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?
4 Jul 2019, 5:13 PM
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:
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.
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.
11 Jun 2019, 12:08 PM
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.
2 May 2019, 11:45 AM
SHOCK NEWS : BADGERS HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY BEEN THE CAUSE OF THE SPREAD OF CATTLE TB ; SO THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO POINT IN CULLING THEM !! NEW LIGHT ON TB ( BOVINE TB NEW TESTS )
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. sincerely,
martin hancox, ex government TB Panel
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
SHOOT THE BADGERS? PITY THE BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES TOO.
NATURAL ENGLAND FOUND BY HIGH COURT TO HAVE OVERLOOKED RISKS TO OTHER ANIMALS FROM BADGER CULLING.
HIGH COURT AGREES THAT NATURAL ENGLAND FAILED TO PROPERLY PROTECT SPECIAL WILDLIFE SITES AND THEIR INHABITANTS WHEN ISSUING BADGER CULLING PERMISSIONS, YET STILL FAILS TO ORDER THE SCRAPPING OF AFFECTED LICENCES.
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
16 Mar 2019, 11:40 AM
Is the badger really public enemy number one? By Polly Pullar - 15th March 2019
BROCK IN THE DOCK : BADGER POLITICS BOVINE TB POLICY UPDATE
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
BADGER POLITICS BOVINE TB POLICY UPDATE
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 www.badgersandtb.com
28 Feb 2019, 5:59 PM
Badger protection, badger culling and the law. Worrying times. By Tom Langton
Badgers are social animals and watching them quietly in gardens or from a hide is a delight. Just like cats and dogs, their playful rough and tumble behavior as cubs and adults is just one part of their complex social organization. Although nocturnal in habit, by day they often live in close-knit social groups underground in setts.
Badgers were protected from cruel persecution for gambling and with dogs by the 1973 Badgers Act and this was strengthened in 1992. As a result of legal protection, studies suggest that badgers have steadily recovered since their local extermination in parts of the country in past centuries, and may now be returning to more natural levels.
However, few would have foreseen the calamity that has taken place in England in recent years,starting with government studies in 2007 using mathematical modelling of field trials. These suggest that badgers pass bovine TB back to cattle at levels that can be reduced by badger culling.
Sadly badgers are infected from bovine tuberculosis (bTB or cattle TB) when eating earthworms infected with bTB bacteria from cow pats or spread slurry. In the near eradication of the disease in the 1960’s, infected badgers did not spread bTB back to cattle in places that it had been removed from, suggesting that the badger-to-cattle pathway is relatively rare or even non-existent.
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 however allows badgers to be removed to stop disease spreading, and a government policy in 2011 was forced through. All at a time when prevailing academic opinion was that it could not make any meaningful contribution to bTB reduction. A small number of powerful government employed and funded vets and intensive livestock representatives pushed the policy forwards, with major charities not strong enough to stand up to them.
Culling began in Somerset and Gloucestershire in 2013 and spread to Dorset in 2015, then to Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire and Herefordshire. Since then, Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cumbria have been added. This year, culling is threatened in Avon, Berkshire, Derbyshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Sussex and further into East England. Some think the government aim is to reduce badger numbers everywhere to delay their final recovery. In England, so far since 2013 over 67,000 badgers have been shot in cage traps or at night in the open using some methods the British Veterinary Association say are inhumane.
Studies of culling since 2013 in Gloucestershire and Somerset have led to claims by Ministers that culling is working, but close inspection shows this to be doubtful. In fact in 2018 in Gloucestershire, new incidents of bTB doubled. In truth the situation is muddled and not set up to be reliably monitored. It is a shambles and mess that one senior government expert described as ‘an epic fail’.
A government review in 2018 indicated that unless farmers improve testing and biosecurity the contribution of other measures is unlikely to be enough. In other words, the badgers killed over the last five years may have all died in vain because the main cause of disease is not being properly addressed.
Beyond the shocking and sad cruelty of the culling, with wounded badgers running off to die at length and in pain in their setts, are wider effects on the ecosystems that are disrupted by upsetting predator balances. Legal challenges have resulted in acceptance of the problem and a further case
will go to court this February. Further challenges to culling methods and issuing of licences are
underway. At time of writing, five High Court actions aiming for Judicial Review are live, managed by a large team of volunteer ecologists, disease experts and fundraisers.
All this shows that we need to work harder to ensure that laws passed to protect our wild animals are not abused on flimsy evidence by small vested interests.
