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 Sep 2012, 1:41 PM
Report today by BBC says Lord Krebbs, the scientist who carried out the study has told BBC News that these pilot studies make no sense.
'Lord Krebs, who is one of the government's most respected scientific advisers, said that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is administering the scheme, has no way of knowing how many badgers there are in the area, so will not know when they've killed 70% of the badgers in the area.
"I would go down the vaccination and biosecurity route rather than this crazy scheme that may deliver very small advantage, may deliver none. And it's very hard to see how Defra are going to collect the crucial data to assess whether it's worth going ahead with free shooting at all," he said.
'But the scientist who carried out the study has told BBC News that these pilot studies make no sense.
Lord Krebs, who is one of the government's most respected scientific advisers, said that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is administering the scheme, has no way of knowing how many badgers there are in the area, so will not know when they've killed 70% of the badgers in the area.
"I would go down the vaccination and biosecurity route rather than this crazy scheme that may deliver very small advantage, may deliver none. And it's very hard to see how Defra are going to collect the crucial data to assess whether it's worth going ahead with free shooting at all," he said.
Defra has said that it would be using data from previous studies and would commission its own research to estimate badger numbers.
SO THIS SEEMS DEFRA HAVEN'T COMMISSIONED THIS WORK YET SO HOW CAN CULL PROCEED?
18 Sep 2012, 1:16 PM
There are several areas of concern in this press release. If the information is accurate, are some farmers being coerced into doing something they would prefer not to do? This is not the first time we have heard of the heavy handed approach of the NFU. Several different farmers expressed concern regarding the NFU public meetings for farmers, with some making formal complaints.
PRESS RELEASE FROM BADGER TRUST DATED 17th September 2012
The coalition passed its formal death sentence on tens if not hundreds of thousands of badgers today (Sept 17th) just a week after the Trust’s online video featuring Sir David Attenborough  provoked an overwhelming and still growing public response.
Natural England has granted a licence to kill  to a specially-formed company, Gloscon Ltd, representing farming and land management interests in the secret West Gloucestershire pilot area. The actual killing area must be at least 70 per cent of that, which would be more than 10 miles by 10 miles
The company will have to prove that almost three quarters of the likely 1,000-plus badgers had been killed, although given the lack of accurate badger population data it is not clear how this will be possible. Natural England is continuing to assess a separate licence application relating to the West Somerset pilot area and will look to issue the licence as soon as possible after it is satisfied that the application has met the criteria in the bTB policy guidance.
In addition to saying they are deeply disheartened by the news of the cull going ahead, Sir David Attenborough and Simon King OBE are also saddened at the Government’s refusal to pursue alternatives to culling badgers. They point out that wildlife filmmakers in this country have spent the last six decades trying to inspire and promote understanding and respect for wildlife both nationally and internationally. They ask: “How can we now expect any other nation, especially a poor developing country, to conserve its wildlife whenever there is a conflict with short-term economic and political interests?”
A Defra spokesman said: “We will continue to work with the farming industry so badger control in two pilot areas can start as soon as is practical. No one wants to cull badgers but last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle and to help eradicate the disease it needs to be tackled in badgers."
At the same time a leaked letter from Gloscon Ltd  is imploring its farmer members to send their pledged contributions by the end of this week otherwise it would not be able to go ahead under the terms of reference. Contrary to the rules on witness statements, and before there have even been any attempts at disrupting a cull, the letter orders farmers to sign a 'pre-prepared witness statement' for the police. The Badger Trust emphasises that only legal means of protest are acceptable and intimidation will be counterproductive whatever its legality.
Sir David said in the video (see www.justdosomething.org.uk) that the Coalition’s own advisers had found culling was not a viable scientific option and could make matters worse.. Now, the Badger Trust fears some people could be led to assume that killing badgers is generally permissible. It is not. Killing badgers remains a criminal offence unless by licence for prescribed purposes.
The facts remain that according to DEFRA's own Impact Assessment culling will cost more than it could ever save, and that is before the policing costs or loss of revenue for businesses in the area are properly factored in. It will spread the disease as badgers flee the cull zones into surrounding farmland. Badger Trust is being contacted by worried farmers who fear breakdowns on their land as a result of the culls.
