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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?

Sally
It’s a tradition for the government to bury bad news on the last day of Parliament before the Christmas recess, and 2017 was no exception.
 
As the Environment Secretary disappeared down to Devon on Thursday 21 December to celebrate the reintroduction of beavers to our rivers, Defra announced that it had licensed the killing of 19,274 badgers in England, the most significant destruction of a protected species in living memory.
 
The final death rate for 2017 is likely to exceed 20,000 badgers since Defra has yet to release the kill rates for pilot cull zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset, which are now subject to five-year supplementary cull licences, whereby farmers can effectively kill badgers as they please with neither monitoring nor controls.
 
To put this hideous and pointless slaughter of a protected species into context, the total badger population of Scotland is estimated to be in the region of 34,000. This effectively means that within a six-week period between September and October this year the government allowed cull contractors, funded mainly by the taxpayer, to wipe out the equivalent of 50% of the Scottish badger population.
 
Since the badger cull started in 2013 the government has killed almost 45,000 badgers. The vast majority of these animals have not been tested for TB and most are likely to be completely free of the disease. More than 25,000 have been killed by a controlled shooting method that has resulted in many badgers taking more than 5 minutes to die of multiple bullet wounds, blood loss and organ failure, which is condemned as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.
 
Defra is believed to have taken around 900 badgers from across the cull zones in 2016 to carry out post-mortems and test for TB, but none of the data from this publicly funded research has been released, which is a clear indication that most of these dead badgers were TB free.
 
The total cost of the badger-cull policy to date for the taxpayer is believed to be in the region of £50 million, i.e. £1100 per badger killed. What the government promoted as a farmer-led and paid-for policy in 2013 has now become the most expensive publicly funded wildlife cull in history, with bills stacking up in Whitehall for equipment, training and monitoring, policing costs and legal challenges to the policy.
 
As the cost of killing badgers has risen to tens of millions of pounds, the cost of vaccinating them against TB has fallen rapidly. It now costs the taxpayer around £1100 to cage-trap and shoot a badger, but it costs the Wildlife Trusts and other volunteer badger-vaccination groups only around £200 to trap and vaccinate a badger against the disease. Badger culling is hugely complicated, controversial and costly, but badger vaccination has strong public backing, is far cheaper and, as I recently said on BBC Countryfile, brings farmers and conservationists together in a spirit of mutual respect and trust.
 
The badger cull is probably one the worst examples of incompetence, negligence and deceit at the heart of the government. To spend more than £50 million of public funds killing tens of thousands of badgers without any reliable evidence that it will lower TB rates in cattle is a national disgrace.
 
Since the culls started in 2013 the government, with the support of the farming and livestock veterinary industry, has run a propaganda campaign demonising the badger and presenting politicians, public and the media with a continuous stream of false justifications, cherry-picked data and anecdotal evidence dressed up as scientific fact in a desperate attempt to prove that the badger cull is working.
 
Very little evidence exists to prove that badgers can easily pass TB to cattle. In fact, after 40 years of targeting the badger, which has resulted in more than 60,000 of this protected species being slaughtered by gassing, snaring or shooting, the only justification for pushing it to the verge of local extinction rests on a single poorly run experiment undertaken by Central Veterinary Laboratory in Weybridge in 1975.
 
This field research was designed to prove the cross-transmission of TB from badgers to cattle under controlled conditions. It involved confining TB-diseased badgers in a yard with a concrete floor and a steel roof measuring 12 metres by 8.5 metres. Over time three calves were introduced into this confined space with the diseased badgers. Despite being in such close proximity to badgers who were believed to be excreting TB through their urine and faeces, it took six months for the first calf to react positively to a TB test. The second calf responded positively at eight months, whilst the third took ten months.
 
The government vets who undertook the experiment accepted it was not fit for purpose and did not replicate what was likely to happen in terms of badger and cattle interaction in pasture areas or farmyards. However it did show that even in very artificial confined conditions, where highly diseases badgers were in constant close contact with cattle, it was difficult for TB to spread between the species.
 
Despite these findings, no other field research looking at cattle and badgers and how the disease spreads between the species has been undertaken in mainland Britain in the past 40 years.
 
However today we know far more than ever before about how badgers and cattle interact in the countryside, as a result of studying the movements of satellite-collared badgers in England and Ireland.
 
What we have learned from these studies is that badgers largely avoid any contact with cattle in pasture areas and farmyards, which further weakens the argument that they are passing TB to cattle. When we stop playing the badger blame game, we can soon focus on the real culprit for the spread of bovine TB and that's cattle.
 
In recent months we have seen new outbreaks of bovine TB in cattle in Cumbria and even in the Isle of Skye.
 
Defra and the NFU accept that these outbreaks were not down to badgers but were due to cattle movements on the back of lorries.
 
In January 2018 the Bureau of Investigative Journalism will release a damning report showing huge failures in biosecurity and cattle-movement controls aimed at reducing bovine TB, which could have led to the recent outbreaks of the disease in Cumbria and the Isle of Skye.
 
It will show that, whilst the government has been wasting tens of millions of public funds slaughtering mostly TB-free badgers, it has been failing to get farmers to implement basic biosecurity and movement controls to help control the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
 
This negligence is not letting down just farmers but also taxpayers and ultimately badgers, who are being wiped out for nothing.
 
This clearly shows that the badger cull is not a disease-control strategy: it's a politically motivated publicly funded wildlife-eradication policy, which is pushing badgers to the verge of extinction in parts of England where they have lived since the last Ice Age.
 
The Welsh government has shown what can be achieved in reducing bovine TB by focusing on cattle-based measures. Through a combination of improved TB-testing regimes, tighter cattle control and biosecurity measures the spread of the disease in cattle has been significantly reduced without any indiscriminate cull of badgers.
 
I can only hope that in 2018 we all wake up to what we are now facing when it comes to protecting our wildlife. They come for our badgers today, but it will be our otters, raptors, beavers and seals next.
 
The battle to protect the badger is far more than just a fight to protect a shy nocturnal mammal most of us never see: it's a fight for the very future of our countryside and the wildlife that inhabits it.
 
Let's hope we all realise this before it's too late.
 
Dominic Dyer
 
CEO Badger Trust & Policy Adviser Born Free Foundation
 
https://gap.greenparty.org.uk/blog/2017/12/26/a-review-of-the-2017-badger-cull-a-guest-blog-by-dominic-dyer/
 
Sally
Badger Trust challenges government’s lack of evidence after 19,000 more badgers culled in 2017 and calls for a full policy review
 
The Badger Trust has called on the government to provide conclusive evidence that their cull policy is reducing levels of TB in cattle following the announcement that a further 19,000 badgers were culled in 2017.
 
“After four years spending over £50 million in taxpayer’s money and the deaths of over 40,000 badgers, the government has never been able to demonstrate any conclusive evidence that the policy is working or that it ever will,” says Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust. “The latest statement from Farming Minister George Eustice [1] relies entirely on one piece of research [2] which clearly states that there is ‘no association between culling and TB incidence for Somerset, or for either of the buffer areas for the first 2 years since culling began. A weak association was observed in Gloucestershire’. The paper then goes on to state unequivocally that ‘it would be unwise to use these findings to develop generalizable inferences about the effectiveness of the policy at present.’”
 
“This piece of research is simply a statistical modelling exercise using carefully chosen assumptions to create an impression that the culls are working whilst directly admitting that the raw data says nothing of the sort,’ continues Dominic Dyer. “The rest of the government’s analysis and reporting [3] relies heavily on caveats and words such as ’should’ and ‘could’ instead of ‘will’ and ‘does’. The truth is that for the last five years the government and pro-cull lobby have presented us with a continuous stream of false justifications, cherry picked data and anecdote masquerading as scientific fact, all in the absence of any conclusive improvement in levels of bovine TB.”
 
“The vast majority of badgers killed have been free of the disease,” continues Dominic Dyer, “very few were ever tested and for those that were the government refused to release any figures showing how many had TB. The whole process is not just cruel and inhumane, it is completely indiscriminate. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that culling healthy badgers is never going to help farmers rid their herds of this disease. There has, in any case, never been any conclusive scientific proof of how or to what extent badgers can pass on TB to cattle in the first place.”
 
“The government and pro-cull lobby’s position has now become completely untenable,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin. “It is clear from Westminster insiders that there is a growing tension between the pro-cull people and those that realise the public cannot be fooled by a lack of evidence for much longer. Animal welfare has become a massive public concern that is really threatening the short and long term survival of the government. People are seeing the culls for what they are, a mass slaughter of a much loved and protected British wildlife species for no apparent gain in TB eradication. The new Environment Minister Michael Gove has promised a full review of the policy and we expect him to be true to his word.”
 
