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?
9 May 2015, 8:01 AM
The Badger Trust is disappointed by the outcome of the Election which has resulted in the return of a Conservative Government remaining committed to the continuation of the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset together with the possible extension of badger culling to other counties of England. The Badger Trust will continue to oppose the badger cull policy on scientific, economic and animal welfare grounds.
We will challenge the badger cull policy in the Courts and in the media; we will lobby MP's of all parties and continue to campaign alongside you in the streets of our towns and cities. Badger Trust will support the wounded badger patrol movement, in order to help rid our countryside of this cruel, disastrous policy, which fails farmers, tax payers and our wildlife.
We will also continue to work with the Government, farmers and landowners to expand badger vaccination in order to build immunity against bovine TB in the badger population.
We would like to thank all our Groups and supporters for your tireless determination and efforts to stop the badger cull policy and we look forward to working closely with you as we continue the fight to end this new Government’s badger culling policy.
Dominic Dyer CEO Badger Trust
1 May 2015, 12:42 PM
Although farmers and vets are still absolutely certain that "Badgers are the main cause of the spread of TB", so more culls are essential post May 7th; this is a spectacularly wrong misunderstanding of how TB is actually transmitted and spread within the cattle population, and there are two reasons why the actual badger contribution to cattle TB is probably Zero !
There are far too few super-excretor badgers which might be a risk to other badgers or cattle "out there". The 2 recent Pilot culls came to 2494 badgers, so translating from the RBCT/Krebs cull data , perhaps c. 400 with TB, but only 1.65 % superinfectious ones ie. just 7 TB badgers from c. 300 sq.km. A cost of c. £15 million , including some £ 3 million disgracefully wasted on extra policing to protect shooters from protestors or vice versa. And if a typical herd breakdown costs c. £30,000, that is a mere £210,000 possibly saved if they actually improbably did cause herd TB, hardly a rational cost-effective policy.
DEFRA's textbook high density , high risk badger study area is at Woodchester Park, with some 350 badgers in 9 sq.km. But there has not been even a single herd breakdown in the dozen herds there since 1975, which could unequivocally be "due to badgers". Not surprising given that there were only 17 superexcretor TB badgers over 14 years. And a mere 32 TB badger scats out of 4023 sampled over 5 years, hardly a major risk to cattle.
And despite the confusion over how cattle catch TB it most certainly cannot be from badgers. The Godfray 2013 latest review in the Proc. of the Royal Society, in identifying areas of uncertainty clearly states (para.15):- "Little is known about how M.bovis is transmitted between badgers and cattle. Transmission may be indirect; for example, through contamination of pasture, feed, and drinking water. Alternatively, direct transmission via aerosol droplets at close contact may occur, possibly inside farm buildings as well as outdoors. No quantitative estimates of any of these transmission rates or their relative importance are currently available ". So after 44 years research, as the Krebs 1997 review noted "It is not known If, How, or to What extent badgers might transmit TB to cattle".
Cattle TB is in fact simply a respiratory broncho-pneumonia, like human "consumption" ( lesions in the lungs or draining lymph nodes www.badgersandtb.com); caught by prolonged close contact in barns or milking parlours. A classic study in 1904 placed 13 calves in a barn with a 2 yard gap to older TB cattle, so purely aerosol spread happened, 5 calves were reactors after 6 months, the other 8 by 1 year. In the only proven case where badgers gave TB to calves in a very artificial yard experiment, 4 calves exposed for under a month did not apparently have TB .
The vast number ofnew herd breakdowns allegedly "Due to badgers" are in fact caused by, and first identified by early TB reactor cattle,which have not yet progressed to the visible lung lesion stage, so-called unconfirmed cases ; 245,000 out of 410,000 cattle removed since foot and mouth 2001, contrasts with just 6123 TB badgers out of 53,130 sampled 1972-2005.
sincerely, Martin Hancox, ex-government Badger TB Consultative Panel.
The science underlying the topic of badgers and bovine TB is highly complex. This has led to information being deviously manipulated by those who want to cull badgers, whereupon they seize on scraps of data to misrepresent in support of culling while ignoring the overwhelming evidence against it. As such it has descended into a propaganda exercise by the National Farmers Union to win support for culling and distract attention from the real problem.
