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?
3 Apr 2014, 1:14 PM
The report by the Independent Expert on the 'Pilot Badger Culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire' can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/300382/independent-expert-panel-report.pdf
3 Apr 2014, 12:56 PM
Plans to roll out the controversial badger cull pilots nationwide across 10 other areas of England have been dropped after a damning independent report found the shoots had not been sufficiently effective or humane.
However the two pilot culls, in Gloucestershire and Somerset, will continue with improvements recommended by the independent expert panel (IEP), including more and better trained marksmen.
The culls, aimed at curbing the rise of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, were dismissed by senior scientists as "mindless" before they started and have provoked huge public opposition since, as well as seeing ministers lose a vote in the House of Commons. The night-time shoots failed to kill enough badgers in the allotted time, which scientists warned could actually see escaping badgers increase TB in cattle.
Opponents of the cull have argued vaccination of badgers and cattle is a better strategy. The government is now proposing a scheme for badger vaccination projects around the edge of the most badly affected parts of the country, in an attempt to create a buffer zone of TB immunity to stop the disease spreading further. Large-scale field trials of cattle vaccines were being designed, but, typically, we are still apparently many years away from being able to vaccinate our cattle against bTB.
Opponents, including the leader of a landmark decade-long trial of badger culling, have also argued that stricter testing and controls on cattle movements are the key to cutting TB. In Wales, where a planned badger cull was abandoned, the number of cattle slaughtered has fell from 11,671 in 2009 to 6,102 in 2013, a 48% drop, following more stringent testing. The number of cattle slaughtered in Great Britain, fell by 15% in 2013, following some new controls being introduced in England.
Info from: www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/03/badger-cull-owen-paterson-cancels-national-roll-out-cattle-tb
31 Mar 2014, 6:00 PM
As predicted there is much media hype and unsubstantiated statements regarding the alleged first human cases to contract bTB from cats and once again the badger is the scapegoat.
'Why are the media even mentioning badgers when talking about these incredibly rare cases- there is absolutely no evidence that badgers are involved.'
'The Daily Mail (sigh) said that the cats ‘are thought’ to have been infected by being bitten by a badger and yet there is absolutely ZERO evidence of this being the case. The Telegraph repeated this evidence free suggestion, with absolutely no basis for it.'
'The idea, postulated by the Chief Vet Nigel Gibbon, that pet cats are ‘fighting badgers’ or ‘visiting their setts’ is ludicrous to those of us who actually treat cats and as far as I am aware has no evidence basis at all. A cat would do very well indeed to survive an altercation with a badger.'
'In the report of these cases there is no mention of badger setts in the vicinity at all. So why are people mentioning badgers as a possible source?'
'The cats involved had bites that were more likely to come from rodents or other cats, not from badgers. And any rodents are far more likely have picked up infection from farmyards, where they are known to visit, rather than from a badger sett.'
'Make no mistake, this is a classic smokescreen.' We agree. She goes on to say; 'Mentioning badgers as a possible source of these infections, without a single shred of evidence, can only be explained as a way to soften people up for the badger culls to proceed in the absence of any sane reason to do so.'
Let's get this in perspective. This is just two cases, yet an increase in cases from none in 1997 to 16 in 2013 is being called ‘soaring numbers!
She goes on to say: 'If I had to pick a public health issue to be concerned about with regard to our farming system bTB would not be top of my list. Instead I would be looking at the massive overuse of antibiotics driving resistance, or how about the high levels of food poisoning pathogens in our food, or about how the lack of traceability in our food system (think horsemeat) that means we really don’t know what is in it.'
Well, let's hope this latest hype does not lead to the mass culling of cats.
27 Mar 2014, 2:34 PM
Something is rotten in the state of England - pending the publication of the long-delayed Independent Panel report on the badger cull, Lesley Docksey finds that the fight for England's badgers is part of an even bigger campaign for scientific and political integrity … A rather damning article, setting out the history of the badger cull trials, failures, cover ups ....
Parliament debated the cull today and the text of the motion is below. MPS voted by a margin of 219 to one to halt the badger cull in England. Seventeen Conservative MPs and six Liberal Democrats voted against the policy, thereby again highlighting the strength of backbench opposition to it. For a detailed summary visit: www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/bovine-tb/paterson-receives-iep-report-as-mps-debate-badger-cull/63005.article & nbsp; “That this House believes that the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have decisively failed against the criteria set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in guidance to Natural England for licensing of the culls, which stipulated that 70 per cent of the badger population should be culled within a six-week period; notes that the costs of policing, additional implementation and monitoring, and the resort to more expensive cage-and-trap methods over an extended period have substantially increased the cost of the culls, and strengthened the financial case for vaccination; regrets that the decision to extend the original culls has not been subject to any debate or vote in Parliament; further regrets that the Independent Expert Panel will only assess the humaneness, safety and effectiveness of the original six-week period and not the extended cull period; and urges the Government to halt the existing culls and granting of any further licences, pending development of alternative strategies to eradicate bovine TB and promote a healthy badger population.”
MR sent us this re situation in Ireland. He stresses that there is NOTHING in Abernethy’s paper to support any benefit of culling in the Irish Republic whatsoever. On the contrary, data in paper highlights testing and cattle movement as primary drivers of TB trends.
A brief update/summary of bovine TB trends here in Ireland (RoI & NI) using official data from:
The most recent published figures for herd incidence (end of 2013) are NI 6.44% and RoI 3.88%.
However, static figures provide little information in terms of progress in tackling bovine TB and it’s widely accepted that trends are the most effective way of assessing outcomes of any bovine TB strategy.
