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?
14 Nov 2016, 6:40 PM
Badger Cull Wastes Money
From his questions asked in parliament, Rob Marris MP has discovered that the development of a tuberculosis vaccine for cattle has been sacrificed in favour of a costly compensation scheme for farmers.
Since 1998 the government has paid out an £341 million1 in compensation to farmers for the slaughter of cattle infected with TB, but has spent only £35 million on research to develop a vaccination and associated diagnostics. (2)
Rob Marris said: “Prevention is better than cure for both farmer and badger – yet these astonishing figures indicate a skewed set of priorities. Since 1998, government has spent on average £19 million per year in compensation and only £1.9 million on research.3 If the government keeps focussing on compensating farmers at the expense of developing a vaccine, we’ll all end up paying out for evermore.”
The development of a vaccination would help both farmers and badgers – animals which are currently facing the largest ever cull, with the government recently announcing a tripling of the areas where badgers can be culled.
The loss of cattle can be heart-breaking for farmers, and is not a short-term problem. Nor can it be solved through compensation. According to the ‘Farm Crisis Network’, slaughter can have a longer term impact on the growth of a farm, and only one third of farmers said the compensation covered the loss.(4)
Mr Marris commented: “It is right that there is a compensation scheme for farmers whose cattle are devastated by the spread of TB, but it is wrong that the government spends such a relatively small amount of funding into a viable vaccination. That discrepancy must not continue. There is a clear economic argument to implement a stronger policy of ‘prevention’ (vaccination) rather than the ‘cure’ (compensation) which is costing the taxpayers tens of millions a year.”
Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust & Policy Adviser Born Free Foundation said:
"Trials in Ethiopia and Mexico have shown that a TB vaccine could be 58-68% effective in preventing the spread of bovine TB in cattle. For the past 5 years the government has stated it will trial a TB cattle vaccine in the UK. In 2014 Defra commissioned a consortium including Triveritas UK, scientists from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Cambridge University to design field trials in the UK.
“Triveritas, which specialises in undertaking livestock field trials, was to design the trial for the vaccine together with a new diagnostic test for differentiating between infected and immunised cows
“Despite the importance of developing an TB cattle vaccine, Defra announced in 2015 that it had called off the trial on cost grounds.
“This decision causing anger and concern in both the farming and wildlife conservation sectors. However the government has made no new commitment to move forward with a TB cattle vaccine trial since the 2015 General Election.
“We are now calling on the Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadson to urgently move forward with a TB cattle vaccine in the UK, as this will provide a highly effective means of lowering the spread of bovine TB in cattle, without having to waste tens of millions of pounds of public money on a scientifically ineffective and cruel badger cull.”
1 George Eustice MP. 2016. Written questions and answers. [ONLINE] Available at: parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/writtenquestionsanswers/?page=1&max=20& questiontype=AllQuestions&house=commons%2clords&member=1468. [Accessed 3 November 2016]. 2 George Eustice MP. 2016. Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control. [ONLINE] Available at: parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/writtenquestion/Commons/2016-10-26/50605. [Accessed 28 October 2016]. 3 George Eustice MP to Robert Marris MP, October 19, 2016, Bovine Tuberculosis Letter, DEFRA Ref: MC412912/AD 4 Farming Community Network. 2009. Stress and Loss: A report on the impact of bovine TB on farming families. [ONLINE] Available at: tbfreeengland.co.uk/assets/4200. [Accessed 1 November 2016].
9 Nov 2016, 11:01 AM
The government response to e-petition ‘End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas’ was so inaccurate and selective that it appears to represent a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. The government responded to this petition when it received 10,000 signatures. Unfortunately, the government’s response was so inaccurate and selective that it appears to represent a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. There are four key inaccuracies in the government response: (1)The response claims that recent experience in Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Dorset has shown that licensed culling “is safe, humane and effective in reducing the number of badgers needed to bring down disease levels in cattle”. This statement conflicts sharply with the available evidence. An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) established by Defra to evaluate the first year of culling concluded that the free shooting approach did not meet their standards for humaneness1. When a second year of culling yielded no evidence of improvement, the British Veterinary Association called for free shooting to be abandoned2. Ministers responded by simply stating that “we don’t agree”3. The government’s claim that licensed culling is “humane” is thus not shared by respected authorities on animal welfare.
Likewise, evidence indicates that the culls have not been “effective in reducing the number of badgers”. Defra has repeatedly stated an intention to reduce badger numbers by at least 70%, relative to their pre-cull levels, acknowledging that failing to do so would risk increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it4. The IEP concluded that the first culls fell far short of that aim1. Since then, Defra has reiterated its aim of reducing badger numbers by “at least 70%”, while quietly setting targets with only a slim possibility of achieving this aim5. Defra’s claim that the culls are “effective” is thus not consistent with available evidence.
(2)The government’s claims about the outcomes of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) are highly selective. Its response refers to many earlier studies, even though it commissioned the RBCT precisely because these earlier studies were inadequate6. The government’s response indicates that the RBCT “confirmed what the previous exercises had shown”, ignoring the unique (and vitally important) insight of the RBCT, namely, that badger culling can increase cattle TB as well as reducing it7,8. Large-scale RBCT culls reduced cattle TB inside the culled areas, but consistently increased it on adjoining land and in areas where small-scale culling occurred7,8. In referring to the RBCT, the government cites a maximum reduction in cattle TB of 54%, which it says occurred “when the full benefits began to appear”. In fact, the 54% figure refers to just 18 months in the middle of a ten-year monitoring period, and only to the areas culled and not adjoining land. When the full monitoring period and affected area are taken into account, the estimated net benefit is 12%4.
