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

 Added by  Thomas (Guest)
 22 Jul 2010, 6:43 PM

Prof John Bourne, who conducted the infamous ten year, government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled what he was told by a senior politician:
"Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers."
This strand on the forum deals mainly with the wildlife reservoirs involved in the bovine TB saga. In the UK this is, as we are probably all aware by now, believed to be mainly the badger. No other mammal has been studied in the UK as intensely as the badger so actually we don't really know just how other animals are implicated. In other countries different species are implicated. There are some anomalies too, including the example below.
Has anyone an explanation for the following!
According to last issue of Gwlad, Australia is now bTB free after 27 years of trying. We are told it has no wildlife reservoir. New Zealand is still aiming for eradication. It has a wildlife reservoir - possums - which are considered a pest species as not indigenous so are being culled - and vaccinated!
HOWEVER - possums ARE native to Australia and bTB was rife in country for years so - why are the Australian possums not a reservoir?

The Western Daily Press (http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Liberal-Democrats-badger-cull-scrapped/story-20445145-detail/story.html#ixzz2qUa7Nr8s) has reported that the Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats are calling for the highly controversial badger cull to be scrapped "once and for all" and instead be replaced with a vaccination programme.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach, Paul Hodgkinson said: “It is ridiculous that the cull, which ended with just over half of the planned 5,000 badgers being killed, cost £7.3 million in total, equated to more than £4,000 per dead badger.
“The Government’s policy walks a ‘tightrope’ in that culling less than 70 per cent of the badger population and there is little benefit in disease control. Cull more than 70 per cent and there is a very real risk of destroying the entire population of the animals in that area.
“Last’s years trial cull, which had already been postponed from the year before was an avoidable failure that should not be repeated anytime in the future.”
Liberal Democrats will at full council next Wednesday call on the council to write to the Secretary of State for Defra opposing any further proposed badger culls.
In spite of continued opposition and claims that badger culling is significantly more expensive than vaccination, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, Andrew George, fears that the Government will carry on their policy of culling badgers and ignore independent scientific evidence that says it will make matters worse.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat County Group, Councillor Colin Hay also said:
“I am very proud that Liberal Democrats locally have relentlessly campaigned against the badger cull even before the trial areas were named as being West Gloucestershire and West Somerset back in January 2012.
“It is understandable that many farmers are desperate to find a solution to eradicating bovine TB (bTB) in cattle, but with the high costs involved with this latest trial with very little benefit, a more permanent solution needs to be found.
“Like Wales, the badger cull programme should be scrapped once and for all and instead replaced with a vaccination programme. Bovine TB is the issue not badgers.”
Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Liberal-Democrats-badger-cull-scrapped/story-20445145-detail/story.html#ixzz2qUwZjROD

Yet more evidence that culling badgers is a waste of public money. Defra and AHVLA are bracing themselves for criticism from opponents of the badger cull, who have already seized on the admission as evidence the TB problem has been ‘hugely overstated’ over the past two years.
According to the Farmers Guardian (http://m.farmersguardian.com/61420.article?mobilesite=enabled0 the number of farms under bovine TB restriction might have been significantly overstated in official figures for more than two years, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency has admitted.
Defra and AHVLA have suspended the monthly TB statistical update while the problem, which stems from AHVLA’s problematic Sam IT system, is reviewed.
An AHVLA spokesman said the review could result in a ‘fairly significant review downwards’ of the number of cattle herds under restrictions, dating back to autumn 2011.
In a PR today the Badger Trust said the following.
Gloucestershire Constabulary spent an estimated £1.7 million in policing the badger cull in the county, according to a statement from Mr Martin Surl, Police and Crime Commissioner. Avon and Somerset Constabulary spent another £853,000, of which £738,000 was reimbursed by Defra. West Mercia Police estimates its equivalent costs at £466,971.
This means the total being paid by the public, not the farmers’ culling consortiums, amounts to £3,019,971 at the rate of £1,622 per badger in policing costs alone.
Mr Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told the Commons in a written statement on December 2nd last year that the original six-week cull in Gloucestershire had resulted in 708 badger deaths, with another 213 during the extension of five weeks and three days [1] , totalling 921. Mr Paterson announced on November 5th, 2013, that culling in Somerset had accounted for 940 badgers killed, including an extra 90 in the three-week extension period [2] totalling 1,861.
Defra explained, in a statement to The Guardian: "The costs of the badger cull pilots will be vastly outweighed by the impact that bovine TB is having on our farming industry and taxpayers. Each bovine TB cattle outbreak costs an average £34,000, and if left unchecked this disease will cost the taxpayer £1bn over the next 10 years" [3] .
