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?
12 Jun 2014, 6:26 PM
Number of Somerset Cattle Slaughtered for bTB Slashed in Half in 12 Months – Due to Tighter Cattle Controls Only, says Badger Trust in its latest Press release today.
"Gloucestershire also sees 20% drop while national incidence rate is lowest for 10 years."
"Powerful proof that bovine TB (bTB) could be wiped out without culling badgers has emerged as the government’s latest statistics show the disease is at its lowest rate for 10 years."
"The national ‘incidence’ rate, which is the proportion of new outbreaks discovered through testing, was 3.25% in March this year, the lowest rate since 2004. Even more revealing are the local figures showing the number of cattle slaughtered because of the disease. Comparing Jan-March this year with the same period in 2013, these show:
Somerset: 50% drop (375 compared to 752) Gloucestershire: 20% drop (338 compared to 424)
Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said:
“These are pretty sensational figures and highly significant. There is no way that the badger culls from last year could have influenced these numbers at all, so the drop is purely because of the tighter farming controls that have come in over the last couple of years. If I was in the government I’d be shouting these numbers from the rooftops, but unfortunately they would rather keep quiet – because these figures don’t justify a badger cull.
“If any farmer, beleaguered by years of this disease, was told that by following a few rules it could lead to the number of his cattle slaughtered for bTB to be cut in half in a year, they’d take it. That is what has happened. So let’s now direct all our energy to ensuring that we repeat this success across the country, by doing what works, and not focussing on a badger cull which will achieve nothing.”
Also yesterday, Farming Minister George Eustice announced proposals for new cattle-based measures to combat bTB, including tighter restrictions to ensure infected cows aren’t moved around the country.
Dominic Dyer said: “Tackling the disease in cattle works. We’ve seen it happening in Wales, and we’re seeing it happening in England. But there’s more to be done. The way cattle are tested for bTB is deeply flawed, as for every five infected cows, it can miss one. That means infected cows remain in herds to spread the disease. We need to nail that problem before we can eradicate this disease for good.”
12 Jun 2014, 6:19 PM
Yet another consultation exercise. More regulations for farmers, more cost, more testing ...
Further measures to strengthen our bovine TB cattle controls and prevent the spread of disease have been proposed in a consultation which began yesterday.
The proposals come as new statistics published yesterday show that the rate of new herd infections at its lowest point for 10 years. And, this cannot be as a result of the badger culling as it is much too early for this to have had any effect. In fact if there is perturbation it could even worsen the situation in the short term.
The consultation proposes the removal of pre-movement exemptions for cattle moving between several holdings under the same farm ownership, known as Sole Occupancy Authorities. This will remove the possibility of some cattle keepers in the high risk and edge areas moving their animals over long distances without any TB testing. There will still be the ability to move cattle between areas of owned land within 10 miles.
Since 1 January 2014 owners of herds who fail to complete their TB surveillance test on time risk seeing their CAP scheme payment reduced, even if the test is delayed by only one day. The consultation also sets out our intention to extend this approach to also include TB tests in restricted herds. Our current approach has already helped achieve a 60% reduction in late TB surveillance tests this year. As is the case now, farmers will not be penalised where there are good reasons for missing a TB testing deadline.
Defra has also confirmed today that from 1 October 2014 it will no longer allow the partial de-restriction of TB-breakdown holdings. This means that from that date movement restrictions will apply to all cattle on a farm until all the animals have achieved officially TB free status. There are a number of options available to cattle keepers to help manage the impacts of this change. For example cattle farmers with separate cattle management groups could consider registering some cattle under a separate county parish holding so that if TB is found in just one group the number of cattle subject to movement restrictions could be limited.
The latest bovine TB statistics show that the monthly incidence rate, which is the proportion of new outbreaks discovered through testing, was around 3.25%. This is the lowest rate since 2004 and follows a similarly low rate in February of 3.5%.
The number of cattle slaughtered in Great Britain as a result of bovine TB in the 12 months to March has fallen to its lowest level since 2007-08, according to the Western Daily Press so badger culling is surely a waste of money?
This represents a fall of almost 5,500 from the same period last year, but is broadly similar for the three years prior to that.
March figures are traditionally among the lowest of the year, with a large proportion of animals having been overwintered indoors, away from potential sources of TB in wildlife.
Even so, the lowest boundary of the bovine TB figures for the past 12 months - updated by Defra this month - show the proportion of tests on bTB-free herds after which bTB-free status was withdrawn to be at its lowest since 2007. At the highest boundary, they are still only a shade above last year’s, which were previously the lowest since 2007.