Further, it will be impossible to evaluate the results of the cull, and any marginal reduction in bTB will not be calculable for almost a decade. Given the hardship imposed on farmers through this cull, they are unlikely to wait this long for results. Today, in response to a Parliamentary Question from MP Mary Creagh, DEFRA conceded that at least 50% of cattle herd breakdowns are caused by cattle to cattle contact. Badger Trust continues to advocate vaccination and better cattle control measures.
Vice Chairman of the Trust, Patricia Hayden, said: "Sir David is among high-profile celebrities, such as well-respected naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, and concerned members of the public like the enterprising 15-year old from the Dorset/Somerset border who has set up her own website against the cull http://killthecull.weebly.com. Leading scientists, academics and international conservation organisations support us and we’re confident that public support against the badger cull will only increase both nationally and internationally in the days to come”.
Press Release from the Bager Trust dated 13th September 2012.
Bovine TB and science: "law hasn't kept pace"— Badger Trust
Badger Trust welcomes the Court of Appeal’s clarification of the law. It is disappointed by the outcome, which shows that the legislation in this area has not kept pace with developments in the understanding of how TB works; the spread of disease as a result of culling; badger social behaviour; or TB vaccination possibilities.
Importantly, the Court of Appeal confirmed that it was not making any decision on whether culling could work or not: the science remains the same. DEFRA’s culling proposals do not make sense from a scientific, economic, ethical, or public safety point of view. (For a summary of the issues, see Badger Trust’s video with David Attenborough and other leaders in the field.)
Badger Trust had argued that licences to cull could not be granted under section 10(2)(a) Protection of Badgers Act 1992 “to prevent the spread of disease” given that according to DEFRA’s own evidence culling will spread the disease onto land adjoining and surrounding the cull zones, each the size of the Isle of Wight. (Indeed, since the court rejected the appeal, Badger Trust has had calls from worried farmers in and around the cull zones, who fear they will now have new TB breakdowns as a result of culling getting the green light.)
The Badger Trust argued that if DEFRA had to proceed with culling, the correct legal powers lay under the Animal Health Act 1981, which provided for mass culls of wildlife to reduce the incidence of bovine TB if certain conditions were met. The court rejected that argument because it would leave the Government in a position whereby shooters were committing a criminal offence under section 1 Protection of Badgers Act. The Trust argued that there was a way around this but the court rejected their suggestion. Thus, the appeal was rejected.
Badger Trust fears that certain people will be led to assume that killing badgers is generally permissible. It is not. Killing badgers remains a criminal offence unless by licence for prescribed purposes.
The way is now open for the Coalition to preside over the killing of what Natural England have estimated could be 130,000 badgers over four years, which flies in the face of established science. The last ten-year government cull found that killing badgers could make no meaningful contribution to tackling bTB, may make the situation worse, and that the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone are sufficient . These findings and many others over 40 years remain completely unaffected by the decision of the Appeal Court.
The Badger Trust will continue to pursue all legal means to stop culling. It will closely study any licences issued by Natural England. It will also continue with its modern, science-based vaccination service to meet the rising demand from farmers and press for impediments to the ultimate solution of cattle vaccination to be removed. Wales has abandoned culling in favour of vaccination, Scotland is officially TB free and Northern Ireland is conducting research into an eradication programme.
The Badger Trust is following with interest a current complaint against culling under the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats to which the UK is a signatory.
David Williams, Chairman, said: "The Badger Trust could do no other than pursue every legal opportunity to stop this scientifically, economically and ethically unjustified assault on our wildlife. The case for culling is riddled with half-truths such as failing to admit that ten times as many cattle are killed prematurely each year for diseases other than bovine TB.
Badger Trust’s wide-ranging work in other directions will continue to develop. It includes:
• maintaining a sustained and informed presence in government circles and the media in the interests of badgers,
• active involvement in Operation Meles, the multi-agency partnership targeting criminals who torture badgers, notoriously a scourge in the north of England,
• ensuring that building developments do not infringe the badgers’ welfare,
• advising and helping householders to understand and enjoy visits from badgers.
According to a report on BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19563661) the Badger Trust has lost its Court of Appeal challenge to government proposals to kill thousands of wild badgers in England.
11 Sep 2012, 1:05 PM
Today is the Badger Trust's High Court appeal which could decide the fate of thousands of badgers currently facing slaughter.