“In fact we think the government needs to radically rethink the whole policy from top to bottom,” continues Peter Martin, “as the current twenty-five year strategy is way too long for farmers to wait for a result and is highly unlikely to succeed in any case. A full independent review of the scientific, animal welfare, ecological impact, costs and public safety aspects of the badger cull policy must now be undertaken as a matter of urgency. This review should not only involve the farming and veterinary industry but the Badger Trust and other leading wildlife protection organisations.”
 
“The Welsh government have led the way in cattle TB reduction and Westminster now needs to follow suit,” concludes Peter Martin. “They have achieved this through tighter cattle controls, better biosecurity measures and improved TB testing systems, and all without culling badgers. This has to be the starting point for any future policy and it must also include a system of risk-based trading that does not bankrupt farmers if they do get a TB breakdown. But whatever happens we can never go back to the mass slaughter of our wildlife to satisfy political agendas or as a cover for landowners to reduce numbers of an animal they traditionally do not like. The culls must end now.”
 
[1] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-12-21/HCWS383...
 
[2] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.3254/full
 
[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/670230/bovine-tb-cvo-2017-culls.pdf
 
Sally
A summary of badger control. What a waste of money and yet another once common, well loved, iconic species probably doomed.
 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-summary-of-badger-control-monitoring-during-2017
 
Sally
A SHOCK EMBARASSINGLY SIMPLE BUT DEFINITIVELY FINAL END TO GREAT BADGER TB DEBATE !? BADGERS ARE MERELY A DEAD-END SPILLOVER HOST AFTER ALL !
Dear Drs. Boyd, Gibbens, Hewinson , Walport / Glossop / More, Corner, Gormley /
Skuce , Allen .. and many others, 5th December 2017.
Alas, with 20:20 hindsight, TB only occurs in a tiny number of badgers at the epicentre of previous bad herd breakdowns, so a spillover from cattle to a temporary transient micro-pocket of TB, and badgers are merely a dead-end spillover host, which by definition are never going to become infectious enough to pass a respiratory bronchopneumonia back to cattle.
So I would hope the your advice to Agriculture Ministers ( amounting to a long overdue U-turn) is that any further badger cull or vaccination schemes in England, Wales, Eire, or Ulster are utterly meaningless... they do not stop the spread of TB by local cattle movements !
 
Badger blame as "The main cause of the spread of TB" goes back to the mid-1970s, with the Zuckerman 1980, Dunnet 1986 and Wilesmith 1983 reports. In a very costly absurdly simple mistake, they wrongly assumed that NVL/Unconfirmed reactors were "false positive", did NOT have TB, so had not caught TB in the preceding herd breakdown, so with half the new breakdowns NVL, they must be "due to badgers . Progression of lung TB takes c. 1 year to metastasise to the more infectious VL reactor stage.
 
No-one seems to have realised (apart from M'Fadyean 1910 !), but the newly infected reactors which hence lack "visible" lung tubercle lesions, are merely the precursor of Confirmed cases with VL lesions & detectable M. bovis. So with c. 3 reactors / breakdown, cattle-to-cattle spread has been happening all along, with dispersal of new cases to cause a scatter of new NVL/Unconfirmed breakdowns (which DO have TB; test specificity 99.99 % so only 1 in 5000 truly false positive). NEW breakdowns in herds with no TB in either badgers or cattle in the previous 18-36 months, can only be due to bought-in reactors, which caught TB in the normal way in the preceding herd breakdown. Skin test 49 % accurate (Godfray 2013), misses half the problem each time; and 20 million cattle movements per year.
So this scatter of New NVL/Unconfirmed breakdowns are NOT after all "due to badgers". And the Skin test has always missed early and late cases, which are the usual cause of recrudescence in herds supposedly tested clear of TB (fig.). So in fact it was a small number of problem herds with recurrent or chronic TB which was the engine driving the production of new breakdowns in the last 1970s intractable hotspots (Richards 1972).
And a critical reappraisal of the epidemiological patterns of TB in both cattle and badgers since then , emphatically dispels these myths :-
CATTLE TB has spread from the last southwest intractable islets of TB to an area now of half of GB , entirely within the cattle population :-
ANGLESEY ............................CHESHIRE ..............DERBYSHIRE
PEMBROKESHIRE........MONTGOMERYSHIRE......STAFFS
CARMARTHENSHIRE...RADNORSHIRE................. HEREFORDSHIRE
SWANSEA...................GWENT............................GLOS.
CORNWALL................................... ......................HAMPSHIRE
 
BADGER TB , no-one seems to have noticed but there was never any self-sustaining reservoir of badger TB in those 1970s southwest islands of intractable TB . In fact embedded like sparse twinkling stars in this ocean of cattle TB , the few and only TB badgers "out there" have occurred as tiny micro-pockets of TB , a spillover from bad herd breakdowns. Just 1-2 TB badgers/ clan, in 1-2 clans at the epicentre of the herd breakdown .. as in North Woodchester map shown above, 2 contiguous 1978-9 herd breakdowns. Just 14 TB badgers out of 65 culled, in 6 of the 14 clans there. So few infectious "superexcretor" badgers , 105 out of 1800 Woodchester badgers over 24 years, see Delahay 2000 "spatiotemporal TB" (just google it ) who found that even these micropockets were not self-sustaining but died out quite rapidly. N.B. Since 1975, not even 1 herd breakdown attributable to this textbook high density Badger "endemic" TB population.
 
WALES shows this re-colonisation of cattle TB from a near clean late 1970s to the 3 Maps in the Goodchild PDF .The 1934 Pembroke hotspot, a few big dairy herds with chronic TB, split off 2 new west kernel hotspots (fig. above), all Spoligotype 9;b. The 3 Welsh Marches new hotspots came from the english edge area, and were type 9;c, 17;a and 22;a. Secondary 17;a overlap hotspots in 2 west kernals; and 9;c in Gwent. And only 55 TB badgers out of 457 sampled, but exactly proportional to the donor cattle spoligotypes . Although MAFF claimed most of the 700 brief unconfirmed breakdowns 1971-1997 must be due to badgers .. there were only 46 TB badgers out of 2363 sampled.. and by 2016 a mere 154 TB badgers out of 3504 sampled .. a dead-end spillover host, which by definition are never going to return a respiratory broncho-pneumonia to cattle in the first place.
 
BADGER CULLS DO NOT WORK . Because badgers are not after all the cause of these new and chronic breakdowns.
1. The APHA 2017 assessment of the 2013-2016 Pilot culls of c. 4000 badgers found no effect on cattle TB ( via www.gov.uk/government/publications);
2. The true effect of the £50 million RBCT Actual cull of 11,000 badgers, only 1515 TB spillover badgers, from 1900 sq.km., under 200 infectious ones, was in fact ZERO . ISG own Report 2007 ; no effect on unconfirmed breakdowns which ironically are the ones supposed to be caused by badgers, and no difference in accumulated breakdowns eg. (Lefevre 2005) reactive cull versus no cull areas :- 356 vs 358 Confirmed breakdowns, 175 vs 172 unconfirmeds, and 58 vs 59 recurrent breakdowns.
3. Eire. There were big decreases in cattle TB in the 3 main culls, due to cattle controls, but nothing to do with the removal of tiny numbers of TB badgers ; Offaly 141 from 560 sq.km. ; Four Areas 286 from 960 sq.km.; and Laois 172 from 1780 sq.km.
 
BADGERS CANNOT BE GIVING COWS A RESPIRATORY BRONCHOPNEUMONIA:-
 
As Darwin's bulldog the great Thomas Henry Huxley once remarked, "The great tragedy of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact ". No-one in 50 years has explained how badgers are supposed to give cows a respiratory lung infection , TB is a bronchopneumonia , lesions in the lungs or pulmonary lymph nodes (bronchials & mediastinals see REFS *). Cattle TB is spread readily by prolonged close aerosol contact within enclosed shared airspaces such as barns or milking parlours. Badger visits to English barns, of brief duration for a drink , mostly in summer when cattle out at pasture anyway, so won't create the highly infective aerosol droplet atmospheric "mist"... sharing an office with someone coughing and spluttering flu bugs around WILL pass it to fellow co-workers ! So it has never been caught from badgers.. just 1 proven case in 50 years in the very artificial yard experiment, which mimicked lengthy barn "contact" .
Seven badger-cattle data recorder "Contact studies" found that badgers avoid cattle at pasture, in farmyards and barns, just 4 contacts within 1.4 m sneezing distance out of over a million "contacts" , SO Badgers CANNOT be the main cause of the spread of TB to cows after all :- Bohm 2009, Drewe 2012, Woodroffe 2016 (SEE PDF) & Ireland Sleeman 1993, O'Mahony 2014 *, 2 Mullens 2013 + 2015* .
 