The number of new herd incidents during the period January to March 2014 was 1,404 compared to 1,386 for January to March 2013. The number of tests on officially TB free herds was 24,421 during January to March 2014, compared to 22,919 during January to March 2013.
The number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts was 8,823 during January to March 2014, compared to 9,277 during January to March 2013.
Info from: /www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Bovine-TB-figures-continue-fall-England/story-21217856-detail/story.html#ixzz34M1OY3T7
5 Jun 2014, 10:30 AM
A West MP has called for farmers' representatives and the culling company to be banned from the police control room when the cull resumes in Somerset later this summer.
In a letter to the Police and Crime Commissioner of Avon & Somerset, Sue Mountstevens, Kerry McCarthy called for "transparent" policing of the cull and raised the "considerable concern" that the privacy of the people protesting was breached because their names and addresses were potentially available to the private firm they were protesting against.
The Bristol East MP spoke up after a series of complaints lodged against the police by one protester were upheld, and the report into what happened late one night near the Somerset village of Carhampton revealed how half the people in the police's control room that night were either from the NFU or the private firm hired to carry out the cull.
Earlier this week, the Western Daily Press revealed how police communications officers complained that the representatives from the cull company were "shouting across" them as they tried to provide a response to allegations on the ground.
One hundred-and-twenty-nine animals reacted to skin tests in a dairy herd and have been slaughtered. Post mortem results are expected to confirm the disease, according to a spokesman from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).
The herd, on a farm near Kirkby Lonsdale, had originally been tested late last year and found to be clear of the disease. Subsequent testing six months later found several reactors and Government vets confirmed that all the herd, with the exception of the young cattle, were slaughtered.
It is NOT beleived to have resulted from wildlife as surveillance of wildlife in the area has come up negative.
NORTHERN IRELAND Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced that the Test and Vaccinate or Remove (TVR) Wildlife Intervention Research Project has started in the Banbridge area.
The Minister said: “The TVR Wildlife Intervention Research Project has commenced in a 100km² area around Banbridge. This project is unique to these islands and involves seeking access permission from land owners, setting humane traps to capture badgers, taking samples from badgers, microchipping and vaccinating them against Bovine TB or where they test positive for TB, removing them.
29 May 2014, 10:07 AM
David Campbell, a Professor of Law at Lancaster University Law School, gives a very useful view regarding the legality of badger gassing and he also discusses the pilot culls and the proposed judicial review.
Farmers Weekly has posted a 'Clarification' (www.fwi.co.uk/articles/21/05/2014/144633/clarification.htm ).
'Farmers Weekly would like to clarify that this photograph (can be seen at the website above) showing badgers in a field in daylight with cattle was taken in a captive environment, at the Secret World Wildlife Centre, Highbridge, Somerset in 1989 and not on a farm.
The picture was purchased from a south west picture agency several years ago and used in innocence to illustrate coverage about Bovine TB
It was never our intention to mislead readers.
This clarification follows a complaint made to the Press Complaints Commission.'
28 May 2014, 8:54 AM
The Labour Party is challenging the Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner over the involvement of the National Farmers Union in the policing of the badger cull in West Somerset. A police report says a representative of the NFU was in the police control room while badgers were being shot. Also there were representatives of the firm carrying out the cull, HNV Associates.
The revelation came in the police response to a complaint by an anti-cull activist whose car was searched. It has shocked people who took part in peaceful patrols during the cull.
Badger cull company used Somerset's constabulary 'as private police force' according to a Guardian report (www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/25/badger-cull-company-avon-somerset-police).
HNV Associates Ltd and the National Farmers Union directed police operation from control room, according to a police report.
Employees of the company that ran last year's badger cull in Somerset directed the deployment of police officers against protesters, according to a police investigation.
Policing the culls cost millions of pounds and the report, seen by the Guardian, shows that half the personnel in the police's night-time control centre were either from HNV Associates Ltd or the National Farmer's Union (NFU).
Those opposed to the cull say the report suggests officers acted as a "private police force" for the cullers and breached protesters' privacy by allowing the cullers to learn their names and addresses.
Police in the other cull zone in Gloucestershire have been accused of "highly questionable" actions by civil liberties lawyers, after telling protesters that their personal details would be passed to the NFU and handing out NFU-produced leaflets. A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said having cull representatives in the control room gave them real-time information that helped keep the public safe and said changes to policing the cull when it resumes this year were still being discussed. The NFU, which also speaks for HNV Associates, denied that its members or anyone from the culling company had directed police action.