(3)The government claims that its approach “has successfully eradicated bovine TB in Australia and is working in Ireland and New Zealand”. This statement ignores evidence from Britain itself which shows patterns fundamentally different from those in the three countries mentioned. The major challenge of reducing cattle TB by culling badgers is that culling disrupts badger social behaviour9 in ways that increase TB transmission between badgers10,11 and from badgers to cattle7,8. There are no badgers in Australia or New Zealand; these countries tackled TB in different wildlife species which do not share badgers’ social behaviour. Although badgers are involved in Ireland’s TB problem, baseline densities are much lower than in Britain7, which may explain why culling consistently reduced badger infection rates in Ireland12, but consistently increased them in Britain10. Given these differences, it is not clear why Defra would prioritise evidence from other countries over evidence from Britain itself. (4)Defra’s response claims that vaccination “cannot replace culling” because it “does not provide complete protection and... has no impact on infected badgers”. However, while most vaccines have no impact on individuals which are already infected, they have nevertheless controlled multiple diseases. It was vaccination that eradicated smallpox and rinderpest globally, and vaccination that eradicated rabies from mainland Europe after culling had failed to do so13. Vaccination is far more likely than culling to contribute to TB eradication, because vaccination reduces infection rates in badgers14,15, while culling increases them10.
Defra begins its response by stating that “it is essential that we eradicate bovine TB”. Achieving this aim demands eradicating infection in badgers as well as in cattle. Eradicating a disease demands that either the proportion of infected animals, or the area affected, be reduced over time. Yet, as noted above, culling increases the proportion of badgers infected10,11 and spreads the infection both within and beyond the culled land7,16. It is hard to see, therefore, how badger culling can contribute to TB eradication.
Defra committed to a science-led policy to tackle TB4. Unfortunately, its response to this e-petition undermines all confidence in Defra’s respect for science, and hence in the likely outcome of its TB control strategy. It is sad to see such distortion of facts being sent out by the government to the public .It is time we got together to resolve this serious issue by looking at the facts, instead of continuing to rely on folklore, hearsay, and politics.
Anne Brummer, SAVE ME TRUST References 1. Independent Expert Panel. Pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire – Report by the Independent Expert Panel. (https://http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pilot-badger-culls-in-somerset-and-gloucestershire-report-by-the-independent-expert-panel, 2014). 2. British Veterinary Association. BVA calls for change to badger culling method and wider roll-out in England. (http://www.bva.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News,_campaigns_and_policies/Policies/Farm_animals/Final position on bTB and badger culling AGREED at Council 15 April 2015.pdf, 2015). 3. Bowern, P. Farming minister rejects vets' call for end to shooting of 'free-running' badgers. (http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/farming-minister-rejects-vets-end-shooting-free/story-26568952-detail/story.html - fS7jy01tvICXas94.03, 2015). 4. Defra. The goverment's policy on bovine TB and badger control in England. (http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13691-bovinetb-policy-statement.pdf, 2011). 5. Woodroffe, R. Badger cull didn't kill enough badgers to be effective. (https://theconversation.com/badger-cull-didnt-kill-enough-badgers-to-be-effective-36388, 2015). 6. Krebs, J. R., Anderson, R. et al.Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers. (H.M.S.O., 1997). 7. Donnelly, C. A., Woodroffe, R. et al. Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on cattle tuberculosis. Nature 439, 843-846 (2006). 8. Donnelly, C. A., Woodroffe, R. et al. Impact of localized badger culling on TB incidence in British cattle. Nature 426, 834-837 (2003). 9. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Effects of culling on badger (Meles meles) spatial organization: implications for the control of bovine tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology 43, 1-10 (2006). 10. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America103, 14713-14717 (2006). 11. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers in localised culling areas. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 45, 128-143 (2009). 12. Griffin, J. M., Clegg, T. A. et al. in Selected Papers 2002-2003. (eds J.D. Collins & R.F. Hammond) 1-12 (Veterinary Epidemiology and Tuberculosis Investigation Unit, University College Dublin, 2003). 13. Anderson, R. M., Jackson, H. C., May, R. M. & Smith, A. M. Population dynamics of fox rabies in Europe. Nature 289, 765-771 (1981). 14. Chambers, M. A., Rogers, F. et al. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination reduces the severity and progression of tuberculosis in badgers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences278, 1913-1920 (2010). 15. Carter, S. P., Chambers, M. A. et al. BCG vaccination reduces risk of tuberculosis infection in vaccinated badgers and unvaccinated badger cubs. PLOS One 7, e49833, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049833 (2012). 16. Jenkins, H. E., Woodroffe, R. et al. Effects of culling on spatial associations of Mycobacterium bovis infections in badgers and cattle. Journal of Applied Ecology 44, 897-908 (2007).
28 Oct 2016, 1:33 PM
Wales has achieved enviable success in reducing bovine TB in its cattle herds without killing badgers, writes Lesley Docksey. The farming lobby is still demanding an England-style cull, but the Welsh government's 'refreshed' policy on bTB remains firmly science-based and no badgers will be killed without 'objective evidence' of infection.
WHY ARE THE FACTS NOT BEEN CONSIDERED? WHY ARE WE STILL WASTING SO MUCH MONEY ON UNPOPULAR BADGER CULLS?
Martin Hancox, MA Oxon, ex-government TB Panel,says: 'I particularly liked Mike Rendle's view in "Fate" that in Eire, 2012 a cull of 6939 badgers at a cost of 3.4 million euros, had no effect on cattle TB, just 55 reactors fewer than 2011, and culling c. 110,000 badgers since 1984 has halved the population from Small's 1995 survey to Sleeman 2009, but has had Nil impact on cattle TB . The £50 million Krebs/ RBCT Cull of 11, 000 badgers had nil effect either, same accumulated herd breakdowns in reactive cull versus no cull areas 356 vs 359 , and no effect on unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" .. a pity the ISG did not check that there were no TB badgers involved (ISG 2007). So culling badgers simply doesn't work !' http://bit.ly/2dLMUr8 www.fire-raven.co.uk
Lesley Docksey writing in the Ecologust says: 'Thirty years ago, there was no evidence that badgers spread bovine TB among cattle, writes Lesley Docksey. Nor is there now. Yet badgers are still being slaughtered in a futile attempt to control the disease.'