URINE ? a recurrent myth is that transmission is via "ingested" badger urine, but a dose of 3 cc of badger urine needed to achieve the minimum needed of 1 million bacilli by Ingestion, at 350,000 bacilli/ ml, Corners studies of 105 badger pathology found only 5 with kidney TB and under 100 cfu / ml . Sheep, 1 bacillus by aerosol, but 11 million needed by ingestion . Ironically , similarly to human TB from unpasteurised milk "scrofula" , lesions in badgers are in throat (submandibular) lymph nodes .. badgers sadly are bound to catch TB turning over cow pats and eating worms and the big Geotrupes Dor beetles.. a recent French study found worms to be the perfect vector of TB from cow pats. Cattle + deer ingest avian TB from pasture so throat/gut lesions.
* http://www.daera-ni-gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/dard/badger-cattle-proximity-report.pdf
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2015.08.021
 
sincerely, Martin Hancox MA Oxon, ex-government TB Panel
 
* REFERENCES are given in Death of Debate WWW.BADGERSANDTB.COM & http://Bit.ly/20JSGpR
Cattle lesions McIlroy 1986 & Neil 1988 Vet.Rec ; Liebana 2009, Jubb Pathology of domestic animals . Little 1982 Vet. Rec. yard experiment. M'Fadyean 1910 dose needed via inhalation or ingestion. Barbier 2016 worms decompose cow pats. Corner 2011, 2012 badger lesions. Woodchester TB clans given in Krebs 1997 report p. 48, map above from Richard Meyer 2016 Fate of the badger. Woodroffe papers with RBCT Spillover cattle to badgers, 2005, 2006 PNAS, and 2006 TB and clan size , just 1-2 TB badgers /clan ; also Donnelly & Nouvellet 2013 badger contribution to cattle TB , Ploscurrrents... 3.7 %, but a generous C. I . of 0 to 100 .. ie. the problem is entirely badgers , or they are completely irrelevant !!!
 
Sally
Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control:Written question - 107782
Q
Asked by Dr David Drew
(Stroud)
Asked on: 16 October 2017
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control
107782
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans he has to examine the effectiveness of the Phage and PCR tests for the testing of cattle for bovine TB.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 26 October 2017
 
Defra has provided financial and other support for research on a number of candidate diagnostic tests for M. bovis, the causative agent of tuberculosis in cattle, and continues to do so.
 
Neither the Phage nor PCR tests are currently validated to OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) level for use in diagnosing TB in bovine species. If and when the manufacturers validate their tests we would consider their official use in TB control.
 
In exceptional circumstances, non-validated tests may be carried out on bovine species under strict criteria with the approval of the Secretary of State. This allows diagnostic companies to undertake the work required to validate the test.
 
The PCR test used in this instance is the same as that previously used to detect M. bovis in badger faeces and a comprehensive assessment of the PCR test (Defra study SE3289) indicated that this PCR test was not suitable for use in TB surveillance activities in wildlife. Until the PCR test is validated for use in cattle it is difficult to determine the percentages of truly TB-infected and TB-free animals that are correctly identified by this method.
 
http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-10-16/107782/
 
Sally
Badger Trust meets with Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
 
Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin and CEO Dominic Dyer met with Environment Secretary Michael Gove on Tuesday 24th October to discuss a range of serious concerns with the current badger culling policy. The meeting follows a number of previous meetings with MP's and advisers to the Prime Minister, to see if a better way forward can be reached over a TB policy that is clearly failing in England compared, to the much more effective strategy employed in Wales.
 
“The meeting was good natured and constructive,” says Dominic Dyer. “We covered a wide range of topics from the origins of the policy to it’s basic failure to address the spread of bovine TB. On taking office, Michael Gove publicly announced that he intended to review the science around badger culling and he seemed genuinely engaged and interested in what we had to say.”
 
“We had a number of specific requests for immediate action,” continues Dominic Dyer. “The first was that we are aware a large number of badgers from last year’s culls were tested for TB but that Defra had so far refused to release figures on how many were infected. We urged him to make this information public for the benefit of all. We also asked that Defra be far more open to contact and discussion with wildlife NGOs and other stakeholders with an interest in badger culling and the wider TB eradication policy. We pointed out that we have excellent access to the Welsh government’s TB team at the highest level and that they seemed far more open and accountable.”
 
“Whilst we reiterated all the standard concerns about inhumaneness and the danger of rapid extinction of the badgers population,” comments Peter Martin, “we also impressed on the Secretary of State that the whole TB eradication policy was both flawed and completely inadequate. Farmers simply cannot wait twenty five years to resolve this problem and that a fundamental rethink of the policy was needed. We highlighted the complete inadequacy of the cattle testing regime, the lack of proper risk based trading for farmers and bio-security advice that was too little, too late and not enforceable by Defra.”
 
“We asked the Minister to address the failure of Defra to employ the more effective Gamma Interferon test in the High Risk Area of the South West and to fast track development of even more effective tests such as Phage PCR,” continues Peter Martin. “We pointed out that there was no hard scientific evidence of how or to what extent badgers can infect cattle with TB, while the latest studies showed that badgers actively avoid contact with cattle. We pointed our that the government had already spent nearly £40 million pounds of taxpayers’ money on culling badgers with no evidence that it was having any effect or would have in the future.”
 
“When asked our opinion on the origins of the culls and why they had been started,” continues Peter Martin, “we said the idea was based on a deep seated and misinformed opinion among many farmers and landowners that badgers were to blame for bovine TB and that killing them was the only solution. We pointed out that TB is a complex epidemiological problem and that a crude, indiscriminate cull was a rather grotesque, medieval solution that had somehow survived into the 21st century. The culls are in fact a costly and dangerous distraction from getting on with the real business of eradicating TB.”
 
“These meetings never last long enough,” concludes Dominic Dyer, “but we left Michael Gove with a lot to think about. We had the distinct impression he really wants to get to grips with the issue and make a difference rather than just stick to a failing policy that is causing more problems than it is solving. We ended by expressing serious concerns about how the culls were being handled on the ground with little or no supervision by the NFU or Police regarding firearms safety, the number of badgers actually being killed and some very worrying reports of violence by cull supporters.”
 
 
Sally
Bovine TB: There is no single solution, but the problem can be solved
 
Following the article by Patrick Barkham published in the Observer on Sunday 15th October, Brian May’s Save Me Trust has been swamped with enquiries.
 
We can confirm that the Save Me Trust is collaborating on a project on a Devonshire dairy farm, run by a dedicated vet, that many people now think could eventually bring about the end of the badger cull.
 
Dick Sibley already has high credentials in the successful eradication of Johnes Disease in cattle, and has now turned his talents to help a South Devon farmer who has lived with the frustration and heartbreak of successive breakdowns in his herd for many years. With an open-minded common sense approach - including enhanced testing and the systematic tracing of every source of infection, plus vaccination of the local badger population - Sibley is convinced that his regime will conquer bovine TB and already has results that indicate he is delivering.
 
This work was initiated after many meetings with the NFU. It has the support of DEFRA's Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens and Chief Scientist Ian Boyd, and Environment Minister Michael Gove. In addition, the project has approval from a number of top scientists in the field, including Lord John Krebs, and has found a key champion in Parliament in Bill Wiggins, MP.
 
 
With no improvement in sight for farmers after four brutal years of badger culling, this initiative has to give new hope for the future for any farmer facing chronic bTB infection in his herd.
 
The Save Me Trust is proud to work with farmers who are affected by this devastating disease. It has been a vertical learning curve for both sides. It shows that with common sense and commitment to the real enemy of bovine TB, both wildlife and farming groups can work together to solve a problem that affects them both. The badger cull has been a pointless exercise with zero impact on bTB seen or indicated after 4 long years. The badger cull is a financial failure that has divided the two sides that should be working together. This program is scientific, affordable, sustainable and humane.
 
Anne Brummer
 
CEO Save Me Trust
 
Sally
As an expanded badger cull gets under way this autumn, in which 33,500 animals will be killed, a leading vet, Dick Sibley, believes a Devon farm demonstrates a way to eradicate the disease in cattle – without slaughtering any badgers.
 
