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?
18 Apr 2013, 7:31 PM
According to a BBC report (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22141366) cruelty to badgers has almost doubled ahead of the proposed cull. The number of people prosecuted for cruelty to badgers has almost doubled in five years, new figures suggest.
The data, obtained by Labour MP Diane Abbott, showed 58 people were prosecuted in magistrates' courts under the Protection of Badgers Act in 2011 - up from 30 in 2007. The government said unlicensed killing of badgers was 'unacceptable'.
The figures, revealed by Ms Abbott in a parliamentary question, showed that prosecutions for crimes including badger baiting have risen each year since 2007 - with only a minor dip to 48 in 2010 from 50 in 2009. Speaking in Parliament, Ms Abbott said the rise was "alarming", stressing she believed "this kind of cruelty is barbaric".
"We've got to send the message out that this kind of thing is wrong. The laws are clear so we need to talk about why these incidents are increasing .... The problem is that some of campaigning on badger culling has given a green light to this kind attitude to our wildlife."
Responding to the figures, a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "Any killing of badgers without a licence is illegal and unacceptable. If anyone has any evidence of that occurring, they are strongly encouraged to report this to local wildlife crime police officers to deal with."
16 Apr 2013, 7:51 PM
BADGER TRUST LAWYERS CHALLENGE NATURAL ENGLAND
The Badger Trust has challenged Natural England  to justify its assertions that its massively-reduced estimates of badger populations in the proposed culling areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset would not impair the effectiveness of the Coalition’s culling policy.
A fresh population estimate is now essential because the continuing uncertainty completely undermines the likelihood of proving that 70% of the badger population in an area had been killed as stipulated by the Coalition.
David Williams, Chairman of the Trust said: “It was a disgrace that new data had been turned up so long after the policy had been decided. It should have been right in the first place. This muddle is scientifically inexcusable as well as politically humiliating for the Coalition.
Mr Williams added: “In October the numbers were considered too high for the farmers’ consortia to continue with killing. Now the estimates have been reduced, making it easier to claim the target had been reached. The cull was postponed last year because the Coalition claimed the surveys had produced surprisingly high estimates of badger numbers. Now that's all changed. No wonder we are asking whether these latest figures are any more accurate.
“If killings had gone ahead last year as originally planned shooters would have been trying to kill more badgers than now seem to exist. We understand an independent oversight panel has recommended yet another population survey, and our lawyers are asking for a copy of the advice under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
“None of the population estimates seem to have been obtained through a sufficiently consistent approach and we have absolutely no confidence that the latest are any more reliable than the two earlier ones, including those given to MPs by the former farming Minister Mr James Paice in 2011”.
Mr Paice said on October 18th: “We anticipate that about 1,000 to 1,500 badgers would be killed, as a total over the four years [of the policy], for every 150 sq km area”. A central figure of 1,250 per 150sq km applied to the two pilot areas, which total 567 sq km, would have meant the deaths of 4,725 badgers over four years. The next estimate, published in October last year, would have meant at least 6,632 kills in the first year alone, but the latest figures – threatening at least 4,937 deaths – show a marked drop.
 The full text can be viewed here: www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/816_S4.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,1EY2K,906LDO,4T3AU,1
8 Apr 2013, 8:01 PM
TELLING THE HALF-TRUTH, NFU STYLE, says the Badger Trust
8th April 2013 - Press ReleaseE
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) issued a poster repeating a list of disgraceful half-truths supporting the killing of badgers which it sees as essential in the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. It also omits reference to the cattle industry’s own shameful shortcomings over the last 40 years which have played – and continue to play – a major role in bTB spread.
It has only reluctantly adopted recommended biosecurity measures, resisted better testing, itself spread disease from the south west to the north after the foot and mouth epidemic by trading diseased cattle and continued to take animals to county shows. Some farmers have also ignored movement restrictions and swapped ear tags.
The poster proclaims (in bold italics):
We take action on TB in cows
The Badger Trust responds -- The cattle industry does not take action, except when forced to. The Coalition, faced with the loss of European financial support, is belatedly enforcing long-overdue controls on cattle movements and insisting on more frequent cattle testing in England. The NFU’s real attitude was revealed by the former NFU deputy president, Meurig Raymond as reported in Farmers’ Guardian on October 8th 2009:
“Our core concern is that without action on wildlife we cannot make progress towards eradication . . . The current policy measures are incomplete, and the NFU will never be able to give its full support to a plan which does not deal with all aspects of the disease.”
5.8 million cattle were tested in 2012 in England.
So they should have been. Annual testing, one of the elements of the previously successful Area Eradication Scheme, was rashly abandoned decades ago and is not yet universal as it should be.
133,850 cattle have been culled in England due to TB since the beginning of 2008.
There have been a fifth more herd tests (19.8 per cent) in England over these five years, clearly disclosing the devastating reservoir of disease in cattle themselves, in part the by-product of an ineffective skin test .
3,941 new outbreaks in England during 2012.
Four per cent rise over five years but 19.8 per cent more herd tests .
Badgers have TB, The Independent Scientific Group in 2007 reported that up to 1 in 3 badgers in disease hotspots have TB. TB has to be controlled in wildlife.