The Avon and Somerset police report arises from a complaint against it made by Christopher Tasker, a local man who had been "sett sitting" on the night of 12 October 2013, when some badgers were shot. The report upheld his complaints that a 999 call alleging he had been assaulted was inadequately recorded and that a search of his car was improperly carried out. But the report also says that of six people in the police control room, three were police officers, while two were from HNV Associates and one was from the NFU. The police communications officer in the room said he felt the cull representatives "were actually directing the police" where to go to deal with incidents. The senior investigating officer concluded: "The account that [the communications officer] was directed to deploy officers at the request of the contractors' representative is of concern and should not have been the case." The investigating officer added that it was "probable" that the chief inspector directing the operation would have "confirmed" the deployment, but recommended that "a clear and appropriate division is established between the [cull operators'] activities and those of the police in terms of direction and control".
Tasker told the Guardian: "I think the whole thing stinks. We had actually regarded the police as being a benign presence, but talk about the cullers having a private police force. It's unbelievable." No charges arose from Tasker's allegation, or from counter-allegations by marksmen of assault by Tasker.
"I had to give my name and address to the police and that went straight to the culling company and the NFU," Tasker said. "I felt personally invaded." He also noted that a device intended to record all conversations in the control room was not turned on: "So we cannot know how much influence the cull operative had."
Jay Tiernan, of the Stop the Cull campaign who was invited to a Gloucestershire police planning event before the cull, said the investigation was a rare and damning glimpse inside the police operation. "It's difficult to believe that a private company engaged in the killing of wild animals can have so much access and control over police activity … It is hard to comprehend that a police operation that had been running for so long could be such an omnishambles."
Superintendent Kevin Instance, at Avon and Somerset police, said: "The decision to have representatives from the NFU was one taken with public safety as our primary concern. Shooting at night when there are members of the public around carries a risk. Having an NFU representative in the control room gave us real-time information about events on the ground and meant we could keep the public in those areas safe."
An NFU spokesman said: "Decisions about the policing of the pilot badger cull in Somerset, and the staffing and operation of the control room, are made by Avon and Somerset constabulary. At no point during operations did any representative from the NFU or the cull company direct the police regarding what they should be doing. The NFU and the cull company will continue to work with Avon and Somerset constabulary in whatever way the police feel is most effective to help ensure the safety of all parties during operations."
The cost of policing badger culls in 2013 was at least £2.6m, more than double initial estimates, according to police sources. Ministers argue that badger culling is a vital part of the battle against bovine TB but many scientists and campaigners condemn the badger cull as a waste of time and money. They argue that stricter controls on cattle movements, better TB testing and vaccination are the only way to control the disease. In Wales, where badger culling was rejected in favour of alternatives, TB in cattle is falling.
22 May 2014, 9:37 AM
BVA statement on pilot badger cull judicial review as reproduced below m(www.bva.co.uk/news/3811.aspx) 21 May 2014
The President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has written to the Badger Trust to clarify the BVA position on the pilot badger culls in England, stating that we will not be supporting the Trust’s application for a judicial review.
BVA Council agreed a position on the continuation of controlled shooting in the pilot areas on 16 April. The position states that BVA could only support further culling using controlled shooting in the pilot areas if steps are taken to improve both its effectiveness and humaneness and if there is robust monitoring and collation of results and independent analysis and auditing by a non-governmental body. It also states that we support the IEP’s recommendations for improving effectiveness and humaneness and urges Defra to implement all the IEP’s recommendations fully.
Since 16 April we have been in dialogue with Defra to seek assurances that these issues will be addressed, and those discussions are ongoing. We will not be taking a further position on the pilot culls until BVA Council has had the opportunity to consider Defra’s plans in full, when they are made available.
20 May 2014, 1:49 PM
Badger Trust takes fight to stop the badger cull to High Court
The Badger Trust has made an application for judicial review at the High Court to challenge the legality of the DEFRA Secretary of State's decision of 3 April 2014, to allow the continued culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset. See here.
In the judicial review the Badger Trust will argue that the DEFRA Secretary of State unlawfully failed to put in place any Independent Expert Panel for the planned culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2014, who will oversee the design of data collection and its analysis and interpretation to assess the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the culling operation.
Without this independent monitoring system in place the Badger Trust submits that it is not lawful for the DEFRA Secretary of State to make any decision for a further national roll out of the badger cull policy, following the completion of the planned culling operation in 2014.
Commenting on the legal challenge Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild said
" The badger cull policy has been a complete and utter failure on scientific, economic and humaneness grounds. There is no justification for continuing with this failed policy which no longer has the confidence of the public, politicians and increasingly the veterinary and farming industry.
