and engaged in the process which led up to the decision to not issue a badger cull licence in Derbyshire. The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust continues to lead the largest badger vaccination programme in Britain, which is bringing farmers and wildlife conservation groups together in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence to humanely reduce the spread of TB in badgers, and this crucially important work should not be undermined by badger culling being implemented in the county. In its recent verdict on the Sir Charles Godfray TB Policy Review, the government made it clear that it wants to phase out badger culling in favour of badger and cattle TB vaccination, improved TB cattle testing and cattle movement and biosecurity controls. The Badger Trust supports this change of policy and believes it should be implemented in Derbyshire and across England as a high priority.
Badger Trust: Vaccination Project The Guardian: Farmers lose legal challenge to cancellation of Derbyshire badger cull
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust(DWT) report shocking failures of APHA investigations into sources of Bovine tb in cattle.
APHA use a flawed methodology resulting in a totally misleading assertion that infected badgers are the major source of bovine TB infection in cattle. This could be misinforming the Government’s badger control policy.
A critical analysis of the latest APHA Epidemiology Report for Derbyshire(1) commissioned by DWT reveals a flawed system based on partial evidence, veterinary and farmer bias and management failings, resulting in a totally misleading picture of the possible sources of bovine TB in cattle in England.
APHA methodology uses a Disease Report Form( DRF) and Risk Pathway(2) assessments which result in “infected badgers” being the most significant source of infection in all High Risk Area counties and the majority of Edge Area counties.
For example Derbyshire 77% Cornwall 80% Devon 65% (3.p38/39),despite APHA confirming that “The vet does not determine the TB infection status of individual badgers on or around the farm as part of this risk pathway assessment.”
It appears that “infected badgers” is the default option when there are no other obvious cattle sources of infection. Unknown is a rarely used option.
Disease Report Form.
Disease Report Forms(DRF) are completed for approximately 60% of cases in High Risk Areas whilst in Edge and Low Risk Areas (subject to resource limitations) all new herd breakdowns have DRFs completed.
An assigned APHA veterinary officer collects all available evidence concerning the farm and it’s herd history and subject to resource availability, a farm visit to collect the evidence.(Including from the farmer). This information is documented on the DRF and provides the input to the Risk Pathway Assessments.
The weight and quality of the evidence in support of badgers being the source of infection is considerably lower than that for cattle. In fact there is no direct evidence that badgers are infected. Defra have delayed publication of Edge Area Badger Found Dead surveys undertaken in 2017.
Risk Pathway Assessments.
The results produced by the Risk Pathway Assessments (RPA) are significantly different from widely accepted evidence based opinion that the main source of transmission is between cattle and not from wildlife.
For example a peer reviewed report by Donnelly and Nouvellet 2013 states “5.7% (bootstrap 95% confidence interval: 0.9%-25%) of transmissions to herds were estimated to have been badger to cattle.”
When asked (via FOI ) what confidence interval had been calculated for the methodology being used, APHA responded:
“confidence interval has not been calculated for this data and cannot be provided.”
APHA Management Failing, Missing Caveats and Defra
The stark difference between the results from the DRF/Risk Pathway methodology and the widely accepted evidence should have alerted APHA/DEFRA senior management to order a rigorous independent review of the methodology being used.
APHA qualifies the methodology used as follows “the relative proportions of each risk pathway are very approximate, and broad generalisations only can be made from these data”
The Derbyshire Epidemiology 2018 report (1)has this caveat in the body of the report but the report Executive Summary doesn’t refer to this important caveat and states
“Risk pathways for bovine TB infection. The most likely infection source for 77% of the new breakdowns in Derbyshire during 2018 was wildlife.”
Bovine TB epidemiology and surveillance in Great Britain 2018 (3. p38/39) Published September 2019 includes results in Table 3.2.1 obtained by the same methodology without any caveat.
Defra in their recent response to the Godfrey review (4) recognised that APHA needs to improve its performance to “better gathering of key epidemiological information”
“The government is committed to improving bTB epidemiology, including better understanding the sources and pathways of infection for herds affected by bTB breakdowns.”
Rethinkbtb are calling for:
A complete redesign of the process independently audited to ensure it is fit for purpose including:
Redesign of the Disease Report Form (DRF) to minimise input evidence bias.
Better evidence gathering and analysis tools including redesigned risk pathways methodology.
All Badger Found Dead Surveys to be published.
Retraining of APHA Veterinarians.
Epidemiology reports for each county and England to be published with links to full risk pathway data.
Caveats and confidence levels to be clearly stated in the executive summaries.
Bovine TB Strategy Review October 2018 (Godfrey)
1).Derbyshire Epidemiology report for 2018 Published August 2019
2). “Flawed Epidemiological Assessments Driving Bovine TB Policy” published on Rethinkbtb Facebook page.