Sibley’s trial, at a secret location, was halted earlier this year when two new tests to better identify bTB in cattle were deemed illegal. But government regulators have now given the vet permission to continue. His work is backed by rock star-turned-activist Brian May, whose Save Me Trust last week began a four-year programme of vaccinating badgers at the farm against bTB.
 
The family that owns the farm, which has 300 milking cows, turned to Sibley in despair after being virtually shut down with bTB for five years. Because of the disease, their cattle cannot be sold on the open market.
 
Despite four years of badger culling, bTB continues to rise in England, and 30,980 cows were slaughtered in the year up to June in attempts to control it, an increase of 4%. Farmers, as well as wildlife campaigners, are increasingly critical of the cattle test for bTB, which misses many cases, leaving undiagnosed cows to spread the disease within herds. In 2015, 16% of English bTB “breakdowns” were only detected in abattoirs, after supposedly healthy cows had been slaughtered.
 
Sibley is pioneering two new tests. The phage test, developed by microbiologist Cath Rees of Nottingham University, uses a bTB-invading virus to “hunt” for the live bacterium. It is detecting bTB in cows on the Devon farm months before they test positive with the traditional “skin test”: 85 cows have tested positive with the phage test despite all being found disease-free by the conventional test.
 
Farmers then need to know if infected cows are infectious. For this, Sibley uses a second test, qPCR, developed by Liz Wellington, life sciences professor at Warwick University. It detects bTB in dung, showing if a cow is “shedding” – spreading – the disease. If it is, the cow is slaughtered even though the conventional test suggests it is healthy.
 
Both professors have given Sibley free use of their new technologies, and the tests have shown that supposedly healthy cows are the “hidden reservoir” of bTB on the farm. But Sibley said what farms need as well as better testing is better risk management and more resilient cows. “I’ve never cured a cow with a test,” he said.
 
The farm is an intensive dairy operation that keeps its cattle indoors once they are fully grown and milks them robotically – some cows produce 15,000 litres of milk each year. “If you don’t give that cow everything she needs, and keep the disease away from her, she will crash and burn,” said Sibley. “It’s just like athletes: if there’s a bit of E coli in the Olympic village, they all go down.”
 
TB – in cows as well as humans – is traditionally a disease of bad living conditions, so the farm’s barns are airy. There are fewer cows in each barn compared with a typical dairy farm, walkways are cleaned three times a day, and regularly changed drinking water is held in “tipping troughs” that are kept scrubbed clean. Dung falling into troughs is likely to be a key transmitter of the disease.
 
After studying each cow’s history, Sibley believes mothers often spread the disease to their calves at birth. The farm is combatting this by building a new maternity unit with rubber floors that will be disinfected after every delivery. Colostrum – the crucial first milk that boosts a calf’s immune system – is harvested from each mother but pasteurised before it is fed to each calf, so it won’t spread disease.
 
The Devon farmer admits he has been surprised by his success. “This test is showing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m excited that it could help us get clear of the disease and help other farmers in the future.”
 
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/14/badger-culls-could-end-tuberculosis-trials-new-test?CMP=share_btn_tw
 
Sally
Five Years On...The Pointless Killing Continues by Philip Mansbridge
It’s with an unpleasant sense of déjà vu that I write this, but for the fifth year running the time has come round again when the Government allows the killing of thousands of badgers, despite the fact that they’re supposedly a protected species.
 
The badger cull policy was designed as part of the Government’s strategy to combat bovine TB (bTB) - an issue that is leading to the slaughter of around 2500 cattle per month in England according to Defra. What the Government seems to have continually failed to comprehend, though, is that you could kill every single badger in the land and you would still have bTB. In honesty, with this year’s maximum badger kill target set at 33,000 badgers, as part of a cull which the Government’s own independent expert panel deemed inhumane, it makes you wonder if total badger eradication is actually their true aim?
 
Bovine TB is undeniably a complex issue. It causes devastation to farmers and is something that needs to be resolved. Aside from thinking about the way we farm and the way consumers ‘demand’ a high volume of dairy products at low prices, there are many many other issues over and above badgers in the bTB debate. Stricter control of animals’ movements and a better, and more accurate, testing regime are just some. Cattle vaccination is another.
 
What’s perplexing about this policy of killing pretty much as many badgers as physically possible with no end result, is that everyone knows this policy is not only cruel, barbaric and expensive (c£5000 of your lovely tax payer money per badger killed), but it is also pointless. The infamous Randomised Badger Cull Trial (RBCT) showed that, after 10 years, £50 million spent and over 10,000 badgers killed in far more controlled conditions those of the current cull, “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.”
 
So why oh why is this cull continuing? And why on earth has it been expanded so widely this year when previous years of killing have resulted in nothing but badger deaths, high cost and extreme levels of public anger. This year the cull expanded into Devon, Wiltshire, Dorset and Cheshire as well as the original zones in Somerset and Gloucestershire. As taxpayers, we’ve already funded the killing of around 15,000 badgers since this cull began and really we don’t want any more. No one does. This is just culling for culling’s sake. What’s more, this year’s target is measured solely on the number of badgers killed (a truly bizarre indicator from a scientific point of view) and no badgers are tested to see whether they even had bTB!
 
This cull is not only unbelievable, it’s unscientific, illogical and unnecessary. It’s also inhumane. Recent reports, highlighted on the front page of The Mirror, showed a badger left to bleed to death overnight in Devon. It had been cage trapped, ‘dispatched’ (aka shot at point blank) but hadn’t died. Instead it almost certainly suffered a slow and painful death. The badger was found at 1.20pm the following day, still warm, likely having very recently died and soaked in blood.
 
We must wake up to what’s happening here. This policy is politically motivated and brought about by key farming lobbying groups. It’s embarrassing for the Government to pull the plug now, but it’s more embarrassing for them to keep on killing.
 
If, like pretty much everyone in the UK, you don’t think pointlessly killing badgers at high cost with low welfare considerations is a good policy, then you can help. The good news is it doesn’t matter where you are - urban or rural. If you are in a badger cull zone then regular wounded badger patrols operate each night, looking for badgers injured in the cull and they desperately need your help. You can find out how to volunteer here.
 
Alternatively write to your MP and tell them that enough is enough and it’s time to back off our badgers and end this pointless slaughter, once and for all. Instead, we can focus on solutions that will work and actually help our farmers and our wildlife.
 
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/philip-mansbridge/badger-cull_b_18071936.html
 
Sally
From Lalla Bart-Greene. Natural England (NE) have admitted that they do not have the resources to in any way monitor what goes on. (and neither, have they delegated anyone else to do so). So instead of a lengthy document itemising the terms of the cull in quasi-legal language, they might just have well have scrawled on a scrap of paper - Go and shoot a load of badgers, however you fancy, wherever you fancy.' If you can't enforce the terms of a licence, then you should not issue it. Now we have a completely lawless free-for-all. If it was about disease control, then I think that following bio-security protocols would be pretty fundamental. I've just heard of a lovely, established complex of setts that is now being targeted in an area where there are very few badgers left, as they have been so heavily persecuted. These setts have been blocked by the hunt for decades - no doubt with the full permission of the landowners. Now these criminal landowners are killing the badgers in cull (though not actually in a publicised official cull zone - just what we shall call the - By Royal Appointment - zone). The setts are no where near any dairy complex. I have no doubt that - in common with many others in the area - the setts are being targeted by the local hunt - to save them the bother of blocking on hunt days. There is no longer even the pretence, that the cull has anything to do with disease control. And as this is now the case for all to see, this tragedy should be stopped right now. Of course, as there is no regulation, these monsters will not stop once the stated zone targets are reached. They will go on till they have killed all the badgers - thus leading to local extinction. What's to stop them? Not NE - that's for sure.
 
 
Sally
The Randomised Badger Culling Trial famously concluded that badger culling could make “no meaningful contribution” to bovine TB control. The scientists themselves warned the then Defra minister David Miliband that it might even make it worse since disturbance of badgers’ social groups could lead to infected survivors spreading the disease further afield. Miliband listened and, despite pressure from the National Farmers Union, said there would be no badger cull under the Labour government. David Cameron didn’t listen and, with pressure from the NFU, promised a badger cull in his winning 2010 manifesto.
 
Actually, the vast majority of badgers killed during the RBCT were disease-free and only 1.65 per cent of those with bTB were suffering contagious, late-stage symptoms. Perhaps this inconvenient truth is why the government has made the bizarre decision not to bother testing dead badgers. Who wants to produce more data against the badger cull, eh?
 