Owen Paterson made a clear commitment to Parliament and wider public that an independent panel will oversee and evaluate the pilot culls and report back to the Government prior to any decision being taken on the policy being rolled out more widely.
It is not acceptable for the DEFRA Secretary of State to now push aside the concerns of both the Independent Expert Panel and the British Veterinary Association, by moving ahead with a further badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset this summer without any independent monitoring in place.
To then make any decision on a national roll out of the hugely controversial badger cull policy without these independent monitoring safeguards, is in our view illegal and will lead to huge public and political anger.
We therefore call on the British Veterinary Association and members of the 2013 Pilot Cull Independent Expert Panel to support the Badger Trust legal challenge"
19 May 2014, 12:17 PM
Misleading photographs regularly used in the media of badgers shown in daylight hours with cattle (which is extremely unusual for wild badgers) have been the subject of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.
Following investigation by the Press Complaints Commission the newspaper (Farmers Weekly) has now offered to publish the clarification as below.
'Farmers Weekly would like to clarify that this photograph showing badgers in a field in daylight with cattle was taken in a captive environment, at the Secret World Wildlife Centre, Highbridge, Somerset and not on a farm.'
'The picture was purchased from a south west picture agency several years ago and used in innocence to illustrate coverage about Bovine TB. It was never our intention to mislead readers.'
In the printed newspaper, the above would be accompanied by a copy of the photograph, and would be published on page 6 or 7, in line with the most recent use of the photograph in the newspaper. It would also appear online.
18 May 2014, 12:20 PM
Badger culls - who is standing up for public safety?, asks Lesley Docksey of the Ecologist.
Senior Gloucestershire police have been questioned about the policing of the 2013 pilot badger cull. In the Independent Expert Panel's report the safety issue was deemed just about adequate, and then dropped out of sight.
Yet there were clues in the report that all was not well. As set out in The Ecologist, (www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2386411/police_guns_action_how_safe_were_the_pilot_badger_culls.html) the cullers were not complying with the rules and laws they were meant to follow.
The article can be read in full at: www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2395177/badger_culls_who_is_standing_up_for_public_safety.html?dm_i=1NFN, 2GQAQ,906L7E,8YTJM,1
The data they were supplying were unreliable and incomplete. And the report quoted the police as saying that there were some "near misses".
16 May 2014, 6:03 PM
Defra has confirmed it is testing gassing as a method of culling badgers, although no animals have been involved in the trials.
A Freedom of Information request has shown tests using carbon monoxide have been taking place since last summer.
A Defra spokesman said: "Initial investigations are taking place as set out in the 25-year strategy to free England of bovine TB."
Opponents say gassing would cause considerable suffering to badgers.
The DEFRA spokesman said: "The investigations do not involve animals and it is not possible to say at this very early stage if or when gassing is likely to be a realistic or humane method of culling."
Info from: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-27433830
16 May 2014, 6:02 PM
87% Say ‘Badgers Should Not Be Killed’ as NFU Meets Anti-Cullers in Prestigious Debate
Killing badgers is not necessary to eradicate bovine TB (bTB), according to the results of a prestigious debate about the badger cull which brought opposing sides of the argument – and a TV expert – together for the first time.
Audience members at the Bristol University debate, which featured TV Wildlife expert Simon King, Dominic Dyer of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, Adam Quinney of the National Farmers Union and Dr Lewis Thomas of the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, voted against the cull by 87% to 13%.
After the debate, Dominic Dyer said: “This shows that when both sides are able to present their arguments on an equal footing, the result is clear – people do not think badgers should be culled.
“The pro-cull argument is based on the belief that bTB can only be beaten by killing badgers, but we have shown this isn’t true. The problem is among the cattle, which are often sick and spreading disease even when they have been passed as ‘clean’ by testing. So with a better testing regime, better biosecurity and more controlled movements, we can defeat this awful disease without having to slaughter innocent badgers.
“I would like to thank Adam and Dr Thomas for attending the event and I hope this is a step forward in the battle against TB. It often feels like wildlife organisations and the farmers are polar opposites on this issue, which to some extent is true. But the real enemy is bTB – so in this case, let’s hope the enemy of our enemy can become our friend, so we can work together and overcome bTB.”
Student Ben Eagle, who organised the event, said: ''This debate was born from a desire to bring those on both sides together, to look for consensus (if possible) and to encourage debate within the academic community.
“Personally, as a conservationist, an environmentalist and a farmer’s son, I sympathised with both viewpoints on the ‘to cull or not to cull’ front and I wanted to bring those at the forefront of the debate together, to convince me towards a particular view. I am a believer in consensus but struggle to see this being reached when it comes to the badger cull debate.