3).Bovine TB epidemiology and surveillance in Great Britain 2018. Published September 2019.
4). A strategy for achieving Bovine Tuberculosis Free Status for England: 2018 review -government response. Published March 2020
The above is from Rethink Bovine TB, an independent research group funded by people with an interest in examining public policy as it affects agriculture, animal diseases, animal welfare and the financial viability of farming.
Badger Trust condemns the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory as the Government confirm that over 35,000 badgers killed under culling licences in 2019
The total number of badgers killed since the cull policy started in 2013 is now a staggering 102,349 and the estimated public cost is over £60 million to date. Badgers are now being slaughtered at such a rate across England they could face local extinction in areas of the country they have inhabited since the Ice Age.
Despite this mass destruction of a protected species, the Government has failed to produce any reliable evidence to prove that the culling of badgers is making any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones."
False news? There is no U-turn on Badger Culling Really
News headlines on March 05th 2020 announced “Badger cull to be replaced by vaccines in bovine TB fight”. The government had finally published the long-awaited response to the Godfray Review, the 2018 review of Bovine TB policy. Many people on social media celebrated, and proclaimed that the government had at last seen sense and was listening to the science. But the devil is, as ever, in the detail. Careful reading of the government response makes it clear that its approach with respect to badgers remains largely unchanged – it is stick-to-plan A:
Defra still falsely claims badger culling is working by using selective data and obscure modelling
Natural England will sanction intensive culling into around 15 new areas in the HRA and Edge area in 2020 and 2021, with existing cull areas killing a further 70,000 or so more badgers over the next few years. Up to a quarter of a million badgers could be killed needlessly by 2026 using public money.
The plan is to continue to Supplementary Cull badgers until 2028
There will be a few small-scale badger vaccination schemes and a comparison of culling vs. vaccination that will be flawed science with no acceptable outcome
50 badgers killed for every one vaccinated?
The lack of any attempt at gathering significant data on badgers makes sure that nothing will be learned by the continuing cull. And it seems the penny has not yet dropped in regard to badger vaccination. Since the claims regarding the impact of badger culling are blatantly false, there is no reason to suppose that vaccination will help either. The truth is that badgers have been erroneously identified as a substantial reservoir of infection, so no amount of interference with them will produce benefits for cattle.
Defra will start to look harder at cattle interventions – but there is no complete plan or timetable for this.
In short, there is little change to the existing bTb policy, and importantly, there is no clear or real commitment to end badger culling in the medium term. Accelerated butchery in the short term. The blaming of badgers for bTB spread is a distraction resting on weak field trial data – a completely unsafe platform for policy; only cattle measures can remove bTB from cattle herds.
The blaming of badgers for bTB spread is a significant part of the issue. Welfare and conservation charities have spent considerable effort challenging the policy and legal challenge has helped stop culling in Wales. But the emergency continues to escalate, with up to 115,000 mostly healthy English badgers shot under Natural England licences since 2013. Sustained legal effort is needed to help stop the useless, often cruel and damaging badger cull, alongside policy reform
The Badger Crowd was formed in 2017. It is a voice for the public to challenge bad process and procedures surrounding the badger cull. The Badger Crowd are currently waiting to hear if permission will be granted to challenge the 2019 ruling on Supplementary Culling in the Supreme Court. We will continue to challenge bad process and procedures surrounding the badger cull. We will continue to seek justice for badgers, wildlife, farming and the tax-paying public.

Dear Paul,
I agree that cattle slaughtered in Wales has increased dramatically since the introduction of the The Refreshed TB Eradication Programme 2017, but what you fail to explain are the reasons for the increase in the number of reactors. Basically, the more you test the more you find, it’s not a difficult concept to understand or explain, which you deliberately avoided on your website.
For decades the U.K. has relied upon SICCT for removal of Tb infected cattle. It has now become apparent that the sensitivity of SICCT is only 49%-65%,( Defra research, Downs et al) thus leaving between 35%-51% of undetected infection in the herd to further spread disease. Wales has employed the widespread use of gamma interferon, which has an improved sensitivity of approx. 90%, thus removing a greater number of reactors in the early stages of infection before visible lesions have developed. I am aware that the specificity of gamma 96.6% is lower than that of SICCT thus removing some false positives but in areas of high btb where the reservoir of disease is greatest only a small number of false positive animals will be removed. There is a trade off between sensitivity and specificity, which is a small price to pay in reducing bovine Tb in endemic areas, as clearly stated on TB HUB.
Also to be noted, ALL IRs are now removed, whereas previously they were allowed to remain on farm until further testing, thus increasing the risk of spreading disease.