Badgers are also not the only carriers of bTB; farm cats are more likely to spread the disease. But most likely to spread bovine TB (sorry if I insult your intelligence here by stating the bloody obvious) are the bovines themselves.
 
In a rush to re-stock cattle herds after the devastation of foot and mouth disease in 2001, hundreds of thousands of cattle were moved around the country with no bTB testing and the number of cattle culled for bTB increased by 300 per cent in 2002.
 
Wales has managed to almost halve bTB in cattle recently without any badger culling, instead tightening restrictions on cattle movement, improving biosecurity and vaccinating badgers. They’ve also implemented more rigorous TB testing for cows as, alarmingly, the basic skin test used in England misses half of infected cattle. Elsewhere in the UK, an outbreak on the Isle of Skye last month put Scotland’s enviable TB-free status at risk. Broadcaster Simon King tweeted “Killing badgers is a tragic distraction to tackling the problem of bTB in cattle. There are NO badgers on Skye.”
 
Here’s maybe the most bizarre bit of the whole badger cull debacle – there isn’t a bTB vaccine for cows. And the government has delayed plans to develop one on the grounds of cost, while cracking on with the increasingly expensive badger cull. If I was a farmer, I’d be livid.
 
 
http://www.bigissuenorth.com/comment/2017/09/ali-schofield-badger-cull-load-bull/
 
Sally
 
Sally
Email from LG 11/9/17.
 
.... and all the killing is for for what?
Gov figures today show that bTB has only gone down very slightly in Somerset, it's gone UP in Gloucestershire by a far greater number than the drop in Somerset.
And it's increased massively in Dorset.
WHY ARE THEY KILLING BADGERS??
 
 
Sally
Badger Trust Condemns Continued culls as ‘political aggression’ and an ‘Insult to the Nation’s Intelligence’. How long before the badger becomes yet another common species that becomes rare due to human activity?
 
As the government’s badger culls enter their fifth year, wildlife NGO the Badger Trust has condemned the policy as “politically motivated’ and an “insult to the nation’s intelligence”.
 
“The government is simply pandering to its core voters in the farming sector,” says Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust. “No credible scientist has ever suggested that culling badgers will make any significant impact on lowering TB in cattle and there is now clear evidence the policy is failing badly. The government is simply imposing its will in an act of political aggression against both science and the will of the people. A 2014 ComRes poll found that 89% of UK residents want the badger cull policy stopped (see footnote).
 
 
“Over £40 million of taxpayers money has already been wasted on this policy, whilst recent research has proved conclusively that badgers actively avoid contact with cattle (see footnote). There is a collective failure in both government and the farming sector to recognise the true causes of the spread of this disease. It is down to excessive movement of animals through trading, poor bio-security and the continued dependency on the SICCT skin test which can miss up to 50% of infected cattle (see footnote).
 
As we have seen with recent TB outbreaks in cattle in Cumbria and on the Isle of Skye, we could kill every badger in Britain, but TB will continue to spread in cattle herds due to these failures in cattle control systems."
 
“The idea that indiscriminately shooting badgers without even testing them for TB will somehow ‘magically’ lower rates of TB in cattle is ludicrous,” comments Peter Martin, Chairman of the Badger Trust. “The government has no idea even how many badgers there are, let alone whether or not they are infected with TB. They also have no clear or effective method for monitoring whether the policy is working, yet their own published figures clearly indicate that it is not.” (see footnote)
 
“Shooting badgers has been condemned as ‘inhumane’ by both the government’s own independent experts (IEP) and the British Veterinary Association,” continues Peter Martin. “One former MP described it as “medieval” in a recent debate (see footnote). But it it’s also a disaster for cattle, Britain’s farmers and the taxpayer. Better Gamma Interferon testing is available and is extensively used in Wales where bovine TB is rapidly declining without culling badgers. This test is hardly used at all in England on cost grounds and its use is actually declining in the South West’s ‘high risk area’. Yet the money wasted on culling badgers could be used to pay for this right now.”
 
“The government has effectively abandoned British farmers and taxpayers to an indefinite future of ineffective TB controls and endless expenditure with no prospect of progress or resolution to the problem of TB in cattle,” concludes Peter Martin. “The whole policy is in urgent need of review by the new Secretary of State Michael Gove because the current one is an insult to the nation’s intelligence.”
 
Footnotes :
 
Defra has just announced the expansion of the badger cull today, Monday, 11th of September. 11 new zones have been announced this year in Cheshire, Devon, Dorset and Wiltshire. This will lead to the killing of over 30,000 badgers, bringing the total number of badgers killed since 2013 to nearly 50,000 badgers.
 
Research shows badgers largely avoid contact with cattle
 
http://www.nature.com/news/scientists-track-badger-cow-encounters-to-understand-cattle-tb-1.20378
 
Accuracy of SICCT TB skin test
http://www.tbhub.co.uk/guidance/testing-and-compensation/tuberculin-skin-testing/
 
ComRes poll results 2014
https://www.farminguk.com/news/Badger-cull-poll-Nine-out-of-ten-want-culling-to-end_31139.html
 
Dr Paul Monaghan MP describes badger cull as medieval
https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/environment/opinion/house-commons/79153/dr-paul-monaghan-mp-end-regressive-and-medieval
 
Defra TB stats to March 2017
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/629981/bovinetb-statsnotice-quarterly-19jul17.pdf
 
 
Sally
The badger is being used as a scapegoat. Know one really knows how many other creatures can carry/pass on bTB.
 
https://www.scribd.com/document/239549381/Earthworms-as-a-Potential-Carrier-of-Mycobacterium-bovis-in-Bovine-Tuberculosis-Transm...
 
Sally
Badger cull final year of four 2016 targets Somerset Low 75 Max 544 Supplementary low level cull targets for Somerset this year. Low 140 Max 610 Badger cull final year of four 2016 targets Gloucester Low 228 Max 642 Supplementary low level cull targets for Gloucester this year Low 160 Max 580 Hardly a light touch with Somerset higher. Judging by past years, targets are fluid, adjusted to how many killed. So what happened to George Eustice statement to Parliament in the Westminster Hall debate in response to Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP?https://hansard.parliament.uk/…/BadgerC…George Eustice, “To pick up on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds on the culls that have completed their four years, as I explained just before we suspended the debate, at the end of last year we consulted on having low-level maintenance culling to keep the population in check. That would very much be a small operation with much-reduced numbers—not like the culls we had for the first four years.”https://hansard.parliament.uk/…/BadgerC…Go to 19.20 in film to witness statement if you prefer. This not a policy originally described as: a pilot to test the safety humaneness and efficacy of free shooting. But definitely not for disease control. Morphing into a policy for disease control. Morphing into a policy to reduce numbers of the too many. But now it’s a policy of eradication. A policy that evades the legal protections afforded to a British mammal, put in place to protect it from practices such as this unjustified and cruel slaughter, as currently sanctioned by the very body that, until corrupted, was there to uphold its protections, Natural England. As a carrot of sacrifice with an unproven need when so much evidence now points in other but difficult directions: Inadequacy of testing reliability, cattle disease residue in the national herd, trade and farming practices that promote the disease. Issues like slurry, calf rearing, herd size, housing etc. We spend an awful lot of time and money concentrating on, researching and killing badgers, with no tangible effect, when perhaps we should be concentrating closer to home and the real problem, the farm cattle.
https://www.facebook.com/stop.the.cull
 
Sally
A very sad time for badgers in the UK. As expected the government has announced more badger culling. Interestingly n 2014 the government's own Independent Expert Panel (IEP) determined that the cull was cruel and ineffective - it was sacked for reporting these findings. Save Me says; 'Recent new research has confirmed the conclusions of the massive RBCT (Randomised Badger Culling Trial, 1997-2007) research document, which concluded that “culling badgers can make no appreciable contribution to the control of TB in cattle” and the government have been unable to come up with a single shred of evidence that the cull is actually working. Some sections of the farming community are now acknowledging that badger culling is a dead-end policy and are seeking solutions that directly address the transmission of the disease in the herd - this is now perceived by the vast majority of experts in the field as the real prime mechanism for the propagation of Bovine TB, not badgers. In the light of current knowledge, the governments' decision to press on with a policy which is already failing, while costing the tax-payer millions of pounds in wasted effort, is extraordinary.'
 