“Up to” is meaningless. The proportion of killed badgers was half that - one in seven killed in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) – 1,455 out of 9,919 or 15.8 per cent – and then in areas specially chosen because they had a high level of infection . Only 166 badgers were severely infected, and so potentially infectious. Also, killing badgers tends to increase the prevalence of the disease among surviving animals in UK conditions .
The report on the trial said: “. . . while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better. Second, weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection” .
£500 million - the amount it has cost the taxpayer to control the disease in England in the past 10 years. £1 billion estimated cost of TB control in England over the next decade without taking further action.
This is the cost of carelessness, lax attitudes to controls and even fraud. A substantial amount of the expenditure is in compensation to the cattle industry for lost stock. Action is now being taken thanks to EU pressure. The phrasing of the NFU’s assertion implies that the only “further action” lacking is killing badgers, which is nonsense.
£662 per badger - what it cost the Welsh Government to vaccinate each badger in 2012.
In England, the industry, not the taxpayer, will have to foot the bills. Cage trapping and killing badgers instead of injecting them is likely to cost as much as vaccination. The current cost-saving proposal of shooting in the open without trapping is seriously flawed, dangerous and possibly inhumane. Most badgers killed will be uninfected.
Badger vaccination has a role to play in the long-term control of the disease but it will not cure a badger that is already infected.
That is a statement of the obvious. The TB vaccine is intended to protect uninfected animals, not cure them. The vaccine can only slow the progress of the infection and reduce its severity.
Around 50 % estimated proportion of TB cattle breakdowns due to Badgers in hotspot areas.
Meaningless unless the NFU says who made this estimate and when, which areas were involved, whether the figure is for herd breakdowns or individual infections and whether the estimate had been scientifically validated.
New Zealand has seen a 94% reduction in TB since it started culling possums in the early 1990s.
New Zealand has a vastly different landscape and many millions of introduced possums against about 350,000 UK badgers at the last estimate. Control of possums has switched from widespread, draconian blitzkrieg-type operations including spraying poison from helicopters to targeted localised culling on forest/pasture margins in TB hotspots. This is more cost effective but the long-term solution for controlling TB in possums as well as badgers and cattle is clearly vaccination. Otherwise, the comparison with badgers, a native species with an important place in the British ecosystem, is baffling.
Note  Regional statistics
Note  RBCT report, page 75, table 4.9
Note  Ibid. Page 77 para 4.25
Note  Ibid. Page 5
29 Mar 2013, 7:00 PM
The badger cull 'will affect tourism in Somerset' says 'Visit Somerset'. This tourism organisation says that people will avoid Somerset this summer because of the planned badger cull trial planned for this summer.
Visit Somerset says people have claimed they will avoid the area because they object to the planned cull.
The organisation's John Turner said local businesses were worried trade will be affected.
A number of messages have been left on its Facebook and Twitter sites by tourists concerned about the issue, he said.
"We have to take these comments very seriously, and report it to the higher authorities in regards to potential economic impact," Mr Turner said.
He will be meeting Wells Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt to raise the issue with her.
29 Mar 2013, 6:56 PM
Chris Pachham, a leading zoologist and broadcaster has slammed the Government’s proposals for trial badger culls.
Chris Packham, best known for his television programmes including the BBC's Springwatch and Autumnwatch, suggested poor farm hygiene was the main cause of bovine tuberculosis.
He spoke to The Advertiser before appearing at the Ludlow Assembly Rooms in a show where he displayed his many photographs and shared his experience of conservation.
“If I thought the badger cull would deal with the problem of bovine TB then I would reluctantly say get on with it but it will not,” said Chris Packham, who added the controversial mass killing could make things worse.
“We have spent £1million killing 11,000 badgers. I accept that badgers carry bovine TB but so do deer and other animals.
“The main problem is cattle to cattle contamination and poor farm hygiene which is very bad in this country.”
He said that badgers had to die in their thousands as scapegoats for an issue that he accepted was a problem for hard pressed farmers.
The naturalist believes that the solution lies in a TB vaccine and the removal of a regulation that bans the sale of British meat in Europe where cattle have been vaccinated.
Information from www.ludlowadvertiser.co.uk/news/10321042.Badger_cull_can___t_halt_TB_spread_____Packham_TV_animal_expert_launches_attack_on_ Government___s_strategy_before_appearing_at_the_Ludlow_Assembly_Rooms/
29 Mar 2013, 6:52 PM
The British Veterinary Zoological Society has become the latest group of scientists to publicly question the government's policy of badger culling as a means of tackling bovine TB.
BVZS released a policy document this week in which the association said that it "does not believe there is currently scientific evidence to suggest that a targeted cull of badgers can contribute positively to the overall control of bTB in cattle, can be employed in a way that protects animal welfare, or is economically viable."
BVZS suggested in its policy document that the best course of action for both cattle and wildlife would be focusing on cattle to cattle transmission and biosecurity measures. The society made a series of recommendations based on "scientific evidence currently available." These recommendations include:
Cattle management methods both on individual farms and through control of movements between farms.
Better biosecurity to limit badger cattle interactions.
Badger vaccination and, when made available, cattle vaccination.
BVZS also urged the wider British Veterinary Association to "relook at its current position regarding culling, in light of the weight of current scientific thinking."
The group's declaration is the latest in a long line of pronouncements over the government's controversial policy. Although bTB is said to be a growing problem in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, opposition to government and industry's preferred method of TB control is widespread and the debate's profile is only increasing as culling in two trial areas of the South West looms ever closer.