22 Oct 2016, 9:17 PM
The Northern Ireland TVR is apparently progressing well and is approaching the end of its third year.
This is a vaccination-led project although it has been reported in the media as a cull.
Badger Trust welcomes Welsh government’s decision not to cull
The Badger Trust has welcomed the Welsh government’s decision not to cull badgers as part of their increasingly successful policy of eradicating TB in cattle. The decision was made despite persistent lobbying for an English-style cull by the Farming Union of Wales (FUW) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
Commenting on the decision Badger Trust CEO, Dominic Dyer said:
“This is an excellent decision based on sound scientific principles and clear evidence that the Welsh approach to eradicating TB in cattle is working well. We congratulate Chief Vet Christianne Glossop for sticking to a winning formula and Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths for recognising this and for her courage in withstanding the powerful vested interests calling for an all out badger cull.
“It is clear from the figures that new herd incidents are down by 19% and farms with OTF status withdrawn down by 30% in the last year alone. Whilst the pro-cull lobby have tried to suggest the rise in cattle slaughtered backs their calls for a cull, this claim has been comprehensively debunked by showing that the rise is entirely down to more rigorous and accurate testing of cattle. The Welsh model is finding and removing diseased cattle faster and more efficiently than anywhere else in the country, and this will show up in vastly improved figures over the next few years.
“We acknowledge that Wales is considering limited badger removal for individual sites with a longterm history of persistent TB breakdown but that this will be restricted to only those badgers testing positive for the disease. The policy will be subject to a full consultation with all stakeholders before it is introduced and the Badger Trust will participate fully in this dialogue.
“The Badger Trust applauds the sheer ambition of the Welsh government to bear down on cattle TB and their determination to stick with proven scientific methods over the crude, uncontrolled mass killing of wildlife seen in England, which has wasted millions of pounds in taxpayer’s money with no detectable reduction in the disease.”
Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin comments further:
“This decision is a major setback for the pro-cull lobby and where it leaves the BVA, FUW, NFU and Defra is now uncertain. First Ireland and now Wales have rejected culling as unworkable so it seems the government in Westminster must now conduct an urgent review of its own strategy or face continued failure.
“The latest scientific research has shown that badgers actively avoid contact with cattle, which casts considerable doubt on the role they play, if any, in cattle infections. It is clear that cattle are constantly contaminating their own environment with TB and that badgers, among many other mammal and invertebrate species, are simply victims of what is essentially a form of industrial pollution.
“TB policy in England is in complete disarray compared to Wales where a disciplined, rational approach has begun to make significant inroads into the problem of bovine TB. Politicians and Whitehall advisors must stop pandering to the powerful vested interests and lobby groups calling for further badger culling and instead learn from Wales. Their current obsession with badgers is a dangerous distraction from tackling this disease and is costing the lives of thousands of animals, destroying farmers’ livelihoods and wasting millions in taxpayer’s money.”
21 Oct 2016, 9:48 PM
A large scale of cull of badgers has been ruled out as part of a "refreshed" approach to tackling TB in cattle in Wales. Ministers will consider whether to allow cage-trapping and killing by injection of infected badgers found on affected farms.
Individual action plans will be developed for farms with long-term bovine TB issues.
Other measures involve deeper and more sensitive testing of herds.
But Wales' chief vet stressed there would be no "large scale, indiscriminate cull of badgers" - and any infected badgers found would be dealt with humanely.
On Tuesday, the Welsh Government unveiled new plans which include dividing up Wales into different areas with low, intermediate and high incidence of the disease.
Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and counties alongside the border with England will be classed as "high", while north west Wales is classified as "low".
A tailored approach will be developed to reflect the varying disease conditions and risks. The aim is to try and avoid the disease from spreading to north west Wales and to work towards eradicating it in areas of high prevalence.
During a 12-week consultation, the Welsh Government will seek views on the measures that should be applied to each area.
For farms where there are persistent breakdowns, individual action plans will be developed in partnership with farmers, vets and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
The very costly and publicly unpopular badger cull is NOT evidenced based so why is the current government supporting it?
The culled badgers are not being tested to see if they have bTB.. In fact it is known, from previous researchm, that very few badgers actually do have bTB.
It is interesting to note that NZ recently was forced, due to a FOIA action, to release their statistics, having tested each and every possum that was culled. It turns out that of 124,000 possums killed over a 10 year period, 54 of them were infectious. The wildlife cull was meaningless and ineffective, and only farming measures that were implemented alongside the cull, effected any reduction in bTB.
14 Oct 2016, 8:11 PM
The Fate of the Badger': the great badger scapegoating conspiracy - republished.
Thirty years ago, there was no evidence that badgers spread bovine TB among cattle, writes Lesley Docksey. Nor is there now. Yet badgers are still being slaughtered in a futile attempt to control the disease. This timely republication of Richard Meyer's 1986 book reveals the belligerent ignorance of the officials, politicians and farmers driving the failed policy.