' After years of being told that killing badgers would clear up the disease in cattle, dairy farmers still face this heartbreaking scourge with insufficient support from DEFRA. To compound matters, the cruelty and inefficiency of the badger cull program has driven a wedge between farmers and much of the public, who see the massacre of British wildlife as both inexcusable and counter-productive.'
 
'It has suited certain agencies to paint a picture of our efforts at Save Me as obstructive to farmers, but we have actually been working for the past 7 years to try to bridge the gap between farmers, scientists and animal campaigners. The issues involved in the transmission of bovine TB are complex and interested parties have become highly polarised in their accepted wisdom. Rather than take a stance of belligerence towards the pro-cull faction, we have worked with all sides on a search for a viable solution. This culminated in the first bovine TB symposium in collaboration with DEFRA last March, in which top bTB experts from all around the world met and delivered talks. Opinion from all involved was that this meeting of minds greatly improved the chances of cooperation across the board and will hasten us along the path to a TB-free Britain. Among the results was an immediate endorsement by DEFRA’s Chief Vet Nigel Gibbons for highly respected vet Dick Sibley’s innovative project in Devon based on enhanced TB testing of both cattle and badgers. This is an initiative we have been proud to support and so far the results have been spectacularly promising in cleaning up a herd, without dealing a single death to local wildlife. '
 
'In our opinion, this alternative approach is currently the most exciting prospect of all. One might have thought that if there were any reasonable doubt that the culling policy was working, it would be put on hold while evaluation took place. In fact, there is much more than reasonable doubt – yet the policy grinds on, even though it is draining farmers’ pockets too; perhaps it is hard for those who have doggedly put their faith in this as a solution to admit that a change, of course, is needed. There is certainly growing consensus that the wildly inaccurate TB skin test is the villain of the piece.  '
 
'In the light of all this, it’s very disappointing that a further roll-out of this very unpopular policy has been rubber-stamped. The ray of hope is that our new Environment Minister, Michael Gove, who has a history of working with all sides to solve problems and is evidently unafraid of upsetting anyone, has committed to take a fresh look at the evidence with an open mind.  We will continue to seek the truth – and look forward to a brighter dawn for farmers, cattle and Britain’s beleaguered and completely innocent wildlife.'
 
Sally
Badger Trust Condemns Continued culls as ‘political aggression’ and an ‘Insult to the Nation’s Intelligence’
 
As the government’s badger culls enter their fifth year, wildlife NGO the Badger Trust has condemned the policy as “politically motivated’ and an “insult to the nation’s intelligence”.
 
“The government is simply pandering to it’s core voters in the farming sector,” says Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust. “No credible scientist has ever suggested that culling badgers will make any significant impact on lowering TB in cattle and there is now clear evidence the policy is failing badly. The government is simply imposing its will in an act of political aggression against both science and the will of the people. A 2014 ComRes poll found that 89% of UK residents want the badger cull policy stopped (see footnote).
 
 
“Over £40 million of taxpayers money has already been wasted on this policy, whilst recent research has proved conclusively that badgers actively avoid contact with cattle (see footnote). There is a collective failure in both government and the farming sector to recognise the true causes of the spread of this disease. It is down to excessive movement of animals through trading, poor bio-security and the continued dependency on the SICCT skin test which can miss up to 50% of infected cattle (see footnote).
 
As we have seen with recent TB outbreaks in cattle in Cumbria and on the Isle of Skye, we could kill every badger in Britain, but TB will continue to spread in cattle herds due to these failures in cattle control systems."
 
“The idea that indiscriminately shooting badgers without even testing them for TB will somehow ‘magically’ lower rates of TB in cattle is ludicrous,” comments Peter Martin, Chairman of the Badger Trust. “The government has no idea even how many badgers there are, let alone whether or not they are infected with TB. They also have no clear or effective method for monitoring whether the policy is working, yet their own published figures clearly indicate that it is not.” (see footnote)
 
“Shooting badgers has been condemned as ‘inhumane’ by both the government’s own independent experts (IEP) and the British Veterinary Association,” continues Peter Martin. “One former MP described it as “medieval” in a recent debate (see footnote). But it it’s also a disaster for cattle, Britain’s farmers and the taxpayer. Better Gamma Interferon testing is available and is extensively used in Wales where bovine TB is rapidly declining without culling badgers. This test is hardly used at all in England on cost grounds and its use is actually declining in the South West’s ‘high risk area’. Yet the money wasted on culling badgers could be used to pay for this right now.”
 
“The government has effectively abandoned British farmers and taxpayers to an indefinite future of ineffective TB controls and endless expenditure with no prospect of progress or resolution to the problem of TB in cattle,” concludes Peter Martin. “The whole policy is in urgent need of review by the new Secretary of State Michael Gove because the current one is an insult to the nation’s intelligence.”
 
Footnotes :
 
Defra is expected to make an announcement on the resumption and expansion of the badger cull on Friday 25 August. It is expected that nine new culling licences will be issued this year in Cheshire, Devon, Dorset and Wiltshire. This will bring the total number of culling licences to 17 and could lead to the killing of over 10,000 more badgers by early October, bringing the total number of badgers killed since 2013 to over 25,000.
 
 
 
Sally
Current data/evidence points clearly to cattle movement, none of it implicates badgers at all. Maybe the key to exposing the true route of transmission is through genotyping. Genotyping cattle and badgers is one of several components of the NI TVR project but the results won’t be available until 2019 at the earliest. However, Biek et al presents an interesting smoking gun, where badgers are the end host of bTB originating from local herds – see the genome sequencing map in Fig 2...
 
http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1003008
 
Genotyping is being used, e.g. to identify an animal imported from NI to identify the original source of the bTB in Cumbrian badgers, but we doubt if the government and others will choose to be transparent about the uncomfortable bigger picture that it may reveal with respect of direction of transmission.
 
 
Sally
Bovine tb in Cumbria.
 
The recent publicity surrounding the outbreak of bovine tb in Cumbria suggests that there is a link to locally infected badgers, in fact the farming press once again are baying for their blood.
 
I have seen nowhere that DEFRA, AHPA have given an honest explanation for the outbreak. Your epidemiology reports for the area quite clearly state that the origin of cattle being bought in is unknown to the purchaser until after the purchase and many are purchased from high risk areas, Ireland being one of them.
I understand that since 1996 cattle can be transported from Ireland without the need for pre-movement testing as it was not considered cost effective by DAFM. Northern Ireland only requires a clear annual herd test for export to GB except for post OTW restricted herds.
These factors coupled with a 4 year testing regime in Cumbria is high risk for introduction of disease.
 
It is high time DEFRA owned up to its failings with bTB control and provide the farming industry and media with honest information/ explanations together with sensible guidance for disease management.
Cattle vaccination is long overdue, it was quietly shelved to make way for badger culling and the removal of the Badger Protection Act.
DEFRA should be looking to replace the archaic,inadequate, unreliable SICCT with the PHAGE-RPA test, itself a DIVA test.
Adopting a scientific approach to disease management would be far quicker and financially beneficial to the taxpayer than resorting to the long term, ludicrously expensive situation DEFRA has created for itself.
 
I do not expect a standard reply. I am fully aware of bTB statistics and its implications for the taxpayer, furthermore, longterm, UK-wide badger culling will far exceed compensation paid to farmers as DEFRA's own cost benefit analysis has shown.
 
Linda Griffiths
SA43 2QT
 
 
Sally
Badger Trust Cymru Science and Evidence Event in Cardiff.
New BovineTB blood test and Badger study re-appraisal together point to new direction for bTB management in Wales.
 
The Badger Trust Cymru Science and Evidence Workshop and Public Meeting was held at the Cardiff and Vale College Conference Centre on 13 July 2017. Delegates from Academia, Welsh Farming, Veterinary Practice and Wildlife Groups and a wider audience at the evening meeting.
 
The afternoon Workshop with three guest speakers and nine delegates from Academia, Welsh Farming, Veterinary Practice and Wildlife Groups met to discuss three of the key Science and Evidence issues surrounding bovineTB. Lively informed discussion took place after each presentation.
 