The High Court appeal is against Mr Justice Ouseley 's decision in July to upheld government proposals for two pilot culls to tackle tuberculosis in cattle: one in West Gloucestershire and the other in West Somerset.
The controversial scheme could eventually lead to culling in up to 10 areas per year. England could see a staggering 40,000 badgers being "pointlessly killed" over the next four years. Most of these creatures will be healthy. They will be killed needlessly, just as thousands of cattle are.
Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Sullivan are expected to reserve their decision at the end of the estimated half-day appeal hearing.
29 Aug 2012, 11:44 AM
FOUR-YEAR PROGRAMME OF BADGER VACCINATION UNDER WAY
A four-year programme to vaccinate Somerset badgers against bovine TB (bTB) has begun. The project is part of a nationwide initiative by badger groups to offer vaccination opportunities to farmers and landowners.
Areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire are designated as badger killing areas, pending an Appeal Court hearing next month, and Adrian Coward, chairman of Somerset Badger Group (SBG) said: “Our members are delighted to be working alongside farmers. On behalf of the badgers and farmers we want to take advantage of the recently licensed vaccine to help constructively with the battle against bTB. “During field trials the vaccine has been proved to be effective in at least 74% of badgers vaccinated. It is the modern, scientific way to conquer the disease and –unlike culling--does not carry the risk of causing infection to spread”.
SBG are carrying out the work in association with Secret World Wildlife Rescue of Highbridge, Somerset, supported by the Badger Trust and Network for Animals. Licensed members and volunteers place peanuts in open cage traps for several nights to familiarise the badgers with the traps before setting the catches which close the traps as badgers enter. Within hours, at first light, the trapped badgers are given a health and condition check, vaccinated, marked and released without harm. Farms will be revisited at regular intervals to increase the proportion of badgers vaccinated.
Badgers are highly territorial. Research has shown that badgers which survive a cull wander much more widely, increasing the possibility of disease spread. The phenomena is known as perturbation. Vaccination has no such disadvantage. The badgers remain in their home ranges, preventing others from moving in from neighbouring areas.
Perturbation with its worsening of disease was so marked in the £50million Randomised Badger Culling Trials that in 2003 the then government suspended localised (“reactive”) killing of badgers.
Vaccination by licensed members of badger groups began last autumn coordinated by Trust director Simon Boulter. Specially-trained leaders and volunteers established procedures in the field monitored and approved by senior Defra veterinary staff. Badgers on farms in Worcestershire, Derbyshire, Devon, Cornwall, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire have already been vaccinated by badger group members.
The Badger Trust says perturbation is likely to follow the proposed “free shooting” of badgers.
29 Aug 2012, 11:26 AM
Press release from badger Trust dated 28 August 2012.
FUTILITY OF BADGER KILLING ‘PILOT’
Natural England, acting for Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs called for four areas to be singled out in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire for killing badgers and two have been chosen.
The Badger Trust deplores the absence of any further details from Defra about this pilot scheme where riflemen are preparing to shoot free running badgers at night – if they can. They would have to prove they had killed seven out of every ten badgers without having any clear idea of how many there would be to start with. Mrs Spelman said the pilot would be to “confirm our assumptions about the effectiveness, humaneness and safety . . “. She did not say “test our assumptions”. Looking for confirmation indicates a presumption rather than an assumption.
If they killed any fewer the expected benefits (marginal in the long term) would be lost and the serious risk of perturbation and further infection, discovered only in 2003,  would be increased. Worse, killing more than the target number risks local extinction, contravening the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. .
In publishing guidance to shooters on how to shoot a badger Ministers happen to have demonstrated the serious and particular hazards to the large, strong badger . Dave Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “If a government can behave like this there is something seriously wrong with the law. In the case of badgers legal protection seems to be acceptable only until it collides with commercial interests and servile politicians”.
These flaws evident in the pilot cull proposals--and the "spin" accompanying the highly disputed plan--will be spelt out at the meeting, and speakers will also touch on the negative effects of culling to farmers and the near impossibility of meeting some of the licensing criteria--for example, measuring the percentage of badgers killed and, unless monitoring arrangements are substantial and continuing over the six weeks, the humaneness of the shooting.