If you would like to support people who are trying to help badgers and their wild communities,please go to the Just Giving crowd fund pages. You can find the Badger Crowd appeal being run by
High Court Rules Against Natural England As Failed Badger Culling Approaches New Legal Test.
A ruling against Natural England this week means that vital evidence will now be put in front of a High Court Judicial Review Hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice London on Thursday 28th February/Friday 1st March, in under two weeks-time.
At a hearing this week, an attempt by government agency Natural England to prevent submission to the court of a witness statement for the claimant from ecological impact expert Dominic Woodfield was overturned. It details omissions in Natural England’s assessments of ‘collateral damage’ to precious sites & species.
Legal cases addressing the risk of damage to rare and protected species and nature reserves from badger culling activities have been brought by ecologist Tom Langton, supported by a coalition of Badger protection organisations, wildlife charities and members of the public. The claim is that Natural England’s issue of culling licences is unlawful due to inadequate checks and procedures since the badger culls began in 2013. The claims surround controversial permissions for the killing 67,000 badgers so far across the West of England, with fears that up to a further 40,000 badgers could be condemned to die this year.
The boost for litigation against the issuing of badger cull licenses comes at a time when an application is pending on two related cases from 2018 at the Court of Appeal. Two further challenges against badger culling in Cumbria and across the rest of England are in their early stages and further challenges are possible in 2019. The decision coincides with at a time when the government, farmers and vets are confronted by increasing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in the first pilot badger cull area in Gloucestershire, where figures for 2018 indicate a 53% increase in breakdowns, starkly illustrating the failure of Defra’s 2011 Policy.
This is in line with expert warnings that continuing to cull badgers there could be counter- productive and hence effectively illegal as it is not capable of preventing the spread of disease as required by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
In a recent independent review commissioned by the government found it (not surprisingly) found that culls made only a modest contribution to reducing TB in cattle. The review called for more curbs on cattle trading and better biosecurity on farms.
New analysis of the latest government data shows the number of herds hit by bovine TB in the west Gloucestershire cull zone increased by 29% this year, suggesting efforts to control the disease in one of the original cull zones may be failing. It is common sense, to those who have been following this fiasco for many years, THE BADGER IS BEING USED AS A SCAPEGOAT. Will this species follow the many others that the human species have virtually wiped out?
Man who uncovered BSE scandal now calls for end to badger culling
Things have now got heated as the man who uncovered the BSE scandal wants Farming Minister to 'consider his position' in government.
The man who spearheaded an investigation into the BSE crisis has called for the government’s Farming Minister “to consider his position,” calling a report into Gloucestershire’s badger cull ‘fake science’ and ‘barefaced lies.’
The veterinary surgeon and Director of Prion Interest Group, said: “badger culls should stop today; if one more badger is killed it’s a travesty.”
Dr Iain McGill has publicly ‘called out’ Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) for “making misleading statements” about the levels of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in counties like Gloucestershire.
The comments have come to light on the eve of publication of the Godfrey report.
The report is an independent review, set up by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, into Defra's efforts to control bTB.
What the letter said.
In a letter to Chief Vet, Christine Middlemiss, Dr McGill's campaign group requested “her to go to ministers and get them to retract the barefaced lies they have been telling.
They claim the government are “lying about the success rate of their skin test, and telling more lies to cover it up.”
'Badger culling hasn't worked'
“We’ve absolutely had enough; we will not have our reputation besmirched by this thoroughly fake science.”
He claims the issue of bTB “will never go away under current plans, forget 2038, the government could spend 38 millennia and it will never go away.”
Dr McGill claims: “the levels of bTB were falling three years before the cull began; as soon as the culling started the levels plateau.
“Badger culling absolutely hasn’t worked, the government need to call it off, stop lying and stop hiding behind the pseudo-science.
“We have the data to show that there is a huge spike in bTB in Gloucestershire” since the cull began.
He claims that there had been a 29 per cent increase in the number of cattle herds under restriction since the cull began, which is contrary to the conclusion made by government minister George Eustice MP.
Major reform' is needed.
Dr McGill suggests a major reform of the dairy industry is required, saying: "It's a dairy problem. Dairy cows are dangerously inbred and have little resistance to infections.”
He also suggests vaccination, similar to a basic BCG, as a solution to reduce bTB “by 60 to 70 per cent at a stroke.”
But claims that it is “far more important to vaccinate the badgers.
“Badgers do not give tuberculosis to cattle. No wildlife can give tuberculosis to cattle. It’s a complete myth.”
Have badger culls worked in Gloucestershire?
Dr McGill said: “They have been told a whole lot of codswallop for 50 years, so it’s not surprising they believe it.