The truth is that the persistence of TB in cattle is largely due to the continuing spread of the disease among the cattle themselves. Scientists at Imperial College London estimate that less than 6% of cattle TB outbreaks are due directly to badgers.
Wales has reduced cattle TB incidence by almost a half in just five years by more rigorous testing of cattle. While England lags behind, the Westminster Government continues with its badger culling policy, despite two successive years of failure on both efficacy and welfare grounds. And the cost? The two pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have cost the tax payer a staggering £15million in just two years.
This Government has consistently shown a wilful disregard for the science in its pursuit of badger culling. The Government estimates that badger culling will, at best, lead to a 12 to 16% drop in cattle TB over 9 years, while many experts predict that due to significant changes in protocol it may actually make TB in cattle and badgers worse. As a result, we have to ask why our politicians are pursuing such an ill-conceived strategy. Political analysts conclude that it is to appease farmers and influential landowners in order to win their votes and financial support. If re-elected, the Tories will roll out more badger culls across the South West of England that will result in the needless slaughter of thousands more badgers.
Fortunately there are people who are not prepared to tolerate this contemptuous attitude towards our native wildlife for political ends. I recently joined a number of other scientists and veterinarians in writing to David Cameron to express our deep concerns about the Government’s TB policy
The reply was disappointing and gave no indication of the changes that are so desperately needed.
MPs are there to engage with their constituents on nationally important issues – badger culling ranks as the fifth most common subject of complaint to MP’s in 2014. I wrote to our Stroud MP, Mr Neil Carmichael, many weeks ago asking for his views on our correspondence with David Cameron. Apart from the usual acknowledgement, he has yet to reply. Indeed, he has failed to respond to all my written challenges and offers to discuss this subject since being elected. Instead of pursuing an objective position based on the facts in his stance on bovine TB, Mr Carmichael simply follows the Conservative whip in Government debates and votes in favour of badger culling.
Dr Chris Cheeseman Badger Ecologist and former government adviser
Note: You can read the abridged version of Dr Cheeseman’s letter published by Stroud News and Journal here: http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/lettersextra/12909788.Badgers_and_bovine_TB_/?dm_i=1NFN,3CIRQ,97TLTF,BZ42D,1 You can also read his guest article for Badgergate on why a badger cull won’t work here: http://www.badgergate.org/guest-articles/why-a-badger-cull-wont-work/
16 Apr 2015, 9:08 AM
Rethink Btb says 'SAY NO TO TVR CULLING.' They have sent us the following.
We have been researching various aspects of the Test Vaccinate Remove (TVR ) concept which aims to cull diseased badgers and protect,via vaccination, uninfected ones. In reviewing various scientific papers, communicating with Defra, APHA, DARDNI and others ( links will be posted later), we can see no scientific, practical, economic or moral reason for agreeing to the use of a TVR strategy to reduce BovineTb in cattle.
There is no convincing evidence that selective culling will have a significant effect on the level of cattle Btb. Indeed, there appears to be a risk that it could increase cattle breakdowns due to perturbation.
There is currently no fully evaluated trap side test available for use in a Badger TVR project. Defra project SE3281 (which includes an informal evaluation of the Chembio DPP test being used by DARDNI in Northern Ireland) will not be looking at cost effectiveness or delivery models. SE3281will not be complete until September and is unlikely to report this year. Its terms of reference suggest significant further work will be required before any field trap side test could be evaluated.
DARDNI' s 5 year TVR research project which is field trialing the Chembio DPP test , comparing its results with Gamma IF and Post Mortem results, is not due to complete until 2019.
There is no evidence TVR culling will provide a cost benefit to cattle Btb reduction. Indeed DARDNI have budgeted £7.5million(excluding policing cost) for a 100 sq. km. area which indicates TVR is a very expensive concept to implement.
This test will not differentiate between immune, infected and infectious badgers. There is also uncertainty about the test’s ability to identify vaccinated badgers.
Remember TVR is still culling.
A warning : acceptance of TVR culling will be used by pro cullers to justify badger killing both licensed and illegal. The badger will become a legitimate target. The Protection of Badgers Act will be seriously undermined.
Some may argue that TVR culling is better than mass culling.