 Letter to Nature [Signed] Christl A. Donnelly MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Imperial College London, London, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org Rosie Woodroffe Institute of Zoology, Regent’s Park, London, UK. Competing financial interests declared; see http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7400/full/485582a.html (author information).
OPEN MEETING TO DISCUSS PROPOSED CULLING OF BADGERS IN SOMERSET AND GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Date:Wednesday August 29th, 2012 Venue: University of the West of England, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY.
Time: 6.30 for 7.00 p.m. Ample free parking in the Exhibition and Conference Centre area. Entry is via North Entrance. Drivers with Sat. Nav. enter Postcode BS34 8QZ. See www.badgertrust.org.uk for additional information including pdf of Car Park pass (Home Page – Events).
You are invited to to the above meeting, organised by the Badger Trust, to unite with one voice to spread public awareness.
The Trust will welcome the public, landowners, farmers, members and supporters of the groups, supporters of the Trust, and politicians. The meeting will summarise the scientific case against culling, discuss how local people can best react to culling in their area, provide an update on the legal situation and invite questions from the floor. The proposed free shooting of badgers is part of the Coalition Government’s programme to eradicate bovine tuberculosis among cattle. Posters advertising the meeting are currently being distributed, see http://www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/683_S4.pdf
A distinguished badger ecologist will be a key speaker together with Pauline Kidner of Secret World, Highbridge, Somerset. Adrian Coward, Chairman of Somerset Badger Group, will speak on behalf of local groups in the cull area about how people could help to spread the word about the futility of the Government’s proposals
The Badger Trust has fought a four-year battle through the courts to kill culling, and its latest challenge is to be heard in the Court of Appeal on September 11th. The details will be explained at the meeting. There will also be an update on the Badger Trust vaccination programme.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust will chair the meeting. He said: “The free shooting plan is a foolish compromise designed to save money for the farming consortia arranging the slaughter. If it proved inhumane, ineffective or unsafe they would have to find ten times as much for the cage trapping and shooting method the Coalition Government would saddle them with”.
Email dated 19/8/12 from P has sent following info re other 'shooting' accidents - which did not have the added risks of protesters in the vicinity as the cull will have. Are these risks worth taking bearing in mind bTB is such a low public health risk? W ask 'is the shooting going to be more of a risk than the disease?'
We heard from a farmer recently in a bTB hot spot area in the south of England. They farm traditionally and are not intensive. Interestingly despite all their neighbouring farms suffering regular or intermittent herd breakdowns over the years this particular farm (with around 100 cattle) has never had any positive or inconclusive reactors, even at the most recent test We understand there are badgers setts on two boundary hedges each end of the farm and badger tracks can be seen coming off and on the neighbouring land. The neighbour's herd is currently being bTB tested every 6 weeks and has been for the last 2 years.
Interestingly an organic farm over three miles away has also not suffered any herd breakdowns either. We know of other farms in a similar situation in other hot spot areas around the country. Why do these farms stay clear amidst so many so allegedly infected cattle (and presumably infected wildlife?), particularly as it is known badgers do not respect boundaries and roam over large areas? Maybe the badgers IS the scapegoat?
Just how real are the health and safety risks of a mass shooting of badgers? A 2004 report in the Mail Online (www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-314239/Shot-badger-spotter-mistaken-fox.html) reveals how easily accidents can happen. In an incident a man was left fighting for his life after a hunter mistook his night vision goggles for a fox's eyes and shot him in the chest. He spent two days in intensive care and had to have a lung removed. The man was hot with a high-powered hunting rifle. The gun had fired a special hunting bullet designed to expand and disintegrate inside the animal's body in order to kill it more quickly.
10 Aug 2012, 6:18 PM
BADGER TRUST CHALLENGES GASSING SCHEME
The Badger Trust has no connection with the newly-formed Badger Welfare Association (BWA), which is claiming it is able to identify setts where bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is present so that the occupants could be gassed.
In effect, this would be “reactive killing”, which extensive and expensive research published in 2007 proved does not work and could make matters worse  by causing the disease to spread among neighbouring farms. So serious is the risk associated with this aspect that research into it had to be abandoned.