In January last year the Welsh NFU criticised the cost of vaccination, £662 per badger [4] . But this is only a third of the costs of just policing in England’s pilot culls.
The wildlife charity Care for the Wild has calculated that the total cost of the two “pilot” culls has been £7.3 million including £5.8 million from the taxpayer, with the farmers’ consortiums paying the rest [5] . Now, with the West Mercia policing figure added, this would amount to £4,173 per badger.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “Once again Defra is wriggling on the hook. Its statement implies that killing badgers would have a significant effect in the fight against bovine TB. That is not only untrue but a gross exaggeration of the marginal contribution culling would make, as has been seen in the past.
”The policing costs are yet more evidence of the gross waste of the lives of badgers, a protected species, as well as a sickening imposition on taxpayers. The farmers’ consortiums have evidently paid only a pathetic fifth - £1.5 million – of the estimated total for all culling so far. The Prime Minister and the Coalition connived at and then swallowed the original plan, which was for farmers to pay for the killing with the taxpayer meeting only the cost of regulation. If the culling programme is rolled out in full the public could expect to be still paying for this charade beyond the end of the decade, and it will have done next to nothing to reduce the TB burden on the cattle industry”.
Mr Surl said: “Gloucestershire Constabulary planned for several scenarios, so this has come within the parameters of what could reasonably be expected. I have been assured by the police that the sum was justified. It was the cost of keeping the peace in Gloucestershire during a very difficult time. Financially, it should not affect policing in Gloucestershire at all because the Police Minister has promised that central government will pick up the bill”. Somerset police released its costs via Twitter as a result of a freedom of information request.
1. www.theyworkforyou.com/wms/?id=2013-12-02a.33WS.4&dm_i=1NFN,2400G,906KAW,7M8VH,1
2. www.theyworkforyou.com/wms/?id=2013-11-05a.10WS.4&dm_i=1NFN,2400G,906KAW,7M8VH,1
3. www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/14/cost-policing-badger-culls-somerset-gloucestershire?dm_i=1NFN,2400G,906KAW,7M8VI, 1
4. www.fwi.co.uk/articles/30/01/2013/137398/badger-vaccination-cost-revealed.htm?dm_i=1NFN,2400G,906KAW,7M8VJ,1
5 www.careforthewild.com/2014/01/badgercullcost7m/?dm_i=1NFN,2400G,906KAW,7M8VK,1
Caroline Lucas, MP, has accused the Government of seeking cover for further unscientific badger culls.
She says the Government is deliberately restricting the remit of the expert panel on the effectiveness of badger culls, as an excuse for longer culls in future.
In a response to an oral question from Lucas in Parliament on 9th January 2014, the Minister George Eustice confirmed that the remit of the Independent Expert Panel on the badger culling pilots will be restricted to the first six weeks of the cull, even though the cull period was extended to nine weeks in Somerset, and 11 weeks and two days in Gloucestershire.     
Caroline Lucas said:“The Government knows that its inhumane policy has no basis in scientific evidence, but is determined to carry on regardless.   
“Curtailing independent scrutiny of the cull is an underhand move to push for longer culls. It is deliberately restricting the remit of the expert panel as a get-out to justify the failure of the culls.  If the panel concludes that culling was not effective, DEFRA can argue that longer culls are necessary in future. It is incredibly disingenous of the Government to seek a get-out to justify pressing ahead with a policy that has been a spectacular failure.”
www.carolinelucas.com/media.html/2014/01/09/caroline-government-is-seeking-cover-for-further- unscientific-badger-culls/

Wales’ commitment to eradicating Bovine TB recognised by Europe (http://wales.gov.uk/newsroom/environmentandcountryside/2013/131219tb/?lang=en).
The EU has approved the Wales TB Eradication Plan 2014 which means that Wales will receive a share of the provisional 31m Euros awarded to the UK to help it stamp out the disease.
The 2014 Plan sets out TB eradication policies that will be implemented during the year and builds on measures contained in the 2013 Plan and on Strategic Framework for Bovine TB Eradication in Wales.
It outlines the work underway as part of the Intensive Action Area badger vaccination project, the recently announced Badger Vaccination Grant , Cymorth TB Pilot and the review of TB compensation arrangements in Wales. It also includes commitments to strengthen cattle control measures in place through the continual monitoring of the remaining Pre-Movement Testing exemptions.
Now badgers are being vaccinated isn't it about time cattle this is an option for cattle too?