In addition to SICCT and Gamma, Wales has introduced a whole suite of Tb tests, to increase the sensitivity of testing. SICCT and Gamma will remove 95% of infection but the remaining 5% remains stubborn, hence the necessity for more tests being employed in Wales, flexi gamma, IDEXX, non validated tests eg Actiphage, Enferplex is currently under consideration.
Had you attended the Bovine TB conference at Aberystwyth University/ Bovine Tb Centre of Excellence it would have tremendously improved your little knowledge of bovine Tb. The whole conference was centred around the most recent scientific advances in btb testing now being employed in Wales, thus offering an explanation to vets, farmers, unions and public of the increased number of reactors now being removed in Wales.
As you are no doubt aware chronic and persistent Tb farms in Wales each has its own tailored action plan, of the 95 farms with action plans 38 have become OTF within 18 months as a result of enhanced testing and biosecurity, carefully planned cattle movements, risk based trading, all without interference with wildlife.
Until industry with the support of all political parties take responsibility for disease, bovine Tb will stubbornly persist.
I would like to draw your attention to the Gatcombe Project where a permanently housed herd had been under restriction for several years. Vet Dick Sibley was given permission to use the non validated test Actiphage which detects m.bovis bacteria in blood as low as 5 bacteria/ ml. The test is not dependent on the erratic immune response, hence the sensitivity is almost 100%. Actiphage was used in conjunction with SICCT and gamma, disclosing a previously undetected reservoir within the herd, enhanced testing succeeded in gaining OTF for this farm.
Interestingly, PCR was also employed to examine faecal m.bovis excretion. The results showed that some cattle were excreting large numbers of bacteria whilst being negative to both SICCT and Gamma, the results of which suggest that reinfection was occurring via faecal contamination, not aerosol transmission alone. Considering a reactor sheds 36 million bacteria per day, there are usually between 1-6 reactors per herd, and many more undetected, farmland becomes entrenched with Tb contamination which is able to exist in the ground for one year or more. The temperate climate in the West of the U.K. provides the ideal environment for the persistence of bTB.
The farming press recently disclosed, using Defra data, a huge reservoir of Tb in cattle in England detected by the increased use of gamma alone, as described above.
The Down’s report attributes reduction in Tb in both Gloucestershire and Somerset as a result of badger culling, but read carefully it is heavily caveated, and makes a passing suggestion that the fall could be attributed to improved testing and farmer performance.
May I also draw your attention to the excellent letter from Professor Glossop in response to Tb reservoir in cattle in England, published in Vet Record last week, where she explains the need for enhanced testing as introduced in Wales.
The Welsh government has similar concerns to those expressed in the accompanying news article ‘Huge reservoir of undetected bTB infection found’ (VR, 26 October 2019, vol 185, p492), particularly in those herds that have a chronic TB testing history. In Wales, these are typically dairy herds of mid to large size in endemic TB areas. A surprisingly high number of animals in these herds have long-term histories of being intermittent inconclusive reactors (under Welsh interpretation rules), or having positive responses to bovine tuberculin on multiple occasions, and are eventually culled one to three years later as TB skin or interferon gamma (IFN-γ) blood test reactors.
Over the past 12 months, Wales has been applying a wider suite of tests alongside IFN-γ testing in chronic TB breakdown herds. For example, the IDEXX antibody test for TB and the flexibly enhanced IFN-γ test (BoviGam; Thermo Fisher Scientific) have been used to test high-risk animals. We are also considering how the Enferplex Bovine TB antibody test (Enfer Scientific ULC) might complement our approach in identifying infected animals at an early stage.
I suggest that, before you publish electioneering propaganda, you research your topics in detail. You have succeeded in embarrassing yourself and your party with lack of knowledge about a highly important subject, not only to farmers, unions and those closely involved in bovine Tb, but to the wider electorate.
I suggest you remove or correct your recent post forthwith.
I eagerly await your response.
Linda Griffiths
Independent Researcher.
The following article in the Guardian left me open mouthed. I would have approached the Hunt Saboteurs association as I feel they are the most active with field workers.
And this link explains why I am very selective in the media that I follow.
If you got to the end, congratulations and thanks for sticking with me.
Derek CAN
The European Commission is penalising Ireland €1m for a failure to make progress in eradicating bovine tuberculosis (TB).
The EU was to provide €9.8m to the TB programme for 2018, accounting for 11% of total funding. However, its contribution will be reduced to €8.8m because Ireland's TB herd incidence has risen over the last three years. (And this is despite the country culling virtually all its badgers - so it can't be badgers then? Now they are apparently going to target deer.)