In February, Durham University Professor Peter Atkins published the results of a study which, he concluded, suggested that badger culling would prove ineffective. He also questioned the "received wisdom that bTB would have stayed in badgers which weren't culled when [infected cattle were] and they then reinfected cattle stocks."
Professor Atkins said last month, "No one has yet proved definitively which direction the infection travels between species. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which ran from 1998-2006 indicated complex, interwoven patterns of infection and concluded badger culling was unlikely to be effective for the future control of bTB."
In October 2012, 30 leading scientists, including wildlife disease experts, wrote a letter to The Observer newspaper in which they stated their opposition to cull proposals and called on the government to rethink its disease control strategy.
On Thursday, Defra responded to BVZS by claiming that scientific opinion does support culling. A Defra spokesperson told Farming Online, "Independent scientific experts agreed that culling badgers in the right way can result in a meaningful reduction of new incidences of TB in cattle. Culling is just one part of our comprehensive TB eradication policy, including investment into workable vaccines, tighter cattle movement controls, and stronger bio-security on farms."
However, David Williams, chair of the Badger Trust, welcomed the BVZS announcement and criticised Defra's stance. He said, "The Coalition still attempts to claim that the cull is based on science. But they are at odds with almost every strand of independent scientific advice. How much longer can they pretend to have science on their side?"
Mr Williams accused the government of basing its strategy on "cherry picked" information from the Independent Scientific Group, ignoring ISG's key conclusions and delaying cattle management measures that would prove effective in combating the disease's spread.
He continued, "The Coalition constantly defends itself by saying it can't stand by and do nothing. But it has contributed massively to the problem by delaying much-needed improvements in cattle management [and] emphasising the need for biosecurity but not enforcing it."
Information from www.farming.co.uk/news/article/8141
29 Mar 2013, 6:47 PM
New research finds that cattle and badgers with TB rarely meet.
Direct contact between badgers and cattle is rare, suggesting that it may also be rare for bovine tuberculosis (TB) to be passed on through the two species meeting each other on pasture, new research by the Royal Veterinary College and the Food and Environment Research Agency published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection (Cambridge University Press) reveals.
Researchers investigated direct and indirect interactions between badgers and cattle by fitting automated high-tech proximity loggers to animals and placing base stations at badger latrines located on pasture, in an area of south-west England with a high-density badger population, over a period of 12-months.
Direct interactions (within 1.4 metres) between badgers and cows at pasture were very rare, with only four out of over 500,000 animal-to-animal contacts recorded between the two species.
Indirect interactions (visits to badger latrines) were far more frequent than direct contacts, with 400 visits by badgers and 1700 visits by cattle recorded. This suggests that indirect contacts might be more important than direct in terms of disease transmission at pasture.
During the study half of the badgers tested positive for TB, however the infection status of individual badgers did not affect the frequency or duration of their visits to latrines located on pasture grazed by cattle.
Bovine tuberculosis caused by infection with Mycobacterium bovis is endemic in cattle in parts of England and Wales and its control is hindered by the presence of infection in the European badger. While M. bovis is clearly transmitted between cattle and badgers, it is has not previously been known where, when or how often transmission occurs.
Dr Julian Drewe from the Royal Veterinary College who led the study, said: “Our findings reveal that direct contacts between badgers and cattle at pasture are surprisingly rare, despite ample opportunity for interactions to occur, suggesting that the two species may be ignoring or even actively avoiding one another. The study was conducted in an area with a high badger population, so it is likely that such direct contact will be even less frequent in areas of the country where there are fewer badgers.
“Indirect visits by both species to badger latrines were significantly more common than direct contacts between badgers and cattle, which suggests that these represent the more typical nature of interspecies contact. Future research aiming to quantify TB risk to cattle from badgers might be best to focus on indirect contacts occurring at latrines and on contacts occurring away from pasture, for example in farm buildings.
“This clearly has disease management implications, and more work is now needed in this area to look at how such contact can be limited, to reduce the number of cases of bovine TB in the future.”
Information from www.rvc.ac.uk/News/PressReleases/pr1303-cattle-and-badgers.cfm (Royal Veterinary College, University of London).
28 Mar 2013, 6:53 PM
'New Achilles Hell in Badger Culling Scheme', says Badger Trust in the following press release dated 28th March 2013.
Continuing confusion over badger populations in areas designated for killing them is the Achilles heel of the badger culling policy. It strikes at the heart of the scheme because proving the exact proportion of badgers culled is essential. Last October official estimates were almost twice those expected . A year ago Parliament was given an estimate of between 1,000 and 1,500 for areas of 150 sq km as a total over four years .
Now, Natural England, the body responsible for overseeing the proposed killing of badgers, has told the Badger Trust that DNA testing to verify populations costs £260,000, a significant increase against total forecast costs.
David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust said: “This confusion raises the question of whether we can trust anything the Coalition says as it twists and turns to justify the slaughter of an iconic protected mammal on an unprecedented scale”.
The new figures indicated that the minimum number of badgers to be killed in six weeks would be 2,081 and 2,856 in the two areas, a grand total of 4,937. The marksmen would have to kill at least 50 or 68 respectively on every night throughout the six weeks despite stringent restrictions on their methods. The Trust says:
1. Natural England claims the change of estimates does not imply any error in the original methodology, but the Trust says this is wrong. If the killing had gone ahead last year on the lower population estimate it would have fallen far short of the required 70 per cent kill rate needed for any chance of a small benefit in the fight against bovine tuberculosis. Also, badger populations vary considerably through the year because of high cub mortality during the early months, suggesting a need for even more surveys this spring.