Our case is that culling badgers to help manage Btb in cattle is the wrong approach. 'Doing the wrong thing better is still 'doing the wrong thing'
Please do the right thing and reject any proposal to accept TVR culling
10 Reasons to Say NO toTVR 1. No evidence TVR will reduce TB in cattle. A trial similar to RBCT would be necessary to establish whether a TVR strategy could have any positive outcome on TB incidence in cattle. Ref.7
2. Modelling and other evidence suggests that TVR could make Btb in cattle worse. Ref.5, 9,
3. Chembio DPP test ( being used by DARDNI in their TVR research project and being informally evaluated by APHA) has not been subjected to a formal evaluation on badgers. Ref.2
4. The DPP test does not distinguish between immune, infected or infectious badgers.
5. Supporting TVR is an acceptance that badger culling can make a meaningful reduction in Btb in cattle. Cattle vaccination, controls and bio security should be main focus of efforts to reduce Btb in cattle. Ref. 8
6. TVR is culling by another method so keeps culling on the agenda.
7. Why support TVR before knowing: What the new Government’s policy will be, Defra Research Project SE3281 is published or DARDNI .TVR research project is completed. Ref.3, 6.
8.The long term implication of TVR is that badger persecution could become more widespread as The Badger increasingly becomes a target.
9. If TVR is firmly established and has become the norm the Badger Protection Act would be seriously undermined.
10. DARDNI has budgeted £1-£1.5million per year for 5 years to cover 100sq. km. zone (excluding policing costs). Should TVR be extended to 10 areas each averaging 100sq. km. the expected cost could be as much as £75million, extending to 40 areas at a cost of £300million. This money could be far more effectively invested in the reduction of BTB in cattle by speeding up the introduction of cattle vaccination and other cattle control measures.Ref.6
Badger Test Vaccinate or Remove (TVR) INFORMATION and REFERENCES
1. E-mail exchange between Rethinkbtb and Test kit manufacturers CHEMBIO, in Nov. /Dec. 2014. advised that APHA were evaluating DPP on badgers. In fact APHA are only comparing results with the now obsolete BROCK STAT PAK.
2. Freedom of Information request from Rethinkbtb to DEFRA. RFI 7114. Jan. 2015. Stated DPP evaluation is informal, to compare DDP test with discontinued STAT PAK test to enable proper interpretation of diagnostic test results for future research. This indicates that DEFRA are not evaluating DDP for immediate use in the field.
7. Email to Rethinkbtb from Dr Chris Cheeseman 18.12.14 This summarises the issues why TVR will not be effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle. Particularly important it states that it would be necessary to carry out a trial similar to RBCT to establish whether TVR strategy could have any positive outcome on TB incidence in cattle.
8. Article arguing against TVR with useful supporting links .www.badger-killers.co.uk/whose-side-are-you-on/
10. Validation of ante mortem TB tests in camelids. Martin Vordermeier et al 28.5.12 Demonstrates poor performance of DPP in camelids. No similar research studies found for badgers .http://www.llama.co.uk/resources/Validation_of_ante_mortem_TB_tests_in_Camelids.pdf
27 Mar 2015, 9:24 AM
One of the side effects of badger culling, which many pro cullers are not aware of or choose to ignore is the increased persecution of badgers and the extreme cruelty some enjoy inflicting on this creature. There is an depth interview on badger persecution which went out on BBC Look North recently which includes reports at:
Badger vaccination roll out after success of West Cornwall trial
A project to vaccinate badgers against TB will be rolled out across west Cornwall after the success of a trial.
Andrew George MP, who who instigated the first community led badger vaccination programme in the UK, heralded the first pilot year of the badger vaccination programme, in partnership with the Zoological Society of London, a "great success".
Mr George and Zoological Society of London's Professor Rosie Woodroffe – acknowledged national badger ecologist – developed the project in response to concerns about the Government’s programme to eradicate bovine TB in cattle.
Both were concerned that the Government’s pilot badger cull ran the very high risk of making the problem of bovine TB significantly worse and, in any case, could not be rolled out in West Cornwall because previous experiments showed that landowner cooperation and disruption would render a cull unworkable.
The report states that cooperation amongst farmers and landowners was high and successful trapping and vaccinating badgers was undertaken efficiently with negligible animal welfare consequences. It is planned to significantly roll the project out across the Penwith area next year with an aim to cover the whole of Penwith over the next four years.