The presence of disease in a sett is not proof that the animals inside are infected, let alone whether they are among the very small proportion that are infected enough (ie infectious) to pass on the disease. (2)
The BWA has been set up by farmers in the West country and is campaigning for official recognition of the work of Okehampton farmer Bryan Hill. According to reports he claims to have acquired expertise in identifying which setts are occupied by TB-infected badgers and which are not. The group then proposes to pump in suffocating carbon monoxide gas, a method rejected by Defra and which the Badger Trust strongly opposes on humane grounds.
Unless this method is properly validated through the usual scientific review process including rigorous field trials licensed by Natural England, any application of it would be in clear breach of the Badger Protection Act of 1992, attracting fines of up to £5,000 and/or a six-month prison sentence per offence. Each badger gassed would be a separate offence. If any gassing or other killing can be proved to have taken place already, Badger Trust will take every action possible to secure the conviction of those responsible. In addition, a licence from Natural England would be required to interfere with the badgers or their habitats.
9 Aug 2012, 12:26 PM
Press release from Badger Trust
COURT OF APPEAL GIVES BADGER TRUST APPEAL GREEN LIGHT
The Badger Trust has been granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the High Court’s refusal to quash the decision of the Coalition Government to allow the killing of badgers in England. The appeal is likely to be listed in the court vacation and should be heard before the end of September.
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) seeks to include culling in its bovine TB (bTB) eradication programme. The Badger Trust considers that vaccination alongside stringent cattle testing and movement restrictions is the more effective way forward and that culling will only make matters worse at great cost to farmers, cattle and badgers. If culling were to go ahead in zones the size of the Isle of Wight, up to 40,000 badgers could be killed.
Lord Justice Laws granted permission on the Trust’s ground that the Secretary of State had unlawfully used the licensing powers in section 10(2)a of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. This allows killing badgers (normally a criminal offence) for the purposes of preventing the spread of disease. In fact, on DEFRA’s own evidence, culling as proposed will cause the spread of disease.
David Williams, chairman of the Trust, said: “It is vital for the law to be clarified when it concerns the wholesale slaughter of a wildlife species in what we see as a vain attempt to prevent the spread of disease. At the judicial review hearing in June, it was accepted that culling would spread the disease and, only after nine years, produce a marginal slowdown in the rate of new TB incidence (12-16% is the best case scenario but only if the RBCT* methodology were to be followed precisely: it would not be)”.
19 Jul 2012, 7:57 PM
PRESS RELEASE TODAY (see below) FROM BADGER TRUST STATING THEY HAVE LODGES APPEAL AGAINST CULLING DECISION
The Badger Trust has today lodged a written appeal against the High Court’s failure to quash the Coalition Government’s decision to kill badgers in England.
The Trust will seek permission to appeal on the following grounds:
1. Mr Justice Ouseley erred in law in holding that section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 could be used to grant licences for mass badger culling in order to reduce the incidence of disease marginally, when it would prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease within an area. At the judicial review hearing in June, it was accepted that culling will spread the disease and, only after 9 years, produce a marginal slowdown in the rate of new TB incidences (12-16% is the best case scenario if the RBCT methodology were to be followed precisely: it is not).
2. The learned judge erred in law in rejecting the Badger Trust’s arguments on the flawed cost impact assessment underpinning DEFRA’s culling decision. At the hearing, the judge noted that a DIY cull by farmers free-shooting comes at a net cost to farmers. Cage-trapping and shooting, which may well be required after the first year, would be ten times as expensive.
3. The learned judge erred in law in holding that a function of the Secretary of State when done by Natural England pursuant to an agreement under section 78 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 thus becomes one of Natural England’s own functions. Thus, he erred in holding that DEFRA’s Guidance to Natural England was lawfully made.
The Badger Trust has not taken the decision to proceed to the Court of Appeal lightly. It underlines the Trust’s strong belief that the Government’s proposals to kill badgers in England are likely to do more harm than good. The science remains unaltered: culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to the eradication of bovine TB in Britain and cattle-based measures stringently applied would be sufficient. Culling badgers (in the hopes of reducing incidence by 12-16% after 9 years) is a costly distraction from 84% of the problem. The death toll could be at least 40,000 badgers and possibly as many as 130,000 according to Natural England.
DEFRA has refused to reveal where the culls will take place or when the shooting will start, which raises serious concerns for the public and non-participating farmers who will be at risk of TB breakdowns on their land as badgers flee the cull.