Catherine Rees Associate Professor in Microbiology, Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham with Berwyn Clarke of PBD Biotec Ltd. are seeking to provide a more sophisticated bTB detection process using a PHAGE RPA blood test to find disease early and with more precision, potentially providing the answer to the bTB problem. Ref. 3
Cath presented an overview of her team’s progress to date and shared preliminary field trial results carried out at a Devon farm, which could transform the bTB testing regime in the U.K. and beyond.
Results indicate that the Phage RPA blood test detects bacteria in the blood long before the current skin test elicits an immune response and that bTB can be cultured from the blood of these animals. This enables the removal of infected animals at a much earlier stage thus reducing the spread of disease among cattle and wildlife.
Consultant Biologist Tom Langton, who is also head of secretariat for the European Communications Network Eurobadger presented, A re-evaluation of the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT)
Tom has reviewed, with the help of numerous experts, the findings of the RBCT, a £50 million badger culling trial, its ISG Final Report (ref.1) in 2007 and publications based on it.
His re-evaluation reveals, surprises in the raw data, assumptions that we now recognised as invalid or highly questionable and alternative modelling giving several solid grounds for concluding that proactive badger culling did not reduce Btb herd breakdowns at all
His work, lends serious consequences for the 2011 and 2014 UK government policy and strategy which rests almost entirely on the ISG report to justify badger culling policy.
 
Martin Hancox, a former member of the Consultative Panel on Badgers and Bovine TB presented an overview of the badger’s role in bovine tb. Ref.2
Martin provided an overview of cattle TB infection mechanisms and disease epidemiology that he believes should bring about the “death of the great badgers and bovine TB debate.”
 
He pointed to the costly mistake in the 1980 Zuckerman Report Ref.5 which failed to understand that cattle TB is primarily a respiratory infectious disease that spreads within herds by close prolonged aerosol contact.
 
-debunked the myth that the spike in bTB breakdowns attributed by the RBCT to badger perturbation actually occurred before the badger cull and was caused by 2 years without cattle testing during the Foot and Mouth outbreak. This rise also happened in both Wales & Norther Ireland despite no badger culls.
 
-referenced several studies using radio-proximity-collars which have shown that badgers avoid cattle both at pasture,in barns and farmyards. Ref 4.
 
At the public meeting the three guest speakers gave presentations on the same subjects to a wider audience followed by a lively Q and A. Over 40 people from as far afield as Sussex, Manchester and Pembrokeshire attended.
 
Both sessions were chaired by Steve Clark of Badger Trust Cymru who said
“This workshop was an excellent forum for a wide range of stakeholders to come together to review the latest science and evidence around BovineTB. The new blood test and Badger study re-appraisal together point to a new direction for bovine TB management in Wales.”
 
Notes.
1. ISG Final Report
2. Further information on Martin Hancox Presentation.
http://www.badgersandtb.com/index.html
3. Nottingham University Press Release.
Dated 31 May 2016 before the latest research presented at this event was carried out.
4. Examples of badger-cattle interaction studies.
https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/badger-cattle-interactions-rural-environment-implications-bovine-tuberculosis
 
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/05/bovine-tb-not-passed-on-through-direct-contact-with-badgers-research-shows
 
Notes.
1. ISG Final Report
2. Further information on Martin Hancox Presentation.
http://www.badgersandtb.com/index.html
3. Nottingham University Press Release.
Dated 31 May 2016 before the latest research presented at this event was carried out.
4. Examples of badger-cattle interaction studies.
https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/badger-cattle-interactions-rural-environment-implications-bovine-tuberculosis
 
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/05/bovine-tb-not-passed-on-through-direct-contact-with-badgers-research-shows
 
 
 
 
Sally
Bovine Tuberculosis; a closer look at the Science.
This Cardiff event followed the very successful format established in Oxford and Cambridge consisting of an afternoon Workshop with guest speakers and an invited group of academics, involved and informed practitioners and wildlife groups to discuss key issues and action points. Followed by an evening presentation to a wider audience.
 
Catherine Rees Associate Professor in Microbiology, Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham and Dr.Berwyn Clarke of PBD biotec discussed their work to provide a more sophisticated bTB detection process using a PHAGE RPA blood test to find disease early and with more precision. Potentially an answer to the bTB problem?
 
Bovine tuberculosis has spread and re-established over west side of England and is increasing in the central Edge area. The government 2038 trajectory for control is based on a slow gradual year-on-year decline. Huge and growing public finance is placed into compensation payments, yet bTB testing effort and cattle management methods cannot by design, rapidly drive down disease as in the past.
 
Government policy seeks to cull cattle and badgers but UK and Ireland have seen little progress over the last decade with this approach. Why is this and why are views and approaches so diverse?
 
Tom Langton, an independent ecologist and head of secretariat for the European Communications Network Eurobadger, discussed some of the key factors in badger culling trials in the UK & Ireland over the last 40 years. He looked at aspects of hindsight that might help break the current stalemate with bTB control.
 
Martin Hancox, is a former member Consultative Panel on Badgers and Bovine TB. He provided an overview of cattle TB infection mechanisms and disease epidemiology that he believes should bring about the “death of the great badgers and bovine TB debate.”
 
Catherine Rees is Associate Professor in Microbiology, Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham and with Berwyn Clarke of PBD biotech are seeking to provide a more sophisticated bTB detection process using a PHAGE RPA blood test to find disease early and with more precision. Potentially the answer to the bTB problem?
 
REPORT FROM TOM LANGTON
Having recently learnt a bit about the Phage RPA test at the London bTB Symposium, I have spent a bit of time looking at it and Catherine Rees and Berwyn Clarke have been kind enough to comment and help me with a ‘beginners guide’ to the subject. Below are some notes that I hope will help get us all more quickly into the subject, in advance of our next workshop in Cardiff. I take full responsibility for this and any errors…. But hope it proves useful.
 
Bovine tuberculosis has resurged since the 1970s across the beef and dairy industries in England and Wales rising more steeply in the 1990s. It is described by government policy in 2011 as a crisis. The standard SICCT tuberculin skin test (SICCT) has become better understood in recent years, but has limitations since the evidence indicates that it does not detect all infected animals. Because of this infected and infectious individuals remain within a herd after multiple testing and form a ‘hidden reservoir’ after a herd has ‘gone clear’.
 
Gamma interferon testing, used extensively in Wales, is more sensitive than the skin test but is less specific as
to exactly which disease is present and so it cannot be used as a primary screen. This test detects signs of infection due to an activated immune system, but cannot indicate what has caused this response. Used in combination with a positive
SICCT test, Gamma interferon is a good way to help find infected and infectious individuals within a herd, but farmers may have less confidence in this test due to the reported issues surrounding which disease is being detected (specificity).
 
Some basics
When a cow is infected by a bacterium, normally the immune system attacks and prevents disease by destroying the bacteria. This usually results in the bacteria being cleared from the animal’s body and the infection is fully resolved (cured). However, the bacteria that cause bovine TB have the ability to avoid clearance and instead can be become dormant or ‘latent’. Exactly where is not known, it may be tiny structures or granulomas in the lung or lymph nodes or perhaps somewhere else such as bone marrow as it circulates in white blood cells.As in humans, the bacterial infection is ‘contained’ but has the capacity to break out at a future date, often when health deteriorates for another reason, such as additional infection or stress. This situation is also seen in cases of human TB infection. To give a positive result with the SICCT test, a cow needs to be producing an active immune response. For bTB infection this is known to occur after first infection, but after that – during the ‘contained’ phase – the immune response is short lived and then returns to normal. Later on, if the infection breaks out, the immune response will go up again – and this can result in the infection being knocked back into the ‘contained’ state again – or will continue to increase if the infection goes on to become uncontrolled.
This pattern of chronic infection means that whether or not an animal gives a positive SICCT test depends on at what point in this cycle the test is performed and the same animal may not give a consistent SICCT test result. This is often seen in herd tests when cows may show a small reaction to the SICCT test but may not be big enough for it to be considered a ‘reactor’ (classified as Intermediate Reactors or IRs) but are then negative at the next round of testing. However such a pattern suggests that bTB is already in that cow.
 
Phage RPA is a test that uses a specific harmless virus that only infects the type of bacteria that cause bovine TB. Unlike SICCT and Gamma, this test can actually detect bTB bacteria in blood samples from cows and takes advantage of the natural ability of these viruses to efficiently find and infect its target host cells and multiply. Hence the method allows detection of very low density of bTB cells that could not previously be detected.
 