“TB is out of control and for the sake of the badgers, the cattle and the farmers we need to come up with a solution. In order to confirm what that solution will be we must rely on objectivity and the most up to date scientific knowledge, whatever that may show, and not be swayed by emotion or our own personal background.''
1. The motion being discussed was: ''This House believes that culling badgers is necessary to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in the United Kingdom.''
Source: Badger Trust Press Release dated 15 May 2014
15 May 2014, 1:01 PM
Dominick Dyer's key messages to the debate today at Bristol University where the badger cull policy is being discussed with former NFU Vice President Adam Quinney and Naturalist and Broadcaster Simon King.
Since his announcement in Parliament on 3 April, confidence in the future of the badger cull policy has collapsed on the back benches and more importantly within the farming and veterinary industry.
The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report on the pilot badger culls showed that they clearly failed on both efficiency and humanness grounds.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has responded to this damning assessment, by putting Owen Paterson between a rock and a hard place with its calls for more independent evaluation by an IEP equivalent for year two of the pilot culls.
The Labour Party realising how the humaneness issue resonates with voters, has now also thrown its weight behind the BVA position.
To make matters worse the ill judged attack by the NFU President Meurig Raymond on the IEP's findings, is leading to a number of its panel members breaking ranks to criticise the Government for not extending its remit into the second year of the pilot culls.
In the meantime, leaks from DEFRA are indicating that more farmers in the cull zones are thinking of pulling out of the pilot cull project.
Fears over an increased level of cull monitoring, huge number of protesters in the cull zones and a High Court legal challenge from the Badger Trust, are rapidly destroying any confidence they have left in the policy.
A year away from the General Election, farmers realise that most MPs would rather have a nuclear waste dump in their constituency than a badger cull.
The fact that BBC Countryfile received more complaints over its interview with Princess Anne on badger gassing than for any other episode in the 26 years of the series, is also a stark reminder of the level of public revulsion over the killing of thousands of badgers by gun or gas.
Public and political anger is now moving the focus for long term bovine TB reduction from a failed badger culling policy, to badger and cattle vaccination.
Rather than play political football with this issue, the NFU under significant pressure from its members is now getting serious about using badger vaccination as a key tool in the armoury for bovine TB reduction.
It has agreed to join forces with the Wildlife Trust, Badger Trust and organisations including the Countryside Business & Landowners Association and National Trust to help put a plan of action together for DEFRA, aimed at providing farmers with the option of badger vaccination in all the key TB hot spot border areas in England.
David Cameron finally seeing an opportunity to realise his dreams of the "Big Society" in action, is also pushing Owen Paterson to harness the thousands of volunteers who are willing to join badger vaccination projects across the county to help make this happen.
NFU members are also pressing the leadership to throw its full weight behind plans for the Welsh Government to trial a TB cattle vaccine in the next 18 months.
Under pressure from farmers and wildlife conservation groups, DEFRA officials are also now looking at how a derogation could be agreed with the European Commission for a TB cattle vaccine to be used only in the UK food supply chain, in order to get around the EC ten year approval obstacle.
The badger cull has been a hugely decisive issue, which has resulted in serious damage to the reputation of farmers as guardians and protectors of the environment.
However, a move by farmers to accept that badger and cattle vaccination rather than culling is the way forward, will rapidly rebuild bridges with the wildlife conservation movement and allow us all to work together to reduce the devastating impact of bovine TB, to protect the future of both our farming industry and wildlife.
This is the key message I will be taking to Bristol University on 15 May when I debate the badger cull policy with former NFU Vice President Adam Quinney and Naturalist and Broadcaster Simon King.
Dominic Dyer is the CEO of the Badger Trust and policy advisor for the Care for the Wild
Gloucestershire Police refused to supply marksmen with police radios during badger cull 2013
The Government approached Gloucestershire Police to ask them to provide radios to marksmen during the badger cull, it was revealed tonight.
Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl questioned senior police officers from Gloucestershire Constabulary about the way they handled incidents during Operation Themis, the police’s response to the cull.
Chief constable (CC) Suzette Davenport, together with Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Richard Berry, Superintendent (SI) Jim McCarthy, Inspector Mark Ravenscroft and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Steve Bean were questioned about incidents and various complaints throughout the weeks of the cull.
The officers were quizzed about the cull, which cost the constabulary some £2.3 million.
Mr Surl also raised the issue of former star of TV show Gladiators David McIntosh, who had crashed a van full of dead badgers into a bus shelter in Gloucester city centre on September 29, around 12.50am.
