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?
27 May 2013, 3:35 PM
Politicians are hell bent on continuing with a sustained cull of badgers that is not science-led, whatever the consequences and cost.
According to the Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/10081604/Badger-cull-could-last-25-years.html) the cull could last 25 years and see 100,000 badgers killed.
The intention is to roll out culling over Britain with 40 cull zones over the next four years. The next county where a cull will be carried out is Dorset. After that culls could happen in Devon, Cornwall and other areas of the West Country.
Last week, Lord Krebs, now Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, described the imminent culls as "crazy" and suggested they were motivated by politics rather than science: "The main thing here is transparency. So if politicians are trying to say that the science supports what they are doing when it doesn't, then that is unacceptable."
27 May 2013, 3:12 PM
despite the lack of any proper scientific back up the current government are hell bent on continuing with the cull and are already making plans to expand culling into other areas. Such is the public opposition it is inevitable that the police costs are escalating, tourism will be hit, and the integrity and reputation of all farmers is plummeting. Sadly political expediency, led by a farming union that is disproportionately powerful compared to its membership numbers is seen to reign supreme over public opinion.
The current government, pushed on by the NFU, is intent on killing badgers and cattle at any cost, and not resolving the Bovine TB problem (yet another 20 years of killing is estimated). Don’t blame all farmers. Many of those in power pushing for culling are not typical working farmers, but people on a mission to gain a free hand to decimate badger populations. They do not want the badger to remain a protected species and want as many as possible killed. We are already witnessing increased persecution of the species by mindless thugs.
27 May 2013, 3:03 PM
As far as I can see none of badgers killed during culling will be tested for bTB - so how can they possibly know how rife the disease is in this species and if it was worth all the costs involved, not to mention the public outrage.
Maybe the powers that be are worried that if they did check for signs of TB the results would show very little signs of disease?
27 May 2013, 2:53 PM
What hypocrisy! Bill Harper, a Devon farmer and chairman of the National Beef Association's TB group, is reported (in This is Cornwall (http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/hard-years-culls-control-bovine-tuberculosis/story-19102836-detail/story.html#axzz2UV4yOSYL) as saying, clearly about the proposal to cull badgers,
"TB is a disease of overcrowding and poor conditions and this is about getting to a population density that can live healthily," he added.
From what I see from my visits to farms, particularly intensive systems, many cattle live in over crowded and poor conditions!
23 May 2013, 5:54 PM
The Badger Trust too was quick to respond (Press Release dated 23/05/13) to the press briefing comments.
BADGER CULLING – SCIENCE LED BY PROPAGANDA
Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor, and Mr Nigel Gibbens, Chief Veterinary Officer of Defra gave a briefing on Tuesday May 21st about the Coalition’s plans to kill badgers in England. It was to be “of most use for journalists new to the policy or in need of a refresher”, but the Badger Trust says it was a rehash of cattle industry and government propaganda.
The most telling part of the presentation was a chart showing how the number of cattle slaughtered because of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in England since 1959 had been all but conquered by the late ‘60s without killing any badgers. Prof Boyd and Mr Gibbens also implied that protection of “the most significant wildlife reservoir of the disease” was a problem, yet this success could not have been achieved if there had been such a reservoir.
They claim that legislation to protect “the most significant wildlife reservoir of the disease, the Eurasian badgers” was a “driver”, yet the first Badgers Act was passed five years after the massive post-war reduction from 25,000 had levelled out at about 2,000 a year, and there was no significant increase following the Act until the 1990s.
Despite subsequent scattered culling operations the number of slaughtered cattle continued within a range of 513 to 1,666 for almost 20 years up to 1993.
The presentation also noted the reduction of bovine TB in Ireland following the snaring of badgers from 30,000 to 17,000 up to 2010, but failed to mention that there had been an equivalent reduction in Northern Ireland where no badgers were killed.
Prof Boyd and Mr Gibbons included the much-repeated statement that no other country that had solved its TB problem has done so without also solving it in the wildlife reservoirs such as Ireland and New Zealand. But neither country has removed the disease altogether and the UK did just as well 50 years ago and without killing wildlife.