Long term Bovine TB herd incidence trend 2002 - 2013
RoI herd incidence fell from 6.38% to 3.88% – a fall of 40%
NI incidence fell from 9.92%* to 6.44% - a fall of 35%
*NI, like GB, had to deal with a very high incidence in 2002 directly attributed to the suspension of TB testing during the Foot and Mouth epidemic and the widespread restocking post Foot and Mouth through GB and NI with untested/infected cattle. The RoI escaped both Foot and Mouth and its TB consequences. In this context, a fall of 35% in NI is a significant achievement compared to either RoI or GB.
RoI herd incidence fell by 4.26% to 3.88% – a fall of 8.9%
NI incidence fell by 7.32% to 6.44% – a fall of 12%
The recent 12 month trend shows a significantly greater relative fall in bovine TB in Northern Ireland compared to the Irish Republic. Northern Ireland has never culled badgers and no badger intervention of any kind has taken place in the province. (A badger vaccination programme (TVR) is in development but has yet to be implemented.)
Consequently, the data fails to support the case for badger culling in the Irish Republic.
6 Mar 2014, 2:26 PM
CHARITY FINDINGS CONCUR WITH IEP REPORT Recent leaked reports on the BBC that the Independent Expert Panel appointed by DEFRA to evaluate the ‘safety, efficacy and humaneness’ of the pilot badger culls, suggest that the culls were ineffective and failed the humaneness test.
Secret World Wildlife Rescue is a large wildlife charity in Somerset, which cares for over five thousand wildlife casualties and orphans annually. The charity is especially recognized both nationally and internationally for its work with badgers, caring for adult animals and rearing badger cubs, and working to promote responsible and scientific rehabilitation practices.
When the badger culls were announced we were conscious that we might be required to treat injured or displaced animals from the cull areas, and for this reason developed a protocol allowing those people in the cull areas to quickly bring animals to us as required. We also appreciated that dead badgers might be found and were keen that these were handled in a coordinated and professional way.
During the cull period two dead badgers came into Secret World from the Somerset cull area. The first of these, tagged ‘Badger 102’ was found near Wheddon Cross early on 14th September 2013. A veterinary surgeon examined the dead animal and x-rays were taken. Some information regarding this case was released to the press at the time. The body was then stored appropriately and securely until a full post mortem examination could be carried out. The second badger, tagged ‘Badger 200’ was found late in the evening on 11th October near Carhampton. The body of this animal was again examined and x-rayed and stored until a post mortem examination could take place.
QUALITY OF POST MORTEM EXAMINATIONS:
Post mortem examinations were commissioned from an independent veterinary pathologist, Dr Mark Stidworthy of International Zoo Veterinary Group, an RCVS Recognised Specialist in Veterinary Pathology of Zoo and Wildlife Species. Dr Stidworthy’s findings are described below. In these cases full diagnostic post mortem examinations (PMs) were completed and provided detailed evidence not otherwise available to the IEP because the PMs carried out by AHVLA on behalf of Professor Ranald Munro and the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) were less detailed. We have not previously released Dr Stidworthy’s findings out of respect for Professor Munro and the work of the IEP. These post mortem reports were however, immediately made available to the IEP for inclusion in their considerations as to the humaneness of shooting badgers.
POST MORTEM REPORT SUMMARIES: Badger 200.
Dr Stidworthy’s summary diagnosis of the cause of death in badger 200 was, ‘severe acute focally extensive trauma and haemorrhage, including multiple thoracic vertebral fractures and spinal cord contusion, consistent with gun shot injury, dorsolateral mid-thorax and vertebral column.’ The pathologist went on to comment that ‘the lesion is consistent with acute gunshot injury by a single projectile striking obliquely through the mid dorsal thorax/vertebral column. The bullet has travelled obliquely through the paravertebral muscle in the mid thorax, and resulted in focally extensive vertebral trauma including multiple fractures, proximal rib fracture, muscle maceration, and spinal cord contusion, in the segment around thoracic vertebrae 7 to 12. There is also apparent avulsion of an intercostal arterial branch, with acute mediastinal and retropleural haemorrhage. The projectile has not entered the thoracic target zone, and there is no damage to heart or lungs, nor to cranial structures or the brain. This lesion will have been acutely severely debilitating, with an expectation of rapid hind limb paralysis, and no prospect of long-term survival. However, the absence of heart or brain destruction and the limited mediastinal haemorrhage suggest that loss of consciousness and death are unlikely to have been immediate following the initial injury, although I am unable to estimate the actual length of survival.’ He concluded that ‘this badger has been shot, but not through the thoracic target zone, and consequently there is no damage to the heart. A severe muscular, vertebral and spinal cord injury has resulted, which is considered incompatible with survival. However, the injury is considered unlikely to have resulted in immediate loss of consciousness and death.’
Dr Stidworthy’s summary diagnosis of the cause of death in badger 102 was, ‘severe acute focally extensive trauma and haemorrhage, including cardiac destruction, consistent with gun shot injury, thorax.’
The pathologist went on to comment that ‘the lesion is consistent with acute gunshot injury by a single projectile. This entered the skin in the left lateral thorax, and travelled medially and ventrally. In the course of its passage through the thorax, it generated multiple rib fractures, macerated cranial liver lobes, and resulted in diaphragmatic and body wall rupture leading to subsequent (post mortem) evisceration of the stomach, spleen, intestine and liver. Most significantly, there is acute and severe cardiac ablation, generating complete destruction of most of the left and right ventricular free walls and the interventricular septum.’ Referring to the likely speed of death he commented that he ‘would expect death following such an injury to be inevitable and immediate.’
INTERPRETATION OF THE POST MORTEM FINDINGS.