McIntosh, 28, told police he was distracted when he dropped a radio he was using to keep tabs on protesters who were shadowing the trial cull, Stroud Magistrates Court had heard.
He was fined £91 with a £20 victim surcharge, told to pay £30 costs and his licence was endorsed with six penalty points.
But police officers tonight categorically denied any contact with McIntosh about the cull, or about location of protesters.
SI McCarthy told the chamber McIntosh had been collecting dead badgers from cull operators that night the van crashed, although they could not explain why he was in the centre of Gloucester.
ACC Berry denied police were offering protesters’ locations because they wanted to maintain operation independence.
He added the Home Office and Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) had approached Gloucestershire Police last July to ask them to supply operators with radios linked to the police’s.
The answer was a firm ‘no’, again because they could not be seen to take sides.
DCI Bean said it was “incorrect” that McIntosh was in touch with the police, but was instead in radio contact with the cull operation headquarters.
Info from: www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Gloucestershire-Police-refused-supply-Government/story-21087059-detail/story.html#ixzz31XYplLns
15 May 2014, 12:16 PM
Media blackout on badger cull
The President of the National Farmers Union has told Farming Today that the decision not to communicate with the media during last year's pilot badger cull was down to a decision from the highest level of government. The pilot cull took place in Somerset and Gloucestershire as part of the government's strategy to tackle bovine TB. This was told to Farming Today's reporter, Anna Jones, during a session at the Pig and Poultry Fair in Stoneleigh, looking at how farmers should be more open with the media. Defra say there is no truth in this.
Info from www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0435c7s
So I wonder who is telling the truth?
11 May 2014, 1:32 PM
Badger culling tarnishes Ireland Tuesday, May 06, 2014 www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2014/0506/opinion/badger-culling-tarnishes-ireland-267571.html?dm_i=1NFN,2FYOV,906L7E,8VVVI, 1
Ireland today operates in a highly competitive global market for agricultural produce and we cannot afford to be at any disadvantage. Yet we are one of the few countries to widely cull badgers.
Thankfully, there has been a drop in the incidence of bovine TB in the Republic of Ireland. However, there has also been a greater drop in the rate of bovine TB in Northern Ireland, where they have used improved farming measures, and not a single badger has been killed. This suggests that farming measures, which are also used in Ireland, have reduced the disease.
In terms of culling badgers, we are out of step with our neighbours, who are also our competitors
1. Scotland is free of bovine TB and hasn’t culled badgers.
2. Wales has reduced bovine TB by as much as Ireland, without culling badgers.
3. In Northern Ireland, where no badgers have been culled, the drop in bovine TB incidence has been greater than that south of the border.
4. In England, MPs voted overwhelmingly to halt badger culling in England, on April 13 this year, claiming it to be ineffective.
Bovine TB is a terrible disease and, if anything, we should put more taxpayers’ money into the TB-eradication programme and make Ireland TB-free, once and for all. The Department of Agriculture has been culling badgers for nearly 30 years and, after all that time, it has not eliminated bovine TB in cattle.
Our reputation as the ‘green isle’ is a priceless asset. Having an ecologically clean economy is an essential aspect of marketing Ireland abroad. Yet our green reputation will be threatened if it becomes widely known that we are systematically, and unnecessarily, destroying our remaining wildlife.
We are all familiar with dolphin-friendly tuna. It won’t take too much imagination for our competitors to introduce the label of ‘badger friendly beef’ as a marketing aid, leaving us at a disadvantage. An own goal waiting to happen.
Ireland’s reputation abroad is critical to our tourism industry: six million people visited Ireland in 2012. In addition, our reputation abroad is also critical for our beef industry: 90% of our beef production is for export, where we compete in an increasingly competitive world market. What price are we willing to pay, in terms of our green reputation, to continue with this outdated and ineffective practice?
Colm Ward The View Dunboyne Castle Dunboyne Co Meath
11 May 2014, 1:13 PM
TB OR NOT TB LETTERS (re Private Eye Agribrigade piece)
Recent comments on this 40 year fantasy debate should have been entitled :- Much Ado about Nothing .. or T'is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing., but presumably they had the audacity to suggest "Badgers 100 % Innocent" ?