By Dominic Dyer, Care for the Wild International
In between taking calls from senior editors of national newspapers asking me if I could confirm reports that Environment Minister Owen Paterson was on a skiing holiday in France, leaving David Cameron to face the anger of flood victims, I spent some of my Christmas break getting to grips with the outcome of the badger cull pilots.
Using a number of key sources including freedom of information requests, answers to parliamentary questions and leaked documents from Defra and Natural England, I put together a picture of a badger cull that went wrong from day one and has proved a complete disaster.
To start with the free shooting of badgers at night by National Farmer Union-employed pest controllers has proved a complete and utter failure.
Despite claims by the Environment Minister that this method would deliver a quick and efficient way of killing badgers, within 10 days of the culls commencing only 90 badgers had been killed in both cull zones by free shooting.
This resulted in panic in Defra and a major deployment of Government-employed traps teams with heat seeking equipment to increase the kill rates.
At the end of the initial six weeks for each of the pilot culls, no more than 25% of the badgers killed were as a result of free shooting.
It also quickly became apparent that four monitors in two cull zones the size of the Isle of Wight was completely inadequate to gauge the humanness of the shooting operations.
As the culls progressed, wounded badgers were picked up outside of the cull zones, badgers were left overnight in cages in freezing muddy damp conditions, cages were not cleaned down between kills and the shooters found they had the wrong type of ammunition, to kill badgers at point blank range in a caged environment.
The aim of the pilot culls was to kill 70% of the badger population in each of the zones, however at the end of the six weeks trial, only 19% of this target had been achieved in Gloucestershire and 20% in Somerset.
Rather than accepting defeat, Mr Paterson played for time and faced public ridicule with the claim “the badgers had moved the goal posts”.
He then announced a shock 66% drop in the estimated badger population, which he blamed on bad weather and disease, although most experts in the field believe the sabotage of hair traps by anti-cull activists and the illegal killing of badgers by farmers and landowners was a more likely factor for the huge decline.
Despite serious concerns from Natural England’s chief scientific advisor and a number of its board members, the decision was taken extend both cull pilots.
However, the NFU contractors and government trap teams could still only reach 65% of their kill targets in Somerset after nine weeks and 39% in Gloucestershire after 11 weeks.
Also by going beyond the six week trial period, it is widely accepting by leading scientists and badger behaviourists that the trials have significantly increased the disruption to badger colonies and the risk of perturbation and TB spread.
Then we come to the staggering costs of the badgers culls which Mr Paterson has done all he can to hide from MPs and the public.
If we take account of policing costs, Government trap teams and equipment, Whitehall staff costs in Defra, Natural England and Food and Environment Research Agency and badger sett monitoring and data collection, it is estimated that the total costs of both cull pilots is around £7.3 million.
If we divide this figure by the total number of badgers killed (1,771) we are looking at a cost per badger of £4,121.
If the culls are to be extended as Mr Paterson plans for a further 3 years we can add a further £12 million to the costs giving a total figure of £19.3 million for four years of badger culling in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire.
This figure is all the more worrying, when you consider based on DEFRA estimates that even if the cull pilots were 100% successful and reduced the increase in the spread of bovine TB by 16% over nine years, this would only deliver a knock on benefit of £2.5 million to the tax payer.
So based on current projections the costs of the badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire outweigh the benefits by over seven times.
Taking this into account, it comes as no surprise to see Owen Paterson become as elusive as Lord Lucan since the end of the badger cull pilots, leaving his inexperienced junior Farming Minister George Eustice to take the heat in the media and Parliament, for what is increasingly seen as a disastrous policy.
Defra officials are now playing down any talk of roll out to 10 more zones in 2014 and the director general of the NFU has recently stated that even a limited extension of the culls into Devon and Cornwall in 2014, would be a bad move.
Pressure is now building for a full debate in Westminster and a further vote on any extension of the badger cull pilots.
Talks of secret reports and efforts to influence the Independent Humanness Panel behind closed doors, has also further weakened Owen Paterson’s position and credibility.
Many Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs are now becoming increasingly concerned about the growing public anger the cull has generated as thousands of protesters take to the streets of cities and towns across the UK from Manchester to Leeds and Brighton and Bristol in what is now called the “Badger Army”, which is one of the fastest growing wildlife protection campaigns in Europe.
At a time when families are seeing the biggest squeeze on incomes in over 40 years with many having to make decisions about heating or eating, this Government has delivered one of the most disastrous and expensive wildlife culls on record.