Ecologist article
... an even bigger elephant was detected relatively recently, thanks to a final act of the retiring Defra Chief Scientific Advisor Ian Boyd, in June 2019. His written advice was that it will never be possible to distinguish the existence or measurement of direct benefit from badger culling from any other individual bTB intervention. Other interventions include additional and more effective bTB testing, hygiene improvements in cattle sheds and the prevention of infected slurry spreading from causing faecal ingestion of infected slurry.
Gatcombe Farm project secures TB-free status
A new approach to disease control is being taken on a dairy farm in Devon. This article is well worth reading and could well provide a proper, long term solution for farmers. It involves taking out infective cows and minimising exposure to slurry. The trial has seen the herd attain TB-free status after six years of persistent breakdowns. It is known that the Mycobacteria that cause bovine TB is present in slurry/cattle manure and housed cattle so this trial, which certainly seems to be working, could be a way forward.
The farm in question is Gatcombe Farm, run by Robert and Thomas Reed.
They have been involved in a five-year project overseen by Dick Sibley of West Ridge Veterinary Practice, Tiverton, in partnership with Queen guitarist and animal rights supporter Brian May.
The full article is well worth reading:
A mixed response to the 11th September authorisation for a 2019 badger cull of between 36,987 and 63,908 badgers, in 11 new areas, so now totalling 43 areas across vast areas of avon, cheshire, cornwall, devon, dorset, glos., hereford, staffs., somerset, and wilts (1). That is more than the 32,000 reactor cattle over the last 12months ! An astonishing 8165-16,175 from an area of over half Devon alone , but Ian Boyd admitted "we cannot estimate badger population sizes", so how can there be a realistic estimate of this vast population, so the "necessary " 70 % cull will be wild guess work? Farmers very annoyed that a Derbyshire cull stopped by "BOJO". They haven't noticed but Oxon, Hants, and Warks scrapped too.
And a great deal of confusion as to whether these culls are working, c. 65, 000 so far 2013-2018. Farmers say they are reducing cattle TB, but Iain McGill and 14 other vets point out that cherry-picking the data, the numbers actually show an increase in cattle TB. Glos. in 2017 down 58 %, 2018 up 130 % !
No-one seems to have noticed , these figures given in the Godfray 2018 and four APHA reports, are actually a very clever optical delusion. The variable changes in cattle TB over the course of the cull are actually the effectiveness of annual cattle testing, so it is scientific fraud to claim that they are due to the badger cull. The full 4 year cull in Glos. + Somerset, ""seemed" to have halved cattle TB, 10.4 to 5.6, and 24 to 12.. but that was nothing to do with the cull of 3656 badgers, only c. 450 with TB, so perhaps two dozen "superexcretors" from 300 sq.km.
And the entire "Badger Perturbation "cull policy is based on another optical illusion. The first result in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, was a 43 % rise in the 2 km wide buffer ring around proactive areas. So culls must be over a wide enough area that this "detrimental perturbation effect" is outweighed by the alleged "beneficial effect" inside cull areas . No-one seems to have noticed, but there was no cull in the buffer ring, the rise across all 30 trial areas was the tripled accumulation of reactors due to lack of testing during foot and mouth 2001. So embarrassingly, the ups and downs in cattle TB result from relaxing and tightening cattle controls. Absolutely nothing to do with the cull of a mere 1515 dead-end spillover TB badgers out of 11,000 from 1900 sq.km. The ISG 2007 report actually found no effect on unconfirmed breakdowns. And no difference between accumulated breakdowns in reactive cull versus no cull areas, 356 vs 358.
The only positive news on the TB front, as explained at the recent Aberystwyth "TB Summit" , is that ENFERPLEX is now OIE approved, along with IDEXX. And these together with ACTIPHAGE are the "magic "bullet for chronic TB herds, 60 in Wales currently.
1 https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bovine-tb-controlling-the-risk-of-bovine-tb-from-badgers
2 https://www.farming.co.uk/news/apha-grants-access-to-new-highly-sensitivespecific-test-for-chronic-tb-breakdowns
Badger cull in England extended to ‘unimaginable scale’
The controversial badger cull in England has been expanded to an “unimaginable scale”, according to a leading expert who warned the government is paying far too little attention to the transmission of tuberculosis between cattle when they are traded.
Ministers approved culling in 11 new areas on Wednesday, taking the total to 43. Up to 64,000 animals are likely to be killed this autumn, up from a maximum of 42,000 last year.
Full article at:
Vets accuse ministers of 'barefaced lies'
A group of vets have accused Defra and its ministers of telling "barefaced lies" about the effectiveness of one of its badger culls.
The claim is contained in a letter from the group to the chief vet.
It asks her to ensure the department retracts "insupportable claims that its badger cull policy is working".
A spokesman for Defra said all statements had been "absolutely correct".