Info from: www.falmouthpacket.co.uk/news/11878820.Badger_vaccination_roll_out_after_success_of_West_Cornwall_trial/
20 Mar 2015, 9:36 AM
The consequences of badger cull are more far reaching and badger persecution is rife, Please see below the text of the Badger Trust letter to the Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss, MP, Secretary of State for the Environment Food & Rural Affairs, which was sent on 19th March 2015 following our meeting with her on 3rd March 2015.
Dear Secretary of State
STATEMENT ON BADGER PERSECUTION AND WILDLIFE CRIME
During our meeting on Tuesday, 3rd March to discuss the government’s badger cull policy, you gave us an undertaking that your department would issue a statement condemning the illegal killing and persecution of badgers. To date we have not seen such a statement and are therefore concerned to know the reason for the delay.
As you are aware all badgers and their setts are fully protected by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Anyone who takes, kills or injures a badger, or who interferes with a badger sett, can be sent to prison for six months and/ or be fined up to £5,000.
We are particularly concerned that the pilot badger culls have caused a huge increase in illegal killing, something DEFRA’s own Risk & Issues Logs (RILs) clearly predicted. The Badger Trust Incidents Report, which compiles annual records from our supporters, general public, police and the RSPCA has shown a 116% increase from 323 persecution incidents in 2012 to 697 in 2013.
These incidents not only show a worrying escalation in the number of farmers and landowners willing to illegally kill badgers but also in the cruel methods used, such as by gassing, shooting, poisoning and snaring. The apparent legitimising of these abhorrent activities by the implementation of the government’s cull needs to be addressed immediately.
These attacks have become a blight on our society and countryside, and we feel it very important that Government Ministers are seen to be leading the fight against wildlife crime, particularly the Secretary of State responsible for DEFRA. We shall put this letter in the public domain and look forward to seeing your response in the very near future.
Dominic Dyer CEO Badger Trust
18 Mar 2015, 9:40 PM
See article at: www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2795093/will_the_badger_cull_cost_the_tories_the_election_it_certainly_ should.html
9 Mar 2015, 3:39 PM
GLOUCESTERSHIRE BADGER GROUP SAY GLOSCON FAILED TO ACHIEVE EVEN HALF THEIR TARGET IN 2014 CULL
The Gloucestershire Badger Group chaired by Tony Dean together with local campaigners have welcomed the announcement by Natural England that the NFU’s subsidiary cull contractor Gloscon may be stripped of their licence to cull this year. This threat follows the failure of Gloscon to achieve even half their target of 615 badgers in last year’s cull.
“Things are just going from bad to worse for this policy,” comments Tony Dean. “We warned all along that culling badgers simply wasn't practical and despite throwing millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money at it, the NFU has been unable to achieve the most basic requirement of the pilot culls.”
The government and NFU have tried to blame the cull’s failure on protester activities and ‘intimidation’, but Gloucester Constabulary were quick to rebut this, stating that only three arrests had been made during the last cull and they were all part of a single incident.
“We know from the police that a significant number of cull operatives have had their firearms licences amended to prevent them taking part in future culling as a result of breaches of safety or licence protocols,” continues Tony Dean. “Gloscon have struggled from the start to get enough operatives to do this work and that surely is a major reason why these culls have failed. If their licence is revoked we cannot see anyone else being able to step in to do it.”
Badger campaigners are equally dismissive of recent claims about the cull’s impact on bovine TB (bTB) by pro-cull vet Roger Blowey, farmer David Grifiths and NFU President Meurig Raymond. “They are clutching at straws,” says Peter Martin, who was involved in the peaceful protests during the cull and has recently become a member of the Gloucestershire Badger Group. “Analysis of Defra’s own figures shows a sustained general trend downwards in bTB across many English counties, including those that have seen no culling of badgers. These same figures show a direct link between increased cattle testing over the last six years and significant reductions in rates of bTB.”
“Most of the cattle in Gloucestershire will not have been tested again since the end of the cull, so it is simply not possible to state whether it has had any effect on bTB rates, an observation confirmed recently by the government’s own Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens. Equally, the fact none of the culled badgers was ever tested for bTB shows that the whole process of culling is not only unscientific but being conducted ‘blind’.
“The area of Gloucestershire actually culled is simply too small to make any difference to cattle bTB,” continues Peter Martin, “of the 274 badgers they managed to kill, existing scientific research tells us only 1.6% will have been infectious, which equates to less than five badgers. How could that possibly be linked to a reduction in bTB across the county?”