Unsurprising that senior Cambridge vet James Wood 's knee jerk reaction was that of course it "IS proven" badgers are the problem; because the RBCT/Krebs cull achieved a 50-60 % reduction in cattle TB. Absolutely wrong on both counts. Prof. /Lord Krebs 1997 Review found a circumstantial "link"; but carefully stated "it is not known if, how, or to what extent badgers might give cows a respiratory lung infection. What HAS been proven is that badgers are still catching TB from cows (Google badgersandtb.com). And if 50 % of the problem is due to badgers there should have been half the number of new herd breakdowns accumulated during the 8 year study in cull versus no cull areas, ie 834 vs 1668 ; whereas the cull of 11,000 badgers made NIL Difference, 1562 vs 1668 new breakdowns.
Even The Princess Royal has put her foot in it . She reckons we should eat horses and that gassing badgers is the “kindest way to cull them”!
Pity she does not know what she is talking about. The Zuckerman 1980 review found even power gassing did not reach lethal concentrations in diffuse setts.
While badgers are supposed to quietly go to sleep... a few prosecutions over digging/stopping of setts found badgers clustered at the bunged-up entrance so they probably died of heart attacks trying frantically to dig themselves out.
Tragic that the 2 pilot badger culls are to be continued this autumn; a total waste of money. Since as noted in the very silly debate in Parliament on March 13, the cull was only about 50% of estimated badgern population, , ie, 1,861 out of 4-6,000 population. Of which only about 200 had TB and only a dozen or so likely to be infectious to other badgers or cows. Cost: about £7 million with extra policing.
It is very tiresome that everyone is still pushing badger vaccines instead. Prof Robbie Mcdonald of FERA, told a recent Animal Science meeting that neither culls or vaccines are the answer (Farmers weekly 9th May); a doubtful drop AFTER 10 years of 16 or just 11 % respectively. Professor Donnelly, of Imperial College, recently stated vaccinating about 5,000 badgers has had no effect on cattle. Chief Vet Dr Glossop in Wales also noted cattle TB down by 3,000 reactors from 9,000 in last year, but due to annual testing, nothing to do with vaccinating a few badgers in the study area.
Tragic that the cattle vaccine with DIVA test to distinguish TB from vaccinated cows has been available nearly 15 years.
Defra VLA vets got it wrong with trials abroad, so all to do again, taking another ten years. We should simply go ahead with whole county trials on the clear understanding any trial herds would not be eligible for export.
The body which issues licenses to kill badgers, Natural England, states that, when assessing applications, the “action to be licensed is proportionate to the scale of the problem”. So it’s reasonable to assume that they would have established the level of bTB in the cull zones of W Glos & W Som in order to make this judgement.
Government statistics held for bovine TB show that the incidence rate of bTB is actually low relative to the number of herds/cattle, despite attempts by the pro-cull lobby to suggest otherwise. For example, although 26603 cattle were slaughtered for bovine TB control in England in 2013, this was out of a total of 5.3million cattle in England during that same period – see Livestock Populations https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/286876/structure-dec2013-eng-06mar14.pdf . This is a loss of half of one percent, far fewer than the number of fallen cattle and those cattle routinely slaughtered for other ailments such as lameness, mastitis, infertility etc.
If we look at the number of herds in England under movement restrictions due to an issue with bTB, 7242 herds were restricted at some point during 2013 out of a total of 53677. In other words, 86.5% of herds in England went about their business unaffected by bTB for the whole of 2013. Even in the West, considered to be a ‘TB hot spot’, 72% of herds went about their business unaffected by bTB for the whole of 2013.
We can use the statistics available to go down to county level but the format in which the statistics are presented has been changed and is no longer as ‘user friendly’. But it’s still apparent that the level of bTB incidence is relatively low so it’s reasonable to assume this is also the case within the cull zones themselves.
Current legislation may allow for exceptions to prevent serious damage to livestock but surely it cannot be reasonable, rational or proportionate for a government to sanction the indiscriminate killing of a large number badgers over a significantly large area without first establishing the precise level of damage within that area in order to justify their actions?
6 May 2014, 1:39 PM
The Badger Trust has delayed any decision to launch a fresh legal bid to stop the pilot badger culls in England after securing a “high-level meeting” with senior DEFRA officials.
The outcome of these discussions could be pivotal over whether the trust decides to launch a fresh judicial review at the High Court to try to stop culling going ahead for a second year in the pilot counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire.
The Badger Trust wants the culling to end and the government to focus instead on introducing stricter cattle controls, rolling out a national programme of badger vaccination, and to lobby the EU for a derogation to bring forward cattle vaccination in the UK.
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust and policy adviser to animal welfare charity Care for The Wild, told Farmers Weekly that the Badger Trust would be raising three areas of concerns with DEFRA over the pilot culls. These include:
The bond and payment system – who will pay for the extra costs if the use of cage trapping and shooting becomes more prevalent than free shooting - the NFU, farmers or the taxpayer?