However, Dr Iain McGill, a veterinary surgeon and director of Prion Interest Group (a veterinary research group) told BBC News that claims by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that the badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire were working were not supported by scientific evidence.
"According to Defra's figures, they claim that they calculated that the incidence [of TB in cattle] has reduced.
"But their calculations are unclear and deliberately opaque. And, indeed, the current situation in the cull zone says there is an increased prevalence.
"So, either their figures were calculated on an extremely inaccurate basis and they've got it very badly wrong, or they have actually gerrymandered those figures to make it look as if the incidence is falling when the evidence clearly shows that the prevalence has gone up.
"Badger culling has not worked. They are issuing barefaced lies in this matter."
Chris Cheeseman is former head of Defra's wildlife epidemiology unit and advised the department on its TB strategy for more than 40 years. Now retired, he is able to speak freely about the badger cull policy.
"Defra has been cherry-picking the science since they started culling," he told BBC News. "The fact that they are rolling it out on such a vast scale is a travesty of the available science."
Dr McGill's group has also raised concerns that new research adds to evidence that a skin test widely used by the department to detect the presence of TB in cattle is much less effective than claimed.
On Defra's TB Hub, it is stated that effectiveness "lies between 52% and 100% with an average of about 80% sensitivity at standard interpretation".
But two new research papers indicate that the average effectiveness may be much lower, between 50% and 60% at best.
Full article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46150548
Vets accuse ministers of 'barefaced lies'
A group of vets have accused Defra and its ministers of telling "barefaced lies" about the effectiveness of one of its badger culls.
The claim is contained in a letter from the group to the chief vet.
It asks her to ensure the department retracts "insupportable claims that its badger cull policy is working".
A spokesman for Defra said all statements had been "absolutely correct".
However, Dr Iain McGill, a veterinary surgeon and director of Prion Interest Group (a veterinary research group) told BBC News that claims by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that the badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire were working were not supported by scientific evidence.
"According to Defra's figures, they claim that they calculated that the incidence [of TB in cattle] has reduced.
"But their calculations are unclear and deliberately opaque. And, indeed, the current situation in the cull zone says there is an increased prevalence.
"So, either their figures were calculated on an extremely inaccurate basis and they've got it very badly wrong, or they have actually gerrymandered those figures to make it look as if the incidence is falling when the evidence clearly shows that the prevalence has gone up.
"Badger culling has not worked. They are issuing barefaced lies in this matter."
Chris Cheeseman is former head of Defra's wildlife epidemiology unit and advised the department on its TB strategy for more than 40 years. Now retired, he is able to speak freely about the badger cull policy.
"Defra has been cherry-picking the science since they started culling," he told BBC News. "The fact that they are rolling it out on such a vast scale is a travesty of the available science."
Dr McGill's group has also raised concerns that new research adds to evidence that a skin test widely used by the department to detect the presence of TB in cattle is much less effective than claimed.
On Defra's TB Hub, it is stated that effectiveness "lies between 52% and 100% with an average of about 80% sensitivity at standard interpretation".
But two new research papers indicate that the average effectiveness may be much lower, between 50% and 60% at best.
Full article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46150548
Campaigners call for immediate halt of failing Welsh badger cull
Today, 29th July 2019, the Welsh Government published the results of their 2018 "badger removal operations", killing badgers on six farms with chronic TB breakdowns [1]. The total cost to the taxpayer last year was £395,802 to kill 26 badgers, only 11 confirmed at post mortem as having TB: a cost of £36,000 per infected badger. Each of the 59 farms in Wales identified as having a chronic TB breakdown has an action plan designed to tackle the disease. None of the farms where the action plan involved killing badgers has gone free of the disease, compared to 22 farms that have gone free of TB using cattle measures alone [2].
Over the first two years the Welsh Badger Cull has cost taxpayers £778,914 and killed 31 badgers, only just over a third (11) of which were confirmed as having TB at post mortem, despite testing positive for TB using a blood test described as "rubbish" by leading badger ecologist, Rosie Woodroffe [3].
The Animal & Plant Health Agency who have worked with the Welsh Government to carry out the "badger removal operations" admit that, since each of the six badger cull farms is subject to a combination of measures including badger interventions, they will be "unable to disentangle and detect any effects" of the cull "for a number of years" [1].
Simon Collie of campaign group "Stop the Welsh Cull" [4] called today for the policy to be immediately abandoned. "The failure of this policy was completely predictable. No independent badger ecologists believe that the policy will have a positive impact on bovine TB in cattle - the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it may make TB in cattle worse [5]. The Welsh Government have repeatedly rejected a more widespread cull like the ones run by DEFRA in England so they must immediately put a stop to the Welsh cull with its waste of money and lives. There is ample evidence that bovine TB in Wales can be successfully reduced in cattle with cattle measures alone. Blaming wildlife is a costly diversion."