In the case of badger 200, Dr Stidworthy’s findings show that this animal was not shot within the Defra proposed target area for shooting of free running badgers. The shot instead hit the badger’s spine and caused considerable trauma to the spine, ribs and surrounding tissue. In the opinion of the pathologist, this injury was considered unlikely to have resulted in immediate loss of consciousness and death. We believe that instead there would have been a prolonged period of unnecessary suffering before the badger eventually died of its injuries. There was no evidence to suggest that a follow up shot had been made to ensure that the already injured animal died quickly. This finding is consistent with the leaked IEP report that more than 5% of badgers culled took unacceptable times to die. The manner in which this animal died cannot be considered in any way humane and would under any other circumstance be in breach of animal welfare legislation. Both these badgers were in good condition with no evidence of tuberculosis at post mortem or upon subsequent culture.
DIFFICULTY OF FINDING INJURED BADGERS: Our experience, over more than 25 years, dealing with injured wildlife has illustrated how difficult it can be to find an injured badger as these animals instinctively try to return to their sett or seek dense cover. Certainly in the case of badger 200 it is possible that the animal managed to move away from the precise location where it was shot. Neither we nor the IEP can know how many other injured badgers died below ground or were simply not found and therefore how many suffered unnecessarily during these trial culls. This may mean that the failure to achieve the "humaneness" target of no more than 5% of badgers taking more than 5 minutes to die has been missed by an even larger margin than suggested by the leaked IEP report.
6 Mar 2014, 1:53 PM
Many are raising concerns regarding the failed badger culls. Channel 4 has reported that independent badger post mortems raise further questions over cull.
Independent tests on two badgers, believed to have been shot in the cull zone during the government's pilot badger cull, show neither tested positive for bovine TB - a fact campaigners say should embarrass Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who claimed in 2013 that badgers targeted in the cull were, "miserable, emaciated and sick animals spewing out disease".
The cull went ahead despite strong opposition from conservationists, scientists and some MPs, as part of efforts to tackle rising rates of bovine TB in cattle.
The independent post mortems relate to two badgers shot with high powered rifles during the cull in Somerset in 2013. Instead of being recovered by cull operatives, the carcasses were found by campaigners patrolling at night around the cull zone. They were taken for independent post mortems.
However, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the success of the policy at controlling bovine TB depends on whether using marksmen to shoot free-ranging badgers is "effective and humane".
The results show that one of the badgers was shot nowhere near the target area of the body stipulated in the cull licence and endured a long and presumably painful death.
"This one sad example may represent the suffering of many other animals who escaped or crawled off to die underground," said Dr James Yates, chief veterinary officer with the RSPCA, who has seen the post mortem results.
Badgers in the cull were supposed to be shot side-on in the area of the heart and lungs.
However x-ray images of "badger 200" shows a high powered rifle round shattered on impact with the animal's spine.
"The shot smashed his ribs, filled his chest with blood and damaged his spine," said Dr Yates, "his heart and brain were undamaged, so this was far from a quick death."
The second badger (badger "102") recovered from the Somerset cull zone was shot in the correct area of the body - though at an angle.
The shot "destroyed" part of the animal's heart. Dr Mark Sidworthy, a veterinary pathologist who carried out the post-mortems, concluded that he "would expect death following such an injury to be inevitable and immediate".
Despite this, the campaigners who recovered the carcass claim it lived long enough to stray a short distance from the area where shooting was taking place.
Though Defra maintains "badger 102" was found in an area of the cull zone where shooting wasn't happening, there is evidence the authorities went to great lengths to try and recover its body.
Adrian Coward is an independent ecologist who agreed to store the carcass found by campaigners in what they say was the cull zone. He told Channel 4 News about a visit from a senior officer from Avon and Somerset Police:
"He said the likelihood was that I'd be charged and arrested if I didn't release the badger, and I said 'you tell me what you're going to charge me with, and I'll make a decision', and they didn't come back.
"They talked about all sorts of nefarious acts like the animal byproducts regulations and government samples, and goodness knows what else.
"Fortunately I know a little bit about the law and I knew that they didn't really have anything to pin on me."
Examinations of both badgers also showed they were in good condition and TB tests confirmed no disease was present.
BBC accepts it was wrong to state that badger culling in Republic Ireland reduced TB in cattle.
In a ground-breaking decision the BBC today accepted it was wrong to state that badger culling in the Republic of Ireland had reduced incidences of TB in cattle.
The statement was following a complaint from a member of the public concerning an article published on the BBC Website on the 31st May 2013 “How did the Irish badger cull play out?” The BBC accepted that the language used in the article had not been sufficiently precise, as it suggested that the badger cull might be a factor in helping control the disease, when this was scientifically unproven.
Although data did show a decline in the number of cattle infected with TB in Ireland, the BBC accepted there was no conclusive evidence to show that the badger cull had been categorically responsible for any of this decline and so it was inaccurate to say that, along with other measures, it can help control the disease. This conclusion has huge implications, simply because the Government has sought on numerous occasions to justify its own badger cull on the apparent ‘success’ of killing badgers in Ireland. In one such example in the Independent on Sunday, the DEFRA Secretary of State, Owen Paterson stated:
“Go to the Republic of Ireland where you had a spectacular increase in TB until they started to cull badgers, they’ve gone down from 40,000 to 18,000 cases and its dropping fast.” Those campaigning against the cull say that this is yet another deliberate attempt to deceive the public and the media. Responding to the BBC decision, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:
“This decision raises serious concerns over statements made by the Government to MPs and the public that the large scale culling of badgers in the Republic of Ireland is an effective example of TB reduction in cattle that should be followed in the UK.
“Under the BBC Editorial ruling Owen Paterson and others would no longer be able to make statements claiming that culling played a role in reducing TB in Ireland, as they would be considered misleading and not based on scientific evidence. The question is, will Owen Paterson now withdraw the statements he has made about culling in Ireland following the BBC ruling? And will the Government avoid any further statements of this kind?