“Farmers are being hemmed in on all sides. They produce milk 365 days a year, selling it sometimes for less than it costs to produce. They are under immense economic pressure, they go TB free then it comes back so they want someone to blame.
It’s all a myth, it is a cow disease. It is spread between cows but the government doesn’t want to admit that.
“The government says its badgers, so they organise armed gangs to go kill them. But I understand it.
“They should be livid with the government and they should be livid with Defra; they have been lied to.”
“They are lying to farmers they are lying to the public, and they are lying to parliament – which is a serious offence.”
A Gloucestershire campaign group echoed the calls for 'the immediate cessation to all culling of badgers in response to the recent expose of Defra.'
Gloucestershire Badger Office Chairman Lynn Sawyer said:"The whole thing is a complete red herring."
Lynn says her group have witnessed 'awful' things in the field, including 'sett blocking and badgers being culled in areas not even designated as badger cull zones.'
She claims that in one instance: "The Fire Brigade have been called out because a sett was lit on fire."
Lynn said:"We have seen farmers spreading slurry across their fields and fox hunts taking place across bTB infected farmlands," both of which have been attributed to the spreading of the disease.
She said the organisation: "does not support any killings of wild animals, so we wouldn't support this cull even it was seen to be working, regardless of the science.
"It has to stop. Sets have been dug out, we have seen badgers in cages and being shot at. They are seen as collateral damage."
Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs and Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch data
149 badger setts were discovered to be blocked during the 2017-18 hunting season. 108 in Gloucestershire were reported to the police. Their data states that the vast majority of the blocked setts that were discovered and recorded (94) were freshly blocked and found in proximity to known hunt meets. The report determines ‘freshly blocked’ as 'not more than a week ago.' The groups behind the report said: "It should also be noted that many of these badger sett blockings have been carried out within the official badger cull zone, increasing the threat to bio-security in a bTB area."
But the number of zones available for badger culling has recently increased in Gloucestershire, with Natural England setting a number of targets for two areas specifically.
One cull area, which has been in place in Gloucestershire since 2013, has a set target of between 28 and 927 for this open season.
An authorisation letter was sent out September 7 approving a cull in more than one area of Gloucestershire.
They set a target for this open season for between 1,163 and 1,579.
The licences are for four years and allow specific individuals to cull badgers each year for specific dates between June 1 and January 31.
Gloucestershire constabulary wrote on Facebook on November 12: "Did you know that it's illegal to take, injure or kill a badger? It's also illegal to dig, block or interfere with a badger sett."
Lynn said "The police in Gloucestershire are very much on side, but it is impossible to be watching badger setts day in, day out."
Badger cull: Blaming wildlife while neglecting cheap farming improvements 'severely hampering' bovine TB fight, review finds | The Independent
The government’s bovine tuberculosis (bTB) strategy has allowed the culling of tens of thousands of badgers but neglected basic infection prevention on farms which is “severely hampering” efforts to control the disease, a major report has found.
The authors said that preventing the disease spreading between cattle on farms and in livestock trading was the most important way to control infection.
“If I had to say more one than the other it’s definitely more on the cattle to cattle side [than badger to cattle infection],” the review’s chair Sir Charles Godfray, professor of zoology at Oxford University, said.
“We realise that wildlife does have a role in this disease, but it’s wrong to put all the blame on wildlife and to use this as an excuse to not make hard decisions in industry, which is going to cost the industry money.”
Sir Charles said there was also an “urgent need for more evidence on the efficacy of vaccinations” to inoculate badgers. This approach is being used in cross-border efforts in Ireland, and the review panel called for government to adopt its own trials to develop the evidence.
While recognising the burden that bTB places on farmers and their families, the Bovine TB Strategy Review said there is “disappointingly low” uptake of basic biosecurity measures to limit its impact.
The report blames this on the backlash around badger culling which has had the “unfortunate consequence of … deflecting focus from what can be done by the individual farmer and livestock community”.
“In particular, the poor take up of on-farm biosecurity measures and the extent of trading in often high-risk cattle is, we believe, severely hampering disease control,” it said.
Other measures include keeping neighbouring herds separated to prevent the tuberculosis bacteria passing from nose to nose contact, and preventing badgers from getting on to farms, particularly around feed bins.
Recent evidence also raises the case for using a battery of tests on herds where bTB is suspected after research found a commonly used skin test is ineffective. It also highlights the spreading of manure slurry on fields which can increase the spread of bTB, and can be addressed with different treating methods or with more modern equipment to inject the slurry under the soil.