[1] Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) report on the delivery of badger trap and test operations on chronic TB breakdown farms in Wales in 2018 (TBOG0135) https://gov.wales/bovine-tb-badger-trapping-and-testing-chronic-tb-breakdown-farms-2018
[2] FOI response https://gov.wales/atisn13191
[3] Tweet from Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London https://twitter.com/RosieWoodroffe/status/1018223869210095617
[4] Stop the Welsh Cull campaign page https://www.facebook.com/stopwelshcull/
[5] "A restatement of the natural science evidence base relevant to the control of bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain" , Proceedingso f the Royal Society B, Godfray et al, http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/royprsb/280/1768/20131634.full.pdf
On 2nd July, the Court of Appeal heard the challenge to the decisions of Sir Ross Cranston in the High Court in July 2018 (Langton -v- The Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs and Natural England). The Court sat between 10.30am and 4.10pm, with much of the proceedings (the morning and part of the afternoon) televised and now available on Youtube:
Links https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF4Qc7a8p3U and (pm) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwwNRwj0cMQ
Unfortunately the sound quality from parts of the room was not too good at times, but a summary can be read at https://thebadgercrowd.org/blog

Badger Culling – just 5 days to Court of Appeal Hearing
Next Tuesday July 2nd at last sees aspects of Supplementary Badger Culling and Habitat Regulations Assessment of badger culling under review by the Court of Appeal, nearly a year since the cases were first heard in the High Court. We are hopeful that further scrutiny will finally show the full merits of our arguments.
This time there are three Judges. There are parts of last year’s submissions to work through and new supporting submissions. So far the case is listed for one day but the exact timing, court number and judges are yet to be revealed.
The Hearing will be televised:
From submissions made by Defra and Natural England for these appeals, and from other exchanges of correspondence it is clear that the intention is to continue to increase badger culling this year and beyond. Yet despite monitoring the general trend in bTB in each cull area, senior government sources also confirm this week that there will be no absolute indication of whether badger culling is contributing to bTB control or not.
Badger Culling and Bovine TB in Cattle; A Re-evaluation of proactive culling benefit in the randomized badger culling trial
This damning report has been published in the Journal of Dairy and Veterinary Sciences in May 2019. Yet more evidence proving that badger culling is a waste of time, money and effort. The validity of the large scale badger culling, now rolled out to so many other counties in England, is, once again, being questioned.
Update on Join the badger crowd; help stop unlawful culling (Part 2).
Hi everyone, I just wanted you to know if you are not already aware that we are back in the High Court in early July with Appeals of aspects of our 2018 cases against Supplementary Culling and a lack of protection of SSSIs against badger culling and potential Carnivore Release Effects.
We now face the horror of 40,000 badgers being slaughtered this autumn - more badgers than ever despite the cruel, useless, unscientific approaches being taken.
We had 'limited success' in our March Section 28 (SSSI protection) Judicial Review case and have applied to appeal that too. More news on that soon.
This week we have launched a new pre-action letter against the refusal of Defra to stop the supplementary culls.
I wanted to thank you again for all your past generous support and to let you know that Badger Crowd now has basic web-pages https://thebadgercrowd.org/ that you might care to browse.
We are planning to start up a new appeal on Crowd Justice in the not too distant future to help meet the costs of new actions in 2019 and will keep you all informed as this happens.
Sincere thanks again and I hope that we can fight together again this year to bring at long last:
With very best wishes, Tom + the Badger Crowd.
A surprising update on the badger/ bovine TB Problem. Pity we have traditional "civil wars" every year in Englands green and pleasant land, between badger cull shooters and protestors such as Jay Tiernan of "stopthecull". Extra policing last year in the 32,000 badger cull ran to c. £3 million.
The irony in all this is that badgers have never actually been "The cause of the spread of cattle TB". No-one in 50 years has explained how badgers might realistically give cows a respiratory lung bronchopneumonia. And eight major badger-cattle contact studies found that badgers avoid cattle at pasture, in farmyards and in barns. Only 4 "contacts" within 1.5 m sneezing distance in over a million contacts. So it just isn't happening !
This Alice in Wonderland 50 year old debate is all based on one costly mistake. Since TB is a progressive lung disease , there have always been two types of reactors and 2 types of herd breakdowns :- newly infected cases with No Visible lung Lesions are hence "Unconfirmed" , and later cases with Confirmed Visible lesions. Vets have wrongly assumed that these NVL cases are "perfectly healthy" and don't have TB. But all these unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" are actually embarrassingly simply new unconfirmed cases from the last breakdown.