2. The revised populations imply a massively increased task which jeopardises the cost calculations for a free shooting policy, the hoped-for cheap option for the livestock industry
3. The Trust understands the methodology could vary between the newly designated standby area in Dorset and those in Somerset and Gloucestershire, further undermining reliability of any population estimates. This would negate any claims that all areas had been treated the same way.
4. The Times  has reported that activists have removed hair from fences, disrupting the collection of DNA samples to be compared later with those from shot badgers to estimate the kill rate. This could upset the calculation of what population size the necessary 70% would relate to. This would also compromise any estimate of the proportion of badgers removed as well as increasing the likely enormous policing costs.
5. Continuing muddle about access to land and who is responsible for ensuring safety must be resolved, particularly if any of the killing areas lay in land controlled by the National Parks Authority.
Note  The former farming Minister Mr James Paice, told the Commons on October 18th 2011: “We anticipate that about 1,000 to 1,500 badgers would be killed, as a total over the four years, for every 150 sq km area”.
Note  The Times, March 27, 2013 www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article3704844.ece?dm_i=1NFN,1DPNQ,906LDO,4OO9N,1
20 Mar 2013, 9:59 AM
Press release from Badger Trust dated 19 March 2012 Culling: Coalition isolated as opposition grows
The British Veterinary Zoological Society has added its voice to the massive weight of scientific and public opposition to the Coalition's proposed badger cull, just weeks after Professor Peter Atkins, of Durham University's Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, concluded that a widespread badger cull will not solve the problem of tuberculosis in cattle .
"The Coalition still attempts to claim that the cull is based on science. But they are at odds with almost every strand of independent scientific advice," said David Williams chairman of the Badger Trust. "Public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed and outspoken opposition is certain to increase hugely once the abhorrence and the futility of the night-time slaughter becomes apparent."
Commenting on the disclosure that the BVZS, in a formal statement of policy on its website  has said it "does not believe there is currently scientific evidence to suggest that a targeted cull of badgers can contribute positively to the overall control of bTB in cattle" Mr Williams asked: "How much longer can the Coalition pretend they have science on their side. Month by month that claim is shown up for what it is --deceptive make-believe. They cherry pick bits of the 2007 final report of the Independent Scientific Group and ignore its key conclusions that cattle management, not badger slaughter, is the way to beat bTB".
That message was reinforced on October 14 of last year, he says, when more than 30 leading scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife diseases, announced publicly in a letter to the Observer --"We believe the complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it" and they concluded "...culling badgers as planned is very unlikely to contribute to TB eradication. We therefore urge the government to reconsider its strategy".
Said Mr Williams--"Opposition has come from all quarters: Natural England, the Government's own agency, initially expressed its reservations; the Conservative Party's Bow Group, representing all aspects of Conservative opinion, issued a paper urging the Coalition Government to reconsider plans; and in the Commons in a debate resulting from an E-petition --which has so far attracted over 177,000 signatures- where MPs opposed the cull by 147 votes to 28.
"The E-petition reinforces the decisive public opposition so clearly expressed in the response to the Government's initial consultation document and the continuing campaign by all the major wildlife and animal protection organisations, collectively representing millions of people."
Mr Williams added: "The Coalition constantly defends itself by saying it can't stand by and do nothing. But it has contributed massively to the problem by delaying much-needed improvements in cattle management. It emphasises the need for biosecurity but doesn't enforce it, largely ignores evidence that the skin test is allowing a significant level of disease in cattle to go undetected, and is now prepared to give the green light to the slaughter of thousands of mostly healthy, disease-free badgers not to reduce bTB but simply to try to justify an untried, unscientific slaughter method.
"It should call off the cull, give the new cattle measures a chance to take effect, and back a targeted programme of badger vaccination. But most importantly the Coalition Government should provide the political will to give impetus to cattle vaccination, which has to be the only ultimate solution.”
(1) Durham University News
(2) BVZS says it believes that there is a need to control the spread of tuberculosis (bTB, Mycobacterium bovis infection) in both cattle and wildlife and continues:"The weight of scientific evidence currently available suggests that this is best achieved through: * Cattle management methods both on individual farms and through control of movements between farms * Biosecurity to limit badger cattle interactions * Badger vaccination, and when made available cattle vaccination.
16 Mar 2013, 11:13 AM
Information sent via email from GL 16/03/13.
Cattle Vaccination is and always has been the obvious solution. It is over 100 years since cattle were first experimentally vaccinated for bovine TB. Why has it has taken so long to produce a vaccine? The Industry itself bears the blame for relying on a wasteful and gruesome, ‘test and slaughter policy’. They once claimed it would be the quickest way to clear the disease. Now they want to start killing the wildlife again. We cannot let this continue.
The average age at exit/death of a cow in the UK herd is just 6.6 years, making a vaccine even more viable. The following statement by CHAWG, (Cattle Health and Welfare Group) is quite useful.
Page 21, for example,
Quote, “240,000 cattle dying on farms of unknown causes” (BCMS) The whole annual report is full of useful information. They now admit that the breeding of cattle has concentrated on production rather than health for the last 30 yrs.