How will the absence of an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in year two of the pilots affect the government’s ability to monitor the culls if it intends to implement the recommendations the panel made after the first year of the scheme
Badger numbers and monitoring the impact of culling on the badger population in the cull zones.
Mr Dyer summed up the trust’s concerns, saying: “The three areas are: Who pays? Who monitors? And, how many badgers?”
Depending on the discussions, the Badger Trust would then decide whether to go ahead with its plans to launch a fresh legal bid to derail to culls, having failed to overturn the policy at the High Court once before - and also on appeal in the same proceedings.
“We have been offered the opportunity to meet with DEFRA officials and we are going to take this up,” Mr Dyer said.
“We will try to get answers to some of these questions as to whether we take legal action or not. These are the questions we want answered.”
Mr Dyer said the meeting was due to take place in the next few days, but any decision to launch a judicial review would be taken within the next 14 days.
“If we are going to get on top of this disease, we need to work together and not fight all the time. The politics of the cull have got in the way and there are other ways forward,” he added.
“We could take decisions based on more targeted steps. There is investment in blood-test technology at Trent University, which could help us identify infected badgers rather than reducing a large population of healthy badgers.
“We would have to decide how we could use this technology going forward. We could also form solutions by not having to cull badgers in the long-term.”
Mr Dyer also accused the government of not doing enough to seek an EU derogation to allow cattle vaccination field trials in the UK.
“We keep hearing cattle vaccination is a 10-year timetable, but Wales’ chief veterinary officer Christianne Glossop said we could be vaccinating cattle within the next couple of years and we need to get on with it.”
A DEFRA spokesman said the department would be commenting on the story later on Thursday (1 May).
Focusing on culling badgers and developing cattle vaccinations as solutions to bovine TB are compromising the farming industry’s ability to tackle the disease, a leading scientist has claimed. Robbie McDonald, professor of natural environment at Exeter University, said many of the tools needed to halt the spread of the disease already existed, and that too much emphasis was being placed on the ability of culling and vaccinating badgers to solve the problem.
Speaking at the British Society of Animal Science annual conference at the University of Nottingham on Wednesday (30 April), Prof McDonald said neither culls or badger vaccinations were likely to have the dramatic effect on TB reduction farmers expected.
Instead the industry needed to focus on improving biosecurity measures to prevent badgers coming into contact with herds.
“Sadly, whether we cull or vaccinate, we are looking at quite modest effects on the number of disease incidences,” Prof McDonald told delegates.
Research had indicated that controlling badgers in an area for ten years would result in an 18% reduction in disease incidence if the badger population was culled, he said.
Both culling and vaccinating badgers would lead to a 28% reduction, while vaccination alone would cut incidence by 11%.
“Those are modest improvements, and show no great differences between the methods used.”
Coupled with the difficulties in administering an oral badger vaccination and the legal issues around vaccinating cattle, it would be more beneficial for farmers to focus on biosecurity improvements, Prof McDonald said.
“One in 10 farms have lots of badgers, so any biosecurity measures can help. We know they are very effective - simply putting a fence or gate in front of a badger will stop it.”
However, when biosecurity measures were installed on farms, they had to be used.
“The whole disease control process depends very critically on the farmers’ perception of the measure and how it fits with their business,” he added.
“To overcome this whole problem we may not actually need greater changes in the tools we have available.
“The focus on badger culling means the tools we have now are being compromised and we have ended up with minimal gains.
“Alongside all the technological and ecological improvements can make, we need to spend considerable time and effort on resolving the social mess we have got into.
“I’m starting to think about social science as a way to solve the problem, as the biology of the problem isn’t as hard as we make out.”
David Campbell is a Professor of Law at Lancaster University Law School. He is a leading commentator on the law of contract and commercial law and on forms of public regulation of economic activity. He has previously studied the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 2001.
2 May 2014, 9:32 AM
Badger cull panel will not report on second year of pilots in Somerset and Gloucester. The panel of experts which concluded pilot badger culls were ineffective and inhumane will not be asked to assess the second year of shooting in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
The panel was asked to report on whether last year's pilots, aimed at reducing tuberculosis in cattle, could be carried out safely, effectively and humanely. Its report found that the pilots failed to deliver the level of culling needed to bring about a reduction in TB in cattle, and that too many badgers took more than five minutes to die.
Its conclusions prompted renewed calls from opponents of the cull to abandon the controversial policy so the Government abandoned its roll out to other areas but is continuing with Somerset and Gloucestershire.