Badger Trust CEO Dominic Dyer said: “The NFU are becoming increasingly isolated as more and more people distance themselves from this disastrous policy. Even their spokesman Andrew Guest complained on BBC Radio’s Farming Today that it wasn't possible to know how many badgers there are and how difficult they are to kill at night. But the biggest clue for us is that the Environment Secretary Liz Truss was conspicuously non-committal on the government’s plans for the cull when pressed at our meeting in Whitehall on 3rd March 2015. We can’t help wondering now if she already knew that Natural England could be about to pull the plug on the whole sorry enterprise.”
Badger Trust Press Release 9/3/15
8 Mar 2015, 8:51 PM
The Badger Trust's report of its recent meeting with Liz Truss, DEFRA Secretary of State, is at http://www.badgertrust.org.uk/news/posts/2015/liz-truss-meeting-update.aspx - an interesting meeting but of significant concern was: 'We knew our facts and we were no doubt better briefed and had a clearer understanding of TB policy than the Secretary of State who is responsible for its implementation.'
3 Mar 2015, 11:57 AM
Badger Trust calls on NFU to stop misleading the public over the impact of badger culling
Ahead of a meeting with the Environment Secretary Liz Truss on the 3 March, the Badger Trust has called on the National Farmers’ Union to stop misleading the public by making claims over the impact of badger culling on TB rates in cattle in the Gloucestershire and Somerset cull zones, which have no scientific foundation and are not supported by Government data from the pilot badger culls.
At the NFU Annual Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday 24 February, the NFU President Meurig Raymond stated: “I want to stress that in the two pilot areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire we are already seeing that TB incidence on farms has declined. Not just by a small amount either, in the Somerset Pilot area TB incidence on farms has decreased from 34% to 11% compared with two years’ ago”.
He then went on to say: “just two days’ ago, one of our Gloucestershire members was given the fantastic news that his farm is now clear of TB for the first time in 11 years. He is very clear that the only thing that’s changed on his farm is that we are now doing something to control the disease in wildlife”.
When making these statements the NFU President at no point confirmed that it was far more likely these reductions in TB (which have also been seen outside of the cull zones) were due to tighter testing, movement and biosecurity controls forced on the UK farming sector by the European Commission in 2012. He also made no mention of the fact that DEFRA have not released any data on the pilot culls to support any claims about the impact of badger culling on TB rates in cattle.
In responding to the claims by the NFU, the CEO of the Badger Trust said:
“Nigel Gibbens, the DEFRA Chief Veterinary Officer, recently stated that: “the fall in TB outbreaks in cattle herds, cannot be attributed either to the pilot culls or in Wales to their badger vaccination programme. It is to do with continued strengthening of the cattle measures”.
“Meurig Raymond seems to have forgotten these important facts when it comes to his NFU conference speech.
“The Badger Trust would never make any claims about the impact of badger vaccination without scientific evidence to back it up and we expect the NFU to do the same, when it comes to making claims about the impact of badger culling.
“We must deal in facts not fiction when it comes to assessing the impact of the badger culls on lowering bovine TB. When it comes to real facts the case against the badger cull policy is damning.
“Approximately £15 million has been spent killing 2476 badgers to date (£6058 a badger). None of these culled badgers were tested for TB, but data from a Government-led scientific trial and results from badgers tested by DEFRA in 2013 for the European Food Safety Authority, indicate a disease rate no higher than 15%.
“Many of these badgers were shot by poorly trained marksmen with no effective monitoring and took up to 10 to 15 minutes to die a long painful death by multiple gunshot wounds.
“This is despite the fact that the DEFRA Chief Scientist Ian Boyd confirmed at an NFU TB conference in November 2014, that the transmission rate of TB from badgers to cattle is less than 6%. The key route of infection is cattle to cattle transfer.”
Labour Party listens to Badger Trust & vows to stop disastrous and inhumane badger cull.
The Labour Party will today launch its pre-election wildlife protection and animal welfare pledges at the Wetland Wildlife Reserve in Barnes West London.
Following discussions with the Badger Trust and other wildlife conservation groups, a key commitment will be to stop the current cruel badger cull policy. The Shadow Environment Secretary, Maria Eagle MP will tell MP's, journalists and representatives from wildlife protection organisations attending the launch event, that an incoming Labour Government is committed to stopping both the badger cull pilots and national roll out of the cull policy.
"Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, who will be attending the launch event said "The Badger Trust organised a major debate on the badger cull policy at the last Labour Party conference in Manchester and along with other NGO's we have worked closely with the Shadow Environment Team over the last 12 months, to help shape their thinking on this policy.
“With a recent MORI poll showing that the badger cull was the fifth most common issue of complaint to MPs in 2014, Ed Milliband is only too aware of the huge, intense public anger over this cruel and ineffective policy.
“I am pleased to see that the Labour Party recognise that the badger cull has been a massive failure on scientific, economic & humaneness grounds and that playing the badger blame game must be stopped when it comes to reducing the spread of bovine TB.
“An incoming Labour Government only have to look to Wales for a far more effective bovine TB reduction strategy, which is based on tighter cattle testing, movement and bio security controls supported by badger vaccination rather than culling.
“This policy has delivered a 48% drop in new outbreaks of TB in cattle herds in Wales over the last 5 years and has proved a far better deal for the tax payer and farmers together with the protection of our wildlife.
“Any attempt by the Government to claim that the culling of tens of thousands of badgers in Ireland by gassing, snaring and shooting justifies a similar policy in England, has been completely undermined by the latest data from the Irish Government which shows that TB rates in cattle rose by 3% in Ireland in 2014
“I also look forward to taking this message to the Environment Secretary Liz Truss when she meets with the Badger Trust on the 3 March"
Info from press relase from Badger Trust 18/2/15
7 Feb 2015, 6:47 PM
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, took part in a question and answer session in Stroud, Glos recently. One of the topics discussed was the badger cull in the county which took place just a few miles away. He promised it would stop under a Labour government.
We are against the cull, we've got to stop it going ahead. I say be guided by the science on this, why not just be guided by the science. And the science is telling us that it isn't the answer.
4 Feb 2015, 7:20 PM
Ministers were warned of badger cull risks, documents show Risk registers published after freedom of information battle reveal warnings over strong public opposition and risk of making bovine TB problem worse, not better.
Ministers were warned of the severe risks posed by England’s controversial badger cull three years before they began, according to documents released after a two-year legal battle.
Strong public opposition to the policy halting the cull was one of the top-ranked problems assessed by the ‘risk registers’, which are released the day after David Cameron admitted the badger cull is “probably the most unpopular policy I’m responsible for”.
Other significant risks were that the cull could cause an increase in tuberculosis in cattle, rather than decrease it, cost more than the funds available to government agencies and the police, and that “disagreement on the evidence base” would lead to “conflicting messages” to ministers.
The pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have repeatedly missed their targets for the minimum number of badgers shot, leading experts to warn that disrupted badgers could spread TB further. Most independent scientists have condemned the cull and an independent panel ruled the first year’s culling to be neither effective or humane. The culls cost the government £6.3m in the first two years and the police £3.5m in the first year alone.
“The risk registers clearly show a policy that should never have moved beyond the starting blocks,” said Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust and policy advisor for Care for the Wild. “From day one it was clear to all involved that badger culling would be hugely expensive and would pose a significant risk of TB spread as a result of perturbation. If the public and MPs were given access to this information before the policy was implemented, we could have stopped this disastrous cull, saving millions of pounds of public money and the lives of thousands of badgers.”
The Badger Trust requested the risk registers, compiled in 2010, using freedom of information laws. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) refused and fought a series of ultimately unsuccessful appeals.
22 Jan 2015, 4:10 PM
Sneaked out just before Christmas, Defra's assessment of the 2014 badger cull inspired NFU leaders to claim 'success', writes Rosie Woodroffe. But the figures indicate the precise reverse: that too few badgers were killed to be effective against bovine TB, indeed the cull may even help to spread the disease. ...
Read more at: www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/Blogs/2721026/fail_2014_badger_cull_didnt_kill_enough_badgers_to_be_effective.html
20 Jan 2015, 6:22 PM
How do you vaccinate a badger?
Inside Out is broadcast on BBC One South West on Monday, 19 January at 19:30 GMT and nationwide for 30 days thereafter on the iPlayer
BBC Inside Out follows the badger vaccination team in west Cornwall as they test whether vaccination could be an effective alternative to culling.