“The shocking thing is, the government has been aware from the beginning that the scientific evidence does not underpin the claim that culling badgers reduces bovine TB, but they have continued to make this claim because they’ve been allowed to get away with it. The badger cull is a deeply unpopular policy and we believe that even more people would oppose it than already do, if the truth was told consistently. So it’s very important the government bases all its statements on peer reviewed evidence and not spin the story to suit its own political agenda.”
The BBC ruling could further damage the Government’s stance on the badger cull, within a week of a leaked report from the Government’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which showed that in addition to dramatically failing to reach kill targets during the cull, the pilot cull also failed to reach their own humaneness criteria. Next Thursday anti-cull campaigners will hold a large protest in Old Palace Yard to coincide with a back bench debate in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the failure of the culls in light of the report.
2. Full BBC ruling attached or available separately on request – file name ‘BBC Response to Complaint Feb 2013 TB’
3. Independent on Sunday Article referenced was published on 13th October 2013
2 Mar 2014, 5:18 PM
Sadly, it came as no surprise to those of us who have been in the thick of cattle culling to hear that the badger cull trials were not humane. So, not only were they a waste of money but now we have evidence that they were cruel and failed to achieve their aims. The Badger Trust sum the situation up in its latest Press Release.
CULLING INHUMANE AND INEFFECTIVE
As many as one in six of the badgers shot in Gloucestershire and Somerset took longer than five minutes to die according to a report leaked to the media. Yet ALL badgers should have been killed promptly, according to the Coalition’s own rules: “Expanding bullets, on hitting the rib-cage, should cause immediate extensive destruction of the heart and lung tissue. Death would be expected to follow rapidly”.
The free shooting method has failed and should be abandoned, and now George Eustice, the Farming Minister, is reported to have said the Government would not be duty bound to follow the advice of its independent expert panel, and that the cap on licences to kill in England, currently restricted to 10 per year, could be lifted.
Two key conditions for the pilot culls were that they should be humane and effective. They were plainly not humane and were not effective either, with only 49 per cent of the estimated population (3,800) killed in the whole trials instead of the 70 per cent minimum required for any possible benefit.
Humane Society International/UK has received a set of compliance reports by Natural England’s badger cull monitors. They show that some badgers were shot in the wrong body area including the head, or were wounded. Two of them were wounded, chased, and had to be shot a second time. In one case five to 10 minutes elapsed between the first and second shot. Monitoring of the cull was woefully inadequate – only nine badgers were seen being killed by controlled shooting.
A total of 1,861 badgers’ lives have been wasted during the whole trial period in trying to justify this cheap and ineffective method of killing. Of these, 1,578 badgers were killed during the initial six weeks of the trials, so AT LEAST 97 of them took longer than five minutes to die. One of the approved methods of estimating the delay was to time the duration of screams. It is a deeply inhumane way to establish humaneness.
The Badger Trust hopes the full truth of how many of these badgers did not die “rapidly” will emerge from the independent expert panel report which Mr Eustice told the annual conference of the National Farmers’ Union on Tuesday would be published in several weeks’ time.
If free shooting were eventually abandoned it would leave the farmers’ consortia to pay possibly ten times as much to trap and shoot badgers in cages. Already there has been a plea, at the NFU conference, for the Coalition to pay for even more culling.
The Badger Trust says yet again that culling badgers by any means will cost taxpayers a fortune, resulting in a very small benefit over a ten-year period. Culling should be abandoned immediately and all resources focussed on improved cattle controls, continuation of the many badger vaccination programmes already under way throughout the UK and, most importantly, vaccination of the national herd against bTB.
2 Mar 2014, 5:10 PM
' Time for a change of tack on bovine TB & badger culling' says the Tory think tank.
With a cost of £4,121 per badger, the likely conclusion by the forthcoming report by the Independent Panel of Experts on the recent pilot of badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire that more badger culling will be of no benefit is particularly damning.
Added to this, we now have evidence that incidents of bovine TB is in fact decreasing without culling. The incidence rate for January-November 2013 down 4.5% and the number of cattle slaughtered down 9.5%is proof that cattle controls are working. Given that the badger cull trials were restricted to Somerset and Gloucestershire and only carried out in late 2013, it is inconceivable that these were a contributory factor.
In addition to our previous calls for vaccination of badgers and the rolling out of a cattle vaccine, we also believe the time is right for the establishing of an Independent panel for bovine TB policy making. This would both nullify the pressure lobby groups such as the NFU are able to exert on politicians as well as going some way to bringing the standoff between the two sides of the bTB debate to a conclusion.
The Paper’s Author, G Godwin-Pearson says, "Unfortunately, the pilot badger culls in the rural Westcountry last year were a fiasco for the Party and for DEFRA, sparking national furore and condemnation from scientists, vets, charities, TV presenters, a certain rock star and the public at large.
"There are thousands of volunteers prepared to don wellies and help a national effort to vaccinate our most iconic wild animal against this horrible disease. The cost, which has always been a concern, will be far less than the £4,121 per badger that culling has amounted to and it will appeal to the country-folk and urbanites who took the time to sign petitions, write to their MP or even march against the culls. It’s also a good example of the Big Society in action, by a nation of animal lovers, for the benefit of wildlife.
"The big question for the Cabinet is how to duck out of the commitment to culling it made to the NFU; the answer is simple - create and Independent Panel for bTB, with scientists, vets, wildlife experts, charities and landowners, selected for their knowledge of the subject, who can become the voice of unbiased reason for ministers."