5 Oct 2016, 9:06 PM
Dear Prime Minister, Minister, DEFRA, 3rd October 2016
1986 must have been a good year for badgers, with the publication of the magnificent eulogy to badger watching in Chris Ferris's Field Journal of a Night Naturalist, Richard Meyer's Fate of the Badger (new edition just out), and Ernest Neal's 2nd edition of The Natural History of Badgers (including my tooth wear age criteria), Michael Clarks, Badgers Whittet was 1988, new edition very shortly. Having been a keen badger man since c. 1959, I saw 4 & 7 last night, 6 on the 30th Sept., and 5 + 7 at 2 setts the 29th, including 3 boisterous cubs reoccupying their main over-wintering breeding sett, and . But, they were mostly just white blurs , at the very Edge of Darkness. So , it is difficult to see how farmer coalitions will have been able to cull up to 14, 213 badgers from 4090 sq.km. over the last 4-5 weeks since the pre-bank holiday announcement on the 30th of August of 7 New Pilot Culls + 3 Consultations of how to stop the spread of bovine TB (by bovines .. the 3 Pilot culls so far 2013-2015, Glos. Somerset, Dorset, removed 3943 badgers, maybe 50 or so of the infectious super-excretor type which might have been a risk to cattle , from 790 sq.km., contrasting with 112,500 cattle for this same period). DEFRA News 30th Aug. :- https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/bovine-tuberculosis-bovine-tb Click to Badger control value for money 2016, Minimum and maximum numbers* required for Natural England Licences, Authorisation for 7 Pilots (BUT actual areas redacted).. Hence:- Area 1. GLOS, 2 SOM'ST, 3 DORSET //4 CORNWALL, 5 CORNWALL, 6 DEVON, 7 DEVON, 8 DORSET, 9 GLOS.,10 HEREFORD *Max.No. 642 544 610 1763 1187 2609 1949 1740 1986 1183 sq.km. 311 256 223 400 300 600 500 500 700 300 total 1796 from 790 sq.km. ................// & 12,417 FROM 3300 sq.km. // TOTAL OVERALL 14,213 from 4090 sq.km. I would be surprised if they will have managed to cull more than 2000 or so, way below the mythical 70 % target. And whilst Meurig Raymond and the NFU were delighted, that this "science based cull" has now been extended to the 10 most critical areas ; WITH quite likely the Welsh Asembly WILL have voted 28th September, for an IAA Cull next year since the vaccine trial has been a total waste of money £5 million , 4500 badgers, Nil Effect on cattle TB .............in fact 4090 sq.km. is actually a tiny area within the southwest problem area:- CLICK to Map in 4 below .. Devon/Cornwall Salcombe & Padstow, Bude, Dorset nr Dorchester.. A rather Costly Exercise ? The above Value for money 2016 analysis, reveals the rather bizarre notion that culls will perhaps cost c. £ 2.03 million, to achieve a net saving of prevented herd breakdowns of around £0.56 million, which does not seem terribly cost-effective. The key imponderable is the cost of Extra Policing, which might run to £610,000 / area ... the 3 pilots so far cost c. £25 million with £7 million in extra policing, so these 10 pilots weill have probably cost over £30 million. Very strikingly, the Value assessment 30th Aug. notes :- ""Evidence on the effect of removing badgers on the incidence of TB in cattle from the three licence areas is not yet available to inform this assessment "" .. which is Odd, IF the cull were really going to achieve a 50 % reduction in cattle TB, then surely there ought to be a hint of this by now.. there was no evidence of perturbation either. In fact the £50 million RBCT cull of 11,000 badgers had NIL Effect on cattle TB, accumulated breakdowns in reactive cull versus no cull areas 356 VS 358 (Lefevre 2005, in ISG 2007).
So the need for culls and supposed proof that they work are all based on a DUBYA total "MISUDERESTIMATION" of the reality (CLICK to 2 & 3) . Sad that these "science-based" cull ideas are based on such dodgy pseudoscience.. and DEFRA, seem to be unaware that Donnelly 2013 downgraded the badger contribution to cattle TB from 50 % to 5.7 % .. OR Actually see bottom of Table 2 in 1 below, a mere 3.7 % with confidence interval of 0 to 100 % ie. the badger input is probably ZERO since no-one in 50 years has actually explained how badgers might give cows a respiratory lung infection (CLICK to links 5 & 6 below ).
In conclusion, I cannot help wondering whether allowing Natural England to licence these 10 Pilot culls, with wildly impractical and unachievable targets, has been a very clever way of getting farmers, vets, and country landowner pro-cull factions to do a selfie U-TURN , and call the whole omnishambles off .. any further badger culls or vaccinations are an utterly pointless waste of time and money , which will never have the slightest effect on stopping the spread of TB , since the spread has been within the cattle population all along ! An insane solution to an utterly non-existent problem. sincerely, Martin Hancox, ex-government TB Panel
1. DONNELLY 2013 http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to-cattle-tb-incidence-in-high-cattle-incidence-areas/ Badgers with TB have merely been a Spillover from cows all along , the most TB badgers hence arose in the 3 Triplets recruited into the RBCT/Krebs culling trial AFTER the foot & mouth 2001 lack of cattle testing jump in cattle TB D ,I, J . Table 1 , based on Woodroffe 2005, RBCT proactive areas, re. 1 triplet, 2 herd breakdowns & 3 reactors in previous year , 4 TB badgers from 1st cull :- 1. A B C D E F G H I J /TOTALS 2. 8 15 8 11 4 4 7 11 15 8 91 confirmed cattle herd breakdowns 3. 57 70 62 187 34 14 23 36 154 215 852 cattle reactors 4. 8 13 14 102 29 13 29 12 82 65 357 TB badgers ......D , I , J the most TB badgers from worst cow TB It is a perverse misuse of the science base to assume this cattle spillover TO badger transmission rate can inversely predict the hypothetical badger to cattle transmission risk.. besides, transmission in cattle TB is a respiratory broncho-pneumonia or "consumption", badger TB is a dietary ingestion "scrofula" like human TB from unpasteurised milk
2 Oct 2016, 11:43 AM
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
Calls on the Welsh Government to take decisive action to tackle bovine TB by committing to use the most effective measures to control and eradicate bovine TB and ensuring that testing and movement restrictions are proportionate to the disease status of an area.