The Badger Trust is determined to concentrate its resources and efforts on continuing to protect the welfare of the badger for the public benefit. The local badger groups and the Trust’s supporters expect nothing less, as has been made clear in the many supportive messages received since the judgment was handed down on 12 July.
As the only organisation solely dedicated to the protection and conservation of badgers, the Trust will continue to do everything possible to ensure the safe survival of this iconic species.
18 Jul 2012, 1:47 PM
This paper is well worth reading for anyone interested in badger culling. It is a good outline of the situation.
13 Jul 2012, 1:51 PM
Southern Ireland have been culling badgers (using snares) for some time. This is the reaction of one farmer (www.badgerall.com/blog/the-self-perpetuating-price-of-culling-a-tale-from-ireland). It is an interesting piece.
"Perhaps the powers that be would like to take a closer look at the situation around the Ballintra area in southern Donegal, Ireland. In the late spring of 2011, one local farmer in the area was found to have bTB in his herd. He contacted the Department of Agriculture, and their representatives came into the area and culled the badgers on his farm. At that point, they initiated the 5km culling practice (done by an aerial map, rather than on land, so that the area culled is in effect much larger than 5km). By November, the culling had reached my area, some miles away. I am originally American, and was totally unaware of this practice until it came to my townland (where there had not been an incidence of bTB in over 50 years). I had a ‘pet’ badger, that I had been feeding since it was a cub, 4 years previously. I began to read everything I could regarding this issue and was immediately overwhelmed with the science that this practice was not only ineffective and temporary, but actually exacerbated the situation.
Despite coverage of my opinion on the local radio station as well as the local newspaper, I was ineffective to stop this practice in my area. Literally all the badgers (including my pet) were killed (using the ‘restraint’ snares) in my area. The culling was extensive in this area. And all the farmers, who blindly follow the DofA directive, and do not read the science nor accept any personal responsibility for this issue, were happy. So, let’s fast forward to May 2012. After the extensive culling of 2011, what is the situation now? Strangely (and coinciding with the science), bTB is now RAMPANT in this area. The farmers are meeting hither and yon and want desperate action to be taken, ie, another cull. Doesn’t anyone pay attention to logic and science anymore?”
13 Jul 2012, 1:46 PM
The result of the Badger Trust judicial review was made yesterday (12 July 2102). It did not deal with the science of any propsed cull but was on the three folowing three points:
· That the culls will not meet the strict legal test of ‘preventing the spread of disease’ in the licensed areas and may actually spread bovine TB.
· That Defra’s cost impact assessment is flawed as it does not allow for the possibility that the ‘much more costly’ cage trapping could be the only culling method available, if free shooting is outlawed.
· That Natural England’s guidance as the licensing authority is invalid as killing badgers is not one of its original functions.
Following a closely fought two-day judicial review in June, the High Court has decided not to quash the Coalition Government’s proposals to kill badgers in England. The proposal attempts to marginally reduce the incidence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, at a net cost, over nine years. Although the Judge refused an oral request, the option is still open for a written application and it is understood that the Badger Trust, together with their legal advisors, are considering an appeal.
Importantly, Mr Justice Ouseley’s verdict is restricted to the law; it was not within his remit to decide on whether culling could work or not. He recognised the controversy surrounding the science underpinning the cull plans. However, at the hearing it was agreed between the parties that culling would spread the disease to more herds and that even with free-shooting, culling may lead to a net monetary cost to farmers.
In his judgment Mr Justice Ouseley described bTB as a “slow-moving disease” and explained that culling was “associated with an increase in confirmed bTB herd incidents in the 2km ring surrounding the cull area”. This ring is called the perturbation ring “caused by disruption to the behaviour of the groups of badgers within the culling area”. He recognised that bTB also spread from cattle to cattle and cattle to badgers.
The judgment demonstrates that the legislation in this area has not kept pace with developments in the understanding of how TB works; the spread of disease due to perturbation; badger social behaviour or TB vaccination possibilities.