Also I think it may be possible to turn their claim (Defra) that no country has managed to control TB without first addressing the wildlife reservoir on its head. It is easier to say that, “Countries that have become obsessed with the issue of a wildlife reservoir have been the ones who have failed to eliminate bTB in cattle. Ireland for e.g. still killing 18,500 cattle in 2011 whereas Sweden and Scotland are free of TB without mass killing of wildlife.
Australia is an example they often cite and its time we hit this one on the head. Here I have noted the irrelevance of this particular idea .
Strictly speaking no actual wildlife reservoir ever existed in Australia. Feral water buffalo, (many still farmed for milk) were found with bTB in one area and these were eliminated.
Badger indigenous and wild Water buffalo feral , introduced and farmed
Australian cattle free ranging in many areas UK cattle fenced (usually inadequately)
Climate and environment. Very different
Water buffalo are cattle/bovines. Badgers are a totally different species and avoid
The will associate and free range with the cattle cattle as a rule.
They can attempt to breed with cattle Badgers do not breed with cattle!!!
Australia developed effective movement controls UK failed to control movement of cattle
15 Mar 2013, 6:17 PM
Press release from Badger Trust New Half Truth In Coalition Statement on Bovine TB
Yet another half-truth about bovine TB has appeared in a news release  by the Coalition Government saying that the number of cattle slaughtered in England went up by seven per cent last year without mentioning that 6.48 per cent more were tested . The detailed statistics reveal a similar pattern in Great Britain as a whole – 5.73 per cent more tests and 10.24 per cent more cattle found with the disease.
David Williams, chairman of the Trust, said: “Far from being a cause for concern these figures show that the more you test – as you must - the more TB you find in Britain’s national herd. This confirms the existence of a devastating reservoir of bovine TB in cattle themselves. Annual testing should be universal, and this was vital to the success in virtually eradicating the disease up to the 1990s .
“Any contribution made by wildlife has been shown to be small compared to that from cattle themselves. Killing badgers in particular can make no meaningful contribution to eradication and could make the situation worse .
The Defra statement calls for ‘urgent action’; Mr Williams said the increases in testing showed this was already being done. “Better testing has been lacking for 20 years while the cattle industry wasted time in pointless clamour for badgers to be killed”.
Seems police forces in Glos and Somerset, venues for infamous cull purported to be starting in June, have no money to 'police' the culls. There seems to be massive public opposition to the proposed shooting of badgers so once it starts and there are protests - and guns - not an enviable task for the police. Could be a massive costs - again - for the public purse.
There are reports that senior police officers have told the Government it will have to draft in private security companies to stop the planned badger culls being overrun by animal rights activists. The two forces involved believe the operation will be a “nightmare” and have told civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that they do not have the manpower to cope.
4 Mar 2013, 6:52 PM
Our neighbour, a dairy farmer, has been spreading slurry on his fields. He has been doing this over several days and several of his fields involve driving along the public highway. Notwithstanding the risks of spreading slurry on the land (I assume the mixture is from his herd - he has had bTB breakdowns for some years but is supposed to be clear at the moment - but then the test may not always be reliable?!). My concern is that when he has finished the field and is driving back the slurry still drips from the tank and it has coated much of the road - the whole length of the area he has travelled, about a mile. So, if there is any bacteria what a good way to spread disease - to other mammals, on vehicle tyres, on people's shoes (the area is popular with walkers and there are no pavements so people have to walk in the slurry.
I am sure this farmers cannot be the only one - no wonder disease spreads ...!
27 Feb 2013, 6:46 PM
Cull ill conceived and irresponsible
The Coalition’s decision to press ahead with two pilot culls –at a time when more new research has challenged assumptions about the badger’s role in bTB--shows contempt for public and scientific opinion, says the Badger Trust.
“Thousands of healthy badgers will die or be wounded in a night-time fusillade of rifle fire that will kill and wound and put members of the public at real risk,” says Badger Trust chairman David Williams. “And for what? At best a minimal reduction in bovine TB levels over nine years, a time span which could see huge advances in vaccination—for cattle and badgers—and the emergence of a scientifically validated bTB control mechanism.
“Owen Paterson has chosen in the past to cherry pick bits of peer-reviewed science in a vain attempt to justify his decision. He is now blundering ahead in the face of yet more research, this time from Durham University, which further undermines his rationale.”
Professor Peter Atkins, of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, has concluded (1) that a widespread badger cull will not solve the problem of tuberculosis in cattle. He says: “Badgers almost certainly play a part in spreading the disease, but my conclusion is that their impact over the decades has been far less than suggested.”
He goes on to conclude that bTB in badgers is a spillover disease from cattle rather than an endemic condition and probably does not persist over a long period. He contends the cull could even exacerbate the problem.
“Bit by bit Owen Paterson’s case for badger culling is falling apart under independent scientific scrutiny”, said Mr Williams.
“We see the slaughter of an iconic previously protected indigenous British mammal as a speculative, irresponsible, politically driven decision which will inflame public opinion and cause immense damage to the reputation of Britain’s farmers.
“We will continue to oppose this appalling decision by every legal means possible.”