Last month the government approved the culling of badgers in seven new areas of England. BBC News have spoken to two people from the legal - and illegal - sides of the campaign to stop it. These people are doing sterling work to try and protect an iconic British mammal that is being used as a political scapegoat in a policy that is flawed and not science-led.
Labour will end the badger cull and prioritise ending bovine TB, Shadow Defra secretary Rachael Maskell has said.
Speaking during the party conference, Maskell said the government 'ignores scientists, academics, its own experts and many farmers' and turns its frustration on a badger.
"When every shred of evidence says bovine TB will be beaten with better testing, vaccination, better biosecurity and animal husbandry.
"Animal welfare is at the heart of what we all care about, whether our wildlife, domestically, commercially or internationally, protecting endangered species.
"With Labour launching our consultation on animal welfare, we want you to shape our policy for the future. "But whether animals, birds or our plant life, Labour will work to ensure that our whole biodiversity system thrives again."
Latest scientific research casts yet more doubt on role of badgers in cattle TB
Research undertaken by Queen Mary University of London using the largest ever mathematical model profiling a huge number of cattle and badger TB infections has cast serious doubt on the role of badgers in transmitting TB to cattle.
Using a ‘big data approach’ the science has revealed that the infection pattern between the two species is completely different and suggests very strongly that cattle are infected by other cattle, rather than by other species.
The research found little geographical overlap between farms with infected cattle and setts with infected badgers, and that the cycles of infection between the two animals are not synchronised. In badgers TB was found in clusters whilst in cattle the disease was more random and dispersed.
The findings reflect the uncommonly high level of cattle movement in the UK not seen elsewhere in the world, resulting in TB being found in unrelated and geographically widespread areas. In comparison badgers are social animals that live in small groups meaning the presence of TB is far more clustered.
Responding to the new research Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust said,
“This research builds on an ever increasing number of studies demonstrating that the contribution of badgers to the problem of cattle TB is tiny and cannot be separated from the general contamination of wildlife and the environment by the cattle industry.
We have already seen another study this year (Woodroffe, Donnelly et al 2016) showing conclusively that badgers actively avoid cattle in pasture and farm yards, and that cattle actively avoid feeding on grass where badgers urinate or defecate. Yet another study (Barbier et al, 2016) shows a significant disease risk as TB spreads from cattle faeces into the worm population where it can remain for significant lengths of time.
All in all, the case for continued intervention with the badger population is proving increasingly pointless. The reality is we could kill every badger in the country but bovine TB would continue to spread in cattle herds, due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements and poor farm-level bio-security. It is modern, intensive livestock rearing and trading that are the real culprits in the spread of bovine TB.”
Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin added,
“The government and the farming industry have become dangerously obsessed with badgers whilst all along the real problem has been cattle infecting themselves both directly and through contaminating their own environment. The debate has been hijacked by politics and economics whilst the basic epidemiology of the disease has been ignored for far too long.
Millions of pounds taxpayer’s money has been wasted on ineffective and inhumane badger culls with millions more to come as the government rolls out its policy to new areas of the country. All this has been in the face of vehement opposition by scientists and the public. Badgers have become a convenient fig-leaf for concealing a chaotic and doomed policy that has failed to get to grips with effective testing, cattle movement controls and basic standards of hygiene and husbandry on farms.
The approach to TB science in Wales has been far more open and rigorous, and has led to the lowest level of new herd breakdowns in ten years. There they have proved that vaccinating badgers is a far more effective intervention than culling, a point reinforced by this latest research. However, any intervention involving badgers is going to have a negligible impact on cattle TB as no known research has ever shown exactly how the disease can spread from badgers to cattle. All the science to date is showing that it doesn’t.
“The Badger Trust is calling for an immediate halt to any further badger culling while all the new scientific evidence is collated and assessed, and the existing science re-examined to provide a sound basis for amending and improving the government’s currently inadequate TB policy. Anything less would be a betrayal of our farmers, the taxpayer, our wildlife and the principles of science.”
27 Sep 2016, 9:01 PM
On Wednesday, Assembly Members will be debating the Welsh Government’s bovine tuberculosis policy.
Dr Gareth Enticott, a research fellow at Cardiff University has made some very interesting comments. His research focuses on the geography and sociology of animal health. He is interested in how farmers, vets, policy makers and conservationists deal with and make sense of animal health on a day to day basis and what this means for the future of animal health and rural places in the UK. He is particularly interested in bovine tuberculosis.
He is wondering of the debate is a subtle call for a (new) Welsh badger cull. The debate proposes that the National Assembly for Wales “takes decisive action to tackle bovine TB by committing to use the most effective measures to control and eradicate bovine TB and ensuring that testing and movement restrictions are proportionate to the disease status of an area”.
The motion is suitably vague and Gareth says 'The outcome of the debate and vote is more likely to show that it is not for nothing that bovine TB is known as the political disease'.
Yet more science to confirm the futility of badger culling.
Fasciola hepatica is associated with the failure to detect bovine tuberculosis in dairy cattle
ABSTRACT Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) is a significant and intractable disease of cattle caused by Mycobacterium bovis. In the United Kingdom, despite an aggressive eradication programme, the prevalence of BTB is increasing with an unexplained, exponential rise in cases year on year. Here we show in a study involving 3,026 dairy herds in England and Wales that there is a significant negative association between exposure to the common, ubiquitous helminth parasite, Fasciola hepatica and diagnosis of BTB. The magnitude of the single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin test used to diagnose BTB is reduced in cattle experimentally co-infected with M. bovis and F. hepatica. We estimate an under-ascertainment rate of about one-third (95% confidence interval 27–38%) among our study farms, in the hypothetical situation of no exposure to F. hepatica. This finding may in part explain the continuing spread of BTB and the failure of the current eradication programme in the United Kingdom.