The presentation also referred to a trial in Thornbury, Gloucestershire in the ‘70s as providing “supporting evidence” while not a “robust experimental trial”. In fact the study was not set up as an experiment: it included only one culling area and no matched control. There was also some background variation in historical incidence in the trial area and another area nearby “used for comparison” . (Para 5.77) Crucially, Prof Boyd and Mr Gibbons acknowledged that the more a culling policy deviated from the conditions of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial the more likely the effects of that policy would differ. Yet the method of killing currently proposed does deviate, the areas chosen do deviate, and the duration of culling deviates too.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust said: “This culling policy is supposed to be science-led. In fact this presentation demonstrated to the media that science is being led by the farming industry and government prejudice”.
23 May 2013, 5:52 PM
In a press briefing on Tuesday, journalists were told by Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Nigel Gibbens, Defra's chief veterinary that bTB is out of control across the West country.
They explained culling badgers – which spread the infection – would prevent more cattle becoming sick than by deploying vaccinations? They also defended the negligible, alleged 16% reduction figure plucked out of the air as the percentage reduction in the disease resulting from culling. Using typical scaremongering tactics they warned of a future potential threat to human health if the march of TB is not checked. This is contrary to the latest report, 'Zoonotic Mycobacterium bovis-induced Tuberculosis in Humans ' that basically says that the global impact to human health of bovine TB is pretty small everywhere (even where there is no control)! Gibbens did admit that TB as a serious health risk to humans had been 'largely been dealt with by the introduction of meat inspection and pasteurisation of milk'.
Boyd, pointed to official figures contrasting 235 cases of TB in 1986 to 28,000 last year, said: "We had bovine TB under control in the early 1980s. And essentially we've lost control of this disease in the UK, and particularly certain parts of the UK."
More scaremongering as he warned that "in ten years' time we will have double the problem we have at the moment" and "We also will have a TB epidemic in the countryside that is uncontrolled. That is something we need to take extraordinarily seriously."
Boyd concluded: "The current direction of travel is not tenable in the long-term. We have to try to do something to get this disease under control." Yes, surely we can do that using vaccination!
18 May 2013, 8:49 AM
TIME FOR BADGERS - Press Release from Badger Trust dated 17/05/13
The Badger Trust is to host a unique event at Secret World Wildlife Rescue in Somerset on Sunday 19th May. A helicopter is to film a short advertisement to be put on the Badger Trust and Secret World websites and be uploaded to U-tube. It will be released late next week and is completely different from anything the Trust has ever done.
The reason is that to date the Coalition Government has steadfastly failed to listen to:-
• More than 217,000 + people who have signed the e-gov petition, where the signatures continue to increase. • Over 30 independent scientists signed a letter printed in the Observer which cast doubt on the outcome of the pilot culls. • A parliamentary debate was 147 against culling to 28 in favour.
The people, rather than the cattle industry and its representatives in the Coalition, gave this verdict in 2010: nearly 70% of consultees opposed a badger cull , a similar percentage was opposed to a badger cull in a randomised BBC poll , and just over 90% in a Guardian newspaper poll were also opposed . Yet when the Badger Trust asked to see correspondence between Defra and the NFU, permission was refused on the grounds that the NFU were integral to the policy discussions. So much for open government.
The pilot trials into the method of killing are not to be conducted in the same way as the previous £50 million fully scientific trial and so are pointless. That keynote trial concluded that culling badgers could make no meaningful contribution to the eradication of bTB in Britain.
Pro-cull politicians have claimed to be bored with high-profile celebrities campaigning against the cull. The Badger Trust advertisement will demonstrate how ordinary people want their wildlife heritage preserved for future generations too.
17 May 2013, 2:17 PM
Clearly the Government and Defra are not being very convincing regarding the facts re the proposed badger culling trials - free shooting from June in Glos and Somerset. The majority remain opposed. Tewkesbury Borough Council and the Forest of Dean District Council had previously voted to reject the cull. Now the Glos County Council has confirmed its opposition.