(1) Durham University News
Press release from Badger Trust 27/2/13
14 Feb 2013, 6:52 PM
According to an article in the Northern Echo (www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/10228969.Badger_cull_will_not_solve_bovine_tuberculosis_problem_in_cattle__Durham_University_ study_claims/) experts from Durham University say a widespread badger cull will not help re bTB. The study results were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection
Prof Atkins said “bTB has been around for several hundred years and appears to have become more prevalent here in the UK because of the intensive cattle breeding and farming from the 18th century onwards.
"It is an airborne infection generally, so if cattle were confined without much ventilation, the disease inevitably spread.
"We think the peak of bTB probably was in the middle or late 19th century, with perhaps as much as 80 per cent of cattle then infected in some counties.”
Prof Atkins said that after World War Two, bTB fell dramatically because of a policy of slaughtering all cattle that tested positive and herds were free of the condition by 1960.
“It is very probable that other animals did and do carry TB including badgers and deer, but cattle-to-cattle transfer is likely also to be an important factor," he said. "For example, only one out of nearly 400 badgers killed in road accidents in Cheshire over two decades tested for the disease turned out to be positive.
"This goes against received wisdom that bTB would have stayed in badgers which obviously weren’t culled when the cattle were in previous decades and they then reinfected cattle stocks.
"But this interspecies transference seems unlikely to have occurred on the necessary scale.
“Furthermore, no one has yet proved definitively which direction the infection travels between species. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which ran from 1998-2006 indicated complex, interwoven patterns of infection and concluded badger culling was unlikely to be effective for the future control of bTB.”
Professor Atkins believes bTB in badgers is a spillover disease from cattle rather than an endemic condition and probably does not persist over lengthy periods.
And he believes a cull could even make the problem worse: “When badgers are disturbed, they seem to perceive they are being attacked and move from their original area by a kilometre or more and join other badger groups, which spreads the disease ..
12 Feb 2013, 4:44 PM
On Tuesday 12 February the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee will hold the first evidence session of its inquiry into vaccination of badgers and cattle against bovine TB. The first part of the session will primarily focus on the effectiveness of the injectable BCG vaccine for badgers and the work FERA are undertaking under the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project (BVDP) in Gloucestershire. The Committee will then question the AHVLA on the development of a cattle vaccine, its likely effectiveness and cost, and the timescale for the availability of both the vaccine and DIVA test. The development of an oral vaccine for badgers will also be discussed. In the final part of the session the Committee will question the AHVLA about the Schmallenberg virus.
Details of the session are as follows: Tuesday 12 February 2013, 2.45pm, Room 16, Main Committee Corridor Bovine TB vaccination At 2.45pm Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) Dr Gavin Wilson, Team Leader Dr Steve Carter, Senior Scientist At 3.30pm Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) Professor Glyn Hewinson, Chief Scientist Schmallenberg At 4.30pm Professor Glyn Hewinson, Chief Scientist, AHVLA Professor Trevor Drew, Lead Scientist for Virology, AHVLA Alick Simmonds, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra More information about the inquiry can be found on the Committee’s website www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/inquiries/parli ament-2010/bovine-tb-vaccine/
5 Feb 2013, 5:35 PM
An interesting report, Bovine tuberculosis and badgers in Britain: relevance of the past', by Atkins PJ, Robinson PA. Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham, UK (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23347609)
If, as mentioned in the report, 'epidemiologists and ecologists are mistaken and that bTB in badgers is a spillover rather than an endemic disease' then the badger is no more relevant than any other mammal that can (and does) get bTB.
Abstract SUMMARY The European badger (Meles meles) has been identified as a wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis and a source of transmission to cattle in Britain and Ireland. Both behavioural ecology and statistical ecological modelling have indicated the long-term persistence of the disease in some badger communities, and this is postulated to account for the high incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle across large tracts of England and Wales. This paper questions this consensus by using historical cartographic evidence to show that tuberculosis in cattle had a very different spatial distribution before 1960 to the present day. Since few of the badgers collected in road traffic accidents between 1972 and 1990 had tuberculosis in counties such as Cheshire, where the disease had until shortly before that been rife in the cattle population, the role of badgers as reservoirs in spreading disease in similar counties outside the south-west of England has to be questioned.
30 Jan 2013, 10:15 AM
The 'Bovine TB Eradication Programme IAA Badger Vaccination Project Year 1 Report' by the Welsh Assembly has just been published and can be read in full at:
Of course many will ask the question - 'If badgers can be vaccinated, why can't we vaccinated our cattle?'
The conclusions of the report are below:
The Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer considers that the first year of this project was successful in meeting the objective to trap and vaccinate as many badgers as possible within the IAA. The confirmed number of badgers caught and vaccinated is 1424, which was achieved without incident or injury during one of the wettest summers on record. Solid project management and the dedication of the entire team contributed to this outcome.
This year's success depended on the co-operation of landowners and occupiers granting access to land to set traps and vaccinate captured badgers.
Round 9 which was undertaken in November, covered a smaller area than previous rounds and resulted in proportionally fewer badgers being trapped. The lower trapping rate is likely to be due to the extremely poor weather conditions experienced during November and the fact that badgers become less active during winter months.
The variance in capture rates across rounds may be due to several contributing factors, including varying badger density, time of year and size of areas trapped.
During 2012, the project delivered badger vaccination in areas that had been surveyed in 2010. It is intended to expand the project where possible into previously un-surveyed areas to further increase coverage in future years. Increasing the duration of a cycle of work and increasing the number of field operatives will also be considered to ensure vaccination can be delivered over a wider area.