The Bow Group's report opposing the culling of badgers makes the following recommendations:-
1. Work with conservation charities to rollout a national injectable BCG badger vaccination programme, as per the recommendation of the EFRA Select Committee.
2. Implement compulsory pre-movement testing between farms within the same holding and prior to agricultural shows and common land grazing.
3. Compel farms that have TB to declare their status to neighbouring holdings.
4. Enforce isolation regulations and slaughter any new-born calves of reactors.
5. Increase the use of the g-IFN test, alongside the SICCT test.
6. Take the lead, alongside a major commercial herd, in field trials of a cattle vaccine, in order to aid the progression of legislation to permit the license of cattle BCG in Europe and trading of vaccinated cattle.
7. Appoint an Independent Panel on bTB to advise the Government on bTB policy direction now and in the future.
8. Push for more intuitive agricultural subsidies from the EU which incentivises good management rather than simply encouraging high yields.
A programme of vaccination to eradicate bovine TB in Wales appears to be working, the country’s farming minister has suggested, after the number of slaughtered cattle fell by a third.
Speaking as figures showed new herd incidents in the country – which has shunned the badger cull policy trialled in England – have fallen by a quarter, Alun Davies said Wales had reached its first goal of halting the spread of the disease.
Info from: /www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Bovine-TB-badger-vaccination-working-Welsh/story-20707412-detail/story.html#ixzz2uSVnRbkh
20 Feb 2014, 4:29 PM
In Wales, where badgers are being vaccinated in the IAA and no culling has been undertaken, figures from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories have revealed that levels of bovine tuberculosis (as identified by the flawed skin test) have fallen significantly over the last year. Between November 2011 and November 2012 there were 1145 instances of the disease in new herd reported in Wales. In the same period last year, there were 880 reports - a 23% drop. And the numbers of cattle slaughtered in Wales because of bovine Tb fell by a third.
Across the whole of the UK figures revealed a 6% reduction in new herd incidents and a 14%t reduction in the numbers of cattle slaughtered for TB.
Wales is hosting the World mycrobacterium bovis conference in June 2014.
17 Feb 2014, 6:58 PM
The Badger Trust has provided a useful summary.
MINISTERIAL MUDDLE OVER CATTLE TB MISLEADS BRITAIN
A flurry of bovine TB statistics will undermine any wild assertions by delegates and Ministers at this week’s National Farmers’ Union conference that badger culling is essential. The Prime Minister and Mr Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must now justify their repeated assertions that incidence of the disease was continuing to increase.
The latest facts about bovine TB are yet another nail in the coffin of the pro-cullers, says Badger Trust. The idea of further culls should be buried once and for all; In fact it is decreasing all round: notably in Northern Ireland where badgers are not culled. The Republic of Ireland continues to kill badgers, but does no better than the north.
Furthermore, the numbers of herd incidents and individual cattle slaughtered on mainland Britain are showing clear signs of shrinking further, continuing the trend since 2008. New whole-year figures are due out soon.
Those bent on killing badgers persist in trying to save face with claims that the disease cannot be controlled without killing wildlife. They wilfully ignore the UK’s success in having brought the disease down by more than 90 percent to about 1,000 cattle a year by 1970 – without badger culling. It remained at that level for 20 years until a three-fold increase followed relaxation of annual testing and the cattle industry’s stubborn refusal to test animals before selling them on.
The present situation is this:
The number of cattle slaughtered has been halved over the last decade through cattle measures alone. The important difference between Northern Ireland  and the Republic is that the Province suffered from foot and mouth disease, as did the UK, leading to a surge in cattle slaughtered to an average of 1,400 during 2003. Last year Northern Ireland’s toll had slumped to 750.
Republic of Ireland
The number of cattle slaughtered has almost halved over the past five years to a new record low of 15,612 last year. Unlike Northern Ireland the Republic slaughtered 6,000 badgers a year, clearly for no meaningful benefit. The Department of Agriculture admitted it was “difficult” to quantify the precise impact of badger culling on the reduction in the incidence of TB. Nevertheless it still asserts that much of the improvement was due to badger removal.
The Principality has seen a massive drop of 33 per cent in the number of cattle slaughtered during the year up to the end of November 2013 : 6,275 cattle compared with 9,364 in the same period the year before. This more than recovered the 18 per cent increase the previous year which had led to renewed calls for badger culling. The Welsh Government’s policy is to vaccinate badgers and insist on stringent cattle controls.
There was also a substantial fall of 23% in herd infections  for the 12 months up to the end of November 2013 (880 new herd incidents compared to 1,145 in the previous 12 months) – a fall of 23 per cent. This more than offsets the increase of 15 per cent from 2011 to 2012. The Welsh Government now proposes to take an additional one per cent from a farmer’s direct payments if tests are between one day and three months late; this would be on top of the three per cent fines for tests that go beyond three months and five per cent for tests 12 months overdue.
The Coalition Government’s badger cull proposals have suffered another setback after the release of figures further damaging its case. Muddle over statistics meant it wrongly claimed an increase of 18 per cent in the number of cattle herds infected by bTB across Britain. Now it admits that the number actually fell by 3.4 per cent in the year to September 2013. The Coalition has also disclosed that the rate of new infections had been slightly exaggerated in both 2012 and 2013 – further undermining the case for the cull of badgers.
Yet more new figures ruin Mr Cameron’s and Mr Paterson’s case for the cull. They show a 13 per cent reduction in the number of cattle – as opposed to herds – slaughtered in England between January and November in 2013, compared to the same period the year earlier. Senseless killing must stop now, says the Badger Trust.
The Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra) has admitted that an IT glitch meant it had overstated the number of cattle herds infected by tuberculosis in Britain to such an extent that there had actually been a decline in the year preceding the badger cull in September 2013, rather than the rise it had previously announced.