Badger Charity Appalled by Vets Political Support for Government Culls
The Badger Trust has reacted strongly against the British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) continued support for the government’s badger culls, which have been extended to seven new areas of England.
The new culls in Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Dorset and Somerset are licenced to kill up to 14,000 badgers despite overwhelming opposition from scientists and the public, and clear evidence the policy will not help farmers reduce bovine TB in English herds.
In April 2015 the BVA declared after the results of the first two years of badger culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset, that it could no longer support the continued use of free-shooting as a killing method, as it was both inhumane and ineffective.
Reacting to the decision, Badger Trust CEO, Dominic Dyer, said:
“This decision is simply incomprehensible given that the BVA has already condemned free-shooting as inhumane. They are fully aware that the government’s recently relaxed licencing conditions mean more badgers will be killed by this method than ever before so they are condemning thousands of animals to die long painful deaths from multiple gunshot wounds, blood loss and organ failure.
Furthermore the BVA’s support for culling is specifically for “humane, targeted and managed badger culling as an option to be used in carefully selected areas where badgers are regarded as a significant contributor to the persistent presence of bTB in cattle”. However, these culls are anything but ‘targeted’. None of the badgers are tested for TB and much of the culling is taking place on land where no cattle are farmed, so how can the BVA support these culls knowing full well they contravene the essential conditions their support is based on?
“The BVA is effectively giving tacit approval to an uncontrolled ‘numbers game’ that could lead to the complete extermination of badgers in some areas, which cannot possibly improve the situation for cattle farmers if the vast majority of badgers killed haven’t actually got TB and don’t live on cattle farms. Equally, we would like to know how they have satisfied themselves that badgers are a ‘significant contributor’ to TB in cattle because the latest science suggests they are not?
“All in all, the Badger Trust feels the BVA’s credibility as the voice of a veterinary industry that is supposed to put science and animal welfare at heart of its decision making process, is shot to pieces by this decision.”
Chair of the Badger Trust, Peter Martin, added:
“The BVA’s problems run much deeper than just the issue of free-shooting. Vets sign up to the principle of evidence based medicine, which means any intervention they take must be supported by evidence that the animal is sick and needs treatment. As the vast majority of badgers being culled are not TB positive, this kind of indiscriminate killing goes against the fundamental principles of veterinary practice.
“We have been contacted by many vets who are deeply troubled by this aspect of the culls especially as vaccination would achieve the same intended outcome without the suffering or deaths. Vets are not supposed to suggest a lethal intervention where an effective and more humane alternative treatment is available.
“The decision to support these culls also flies in the face of the BVA’s recently published Animal Welfare Strategy that has introduced a new ethical framework for the treatment of all animals, not just those in the paid care of individual vets. Clearly they are unwilling to heed their own advice.
“The only rational explanation for this decision is that the BVA has given in to internal pressure from the Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens and the British Cattle Veterinary Association to back the extension of badger culling for political reasons, and to protect their economic interests. I think the public will be appalled when they realise that the veterinary industry they have come to trust and rely on is more motivated by money and influence than they are by the welfare of animals.”
31 Aug 2016, 10:06 PM
Email from DH 31/8/16 It costs almost £7000 to kill each badger and yet I read in the i today that 4.1% of the UK population can not afford to feed themselves. This money could be much better spent surely. The cull is NOT based on science, is inhumane, not monitored – a real muddle and I’m being polite.
I watched Yes Minister last night first aired in 1980. It was focused on a badger cull – or was it beaver cull?.I thought that Yes Minister was a sit com but now appreciate that it is a serious documentary on how the Government and Civil service run (?) the country. Things have not changed.
31 Aug 2016, 10:05 PM
Rosy Woodroffe, one of the top badger experts has tweeted 'Holy....cow. Cull companies are REQUIRED to kill at least 9,841 badgers by 30 Nov. More than all RBCT proactive culls put together'. And, at a cost to the taxpayer of over £6,000 per badger, this equates to a massive £59 million pounds plus when the science has proved that culling badgers does not work re preventing bTB.
Badger Trust condemns decision to extend disastrous badger cull to 5 new areas of England
The Badger Trust has condemned a decision by the government to expand badger culling to 5 new areas of the country (South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall, South Herefordshire and West Dorset), despite the complete failure of the policy over the last 4 years.
Since 2013 the government has licensed the culling of 3,916 badgers in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset at a cost to the taxpayer in excess of £25 million. None of the badgers killed have been tested for TB and many have died as a result of an experimental ‘free shooting’ method, which has been condemned as inhumane by both the government’s Independent Expert Panel and the British Veterinary Association.
DEFRA statistics show that despite killing thousands of badgers the number of cattle slaughtered for TB continues to rise both in and around the culling zones.
Responding to the government’s decision to extend the badger cull the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:
“After 4 years of badger culling no one can now doubt that the policy has been a disastrous failure on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds. For the new DEFRA Secretary Andrea Leadsom to ignore the facts and extend this policy into 5 new areas of the country defies belief.
The badger cull is built on three pillars of sand, incompetence, negligence and deceit, and will ultimately collapse because it fails to address the key cause of bovine TB, which is cattle to cattle infection.
We could kill every badger in England but bovine TB would continue to spread in cattle herds, due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements and poor biosecurity controls.”
The Chair of the Badger Trust, Peter Martin, said:
“The badger is being used as a scapegoat for failures in the modern intensive livestock industry that have led to a significant increase in bovine TB in cattle herds. Recent changes to the cull licencing regime have made it clear this policy is now just a ‘numbers game’ based on indiscriminate and untargeted killing of this protected wildlife species. They have abandoned any pretence of science or control.