There has never actually been any self-sustaining reservoir of badger TB generating new breakdowns. The few and only TB badgers have actually just caught TB from cows , just 1515 out of 11,000 culled from 1900 sq.km. in the RBCT.
Badgers are not the cause of persistent TB in chronic herds either. Only 7 TB badgers out of 37 sampled from 3 farms in Wales in 2017, cost £360,000. Every week reveals some new farmer under restriction 5-20 years. Andrew Dutton Thurwaston , Derbyshire the latest. The very simple quick answer for chronic herds is two new test, IDEXX and Actiphage. Why aren't DEFRA and vets pointing this out ?
Hopefully Tony Juniper new head of Natural England (from 23rd April) , will refuse to licence any further utterly pointless badger culls ! Since culls don't work they must be unlawfull under the badgers act 1992.
martin hancox, ex government TB Panel
Bovine TB test wins royal recognition - Veterinary News - VetSurgeon - VetSurgeon.org
Bovine TB test wins royal recognition - Veterinary News - VetSurgeon - VetSurgeon.org
Badgers have been blamed as "the main cause of the spread of Cattle TB for nearly 50 years". So a new generation of farmers, vets, and even veterinary epidemiologist "experts", will be surprised to re-discover that bovines ie. cattle have actually been the "cause of the spread of cattle TB" all along. A two step process: prolonged close aerosol "contact" in shared air spaces, such as barns generates c. 3 new case / breakdown , then dispersal of these by local cattle movements, to cause a scatter of new herd breakdowns, c. 20 million cattle movements / a.
So, this "new light" on the spread of Cattle TB was re-discovered in the consultation on badger cull licensing in Low Risk and Edge areas a year ago (1, 2). All new cattle herd breakdowns are clearly bought-in cases from the HRA, missed by the annual and pre/post-movement tests. And the concern was that a new self-sustaining reservoir of a badger TB hotspot might be created . However, only 1 out of 22 potential "badger" hotspots were found 2004-2017, in Cumbria.
The latest report on the Cumbria LRA shows very clearly that , the entirely new index case was a bull newly imported in 2014 with Irish DNA Spoligotype, 17:z. There were 35 breakdown herds with this DNA type, in 2018, which can only have arisen by local cattle movements. And out of the 602 badgers culled, there were only 40 TB badgers out of the 363 fully autopsied. These arose as a dead-end spillover host with this spoligotype, scattered across the cull/ study area :-
20.9 % infected from the core "Minimum Affected Area", and only 1.7 % in the bigger overall outside ring "Intervention Area". Clearly there was no new Woodchester Park like self-sustaining reservoir in the badger population.. but just 1-2 TB badgers found at the epicentre of bad herd breakdowns, as found as long ago in the 1980s "Clean Ring " culls.
Badger culling policy is based on Godfray's flawed "RBCT Perturbation Model" (3, 4, 5, 6, 7). The first result in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, was an unexpected rise in cattle TB in the 2 km wide buffer ring surrounding proactive cull areas, which was supposedly due to wider movements by badgers perturbed by the cull. No-one has noticed, but there actually was no cull out there, and in fact this rise happened in all 30 trial areas and 30 buffer rings, and was simply the threefold jump in accumulated reactors arising from the suspension of cattle testing during foot and mouth 2001. The halving of cattle TB, actually in all 60 areas , was simply 5-7 years of intensive cattle testing. So these changes in cattle TB had absolutely nothing to do with culling a mere 1515 dead-end spillover TB badgers out of 11, 000 culled from 1900 sq.km. So the Perturbation cull model in England, Wales, Eire and Ulster is pure fantasy pseudoscience. As is the idea of ring or edge vaccination (6).
So badgers cannot be spreading TB , a respiratory bronchopneumonia, but are collateral damage, and a Miners canary indicator of cattle TB spread. So it is utterly meaningless to cull or vaccinate them .. and since they are not the cause of the spread of cattle TB, any cull licences must be by definition unlawful under the 1992 Badgers. A very disappointing outcome of the recent Court case (PDF, 4, 8 ), culls deemed unlawful, in not taking adequate account of culls on protected sites. But cull licences not revoked, so the badger trust may launch another appeal on the basis of this new information. Hopefully Tony Juniper as the new boss of Natural England from 23rd April, will refuse to licence any further costly pointless badger cull or vaccination schemes
sincerely, Martin Hancox ex-government TB Panel
1 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-surveillance-in-wildlife-in-england/tb-surveillance-in-badgers-during-year-...