These efforts could have a greater impact on the spread of disease than culling, which the Badger Trust charity estimates could have killed as many as 75,000 badgers at a cost of “over £50m of public money”.
The review said the best evidence on the effect of culling remains the Randomised Badger Cull Trial (RBCT) that ran between 1998 and 2005 and suggests it can lower bTB incidence by around 15 per cent.
However Sir Charles said the group was “explicitly” told not to consider evidence from current culls that have been underway since 2013, although figures from Gloucestershire and Somerset were consistent with the RBCT.
The latest culls have incurred significant costs. The review says 32 culls have been authorised since 2013, at an average cost of £600,000 per site over a four year period – more than a third of this cost on policing.
The review’s publication comes a day after leading vets accused the government of “barefaced lies” in claiming these cull areas had already reduced bTB in cattle.
A letter published in the Vet Record journal argues data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is “unclear and deliberately opaque” and that bTB rates were falling before culling began.
The letter’s lead author, veterinary surgeon Dr Iain McGill of the Prion Interest Group, told the BBC there is now evidence bTB was rising in these areas, saying: “Badger culling has not worked. They are issuing barefaced lies in this matter.”
These concerns have been echoed by other campaigners.
“To date the government have spent over £50m of public money undertaking the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory,” said Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust.
“Despite this huge slaughter the government have no reliable evidence that badger culling is lowering bovine bTB in cattle.
He added: “Although Sir Charles does not call for an end to the cruel, hugely costly and ineffective badger cull, he does recognise that badger vaccination could be a viable alternative to culling.”
Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: “Our concern is that the focus on blaming badgers has stalled vital research and investment to find more effective solutions that would save the lives of cattle and move away from the current futile killing of badgers.”
Vets slam the government's badger cull in two new open letters Two new open letters signed by vets and animal rights groups have added fresh perspective to growing criticism of the badger cull.
Badger cull cruelty
Vet Record, the British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) official journal, published a letter on 19 October calling for:
the BVA to withdraw its support for any further licensed badger culling
Titled Animal welfare impacts of badger culling operations, it highlights footage released on 30 September. In the video, a badger keeps moving for nearly a minute after being shot. Meanwhile, a cull contractor looks on. The open letter says this breaches “current Natural England best practice”. And it also “raises serious questions” about the capability of contractors in relation to badger welfare.
The letter, signed by vets from wildlife protection group Born Free, goes on to say:
The veterinary profession has no business supporting this licensed mass killing with all its inherent negative welfare and biosecurity implications, and for which the disease control benefits are, at best, extremely uncertain.
And it states that ongoing support for the cull by “veterinary bodies” could damage the profession’s reputation.
The BVA responded in a statement published alongside Animal welfare impacts on badger culling operations. While refusing to comment on the video, senior vice president John Fishwick says the body hasn’t “shied away from challenging practice in the past”. He also points out the BVA’s concern for trapped badgers during the summer heat.
The response says the:
BVA supports a comprehensive approach to tackling bTB that should include control measures in cattle alongside simultaneous and coordinated measures in badgers, other wildlife and susceptible farmed species.
Fishwick goes on to say the body’s approach is based on evidence and epidemiology. He also says the BVA believes the “the methods used in badger cull areas must be humane”. But the response doesn’t comment directly on claims of the cull’s “uncertain” effects on controlling bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
Meanwhile, another open letter tackled exactly this issue.
In a letter published by the Network for Animals on 20 October, another group called for the government to withdraw claims about the badger cull.
On 13 September, DEFRA announced success in two cull pilot areas. It said zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset showed reductions in new bTB outbreaks amongst cattle. But doubts were quickly raised by the Wildlife Trusts and by Rosie Woodroffe from the Zoological Society of London, as The Canary previously reported.
Now, a group of senior vets have detailed concerns about the government’s figures. The letter points to the difference between ‘incidence’ and ‘prevalence’. The former is what DEFRA’s September claim is based on. But the letter says:
Greater clarity [on bTB control] can be obtained by focusing on prevalence rather than incidence.
The cull’s impact appears different when looking at prevalence. In the three years leading up to the start of the pilots, the letter says, bTB prevalence fell in both areas. Once culling began, however, prevalence remained stable. It goes on to say:
Put simply, there are approximately the same proportion of bTB affected herds now, as there were before culling started. Badger culling has not resulted in a decrease in bTB in cattle in cull zones, for the prevalence remains unchanged.
In addition, the letter airs concerns that DEFRA hasn’t made its data public and calls for the government to release this information.