In 2014 David Cameron should listen to scientific and public opinion and stop the disastrous badger cull policy for good.
The Government must now focus on bringing farmers, landowners and wildlife protection groups together to find a long term solution to reducing bovine TB.
This new approach should be good for both farmers and wildlife and be based on tighter cattle movement controls, improved TB testing and TB vaccination for both badgers and cattle.
- Dominic Dyer is policy advisor with Care for the Wild International.
According to the Mail Online the recent two 'disastrous' trial badger culls in Glos and Somerset have costs a massive £7.3MILLION... with taxpayers picking up £5.8million of the bill ... £4,100 for each animal killed – almost double previous estimates.
It also reveals that continuing the cull for three years would eventually cost £19million
The figures were derived from answers to parliamentary questions, statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Freedom of Information requests.
The cost to farmers who paid for the actual culling itself was calculated at £1.49 million.
The policing bill was put at £2.66 million, made up of costs for manpower, transport, equipment and accommodation.
A further £3.17 million was attributed to costs at environment quango Natural England, the Food and Environment Research Agency and Defra, and included trapping, monitoring and data collection.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2533820/Disastrous-badger-cull-cost-7-3M-taxpayers-picking-5-8m-bill.html#ixzz2pbzuubo6
Letter from Dr Chris Cheeseman of the RBCT team who is outraged at the way this Gov is misusing his result has been printed in Stroud News and Journalwww.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/lettersextra/10912922.Fears_that_badger_cull_will_resume/?ref=rss) and reproduced below (
MADAM - Your headline and Comment recently in the Stroud News & Journal may give a sense of relief to those opposed to the government’s badger cull. But make no mistake, ministers are fully intending to resume the slaughter next year.
Both Mr Paterson and Mr Eustice have drawn reference to earlier trials, where some treatment areas were estimated to have a low culling efficiency, as justification for carrying on with the current culls.
As a co-author of the scientific paper they have referred to, I have to warn that this is an entirely unjustified, indeed dangerous, position to take.
The recent shambolic pilot culls have departed so far from the scientifically controlled conditions of the previous trial, that using past results as a model to predict a beneficial outcome of the current culls frankly beggars belief.
Expert opinion believes that the protracted, poorly conducted recent culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire will have actually helped spread TB in both badgers and cattle.
The latest research has estimated that just 5.7% of cattle TB outbreaks are directly due to badgers.
The biggest problem is the spread of the disease among the cattle themselves.
There are sustainable options, such as rigorously improved cattle testing, better farm biosecurity and the development of vaccines.
Defra should focus on these and stop the misguided culling of badgers permanently.
People must lobby the government to make this happen. In this regard it should not be forgotten that Stroud’s own MP, Neil Carmichael, is a staunch supporter of badger culling. If we don’t act now thousands more badgers will be killed next year for no good at all.
Incidentally, the cost of policing the pilot culls alone could have paid for a badger vaccination programme.
Dr Chris Cheeseman Brownshill
The director general of the National Farmers Union has told the Western Daily Press it would be "madness" to launch county-wide badger culls in Devon and Cornwall next year in the battle against bovine TB.
Andy Robertson says that in the wake of the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, which fell well short of their targets, it would be "grossly irresponsible" to try to mount much larger operations in 2014, as had originally been proposed.
'Irresponsible' to extend badger cull to whole of Devon and Cornwall says NFU boss.
"I recognise this is not the news that many cattle farmers want to hear," Mr Robertson writes today. But he says the NFU – which is understood to have spent several hundred thousand pounds supporting the pilot culls – remains committed to fighting TB in the wild as well as on the farm.
He said the report on the pilot culls is still awaited but added: "Everyone who was closely involved in those pilots is all too aware that rolling the culls out to much bigger areas, such as the whole of Devon, would require a very different approach."
Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Madness-extend-badger-cull/story-20356785-detail/story.html#ixzz2pWrNBdDz
We have just been reminded of this report from 2004; 'Molecular Detection of Mycobacterium bovis and Mycobacterium bovis BCG (Pasteur) in Soil' - see interesting extracts below - what has been done about this?
"The chosen Irish farm site was closely monitored for incoming badgers following the initial culling, but none were detected. Therefore, we attributed the continuing presence of M. bovis DNA in setts and adjacent pasture to the survival of environmental M. bovis. This survival in soil was clearly supported by the microcosm studies, which revealed that damp, warm soil was optimal for M. bovis BCG survival."
Even with the complete removal of badgers, M.bovine persisted within the soil and continued to cause cattle breakdowns...