2 Cattle Contact Networks are the cause of the spread of cattle TB, 20 million cattle movements / a
3 https://theecologist.org/2019/mar/25/fate-badger R. Meyer
4 https://www.brockbase.com/2300/RBCT-conflicts
5 https://theecologist.org/2018/dec/04/bovine-tb-black-and-whitewash T. Langton
6 https://www.zsl.org/blogs/science/what-does-the-godfray-review-mean-for-badgers R. Woodroffe
7 Hancox M , www.badgersandtb.com and flawed Godfray Report
8 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/2190.html Court case
There is mounting public scepticism over the science and justifications behind mass culling of badgers in England, which has increased steadily since 2013 as a part of the Government’s attempt to control the livestock disease bovine tuberculosis.
Few are aware of the possibility that far more subtle and insidious knock-on effects are playing out across our countryside as a result of depletion of this top carnivore from the landscape, and as a consequence of bouts of focused shooting, digging and trapping around badger setts to be found in
sensitive habitats and locations.
Natural England, the statutory adviser to the Government on wildlife matters, issues licences for badger culling for DEFRA. Before granting licences they are required, under duties laid down by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, to consider the possible side-effects of badger culling on other wildlife, most particularly in and around nature reserves and specially protected sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
In a High Court action brought by ecologist Tom Langton on behalf of The Badger Crowd and others, Natural England’s conduct was examined over a two day judicial review hearing at the start of this month. Judgement was received in the last few days.
The judge agreed that Natural England had failed to consider effects on important species in a number of the SSSIs it had considered – in other words a failure to properly exercise its statutory duty. In an additional number of cases, Natural England had already conceded that it had made
errors and had moved to try and correct them in the months and weeks running up to the case being heard in the High Court. In a substantial proportion of further cases, Natural England offered no defence beyond claiming that any omissions were rendered academic as a result of ‘standard’
conditions on the licences, which they argued would afford accidental protection to the special plants and animals they had otherwise failed to consider.
Because the number of Natural England’s assessments considered by the judge was only a sample of those at issue, the judgment leaves it unclear how many additional SSSIs have been affected by the statutory agency’s failures to undertake proper assessments. The full scale of short and long term
ecological implications are simply not known. Despite this, and notwithstanding his declaration that Mr Langton had achieved some success in the claim, the judge refused to order the revocation of any of the culling licences affected by the flaws he agreed had been made. An appeal against that
decision is in progress.
If permission to appeal is granted, it stands to be heard with another part of the case brought in 2018 which is already proceeding to the Court of Appeal. The judgment in that case found that Natural England had presided over similar failures to fully exercise its responsibilities under the
European Habitats Directive, but it similarly failed to lead to any licences being quashed. A dismissed challenge against ‘supplementary’ badger culling policy will be heard at the same time.
Press Release from Badger Trust 20 March 2019
Is the badger really public enemy number one?
By Polly Pullar - 15th March 2019
Interesting article (Scotland is BT free and has badgers) at:
Dear Sir Ross Cranston,
I suspect that the 2 days proceedings, will have not fully exposed the absurdity of badger culls , as explained below .
best regards, martin hancox, ex-government TB Panel
Recent "progress" on badgers and bovine TB : - 4 steps forward, and 3 1/2 backwards or sideways ! At the recent NFU Conference, Michael Gove, reiterated the Godfray claim that badger culls will reduce cattle TB by 15 %. No doubt government response to Godfray will shortly reaffirm. But badger cull perturbation increasing TB is actually pure fantasy , so is a clever optical delusion and pseudo-scientific fraud !
George Eustice and Christine Middlemiss also still claiming the full 4 year Pilot culls in Glos & Somerset, halved TB. But that's is simply daft, just 3565 badgers removed, perhaps 400 with TB, but only a dozen superexcretors, from c. 300 sq.km.
Eustice resigned from government, mostly over Brexit, and uncertainty over grants . It'll be most interesting to see if replacement minister will be any less pink specs tunnel visioned.
Neil Parish and the EFRA Committee asked Tony Juniper , probable new head of Natural England if he would continue with culls. Whilst preferring wildlife trust vaccination policy, he said he would implement licencing culls if so instructed by Gove. However a check on the "science" needed. Unfortunately he will be given the Godfray nonsense, so back to square one.
And lastly, 28th Feb, and 1st March saw Crowdjustice/ Badger Trust appeal in the high court. Challenging adequacy of natural England monitoring of cull impacts of protected habitats. If there is any justice, in all this Judge Sir Ross Cranston , ought to rule that licencing badger culls under the Badgers Act 1992, must clearly be unlawful, because neither culls or vaccination schemes will ever work. Because rather embarassingly, badgers have never actually been the cause of the spread of CATTLE TB in the first place. No-one has ever explained how badgers might give cows a respiratory lung disease , so all the scatter of new unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" are actually simply new unconfirmed reactors from the last herd breakdown. Nothing to do with badgers whatsoever !
sincerely, Martin Hancox , ex-govt.TB Panel

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