Work arranged by Dick Sibley in Devon in a large ‘closed’ herd with a long term bTB problem is focussed on SICCT unreactive individuals that produced a reaction to the SICCT test. It looked at the size of the ‘lump’ that is smaller than that produced by the avian TB injection (avian PPD) and classed as non-reactors for the SICCT test. For a dairy cow living to 7 years of age these animals now present a continuous risk of infecting other animals as they can switch to being bTB infectious at any point in their lives. This is reflected by the results in the Devon study where, of the 245 tests carried out on SICCT-negative animals, the phage-RPA test detected bovine TB in the blood of 52% of these and 16 went on to become SICCT-positive over the next 6 months. These results suggest bTB has become far more difficult to locate using the skin test than in the 1960s. The issue becomes – what do we do about these SICCT unreactive infected individuals – that appear healthy but that may go on to be infectious at any time and before they are SICCT detected? Live with bTB in perpetuity or remove them? This is where quarantine and use of the Phage-RPA blood test could be very helpful. The approach is the same for a beef farm based on a 2-3 year cycle vs a dairy operation with mixed ages.
One of the bigger issues in bTB management is the suggestion that bTB transmission between cattle is slow or rare. This thought was instrumental in thinking in the 1990s behind the RBCT experiment – looking for alternative sources of infection but was also re- stated by the Chief Vet during the bTB Symposium in London in March 2017. However another explanation of the pattern of infection would be not that cattle-cattle transmission is slow, but that SICCT detection of bTB infection when done on annual or less frequent testing basis may be slow to detect infection (Conlan et al. 2012).
Work that needs doing Phage RPA method has only been recently developed and therefore has been used in a limited number of tests. However the initial results indicate that the ‘hidden reservoir’ within a herd with a long term TB problem could be larger than previously thought and that breakdown of these animals into the uncontrolled state results in the reappearance of SICCT reactors. It may be that more animals than in the 1960s are bTB ‘carriers’ for a number of reasons;
-Animals that give strong response to the SICCT have been selectively removed/bred out and they are a smaller proportion of infected cows. -The genetics of cattle may have changed and depleted their ability to respond (see Amos et al., 2013; Waters et al., 2017) -Other new and spreading diseases (such as para TB) could be affecting the immune response detected by the skin test or repeat testing results in a lower response (see Coad et al., 2010).
 
Studies with Phage RPA have only been carried out on animals suspected to have infection based on the fact that the animals produced a reaction to SICCT. Tests need to be carried out on whole herds to understand the levels of undetected bTB in these herds. The potential for Phage RPA to allow the above questions to be answered is huge and is a contender for a massive breakthrough needed in the bTB crisis.
 
What is getting in the way?
Phage RPA It is not an authorised test – to become validated it must be tested using blood samples from naturally infected cattle, but in the UK this is not allowed using a non-validated test. There is a need for a properly undertaken, controlled trial to show the value of Phage RPA, g-IFN and SCITT both in intra-herd disease control and as a Quality check pre-movement. This might be achieved relatively quickly. The APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency, formerly known as the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, an executive agency of DEFRA) have been approached about collaborative studies but they have expressed concern about their involvement being seen to help validate a new commercial test There is also a concern that the level of SICCT-negative bTB animals in herds with a long term problem (initial results of up to 52%) may mean that it is costly to remove all ‘carriers’ because their numbers may be large and would require a new policy approach to achieve the 2011/2014 policy. However the current policy is unattainable under the current approach.
 
Implications
It is suspected that many infected herds have a high proportion of SICCT unreactive individuals with latent infection but this may not always be the case. With wider removal, this could be controlled and phased to help manage re-stocking as long as movement controls were adhered to although reduction in the national herd seems inevitable the aim would be to minimise this impact. Question ? How many herds have unreactive SICCT ‘carriers’ – is the national herd infected?
Would pre-movement testing with Phage RPA be the most effective intervention –cutting off bTB transfer between herds could make a big contribution.
 
The choices are :
-Use Phage RPA test and monitor accepting bTB is omni-present. ‘Learn to live ‘ or:
-Remove – progress a revised government policy for eradication in the light of the new findings.
- Badgers: The ‘hidden reservoir ‘ revealed by Phage RPA undermines the thinking in the 1990s behind the RBCT experiment and further indicates that culling badgers is futile under the current policy approaches.
 
Politics
Defra want to push towards vaccination because they realise that herd depopulation is unpopular and things have gone too far. Hence avoiding compulsory use of Gamma interferon (advice at present is only that it may be used privately) and so England lacks the kind of progress seen in Wales. Vaccination needs a DIVA test. [Note: Phage is actually, effectively a DIVA test]. Export industry is a very small proportion of total trade. Phage RPA offers the key to unlocking trade restrictions. Vaccination could be used creatively with Phage RPA. UK could regain bTB free status by fast-tracking Phage RPA..
 
References.
Amos, W., E. Brooks-Pollock, R. Blackwell, E. Driscoll, M. Nelson-Flower & A.J.K. Conlan (2013) Genetic Predisposition to Pass the Standard SICCT Test for
Bovine Tuberculosis in British Cattle. PLOS ONE 8, (3) e58245
Coad, M., D. Clifford, S.G. Rhodes, R.G. Hewinson, H. M. Vordermeier & A. O. Whelan (2010) Repeat tuberculin skin testing leads to desensitisation in
naturally infected tuberculous cattle which is associated with elevated interleukin-10 and decreased interleukin-1 beta responses. Vet. Res. 41 (2):14
Conlan A.J.K. , T.J. McKinley, K. Karolemeas, E. Brooks Pollock, A.V. Goodchild, A.P. Mitchell, C.P.D. Birch, R.S. Clifton-Hadley & J.L.N. Wood (2012)
Estimating the Hidden Burden of Bovine Tuberculosis in Great Britain. PLoS Computational Biology 8 (10) e1002730
Waters, R.W. M.H. Vordermeier, S. Rhodes, B. Khatri, M.V. Palmer, M.F. Maggioli, T.C. Thacker, J.T. Nelson, B.V. Thomsen, S. Robbe-Austerman, D.M.
Bravo Garcia, M.A. Schoenbaum, M.S. Camacho, J.S. Ray, J. Esfandiari, P. Lambotte, R. Greenwald, A. Grandison, A. Sikar-Gang & K.P. Lyashchenko
(201&0 Potential for rapid antibody detection to identify tuberculous cattle with non-reactive tuberculin skin test results BMC Veterinary Research 13:164TL
06/7/17
 
 
 
 
Sally
Science and Evidence: Bovine Tuberculosis; a closer look at the Science. is on Thursday at 18:30 13th July 2017 in Cardiff.
 
A free event:
 
Science and Evidence. Bovine Tuberculosis a closer look at the Science.
Illustrated Presentations and open discussions. Chair Dominic Dyer Badger Trust
What does the Randomised Badger Cull Trials data really show?
Tom Langton Consultant Ecologist
Martin Hancox Former member Consultative Panel on Badgers & Bovine TB
What next for bTB testing?
Prof.Catherine Rees Nottingham University
Dr. Berwyn Clarke PBD Biotech
 
 
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/science-and-evidence-bovine-tuberculosis-a-closer-look-at-the-science-tickets-35357920492?utm_sou...
 
Sally
WALES & ENGLISH POLICY MISGUIDED OVER TB
 
 
Extremely disappointing that Lesley Grifiths announced a new Welsh TB Policy on 20th June, following their 2016 TB Refreshed Consultation. Previously Dr. Glossop ruled out any widespread indiscriminate badger culls , because they do not work. So disappointing policy now includes a badger cull under the mistaken impression that they are the problem in Chronic herds. Their own data found only 40 TB badgers in 580 sampled, and a mere 154 out of 3504 sampled 1971-2016:- badgers have never been the problem, but a minor spillover from bad breakdowns.
Problem herds with repeat breakdowns or Chronic infection simply retain active spreader skin test negative cows .. and the magic bullet to sort this within weeks is very simply a different late TB test, ENFER, IDEXX Ab, or PHAGE-RPA. Is'nt it obvious that it would be worth trying these on a few of the 60 chronic herds, urgently rather than wasting time on costly badger culls which will have spectacularly no effect whatsoever !
( http://gov.wales/docs/drah/publications/170616-tb-eradication-programme-delivery-plan-en.pdf)
 
Yet more pursuit of political expediency way beyond the point of adsurdity . Alas poor scapebrock and misled farmers.
 
And what about England. With the Queen's speech out of the way (21st June), Michael Gove may well be advised by brain dead Civil Servants in DEAFRA that culls are a good idea, even though their own 2015 Consultation re-discovered the embarrassingly simple fact that Badger TB is " The greatest pseudoscientific hoax since Piltdown strode the Sussex Weald" . All the so-called Unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "Due to badgers" have actually been caused by Unconfirmed reactors which DO have TB, and caught in the preceding breakdown, absolutely nothing to do with badgers whatsoever
 
sincerely, Martin Hancox, ex-government TB Panel
 
 
Sally
Really good comments by Ian Doucet. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08wdj2j#play
 

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