The 2018 badger cull is expected to kill up to 40,000 badgers. As in previous years, it has been the target of direct action by saboteurs. This year, though, has resulted in heavy-handed law enforcement. In early October, three people from Liverpool Hunt Saboteurs faced armed response while taking action in Cheshire. And in late September, Devon and Cornwall Police said drones could be used to monitor activists.
Evidence is catching up to the strength of passion from campaigners and activists. Blatant animal cruelty is bringing the cull to the doorstep of the country’s top veterinary body. The government’s massaged numbers are losing credibility. And experts are starting to ask if it’s human bad practice rather than uncontrolled wildlife that’s to blame.
For Britain’s badger, change can’t come soon enough.
Minister’s claim badger cull cuts cattle TB is attacked by experts Jamie DowardSun 21 Oct 2018 06.00 BST George Eustice’s boast that government strategy is working called untrue by vets and animal specialists
Government claims that the controversial badger cull is reducing tuberculosis rates in cattle have been undermined by a group of leading vets and animal welfare experts who have shared data that, they say, confirms it has made no difference.
Last month the farming minister George Eustice said: “Reductions in TB cases in Somerset and Gloucestershire are evidence that our strategy is delivering results.” But the group, which includes Iain McGill, the former government vet who helped expose the BSE cover-up, Adam Grogan, head of wildlife at the RSPCA, and Mark Jones, head of policy at the Born Free Foundation, disagrees.
In a letter, published in edited form in today’s Observer, and in full on the Network For Animals website, they are among 15 signatories who claim that “when ministerial statements are used as justification for the slaughter of badgers on an industrial scale ... it is vital that they ... reflect the best available veterinary and scientific advice”.
The agriculture ministry’s claims are based on the “incidence rate” – calculated by examining the number of new cases of TB in cattle herds. However, the signatories claim this approach, using “complex and sometimes obscure calculations”, is wrong. They suggest the focus should be on the percentage of cattle herds in badger culling zones which have the disease at a specific point in time.
Their letter states: “Examination of that data ... demonstrates no reduction in the prevalence of bTB (bovine TB) infected herds in Gloucestershire or Somerset as a result of culling.”
It continues: “The prevalence in cattle is no lower than it was before culling, despite the killing and removal of 1,879 badgers in Gloucestershire and 1,777 in Somerset. A total of 3,656 badgers have been killed with no perceivable disease control benefits.”
There is now public disquiet at the violence and animal suffering associated with the badger cull In Gloucestershire the prevalence of the disease fell to 6.9% in the three years running up to the cull before plateauing at 7.1% after four years of culling. In Somerset it fell successively for the three years up to the cull to 6.1%, before rising to 7.2% after four years of culling.
“There are approximately the same proportion of bTB affected herds now as there were before culling started,” the signatories claim. “Badger culling has not resulted in a decrease in bTB in cattle in cull zones ... Any statement made to the contrary is untrue.”
The Zoological Society of London claims there is “no robust evidence that England’s policy of mass culling” is reducing TB in cattle. The signatories call on Eustice to withdraw his statement. “When proven harm is committed to animals on a very large scale, accompanied by documented animal abuse and ... unaccompanied by any disease control benefits, the only option for any responsible government is to abandon the policy immediately,” they write.
8 Oct 2018, 8:19 PM
The Oxford mafia exposed
By August 2016, as more badger killing was announced, I began to realise the awful truth. The badger protection movement, with the exception of a handful of informed people had joined with the ISG scientists to uphold ‘the ISG science’, unreliably based upon badgers giving bTB to cattle with significant frequency. They were supported by a number of Oxford University academics although I noted this was on more general terms than the ISG specifics. Speaking out were some who were behind the scenes in setting up the 1997 Krebs review and the RBCT in the first place. On checking and double checking, many closest to the issue either did not want to accept my analysis or even to talk about it, which just seemed suspicious. Some wanted it covered up for tactical reasons. The phrase ’reputational damage’ was used more than once.
Farmers need a better understanding of TB By Matthew Limb
Many farmers’ understanding of bovine TB is so poor it is ‘frightening’, according to the lead vet for a scheme supporting efforts to eradicate the disease in Wales.
Katie Rose, who leads the Cymorth TB programme for the APHA in Wales, said farmers were ‘blaming badgers for everything that happens on their farms’ when they should be doing more to improve biosecurity and disease control.
Rose was speaking last week at the Official Veterinarian (OV) conference in Swindon.
Her comments came as the Welsh government rejected a call by the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) for proactive badger culling in an Intensive Action Area (IAA) in Wales to be reinstated.