"Little et al. monitored infected badgers kept in an isolated yard for tuberculosis infection and any subsequent shedding of bacteria. As part of the experiment, environmental samples from the yard, including badger feces, soil, hay, scrapings from feeding bowls, and water, were examined for the presence of M. bovis. Despite the animals shedding large numbers of M. bovis cells in urine and sputum, M. bovis was not isolated at any time."
While trying to determine how badgers could pass bovine TB back to cattle, infected badgers shedding the bacteria were monitored and samples were taken from around the farmyard. Although M.bovis cells were detected, they were not viable and could not lead to further infections in other animals.
"From the evidence presented here, it can be concluded that M. bovis BCG remains viable in soil for more than 15 months and that significant levels of M. bovis DNA and RNA persist in the field, indicating the presence of viable cells as an environmental reservoir for infection, which may pose a risk to cattle."
Bovine TB cells can remain active in the soil for more than 15 months (with no animals present), persisting and providing a viable risk to cattle...
Full article at http://aem.asm.org/content/71/4/1946.full
Article in Western Daily Press (http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/TB-cattle-slaughter-rates-nearly-10-cent-2012/story-20315460-detail/story.html?afterReg=Y) confirms latest bTB figures reveal cattle slaughter rates are down by nearly 1-%. slaughter rates down by nearly 10% compared with 2012.
Following pressure from the European Commission, the Government has forced farmers to tighten down on biosecurity controls, cattle movements and TB testing. Has this resulted in the steady decline in the rates of TB in cattle compared to the same period in 2012?
Comparing the latest Defra figures from September 2012 to September 2013, there has been an overall drop of 5.9 per cent in new TB cases and a 9.5 per cent drop in the number of cattle slaughtered for TB.
Is Owen Paterson wasting millions of pounds of tax payers’ money on a badger cull?
Comment from Rethink bTB dated 26/12/3 at:https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=634639986594491&id=194661603925667
.. Have you ever wondered why so many cattle and badgers that are positive reactors have No Visible Lesions (NVL) or any other outward symptoms of bTB? It's because they are self-immunised through contact with the mycobacterium. A healthy mammal will acquire the infection but then suppress it through its immune system. It is widely known that the various skin tests and tissue culture tests cannot distinguish between 'infected' animals and vaccinated animals but that is equally true of naturally immunised animals. The point is, bTB is rarely fatal despite the protestations of pro-cullers to that 'this is a terrible disease' and animals are 'dying in agony'. The truth is that bTB is so widespread in the cattle, and the testing so infrequent, that many of them catch it and get over it without anyone ever noticing.
The spread of the disease is factored on the rate and efficiency with which the mycobacterium is emitted from these animals. The RCBT showed that just c.1% of badgers were 'super excreters' such that they could pass it on to cattle. But to what extent do they? Settled badger populations use 'latrines' (small pits in the ground) to urinate and defecate and these are areas that cattle naturally avoid. It is only when badgers enter cattle pens to feed from cattle feeders that they can pass on the disease. Tests have shown, though, that it can take up to five days of artificially confining an infected badger with an uninfected cow to pass on bTB. This is why bio-security is so important. The primary infection vector from cattle to cattle is nose to nose in vapour droplets in their breath, something they do very easily and frequently when confined in a shed.
Cattle also excrete vast quantities of the mycobacterium in their faeces and badgers have a habit of looking or worms under dried cow pats where the bacterium has been protected from UV light (the same UV light that kills the bacterium in badger urine). Spoligotype analysis in NZ and elsewhere continues to confirm that local wildlife hosts nearly always have the same strain of bTB as their local cattle population. This means that the direction of spread is from cattle to wildlife, not the other way round. Clearly there will be some reinfection from the wildlife but in the case of badgers it is very low.
This is why the maximum projected benefit from the cull (despite much hype from Defra and the government) was only a 16% reduction in the rate of infections over NINE years at a cost of over £1Bn. Is it worth it? Well in Eire, where they have culled hundreds of thousands of badgers, and which you cite as an exemplar, the rate of bTB is exactly the same as in Northern Ireland, where no badgers have been culled. Indeed, in the ONE year prior to the cull starting, cattle infections were down 8.4% (Defra figures) as a result of improved cattle movement controls alone. And indeed this country virtually eradicated bTB in the 50s and 60s a full decade before bTB was ever discovered in badgers (1971), again using just cattle controls.