A motion was raised at the Gloucestershire County Council meeting 15th May 13 objecting to the proposed badger cull and it was passed.
Motion 683 This Council notes the serious and damaging animal welfare and economic impact that Bovine TB has on the farming community.
This Council also notes that the Government’s ‘solution’ to bTB is shooting large numbers of free running badgers at night; a proposal that has met fierce criticism from the public, eminent scientists and animal welfare charities.
This Council is concerned that the Government has ignored public, parliamentary and scientific opinion by ploughing ahead with badger cull this summer in a cruel and ineffective attempt to tackle bTB.
This Council believes that the Government would better serve the farming community by investing money in vaccinations for badgers and cattle and encourage farmers to improve bio-security in order to achieve the long-term eradication of the disease in livestock.
This Council resolves to write to Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs to
Highlight the Council’s concern about the practicalities as well as the welfare implications of the current proposed cull Object to the cull taking place on Council owned land. Call on the Government to seek alternative methods to tackle the problem of bTB. ....... Proposed by Cllr Klara Sudbury [Lib Dem]
Seconded by Cllr Simon Wheeler [Lib Dem]
12 May 2013, 7:42 PM
'In 1936, the last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in Hobart Zoo – a tragic tale of man’s greed and stubbornness to accept the true facts and one best consigned to the history books. Surely, in these more enlightened times of 2013, something like the tragic extinction of the thylacine could never happen again, could it?' Lee Connor believes it could happen in England but the target animal this time will be the badger.
The Smallholder magazine, first published in 1910, has accused ministers of poor science and “craven submission to their political paymasters in the agri-lobby.”
The latest issue of Smallholder says government plans to cull badgers as part of its bid to control TB in cattle are doomed to fail. The magazine devotes four pages of its latest edition to the issue.
Smallholder editor Graham Smith writes: “A few years ago, if anyone had suggested that the government should licence armed gangs to roam the countryside to shoot at protected wild animals, they would quite properly have been dismissed as bonkers.
“The imminent badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have got very little to do with TB in cattle – and everything to do with a craven government submitting to its political paymasters in the agri-lobby.
“Some badgers carry TB. So do many other wild animals. So do domestic cats.
“But the biggest single cause of TB in cattle is undoubtedly other cattle. Anyone who has ever seen the steam, hanging like a shroud over a large, crowded cattle shed; a shed which perhaps was not as clean as it should be; packed with cows that rarely saw a blade of grass; will recognise the ideal conditions for transmitting TB. Big Farming does not like this inconvenient truth because it erodes profit margins. Much easier to blame the badger.
“Even the method of the cull – open shooting – seems almost deliberately designed to offend science. How many bullets will be fired? How many animals (the majority of them totally free of TB) will be simply wounded?
“When Parliament debated the badger cull only 28 MPs could be found to vote in favour of it. 147 voted against, and it seems this is a reasonable reflection of wider public opinion.
“Defra today has returned to its “Bad Old Days” when MAFF was the laughing stock of Whitehall; its desire to submit to its client-group fuelling foot and mouth disease, BSE and generally contributing to the environmental degradation of the British countryside.
“Smallholder has every sympathy with anyone whose livestock is infected with TB. But shooting badgers is not the answer.”
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) technology holds great promise as a tool for the forensic epidemiology of bacterial pathogens. It is likely to be particularly useful for studying the transmission dynamics of an observed epidemic involving a largely unsampled ‘reservoir’ host, as for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in British and Irish cattle and badgers. BTB is caused by Mycobacterium bovis, a member of the M. tuberculosis complex that also includes the aetiological agent for human TB. In this study, we identified a spatio-temporally linked group of 26 cattle and 4 badgers infected with the same Variable Number Tandem Repeat (VNTR) type of M. bovis. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between sequences identified differences that were consistent with bacterial lineages being persistent on or near farms for several years, despite multiple clear whole herd tests in the interim. Comparing WGS data to mathematical models showed good correlations between genetic divergence and spatial distance, but poor correspondence to the network of cattle movements or within-herd contacts. Badger isolates showed between zero and four SNP differences from the nearest cattle isolate, providing evidence for recent transmissions between the two hosts. This is the first direct genetic evidence of M. bovis persistence on farms over multiple outbreaks with a continued, ongoing interaction with local badgers. However, despite unprecedented resolution, directionality of transmission cannot be inferred at this stage. Despite the often notoriously long timescales between time of infection and time of sampling for TB, our results suggest that WGS data alone can provide insights into TB epidemiology even where detailed contact data are not available, and that more extensive sampling and analysis will allow for quantification of the extent and direction of transmission between cattle and badgers.