Revised numbers, calculated after an error was found in the system last month, show that the number of herds infected by bovine TB fell by 3.4%in the year to September 2013, rather than rising by 18%, as it previously said.
Defra also disclosed that the rate of new infections had been slightly exaggerated in both 2012 and 2013 – again undermining the case for the cull of badgers ..
New figures showed that there was a 13 % reduction in the number of cattle – as opposed to herds – compulsorily slaughtered in England because of bovine TB between January to November in 2013, compared to the same period the year earlier.
Together, these figures demonstrate that Parliament was misled about the case for the cull.
FARMERS COULD COLLECT EVEN MORE COALITION CASH FOR TB says Badger Trust in its latest press release. Full text below.
Government is likely to bail out farmers originally expected to organise and fund badger killing themselves in their efforts to control bovine tuberculosis (bTB). According to Farmers’ Guardian  farmers would voluntarily contribute to a new fund, but it could be match-funded by the taxpayer. The only government expense so far has supposedly been in Natural England’s role in licensing and overseeing the killing, plus massive policing costs of more than £3m.
But the full cost to Defra so far has been grossly understated, according to Dr Tim Hounsome, who spent ten years working on the badgers and TB issue for the then Central Science Laboratory facility (now AHVLA) at Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire.
He says on his website : “In summary, the current policy has meant that the Government has spent £7,290,000 (£5,800,000 of which was public money) pursuing a [culling] policy that could quite possibly make things worse. And the farmers who were conned into joining in have quite likely lost £1,490,000 of their own money. In its starkest form, using Defra’s own figures and the best case scenario, it has cost £12,857 per sq km to save £714 per sq km”.
The Trust says that this devastating calculation, on top of the present extension of government involvement in the detail, could mean even more muddle. It all comes on top of last year’s bungled estimates of badger populations, the ineffective efforts to kill “enough” badgers and the inexcusable and arbitrary extensions of culling periods. Further expense has been the excursion to New Zealand of Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to copy a similar scheme, although farming conditions are not comparable.
The proposed fund would be controlled by a new body, comprising representatives of cull areas, farming and veterinary bodies and civil servants. This organisation would take over much of the delivery of TB policy, dealing with technical issues like licensing and legal matters. The National Beef Association’s TB spokesman, Bill Harper, is reported as saying key decision-making powers would remain with Ministers.
The measure would potentially remove responsibility for the admin of TB control, including badger culling, to an industry-led body not publicly accountable (in the same way that government departments are, in theory at least), and will probably consist of a government-industry partnership which will not include civil society groups. This in turn will make it much harder for us to engage in any constructive way with the process. Any industry-led body would be more likely to be intensely cost-driven, and would look towards the cheapest method available for aspects of the policy, including (potentially) badger culling.
Coalition policy allows up to ten new areas to be licensed each year, but Peter Kendall President of the National Farmers’ Union, said the NFU was not looking for a roll out on the scale some people previously envisaged. He told Farmers’ Guardian: “We need to be very careful about the speed of the roll out to make sure we get it right.”
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, commented: “The roll-out would be wrong in any event. This misconceived policy aims to achieve, at vast expense and much of it from the public, at best a marginal benefit if any from killing badgers. The bTB epidemic is of the industry’s own making in resisting for decades universal annual testing and sensible restrictions on cattle movements, and being careless about on -farm hygiene. Present indications are that the number of cattle being slaughtered because of bTB has been levelling out and could even be declining – without killing badgers”.
ESTIMATE OF BADGER SETT NUMBERS WELCOMED by Badger Trust (Press release today refers):
A new estimate of badger setts  indicates the number of badger social groups, although not the number of badgers in them, nor whether group sizes have changed between various surveys.
This study is a welcome addition to knowledge of an important aspect of ecology. It was done by trained professional surveyors and the work was funded by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Bristol University used volunteers for two earlier studies in the 1980s and ‘90s for the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.
The authors  say: "The general relationship between social group abundance and population size has not been established". They estimate that since 1985-88 the number of social groups has increased by 103 per cent in England, but has remained relatively constant in Wales.
The Badger Trust says that if there has been a significant increase in badger numbers, it is to be celebrated as a result of the legal protection from the persecution that badgers have experienced in the past.
Badger populations are naturally limited by their food supply and the population in England and Wales is returning to an equilibrium. The Protection of Badgers Act is doing its job preventing local extinction in some areas.
In the context of controlling cattle TB, the science has shown that there is no justification for killing badgers.
NOTES  Density and abundance of badger social groups in England and Wales in 2011–2013.
 Johanna Judge, Gavin J. Wilson and Richard J. Delahay of the National Wildlife Management Centre, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire, Roy Macarthur Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York, and Robbie A. McDonald, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall.
22 Jan 2014, 6:09 PM
Biocensus Opinion: Badger cull maths, stats and management - an extremely interesting and useful appraisal of the badger cull which is well worth reading and clearly reveals just what a waste of money badger culling is.
"... in summary, the current policy has meant that the government has spent £7,290,000 (£5,800,000 of which was public money) pursuing a policy that could quite possibly make things worse. And the farmers who were conned into joining in have quite likely lost £1,490,000 of their own money.
In its starkest form using Defra’s own figures and the best case scenario, it has cost £12,857/km² to save £714/km²."
... the RSPCA has summarised the fiasco of the recent badger culling trials (http://blogs.rspca.org.uk/insights/2014/01/21/the-pilot-badger-culls-a-series-of-unfortunate-events/#.Ut7d7KGQGSM).
The pilot badger culls have been a catalogue of errors from start to finish and even though the pilots ended over a month ago, the mistakes continue to emerge.