Why do you wilfully ignore these facts? Why do you want to slaughter wildlife given that all the science says it has a negligible impact on the spread of bTB and given the ample proof that cattle controls are enough on their own and that a vaccine would probably speed the process up considerably? I suspect it's because you want to deflect attention from the fact that this is now the third major disease outbreak caused by bad farming practices and negligence on the part of the industry (including the NFU), which the public has to pay to clean up. Blaming the wild life makes it look like it's 'not your fault' but nobody is fooled anymore. bTB is a farm problem and farmers need to solve it at their own expense. Taxpayers in this country are sick and tired of the self-righteous dependency culture in the farming industry and the psychopathic tendency to solve all their problems by killing things.
Rethink bTB has, via a FoI request RFI 5988, discovered that Defra do not know how many cattle or herds or Btb incidents are in either cull zone (Glos or Somerset). Animal Health also don't hold this data. See info request and response below.
Natural England confirm they hold the data for participating farms only.
So how do they plan to monitor the effect of the badger cull on Bovine TB over the next few years if they have no starting point?
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION: Cattle in Badger Cull Areas
Thank you for your request for information about the numbers of cattle in the pilot badger cull areas, which we received on 7 November. We have handled your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs).
You requested the following information:
1. The latest data for each of the Pilot Badger Cull Areas in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire including
Total head of cattle in each cull zone.
Total number of herds in each cull zone.
Number of herds under TB restriction in each cull zone.
2. The latest data for each of the 2km rings around each of the Pilot Badger Cull Areas in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire including
The total head of cattle in 2km ring around edge each cull zone.
Total number of herds in 2km ring around each cull zone
3. How many herds are under TB restricted in each ring around each cull zone
I am writing to advise you that the information that you have requested is not held by Defra as statistics are not held at this specific level of detail.
England's 2013 badger culls collapsed in chaos - a severe blow to Owen Paterson and his Department, Defra. Now Lesley Docksey lifts the lid on the disgraceful fiasco to expose Paterson's fantasy world of 'science' ...
"These pilots are not on our land, but the ways the culls are being carried out is increasingly worrying and we are now concerned for the credibility and usefulness of the exercise. This sense of shifting scientific sands is a real issue for us, particularly if faced with any future proposition for wider culling."
Patrick Begg, National Trust rural enterprise director.
The beach-loads of sand that Defra and Natural England have shifted in pursuit of killing badgers over the last year or two (and in the case of the NFU, for many more years than two) have little to do with science. And the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's bucket and spade are bigger than most.
In the Westminster Hall debate on the pilot badger culls on 10 December MP Chris Williamson called him "gung-ho" in his desire to pursue the cull route. A polite way to describe his statements on the cull would be 'giving a positive spin'.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics
Perhaps 'propaganda' would be more accurate. However you name it, his "science-based" utterances appear to come from an alternative Paterson Universe where facts are simply what you decide them to be.
Read full story here: www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2203893/failure_upon_failure_the_collapse_of_the_badger_culls.html
A ‘secret’ report on the badger cull trials has been produced by Defra and Natural England, according to an FOI request – prior to the official Independent Panel Review which was meant to investigate the policy.
Care for the Wild has become aware of this report via a Freedom of Information Request, and has informed the Shadow Environment Minister, Huw Irranca Davies MP, who is now seeking immediate disclosure from Owen Paterson and a debate on its contents by MPs in Parliament after the Christmas recess.
Dominic Dyer, Care for the Wild’s Policy Advisor, said: “Owen Paterson has been as difficult to find as Lord Lucan since the end of the disastrous badger cull pilots.
“He has refused to discuss the outcome of the pilot culls with MPs, the media or the wider public. Instead we learn that he has commissioned an emergency review of the disastrous cull policy, which he is now declining to share with MPs or debate in Parliament.
“The fact this report has been produced in advance of the so-called Independent Panel undertaking its review of the pilot cull trials is very worrying, as it’s a clear sign that the Panel is little more than window dressing. It implies that the political decision to roll out the cull has already been taken by Owen Paterson and the National Farmers Union without any scientific, animal welfare or economic justification.
“Owen Paterson needs to stop determining government policy in backrooms with the NFU, and start behaving as if he works for a democracy. He should immediately disclose the full contents of the DEFRA badger cull pilot review and address its key findings in his first public speech of 2014 at the Oxford Farming Conference on 6 January.
“The badger cull should then return to Parliament for a full debate and vote, and the Prime Minister should ensure Owen Paterson attends this debate and is held accountable for this disastrous policy, in the face of increasing anger from MPs across all parties.”