It is difficult to make inferences based on a single year’s data, but as the project progresses there should be increased scope to interrogate the dataset and reach meaningful conclusions.
18 Jan 2013, 6:32 PM
According to a study, carried out by a team from Bangor University, the University of Kent and Kingston University, about one in 10 livestock farmers in Wales has illegally killed a badger recently.
The study involved a "randomised response technique" sometimes used to find out about illegal or controversial subjects. The survey was carried out between June and September 2011 at five major agricultural shows and 12 farmers markets across Wales. The findings suggest about 10% of farmers had killed a badger in the 12 months before they were approached. The figure rose to 14.5% among those who farmed cattle.
The researchers believe the findings are important because of concerns that killing a relatively small number of badgers in an uncontrolled way can increase the spread of bovine TB, as infected badgers move on when social groups are disrupted.
Paul Cross, from Bangor University's school of environment, natural resources and geography, said he believed the results of the survey were important.
"The proportion of farmers estimated to have killed badgers should be considered by policymakers and in the wider debate," he said. "Intensive badger culling is one approach being considered by policymakers in an attempt to control the spread of tuberculosis in cattle. However, studies investigating the effects of badger culling on TB outbreaks in cattle have not factored in the prevalence of illegal badger killing, and its potential to spread disease."
The scientists were interested that sheep farmers, whose animals are not affected by bovine TB, also appeared to have killed badgers. The research paper said: "The finding that 6.7% of sheep-only farmers reported killing badgers is intriguing as there is no explicit reason for such behaviour. It may suggest a background level of badger-killing for sport, or that farmers have a collective sense of responsibility to control badgers, particularly in regions where sheep and cattle farms share boundaries."
Info from: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/17/livestock-farmers-kill-badgers-study
26 Dec 2012, 1:21 PM
Letter, dated 24 December 2012, by Dave Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust:
As we move towards the New Year I’m writing to briefly update you on our plans for 2013. Put simply, we fight on. Clearly it will be a difficult year with the Coalition apparently adamant that the postponed culls will go ahead. There are rumours—and that’s all they are at present—that the pilot culls may be switched to other areas, but there is little point in speculating why that might happen until we have positive news, one way or the other. Legal action remains the most promising line of attack to stop the culls ever taking place and we will continue to explore every viable option. We stopped the proposed Welsh cull in its tracks and as you know the new administration in Wales has opted for vaccination rather than slaughter. That solution remains the best long-term way forward for the remainder of the UK, with cattle vaccination the ultimate weapon against this insidious disease. The Government attempts to justify a badger cull with the fatuous statement that “to do nothing” is not an option. No, of course, it isn’t, but a massive costly non-selective counter-productive slaughter of mostly healthy badgers isn’t the answer, either.
Using the ISG’s 2007 final report, in which it analysed the findings of 10 years of peer-reviewed research, we have argued consistently that until there is a cattle vaccine bTB will be brought under control only when farmers and the farming industry are forced to adopt much more rigorous disease control procedures. Belatedly the Government introduced some new measures in 2012 and more will take effect in 2013. Those measures should be allowed to take effect and the badger cull should be shelved. Remember, the Government’s best forecasts only claim a reduction in bTB spread of 12-16 per cent over NINE years. Self evidently badgers are NOT the main problem. The scientific case for a badger cull remains weak, so with the help of scientific advisers, and the support of other organisations in Team Badger and the Badger Protection League, we will continue to expose the myths and half truths that prop up what we see as a politically driven campaign and we will continue to highlight every strand of new research that strengthens our case for a cure rather than a cull.
Our case against the cull is built on three powerful platforms: the law, science, and public support. All will be crucial in 2013. In the months since our judicial review to stop the culls was turned down we have continued to explore all current legal options, and I attach with this note a letter from our legal team which summarises the latest exchange of letters with Natural England and with Defra and you will see that we continue to question and challenge them on every point of detail.
As we move ahead, your support and encouragement remains vital. We are, after all, your voice. All of us at the Badger Trust have been heartened by the encouragement we have received so consistently. It motivates us to battle on. Rest assured we will do all we can to save the badger and bring the scourge of bovine TB under control. It won’t be easy. But we won’t give up.
26 Dec 2012, 10:50 AM
Interesting story in the Guardian on 11 November 2012. 'The truth about bovines, badgers and the spread of TB'. It tells us that convention held that humans had caught tuberculosis from cattle – but the DNA record apparently tells a different story.
As the ex-Defra Field Manager running the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) in the South West, I feel well qualified to make recommendations as to the best way forward if a cull is to be acceptable by the general public, including the Badger Trust and its many allies. Firstly, unless land owners are convinced that only, and I mean only, infected badgers are being removed from their land they will never participate in any trial willingly.
I had the task of visiting all those who refused to participate in the RBCT. The common theme was – "unless my badgers are infected you can’t touch them." No amount of cajoling would change their stance.
In February 2010, I met with a minister and other interested parties at the Enigma Diagnostics HQ in Porton Down. There we discussed the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology as a way forward in combating the disease. We were all totally sold on the idea as it would keep all factions happy if it were introduced. Sadly, since then, the idea seems to have fizzled out for whatever reasons. It is now time to resurrect that interest and to introduce it, on a trial basis, as a way forward in combating the disease.