The latest colossal embarrassment involves a ‘computer error’ and the government are admitting that the TB figures for 2012/13 have been ‘overstated’... given that the TB figures were used so repetitively by the Environment Minister and NFU as justification for the pilot culls going ahead this is a fairly substantial ‘oopsy’ and begs the question, how long has the government known? This very question will be asked in Parliament. This latest fail however, is by no means an isolated incident. Here’s a quick timeline (in chronological order) of just some unfortunate events which have plagued the pilot badger culls:
Cull begins in Gloucestershire.
Cull begins in Somerset.
Government announce they got the badger population estimates wrong and dramatically revise minimum ‘targets’ (number of badgers to kill).
Cages brought into the culls to catch the badgers as shooting them has proved too difficult (Fancy that…they run away when shooting starts!).
Badgers blamed for ‘moving the goalposts’ by the Environment Minister. Naughty badgers…
Government announce that not enough badgers in Gloucestershire have been killed and application made for extension beyond six weeks (despite scientific advice that an extension could actually make the spread of TB in cattle worse) – yes, back to those pesky badgers fleeing areas where shooting occurs.
Extension in Gloucestershire granted by licensing body Natural England, despite calls not to from nearly half the Board.
Government announce not enough badgers have been killed in Somerset and another application is made for an extension (are you starting to see a pattern emerge?).
Extension in Somerset granted by licensing body Natural England.
Pilots end in Somerset having failed to reach the minimum target of 70 per cent even after the extension (and dramatic and unexplained population drop).
Licence revoked three weeks early in Gloucestershire by Natural England, again having fallen way short of even the revised minimum target.
Estimated total cost of the two pilots, including farmer, licensing and surveying costs, was over £7m = £4,100 per badger killed! (Note: Defra has not yet released full costs).
News prompts the release of the policing figures which amount to almost £2.5 million, more than double governments original estimates.
Government announces it ‘overstated’ TB figures used to justify culling due to a computer error.
20 Jan 2014, 6:42 PM
The Badger Trust (Press Release today) is asking probing questions:
BADGER TRUST QUESTIONS DEFRA PAYMENTS TO NFU
The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State must explain why Defra has been helping the National Farmers’ Union to train field staff when the Coalition originally assured Parliament  that culling would be farmer-led with the Coalition paying only for supervision by Natural England.
In answer to freedom of information requests from the Badger Trust the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has revealed payments from public funds to the National Farmers’ Union and some of its contractors towards field work in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset. This was to estimate the badger population before killing began as part of the bovine TB (bTB) eradication programme in England.
The then Secretary of State, Mrs Caroline Spelman, told the Commons: that badger control licences would be issued by Natural England under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to enable groups of farmers and landowners to reduce badger populations at their own expense. Natural England would set out strict criteria to ensure that any culling was carried out safely, effectively and humanely.
The Trust’s questions and Defra’s answers (italics) in summary were :
1. How much was spent by Defra on the badger surveys to ascertain the number of badgers in culling areas in 2012 and 2013 (this involved re-surveys to correct the original wrong ones)? (“We don’t hold the data in a format that allows us to provide costs in that level of detail . . . exempted [when] information is not held when the applicant’s request is received . . . and is material still in the course of completion, unfinished documents or incomplete data” – Defra).
2. The cost to Defra of the employment of outside agencies to ascertain the number of badgers in each of the pilot areas of Gloucester, Somerset and Dorset for 2012 and for 2013? (“Defra and its agencies together with the NFU and some of its contractors undertook field work during 2012 and 2013. The NFU met the bulk of its own costs for this work, but Defra is reimbursing some costs, for example around training field staff. Again these costs are in the process of being finalised” – Defra).
3. When did badger survey work take place in Somerset, prior to the beginning of the pilot badger cull trial? Can you tell me who undertook this work? Can you tell me the cost of this work? Can you tell me who paid for the additional survey work?
(“Field work was carried out by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (formerly FERA) in Somerset and Gloucestershire in August – October 2012 and August – September 2013. Costs for field work carried in 2013 are not yet available. This information is therefore exempted.. . “).
A very interesting and informative article worth reading at: www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2241707/number_10s_badger_cull_escape_plan_paterson_doomed.html
It asks if the Government is seeking an 'escape plan' for a badger cull gone disastrously wrong under Owen Paterson's direction. Lesley Docksey reports on a likely end to the cull - and to Paterson's ministerial role.
House of Commons rumours of the 'escape plan' first surfaced in a Parliamentary Question by Barry Gardiner MP on 9th January when he said in a question to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson:
"The Secretary of State has delivered an unscientific cull that has spectacularly failed, that his own Back Benchers are openly questioning, that has weakened the reputation of DEFRA and Natural England for evidence-based policy, and from which the Prime Minister's office is reported to be working up an escape plan."
Much of what is included in the article is already reported elsewhere on this website but some particularly interesting extracts are reproduced below:
The Ecologist now understands that the Independent Panel's report - whose release appears to have been delayed - will provide all the justification needed to bring the cull to a hasty end....
But the main factor guiding the decision to halt the cull programme is the growing political pressure, as a Parliamentary source told The Ecologist:
"Lots of Tory MPs supported the ban initially because they believed in it, or out of loyalty. But as Paterson follows one bungle with another, equivocates on the actualité and refuses to answer questions, that support is draining away. The MPs really feel that they have been left out to dry!"....
One has only to read the summary of the Randomised Badger Control Trial Report - heavily depended on by Paterson to justify the cull - to see how he has cherry-picked a tiny piece of misunderstood information, while ignoring its carefully considered conclusions.
In its recommendations on disease control and vaccination it said that "badger culling combined with vaccination is likely to reduce any advantage gained by vaccination."
And it remarked that "Farmers need to take 'ownership' of the TB disease problem in their cattle herds, rather than leaving it largely to Government to resolve."