Info from: /www.farmingmonthly.co.uk/livestock/animal-health/8019-secret-report-badger-cull-revealed-foi/
Bovine Tuberculosis
Chris Williamson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects the Independent Expert Panel examining the badger culls to report. [178058]
George Eustice: The Independent Expert Panel is expected to report in the new year.
9 Dec 2013 : Column 32W
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 November 2013, Official Report, column 714W, on bovine tuberculosis, for what reasons 155 badger carcasses were examined rather than the figure of 240 provided in response to freedom of information requests; and how the 155 badgers were selected for post-mortem. [178204]
George Eustice: Monitoring of humaneness was carried out in line with the protocol approved by the Independent Expert Panel, which planned for up to 120 post-mortems of badgers shot with rifles, and up to 120 post-mortems of badgers shot with shotguns. The small number of post-mortems of badgers shot with shotguns reflects industry’s decision to use mainly rifles.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 November 2013, Official Report, column 714W, on bovine tuberculosis, if he will put mechanisms in place to assess whether the badgers submitted by cull companies for DNA collection by the Independent Panel overseeing the pilots (a) were shot, (b) were shot when already dead and (c) died from causes other than shooting; and if he will make a statement. [178205]
George Eustice: A random sample of the badgers culled in the pilots were subject to post-mortem examination, in which any cause of death other than shooting would have been identified.
Those badger carcases that were not subject to post-mortem examination were disposed of in accordance with animal by-products legislation.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 November 2013, Official Report, column 714W, on bovine tuberculosis, when he expects the results of post-mortems and tests that have been carried out to be available. [178206]
George Eustice: The results of the post-mortems and tests will be considered by the Independent Expert Panel and their report into the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of controlled shooting is expected in the new year.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 November 2013, Official Report, column 714W, on bovine tuberculosis, how many of the 155 badgers subjected to post-mortem examination as part of the assessment of the humaneness of controlled shooting were (a) free shot and (b) cage trapped. [178207]
George Eustice: The purpose of the monitoring during the pilots was to assess the effectiveness, safety and humaneness of controlled shooting, not cage trapping and shooting. All of the badgers subjected to post mortem had therefore been killed by controlled shooting.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 November 2013, Official Report, column 714W, on bovine tuberculosis, how many of the badger carcasses submitted by cull companies for DNA
9 Dec 2013 : Column 33W
collection by the Independent Panel overseeing the pilots have been examined to ascertain cause of death in addition to those subjected to post-mortems as part of the assessment of the humaneness of controlled shooting; how many of those examined were confirmed to have been killed by gunshot; and what causes of death were attributed to any remainder. [178208]
George Eustice: A random sample of the badgers culled in the pilots was subject to post mortem examination, in which any cause of death other than shooting would have been identified. Further information can be found at:
Those badger carcases that were not subject to post mortem examination were disposed of in accordance with animal by-products legislation.
The most recent statistics from Defra reveal a drop in the rate of bovine TB - new herd incidents (www.gov.uk/government/publications/incidence-of-tuberculosis-tb-in-cattle-in-great-britain).
'Whisper it quietly, Defra: TB cattle slaughter rates down by nearly 10% on 2012' was the headline in the Farming monthly National.
As MPs debated the disastrous Badger Cull Pilots in Westminster yesterday, without the presence of Owen Paterson, DEFRA released its latest statistics on bovine TB in UK cattle herds.
From the start of this year, under pressure from the European Commission, the Government has forced farmers to tighten down on biosecurity controls, cattle movements and TB testing. As a result, we have seen a steady decline in the rates of TB in cattle compared to the same period in 2012.
Comparing the latest DEFRA figures from September 2012 to September 2013, there has been an overall drop of 5.9% in new TB cases and a 9.5% drop in the number of cattle slaughtered for TB.
Info from: www.farmingmonthly.co.uk/livestock/animal-health/7998-whisper-quietly-defra-tb-cattle-slaughter-rates-nearly-10-2012/.

The Government is under pressure to put plans to roll out badger culling to a vote in Parliament amid growing Conservative unease. During a fierce debate yesterday A packed debate in Westminster Hall yesterday (12/12/13) heard how the Government is under pressure following the shambles of the two recent badger culling trials . Interestingly Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, who is responsible for the policy, was not present for the debate.
The debate heard a cross-party section of MPs criticise the' 'pilot' culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire that failed as targets were not met. It was clear that an increasing number of Conservatives are adopting the position of Labour and many Liberal Democrat backbenchers in opposing culling.
Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans in Hertfordshire, said her position had gone from "neutral to negative". She told MPs: "Bring it back before the House. It's what Members want. The public will not understand concerns from people like myself who have moved from neutral to negative".
Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford in Kent said: "It's a bit of a cheek for the Government to say the pilot culls have been a success yet those of us who are actually anti-cull are being told not to leap to conclusions before the independent panel has concluded."
Earlier in the House of Lords, Lord John Krebs - one of the scientists involved in the Government's key lng-term studies of the link between badgers and bovine TB - said the current policy had turned out to be "even more crazy than I thought it was." He said the open-shooting culling policy was flawed because Defra had not known how many badgers were in the area, and so had no idea what percentage had been killed. He believes increased cattle measures would be more effective than culling to bring bovine TB under control. Tough measures have recently been put in place and they are about to get tougher.
Few can doubt too that the badger cull has been an expensive PR disaster. Surely now Paterson will have to consider the growing strenght of feeling against culling amongst his members and embrace a radical change of direction?
According to Defra's own figures, there were a massive 127 million cattle movements between farms since 1998. The numbers of movements more than quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294). Around 40% of the national herd is currently moved from one premises to another each year. The UK seems to be the country with the most cattle movements. No wonder diseases spread.
Recent research shows that herd-to-herd transmission of bTB in cattle accounts for 94% of cases. Badger-to-bovine transmission accounts for about 6%
Info from : www.eenews.net/stories/1059991389.
“We also have a huge deer population. We know there is TB in that because traces of TB have been found within the deer carcasses”, says Warwickshire farmer, Jon Parker (www.fwi.co.uk/articles/06/12/2013/142312/bovine-tb-forces-farmer-out-of-beef-production.htm)
A vet has written to raise the question of bTB in farm cats. As he says, referring to a farm cat that died of TB at the badly affected Gelli Aur college dairy farm herd in Carmarthenshire:
"This very cat quite likely has spread bTB for years. Since few farm cats are treated as pets how many infected farm cats are still running around on this farm and on all other farms within UK? And how many have been tested for bTB ( x rayed ) ever?"
Info from: http://www.warmwell.com/

There will be a Cross Party Debate on the badger cull on Wednesday 11th December 2013, from 2.30 to 4.00 p.m. in Westminster Hall. The debate will be led by Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North since 2010.
Have your say - contact your MP now and tell him or her what you think ....
W Gloucestershire and W Somerset Pilot Cull Results 2013
It is widely accepted that for the pilots to be effective, a minimum of 70% of
the badger population must be culled within a maximum period of 6 weeks.
Failure to meet these targets risks worsening the spread of bTB through
The population estimates - which are critical to calculating the 70% minimum -
have been altered so substantially in the past 12 months that they cannot
reasonably be relied upon.
But on any measure, the results show that 2013 pilots have fallen
woefully short of targets. This will most likely worsen rather than reduce bTB.

W Gloucestershire and W Somerset Pilot Cull Results 2013
It is widely accepted that for the pilots to be effective, a minimum of 70% of
the badger population must be culled within a maximum period of 6 weeks.
Failure to meet these targets risks worsening the spread of bTB through
The population estimates - which are critical to calculating the 70% minimum -
have been altered so substantially in the past 12 months that they cannot
reasonably be relied upon.
But on any measure, the results attached show that 2013 pilots have fallen
woefully short of targets. This will most likely worsen rather than reduce bTB.
Global Meat News has reported that 'Cattle management is reason for bTB reduction', according to a new study.
Falling UK and Northern Irish bovine TB (bTB) rates have been proven to be a result of cattle management rather than culling, according to official statistics.
The new statistics show a larger reduction in bTB in Northern Ireland, where no badgers have been culled, and have probed animal welfare groups to deem the UK environment minister Owen Paterson’s description of successful badger cull as “blarney”.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released statistics from England which showed that, up until August, there has been an 8.4% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered due to bTB, compared with the same time last year.
Mike Rendle from the Northern Ireland Badger Group said: “Northern Ireland, like Great Britain, experienced a surge in bovine TB following the foot and mouth epidemic. The South of Ireland was largely unaffected by this, which makes Northern Ireland’s achievement all the more remarkable.
“Mr Paterson has grossly misrepresented the TB situation in Ireland and should instead be using the progress in Northern Ireland as an exemplar for future UK strategy. Northern Ireland is the only region in these islands with an agreed approach to dealing with bovine TB. This science-led strategy benefits from the broad support of industry and environmental sectors with an interest in tackling this disease.”
DARD has now published its long awaited and much anticipated Northern Ireland biosecurity report. There’s a link to the report on this page:

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