As an aside, we were then told that in 2010, there wasn’t enough time to undertake PCR trials as the farming industry wouldn’t entertain the idea of waiting for a solution. They were after a “quick fix”. Here we are, 30 months later, still without an effective tool to combat bovine TB ! How ironic !
I understand that Warwick University have been working on PCR technology for some time with increasingly encouraging results. Surely, by cage trapping badgers, testing their blood/sputum/urine/faeces using PCR, backed up by a blood test, we would have a viable live time, in-field test that could be rolled out fairly quickly? Reactor and field mapping, such as was used in previous culling operations could closer target the use of PCR on infected setts.
Imagine being able to identify the infected badgers and removing them from the countryside, combined with the vaccination of “clean” badgers before releasing them back into the wild – what a way forward for all concerned !
I was involved in the Live Testing trials (of badgers) in 1994/5. The test was dropped as it wasn’t accurate enough to move forward with. When we did find infected badgers we culled them and all the occupants of the setts they came from. Using PCR would facilitate similar action being taken.
You may be aware that the Alpaca TB Support Group have already commissioned the trial use of PCR technology on dead alpacas, diagnosed by postmortem and culture with tuberculosis? Their results to date have been more than encouraging, with an over 80% detection rate. The second phase results on animals with less advanced lesions, are also encouraging. If this small group can do such a trial on a shoestring budget, surely a larger project, publicly funded, could be trialled using badgers instead of alpacas ? If Public funding wasn’t available, levy a TB tax on every animal passing through our livestock markets to raise enough cash to fund it.
DEFRA will never win over the general public with a mass cull of badgers. The fact that 84% of those which we were able to trap and cull during the RBCT were on postmortem, not lesioned, is too fresh in their minds and will always be used as ammunition to fight any 'area' type cull. If you really want to win the public over, go down the PCR route combined with vaccination. Do not let FERA or DEFRA deliver the trials as they can be done more cheaply and efficiently using Contractors. To me it is a no brainer !
I am always happy to input my thoughts into any trial that may occur in the future, in the best interests of farmers, badger lovers and the general public.
Paul Caruana Ex-Defra Field Manager (Polwhele) Paul is now a director of Field Services South West Ltd.,
12 Dec 2012, 6:11 PM
“[We] don't know about our "veterinary leaders", but the oath we took on qualifying was that it would be “my constant endeavour to ensure the welfare of animals under my care”. We remember no oath of allegiance to the Government of the day, trade in animal products or money. We wonder whether it is time the veterinary profession split into those who genuinely care for the health and welfare of animals, and those for whom butchery and massacre are the tools of first resort.” - McGill et al., Vet Times Nov. 19.
The debate around badger killing continues to rage within the British veterinary press. Government plans to shoot badgers were recently supported in the Veterinary Times by the Presidents of the British Veterinary Association and the British Cattle Veterinary Association.
However, a growing number of vets are coming out against the culling proposals. Letters are being published in veterinary journals, and a group of nine vets have provided a succinct summary of the key welfare problems in a letter to the government. And they also have a Facebook page (with links to the various letters sent) for veterinary professionals opposed to the badger cull. http://www.facebook.com/VetsAndVetNursesAgainstTheBadgerCull
12 Dec 2012, 6:06 PM
More news on this from the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_9777000/9777131.stm).
Crossbench peer Lord Krebs, a leading expert on bovine tuberculosis, has called on the government to 'review all the options' to control the disease, ahead of a proposed badger cull next summer. He was speaking during oral questions on 11 December 2012.
Lord Krebs wanted to know how the success of the trials would be judged, and whether the government would look again at the different options.
He told peers: "Not even the most optimistic proponent of culling would consider that it is a credible strategy for eradication of this dreadful disease."
His view was supported by Leader of the Opposition Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, who insisted there was still no "scientific, economic or moral" basis for culling.
Labour peer, Lord Hoyle, had tabled the original question, saying that scientific evidence over 10 years shows killing badgers makes 'hardly any difference' to tackling the disease. Lord Hoyle went on to urge the government to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly, and opt for 'vaccination over elimination.'
But Environment Spokesman Lord De Mauley said that while the government wanted to use vaccinations for cattle and badgers, there were currently 'practical problems' with this approach.
12 Dec 2012, 5:44 PM
Labour’s Lord Hoyle said scientific evidence suggested the killing of badgers would make no difference to the problem, with some 'eminent' scientists arguing it could make it worse.
“In view of that will you now follow the policy of the Welsh Assembly and decide on a policy of vaccination, rather than elimination?” he demanded at question time.
Lord de Mauley said he disagreed on the science but that the Government was investing in extensive research, though there were “practical difficulties” with the injectable vaccine, including trapping, cost and annual repeat.
Independent crossbencher Lord Krebs, who carried out a scientific review of the bovine TB issue in the 1990s and has been critical of the Government’s move, asked how the success or failure of the two pilots would be judged.
“Is it not right that the Government should take the opportunity between now and next summer to review all the options for controlling TB in badgers – bearing in mind that not even the most optimistic proponent of culling would consider it is a credible strategy for eradication of this dreadful disease,” he said.
The minister told him that an independent panel of experts would oversee the two pilots to test assumptions about the humaneness and safety of the culling plan.
Information from: www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Abandoned-badger-culls-cost-Government-1-15/story-17566318-detail/story.html