We now have conclusive scientific evidence proving beyond doubt that badgers actively avoid cattle in pasture and farm yards, and that cattle avoid feeding on grass where badgers urinate or defecate. This effectively means that the likelihood of badgers passing TB to cattle within the farming environment is so low that it is impossible to distinguish it from any other potential environmental vector, including cattle themselves.
By extending the badger culls to 5 news areas of the country the taxpayer is now facing a bill in the region of £100 million by 2020 on a policy which will fail to deliver any significant reduction in bovine TB for livestock farmers.
The government in Westminster is using badgers as a political fig-leaf to mask its total failure to get to grips with bovine TB. They should be looking to Wales to see how they have waged a far more successful campaign against the disease, based on more rigorous TB testing, tighter cattle control and bio-security measures. New TB herd incidents in Wales are down by 14% in the last 12 months and all this has been achieved without culling badgers. And as Ireland is also about to abandon its cull policy in favour of vaccination it is way past the time for DEFRA to do the same.”
Why are Badgers always at the head of the 'Blame Queue'? www.theecologist.org With the publication today of a new report that admits badgers tend to avoid direct contact with cattle, LESLEY DOCKSEY asks why are badgers still being blamed for bovine TB?
Expert, Martin Hancox, writes:
The whole 45 year old Badger TB Debate has been about the political perception of a rather feeble somewhat pseudoscientific "dodgy dossier" database. It rests on the very uncertain assumption that there must be a widespread self-sustaining reservoir of TB in badgers "out there" , with spillback to cattle, causing up to 50 % of new herd breakdowns, or only 5.7 % (ISG 2007, Donnelly 2013). But the ISG's own data failed to notice that there has never been any such widespread "maintenance badger TB reservoir". TB in badgers occurs as spillover micropockets of a few TB badgers in the clans at the epicentre of the previous herd breakdown eg. Woodchester, and Costello's finding of up to 3 M.bovis DNA Types / clan (ERAD Reports 1997, 2000, & 2006, Vet. Rec. 159;619, Biek 2012). Out of 11,000 RBCT badgers culled, there were only 1515 with TB, and a mere 200 or so super-excretors from 1900 sq.km. So neither reactive or proactive culls had the slightest effect on cattle TB. Vial 2011, found 1306 proactive cull area herds yielded 343 confirmed breakdowns, 1320 reactive cull area herds yielded 403 breakdowns, and 1380 no cull area herds yielded 408 breakdowns .. if the proactive cull had actually halved cattle TB it should have been 152 breakdowns ! Strikingly, they found NIL Effect on unconfirmed breakdowns, because they were caused by unconfirmed reactors, NOT by badgers as widely assumed (ISG 2007, p. 96, 101). DEFRA's 2015 movement consultation very belatedly discovered that all these No Visible Lesion , hence unconfirmed Reactors do have TB, so Badgers are emphatically NOT, as mistakenly claimed by farmers, the main cause of the spread of TB...all down to local cattle movements, so pre and post-movement tests work.
And Woodroffe's latest proximity recorder study found no contacts between badgers and cattle at under 1.4 metres.. re-affirming previous studies finding that badgers avoid cattle at pasture and in farmyards (Benham 1989, Bohm 2009, Drewe 2012, O'Mahony 2014, Mullen 2013 & 2015) . So it is extremely improbable that badgers can give cows a respiratory lung infection. Woodroffe claims a dose of 5000 bacilli needed by ingestion, but even Palmer admitted that transmission in that white tail deer experiment might have actually been respiratory. And M'Fadyean 1910 found a dose of several hundred million bacilli needed... simply impossible with only 300,000 bacilli / ml of badger urine .. or under 100 cfu in Corners's study.
The recent French Barbier 2016 * study of earthworms as a perfect vector of TB suggests that badgers have merely been catching TB from cows all along. Francis 1947 found one really sick cow shed 38 million bacilli in 30 lbs of faeces / day. .. so Old Brock more or less guaranteed to catch TB foraging under cow pats for worms and Geotrupes beetles. Most badger TB is hence by ingestion with primary lesions in throat lymph nodes (submandibulars and retropharyngeals), just as in human "scrofula" from unpasteurised milk.
There is absolutely no point in culling or vaccinating dead-end spillover hosts of TB such as Badgers, Wild Boar, Red or White tail deer, or possums .. because it does not stop the spread of cattle TB by up to 20 million cattle movements / a, , and which have been catching TB from other cattle all along . sincerely, Martin Hancox, ex-government TB Panel.
12 Aug 2016, 11:03 AM
BADGER TRUST POSITION STATEMENT ON NEW RESEARCH ON BADGER AND CATTLE INTERACTION
The Badger Trust welcomes the publication of new research (Woodroffe, Donnelly et al, 2016) published on Friday, 6th of August, indicating that badgers have no meaningful contact with cattle but in fact go out of their way to avoid them in pastures and buildings. This is now the third major scientific study to reach the same conclusion and confirms what the Badger Trust, as well as leading zoologists and ecologists, have been saying for decades.
The rigour and accuracy of this new study confirms that there is no credible, direct link between cattle and badgers as regards the transmission of bovine TB, and that as yet unconfirmed environmental factors are implicated.
The study’s findings clearly have serious implications for the way the current TB crisis in farming is being dealt with by the government and cattle industry. The Trust considers the emphasis previously placed on wildlife interventions has been unjustifiably exaggerated at the expense of dealing with basic farm-level bio-security and cattle testing and controls.
The Badger Trust maintains that this study and other recent findings are beginning to suggest potentially serious flaws in the basic assumptions, interpretation of data and conclusions of previously published science implying that badgers play a significant role in the transmission of TB to cattle, and which are in turn being used to justify the current culls. Specifically the modelling of previous research has not given sufficient weight to the role of the wider TB environment created by cattle and the way they are farmed, or the possibility that they are not only continually infecting wildlife but also reinfecting themselves by the same route.