18 Jan 2015, 6:45 PM
Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was economical with the truth and downright misleading when she spoke in Oxford recently about bovine TB and badger culling.
One sentence in the statement is clearly alarmist and particularly misleading: "...the disease increased ninefold between 1997 and 2010".
Firstly, there are warnings in Defra's own documents to be conscious of the acute rise in bTB incidence during the Foot & Mouth outbreak during 2001/2002 as inclusion of figures from these years will skew any conclusions, so using a time period spanning 1997 to 2010 is either negligent or duplicitous.
Secondly, any reference to the rise or fall of bTB incidence must be made relative to the number of herds/cattle tested as these have increased dramatically over the years meaning there will be a rise in cattle detected but not in cattle infected, as confirmed in the latest AHVLA 'Bovine TB Annual Surveillance Report 2013' which states:
"Since the beginning of 2003, the RELATIVE RATE of increase of OTF-W [confirmed] breakdowns has fallen by more than a half" - see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/388679/tb-pub-surveport-eng13.pdf, page 24
(email from P 15 Jan 2015)
18 Jan 2015, 6:11 PM
Improved Testing of Infected Cattle Can Beat bTB – Without Culling Badgers, says the Badger Trust in its latest press release, following the recent research results produced by Queen Mary University of London.
Badger culling will potentially reduce the number of bTB infected cattle by just 12 out of 15,000, according to new research. But reducing the interval at which the cattle are tested for bTB by just one month could reduce the number of sick cattle by 193.
The research, released by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) on 14th January 2015, states that ‘regular and frequent testing of cattle could eventually lead to the eradication of the disease, whether or not badgers were culled’. Keeping cattle housed in large sheds over winter could also double the number of infected cattle in a herd, the research says.
Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said:
“This research is large-scale, objective, and takes into full account the possibility of badgers being responsible for bTB infections in cattle – yet still it concludes that the answer to beating this disease is to focus on the cattle. This is the message we at the Badger Trust, Care for the Wild and many others, have been hammering home over the last couple of years, so maybe now the government will feel the need to actually listen.
"The role badgers play in spreading this disease has been massively exaggerated, and the impact of culling them has been completely misunderstood. The fact that keeping large numbers of cows in winter sheds can lead to a doubling in the number of infected animals shows again the simple truth that bTB is caused by cattle spreading it to other cattle. The impact of more frequent testing simply highlights the issue that many infected cows are currently being missed, and are thus spreading the disease without anyone realising. Find the infection, you’ll beat the disease.
"Defra will no doubt dismiss this as irrelevant, because it doesn’t fit with their political strategy. The NFU are trying to claim that the cull has already reduced rates of TB in the area, but there’s no way they can be claiming that. Bovine TB rates are dropping across the whole of the south west – of which the cull zones are an utterly tiny part – and the reason for it can only be the increased testing and better cattle control measures brought in, reluctantly, by the government two years ago."
New figures seen yesterday from the Welsh badger vaccination programme also highlights just how exaggerated the impact of badgers has been.
• In 2014, 1316 badgers were vaccinated and all were returned to the wild in good health. None needed veterinary treatment in view of poor condition, none were found to have visible signs of TB
• After three years of the five year vaccination project, over 3,500 badgers have been vaccinated. None have been found to have visible signs of TB, no badgers have been removed and euthanased as a result, all have been returned to the wild
• Between June 2013 and April 2014 the Welsh Government undertook a road kill survey of badgers in the Intensive Action Area (ie high risk TB area where vaccination is taking place). 30 badgers were collected and tested for TB, only 2 were found to have TB (early stage, no visible TB lesions) which is 7% of the total number of badgers tested
Dominic Dyer added:
“A poll in the Gloucester Post showed this week that two out of three people are against the badger cull being rolled out across the rest of the country. But this figure would be much higher if people weren’t being given the impression that huge numbers of badgers are infected, and weren’t told that culling them is vital to beating the disease. Huge numbers of badgers are not sick, and as we’ve been saying, and as this new research tells us, culling them is not vital, and in fact is not even useful. Wales has improved testing and cut the number of animals slaughtered for bTB by 50% – the answer is staring us in the face.”
14 Jan 2015, 3:57 PM
Press release from Queen Mary University of London on TB cattle testing and badger culling concluding:
“Our modelling provides compelling evidence, for those charged with controlling Bovine TB, that investment in increasing the frequency of cattle testing is a far more effective strategy than badger culling.”