It also said that "that a significant drop in incidence that was apparent in the South West just after the gassing programme had commenced (and was attributed by many to be an effect of that programme) had also occurred nationally, and had coincided with restrictions on cattle imports from Ireland, along with a change in the tuberculin test which would result in fewer false positives." ...
Miserable, emaciated sick animals spewing out disease?
Left to themselves, badgers show little evidence of suffering from bTB. Far from Paterson's vision of "these miserable, emaciated sick animals spewing out disease", most badgers appear to be very healthy - and disease free. According to studies carried out in Northern Ireland:
"... the level of infection in badgers appears to decay naturally in line with the reduction of cattle TB levels. This suggests that M. bovis is not self sustaining in the badger population and that badgers are not a persistent reservoir for bovine TB as the disease prevalence in badgers would appear to decrease naturally with time as the chance of re-infection from cattle decreases." (author's emphasis)
The Welsh vaccination programme showed that, of the 1,193 badgers from 'TB hotspot areas' vaccinated in 2012, none showed signs of bTB. The Durham University study showed that of nearly 400 road-kill badger carcasses autopsied, only one was found to have TB.
Yet none of the badgers killed during the pilot badger culls will have been tested to see if they were infected with TB. Might Paterson have feared that these tests would prove that badgers are only a very minor cause of bTB outbreaks in cattle?
17 Jan 2014, 10:20 AM
The Badger Trust in its latest Press Release refers to the latest 'FUMBLE, BUMBLE AND CRUMBLE':
Once again essential figures from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are wrong . It has been forced to suspend statistics on herds under restriction because of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), and expects this number to be “revised significantly downwards for 2012 and 2013”. Owen Paterson must explain to the Commons, the farming community and the public another humiliating and shambolic error in his Department.
This news comes as Ministers plan to extend badger killing into wide areas of the south west having based their calculations on the incorrect figures. These are now seen to be suspect, but have been used to justify one of the most destructive official programmes ever inflicted on English wildlife.
The department claims the errors are because of yet another problem with its data recording. This is the second time vital information has been delayed. The changeover to a new information technology system caused the service to be disrupted from 2008, and five years’ revised figures – still only provisional – had to be issued in March last year. But ominously they carried the warning that a problem had been found relating to the number of herds no longer under restriction.
Other examples of errors were the downward revisions of badger populations in the Somerset and Gloucestershire pilot cull areas, meaning fewer animals had to be killed to meet the reduced target.
David Williams. Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “Mr Cameron unequivocally endorsed the ‘farmer-led’ and ‘science-led’ culling programme when he took office. Now he and his fellow ministers suffer the embarrassment of having relied on incorrect statistics. They should immediately abandon all plans for continuing the cull, and investigate who is responsible for wasting public money on a useless system which has misled everybody including the farming community.. Correct data should have been central to any scientific reasoning behind the policy, which is clearly crumbling.
More taxpayers' money being spent by the Government (http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=18287&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=badger%20&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description):
Developing a surveillance system to report TB in cattle herds exposed to badger control in England - SE3131
The aim of this project is to monitor bovine tuberculosis (bTB) incidence in cattle herds located within and just outside areas where badger control licenses will be issued (intervention areas) and compare to that of herds located within matched ‘comparison areas’, plus regional/national trends. As far as is possible within the design of the badger control policy, the purpose is to: a) monitor the effect of the intervention on bovine tuberculosis and b) identify important changes that could affect the badger control policy as early as possible. Given the pre-determined design of the control policy, this project will act as a surveillance activity rather than being hypothesis-driven research.
In the first year, badger control licenses will be granted by Natural England (NE) to two pilot areas, with up to ten further areas licensed in each of the following three years. As each new area is selected, NE will share boundary location data, enabling us to identify herds located in each intervention area and its 2km ‘buffer’ region.
We will first establish historical (three-years preceding intervention) bTB frequency measures in herds located within intervention areas so that changes over time can be assessed. Several bTB frequency measures will be analysed: e.g. number of new herd breakdowns per 100 herds tested, proportion of herds under movement restrictions due to a bTB breakdown etc.
Secondly, as bTB incidence may change over time for reasons unrelated to intervention, areas without intervention will be selected as comparison areas. Comparison areas most similar to intervention areas in features such as historical bTB incidence, cattle demography and geographical location will be selected. This is to reduce the risk that differences in incidence between intervention and comparison areas are due to factors other than badger control. However, it will not be possible to completely remove this risk or that of random variation and therefore cautious interpretation of study results will be required. Once comparison areas have been selected, reports will be compiled for each intervention: comparison couplet describing their historical bTB incidence and other features (e.g. cattle herd demography) that may influence the interpretation of future results.
Six-monthly and annual monitoring reports will examine different measures of bTB in cattle herds through simple descriptive statistics and graphs and more in-depth analyses where the effects of some factors (other than badger control) that could cause a difference between intervention and comparison areas, are adjusted for using regression techniques.
Any observable change in incidence resulting from the badger cull is likely to occur slowly over time and effects may not be observed in the early years of the study. However the effect of culling is anticipated to increase over time therefore the surveillance methods developed herein should be used for longer term monitoring. Objective
Workpackage A – Couplet identification and characterisation 1. Develop a project protocol document 2. Establish baseline disease frequency data for cattle located in intervention areas 3. Identify areas with no badger control measures to serve as comparison areas to those with the intervention.
Workpackage B – Monitoring bTB incidence in cattle herds 1. Monitor measures of bTB incidence in cattle herds located in intervention areas relative to those in comparison areas. Time-Scale and Cost
Cost: £474,358 Contractor / Funded Organisations
A H V L A (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency - AHVLA)