The Badger Trust is greatly concerned by some of the language used in this report that nevertheless continues to assert a definitive role for badgers in infecting cattle with TB whilst downplaying the obvious implication that the infection process is both remote and two-way. That is to say, badgers neither pass TB directly to cattle nor do they catch TB directly from cattle but from the environment in which cattle exist. This calls into question the previously asserted notion that there is a self-sustaining reservoir of TB in badgers and places the focus for disease prevention correctly back on cattle and farming practices.
As with most scientific studies, more questions are raised than answers given. Far from being a significant contributor to the levels of TB in cattle it appears that badgers are simply one of many elements in a broad spectrum of possible reinfection vectors in the TB environment created by cattle farming. These must include not only all mammals, vertebrates and invertebrates, but also - critically - cattle themselves.
We are now facing a pivotal moment when all stakeholders in this debate need to recognise that a fundamental re-examination of the scientific assumptions on which the current policy for TB control in cattle is urgently needed. There is simply too much to lose by failing to do so, including the future of the cattle and dairy industry, millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money and the lives of tens of thousands of animals.
The Badger Trust is therefore calling for an immediate suspension of all badger culling whilst a comprehensive review is undertaken so that the current policy can be amended and improved in light of the latest scientific developments. It is also vital to identify any significant gaps in the science and to commission new research to fill them.
12 Aug 2016, 11:02 AM
"Badger protection march comes to Bodmin on Saturday 13 August as badger cull expected to start in Cornwall in a few weeks”
A peaceful, family friendly protest against the government's unpopular badger cull policy will come to Bodmin in Cornwall on Saturday 13 August.
Organised by the Badger Trust, with the support of the Devon Badger Group, this will be the 39th protest march against the badger cull policy held in towns and cities across England over the last 2 and a half years.
Speakers will include leading anti-cull spokesperson Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, Vet Mark Jones from the Born Free Foundation, and William Morris, a former Independent Candidate for Devon and Cornwall Police Commissioner.
Dominic Dyer, CEO Badger Trust, said:
"I've worked in the agriculture and food industry for most of my career, and this is the worst agricultural policy I've seen in 30 years. I'm sympathetic to farmers, but culling badgers simply won't work. Ordinary people from around the country have come out to protest against this barbaric cull, and we're looking forward to seeing many of them come to Bodmin on Saturday.
“The badger cull has been a complete disaster on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds. To date three years of badger culling in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire and Dorset has cost the tax payer over £25 million to kill 3,961 badgers or £6311 per badger killed, the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record.
However the real scandal is that nearly all the badgers killed will not have TB. Defra’s own data suggests 1.6% are capable of passing on the disease, whilst 85% are likely to have to have been completely TB free.
12 Aug 2016, 11:01 AM
Badger Trust condemns Lady Scarsdale article in Telegraph as Irresponsible Propaganda
The Badger Trust has condemned a recent article in the Daily Telegraph as ‘irresponsible propaganda’. The piece featured an interview with Helene, Viscountess Scarsdale who claims that badgers are responsible for killing up to 200 lambs on her land and included the statement "We need to get rid of badgers. I would like a machine gun.”
Responding to the article the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:
“This article makes absurd claims about badgers killing lambs without presenting a shred of evidence to support them. Badgers are not active predators but opportunist scavengers whose main diet is earthworms. Unfortunately there has been a concerted propaganda campaign by the farming and ‘countryside’ lobby over the last few years to turn public opinion against the badger in order to try and justify the Conservative government’s failing cull policy.
“What this story really highlights is a tragic lack of good animal husbandry on behalf of a farm that is allowing hundreds of lambs to die. Badgers may well scavenge a carcass if they find one but it’s far more likely that these lambs have died of neglect and been scavenged by foxes. Despite having legal protection, the badger is one of the most persecuted wild animals in Britain, with thousands of them shot, snared, gassed or baited with dogs every year across the country. It is therefore utterly irresponsible for a national newspaper to print such unfounded claims as it simply encourages more of this kind of criminal behaviour.”
Also responding to the article the Chair of the Badger Trust, Peter Martin, said:
“With this article the Telegraph has plumbed new depths in standards of journalism. They have clearly distanced themselves from these rather asinine remarks by Lady Scarsdale but are nevertheless happy to exploit her preposterous claims and opinions in order to further their political agenda regarding the badger culls. These were clearly unguarded observations and probably made without much thought or consideration for the embarrassment they have caused her and the National Trust.
Ultimately, this article will backfire on its authors because the British public simply aren’t that gullible when it comes to wildlife and farming issues. Claims such as these show up the self-appointed guardians of our countryside as not only pitifully ignorant about wildlife ecology but also negligent in the care of their own livestock.”
18 Jul 2016, 7:50 PM
End the badger cull says the HSI.
New Prime Minister, Theresa May, has appointed Andrea Leadsom as her new Environment Secretary.
This is the perfect opportunity—before any new licences are issued—for the new Minister to listen carefully to both scientific and public opinion, and to put an end to this inhumane, ineffective and costly cull.
Speak up for badgers by asking the new Minister to kill the cull today.
Almost 4,000 badgers have been killed since 2013 and the government is currently considering issuing up to 29 new licences to allow contractors to shoot badgers this autumn. The cull could be expanded to as many as nine counties, putting tens of thousands of badgers in dire danger.
Top scientists have spoken - the cull is wrong, and extending this terrible policy will cause yet more pointless suffering to our wildlife.
Right now, amidst the major uncertainties that lie ahead with Brexit, there is a real need, and an opportunity, for Theresa May’s new government to review DEFRA’s priorities and stop this ineffective, divisive and highly costly cull policy.
Tell the new Minister today that it’s time to listen to science and reason. It's time to stop the cull!