Modelling produced by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has found that the only effective potential Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) control strategies are badger culling, cattle testing, controlling cattle movement, and ceasing the practice of housing farm cattle together during winter. The modelling found that in a region containing about 1.5m cows of which 3000 to 15,000 might have TB, badger culling could account for a reduction of 12 in the number of infected cattle. While reducing the testing interval by one month could reduce the number of those infected by 193.
The model showed that regular and frequent testing of cattle could eventually lead to the eradication of the disease, whether or not badgers were culled, and despite the current test being at most 80% accurate. Badger culling alone, however did not lead to TB eradication in the study and is therefore unlikely to be a successful control strategy.
The model also suggested that housing cattle in large sheds over winter could potentially double the number of infected animals in a herd, as under such conditions there is a much greater chance of TB being passed between cows.
This is the first large-scale model of TB in cattle and badgers that included the possibility of the infection being passed in both directions between the two species. The model successfully mimicked the changing patterns of TB in the UK, including the changes seen after TB controls were reduced during the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2002.
Researchers Dr Aristides Moustakas and Professor Matthew Evans, of QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, used state-of-the-art computer modelling to understand how the interaction of different factors impacted on infection rates. Such factors included the movement and life-cycles of badgers and cattle; how cattle are moved and housed; how frequently cattle are tested, different types of badger culling; and the infection rates between animals.
The research is published online in Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment.
Professor Matthew Evans, Professor of Ecology at QMUL, said:
“Of the available Bovine Tuberculosis control strategies we believe that how frequently cattle are tested and whether or not farms utilise winter housing have the most significant effect on the number of infected cattle.”
“TB is a complex disease and modelling it is difficult but we’ve successfully used our model to replicate real world situations and are confident that it can be used to predict the effects of various changes in the way we tackle the disease.”
“Our modelling provides compelling evidence, for those charged with controlling Bovine TB, that investment in increasing the frequency of cattle testing is a far more effective strategy than badger culling.”
8 Jan 2015, 6:01 PM
Why isn't more being done to ascertain why some farms do not appear to get any bovine TB? Perhaps this is what Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should be concentrating on, rather than insisting on rolling out further badger culling across the rest of England? Here is a story of a farmer, with an active badger sett, in Somerset where we are told bovine TB is rife in the area and has led to intense badger culling. Let's hope this farmer's situation does not change as a result of any perturbation effect.
A Somerset farmer is celebrating 60 years clear of bovine TB, after all of his cattle passed their most recent test for the disease last month.
Chris and Margaret Burnett, who farm near Martock, keep a total of 51 cattle, made up of 12 Highlands, Longhorns and Charolais.
Chris, 74, who was born on the family-owned farm, has managed to keep the herd’s TB-free status intact for six decades, following the results of their most recent test on December 15, in which all the cattle tested negative for the disease, which continues to cause misery for hundreds of livestock farmers across the South West and further afield.
“I’ve never had a failure here and I have had cattle right from when I left school,” he said.
Chris went on to say that he has a number of badgers on his farm, which are very often in the same field as the cattle. He added that he didn’t know if neighbouring farms were having the same run of luck as him.
“We’ve got badgers here and I have seen them in with the cattle. I have got a badger sett about 60 metres away from my house,” he said.
“The only fault I have with the badgers is that they keep digging up my tulip bulbs.”
Chris admits that despite his long running clear status, he does still get nervous when the cattle are due to be tested. “You could have quite a few go down, you just don’t know, but up until now I haven’t had any.”
He went on to explain that conservation plays a huge role on the farm, part of which is open to the public and includes a landscaped garden, lake and mock Tudor tower.
“It is all down to conservation here,” said Chris. “I don’t use any concentrates and it’s all about feeding them good hay.” He added that he works to maintain the hedges which surround his farm in order to provide shelter for the cattle.
Somerset Against the Cull has revealed today that following an independent post-mortem badger 41 tested TB free. Yet again a badger post mortemed by independent experts tests negative for TB whereas the government have tested but a few. Why?
With the police investigation into this female badger's death ongoing they will have more results from the post-mortem as they become available. There is an ongoing police investigation into the shooting as the cull company apparently deny it was part of their operation that night.