27 Apr 2013, 8:41 AM
More people are asking if it could be cats that could be contributing to the spread of bTB. The real answer is - no one knows. We are not aware of any research in this area. Any mammal can contract the disease. There are some records kept re cats with bTB and Defra report if they are aware of disease info from vets but probably under-reported and under-diagnosed. Interesting to note that current estimates are some 10.3 million cats, and population is still growing fast with around 2 million feral (compared to around 300,000 badgers).
The cat is believed to be a spillover host so not supposed to sustain the disease.
As MG points out in his email dated 26/4/13 'It makes sense that farm cats could have high levels of Btb as they are well known for drinking raw milk normally given by the farmer!'
21 Apr 2013, 2:43 PM
On 14 March the NFU-organised an event, attended by around 170 farmers and vets, to discuss keeping Lincolnshire free of bovine TB. vets and people representing industry organisations, heard from an expert panel of speakers. Derbyshire-based vet James Russell advised that farmers could keep the area bTB free.
Speaking as a practising vet in Derbyshire’s TB 'hotspot', James was passionate in his calls for farmers to take responsibility for their own industry. He urged producers not to trust the pre-movement test but to ask many more questions before brining cattle, from whatever source, onto their farms: 'risk-based trading' is the key to keeping TB at bay – the lower the risk the better. He was equally passionate in urging farmers not to bring in TB that could infect the county’s wildlife, as once the infection reaches the county’s badgers, it would become almost impossible to eradicate. By practising the best possible biosecurity, on all aspects of the livestock enterprise, Lincolnshire’s farmers stand a chance of remaining TB free.
Cheshire dairy farmer, Ian McGrath spoke next, giving the audience a blow-by-blow account of his Holstein herd’s TB history. Speaking of his own experiences, Ian brought the stark message home: TB is a major disease with devastating consequences for your herd, your business and your family. He spoke of the practical consequences of finding TB, of the need to get properly equipped for testing and how his business had struggled to cope with calves, barren cows and the 40 TB tests he and his family had undertaken since TB struck the farm. Ian’s experiences, he hoped, would prevent Lincolnshire producers from having to go through what he and his fellow Cheshire farmers had.
Summing up the situation, NFU’s Vice President, Adam Quinney gave an account of the situation in Somerset and the South West, where the pilot badger culls are due to start in the summer. He emphasised that keeping wildlife free of the disease is just as important as keeping cattle healthy and encouraged the meeting to consider vaccinating healthy badgers if a reactor was found in a beef or dairy herd. It’s worth considering in a TB-free area such as Lincolnshire, he said.
Biosecurity is the key to keeping Lincolnshire TB-free, Adam agreed with his fellow speakers. Trading cattle from all over the country must continue but the risks of bringing infected cattle must be at the absolute minimum: ask questions of the auctioneers, breeders and get you vet to contact his colleagues to do the same. Without a cattle vaccination, which could take up to ten years, the only way to stem the TB tide is to be absolutely sure of the animals you’re buying.
The event’s final, stark message was that Lincolnshire can only be TB free with the whole industry acting together to keep it that way. As Ian McGrath said: the only way that TB will get to Lincolnshire is on a lorry. That message has to get to all producers, whether they’re farmers, dealers, smallholders or whatever. Biosecurity of the highest standard has to be the industry’s watchword.
There were nine cases in herds across Lincolnshire last year.
In Ireland €3.4 million has been spent culling 7000 badgers in 2012. This has apparently reduced bovine reactor numbers by 55 so the cost is €61,000/cow!
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”.