At the hearing, it was accepted that the costs might increase tenfold if free-shooting was ruled out for being inhumane to badgers, unsafe to the public or ineffective in terms of killing 70% of the resident badger population. However, the judge pointed to the fact that after the first year of trialling the cull in two pilot areas, DEFRA would review the cost- benefit analysis in those areas to see if the scheme should be rolled out more widely. Given the massive cost and marginal benefits anticipated, Badger Trust will call for detailed disclosure of the costings and findings if the pilots go ahead so that Parliament can decide whether or not it can actually be justified.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The Badger Trust emphatically did not ask the court to adjudicate on the science around culling. That remains exactly the same as it has been for a decade. Although the Secretary of State has tried to interpret the science to her advantage nothing has altered the basic finding that while badgers are implicated, killing them can make no meaningful contribution to tackling the disease, and cattle measures in themselves are sufficient if properly applied.
“The court was asked to decide whether the Secretary of State’s decision was based on a correct interpretation of the law rather than whether the science was right. The court does not make such findings of fact but only whether a decision was taken lawfully, and in his judgment Mr Justice Ouseley said almost all of the contentious part of the scientific evidence was irrelevant to the issues.
“We did not embark on this litigation lightly and England now faces the prospect of 40,000 badgers being slaughtered over the next four years. We act on behalf of local badger groups, their members and our many supporters across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. We have always seen it as our duty to use all legal means of persuasion to overturn unjust decisions such as the Coalition Government’s and we shall continue to publicise scientific facts so grievously distorted by the cattle industry.
“Scotland is officially bTB-free and the Welsh Government has decided to vaccinate badgers and step up its cattle-focussed measures rather than kill badgers unnecessarily. However, despite a constant stream of evidence that culling will make matters worse and growing consternation from many farmers, the Coalition Government intends to press ahead with its expensive and pointless policy.”
3 Jul 2012, 6:30 PM
According to Farming Life (www.farminglife.com/news/minister-points-the-way-ahead-on-bovine-tb-1-4015427) the test and cull may be applied to badgers, as well as cattle in the future!
Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill (Northern Ireland), addressed the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. She said: “Following recent discussions with industry stakeholders and informed by the views of the external experts who attended the International Vaccination Symposium here in May, I have asked my officials to design specific wildlife intervention research.”
The minister has tasked officials to develop an approach that would involve testing live badgers, vaccinating and releasing the test negative badgers and removing the test positive ones.
She said: “This approach will focus on removing diseased badgers and protecting uninfected ones. This balanced approach would avoid killing healthy badgers and could lead in time to a healthier badger population incapable of transmitting TB to cattle. This is a powerful message which I hope will be welcomed by environmentalists as well as by farmers.”
The minister said the aim of this wildlife intervention research would be to test the effectiveness of this approach on the level of TB in badgers and in cattle in the north. This approach has not been tried anywhere else and may offer an advantage in moving forward as part of a comprehensive approach that addresses all the factors involved in TB spread.
She added: “I am also asking my officials to maintain and develop stakeholder engagement with farming, veterinary and environmental representative organisations as the research proposal is developed over coming months.
“Timing of the start of any field work is dependent on the successful completion of the necessary preparatory actions, but I hope it will be as early as possible next year.”
Any proposal for wildlife intervention research will be subject to the necessary business case, the issue of the necessary licences and must comply with the relevant legislation.
2 Jul 2012, 12:58 PM
New paper 'Comparing Badger (Meles meles) Management Strategies for Reducing Tuberculosis Incidence in Cattle' which can be read in fll at www.plosone.org/article/info%253Adoi%252F10.1371%252Fjournal.pone.0039250
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, continues to be a serious economic problem for the British cattle industry. The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is partly responsible for maintenance of the disease and its transmission to cattle. Previous attempts to manage the disease by culling badgers have been hampered by social perturbation, which in some situations is associated with increases in the cattle herd incidence of bTB. Following the licensing of an injectable vaccine, we consider the relative merits of management strategies to reduce bTB in badgers, and thereby reduce cattle herd incidence. We used an established simulation model of the badger-cattle-TB system and investigated four proposed strategies: business as usual with no badger management, large-scale proactive badger culling, badger vaccination, and culling with a ring of vaccination around it. For ease of comparison with empirical data, model treatments were applied over 150 km2 and were evaluated over the whole of a 300 km2 area, comprising the core treatment area and a ring of approximately 2 km. The effects of treatment were evaluated over a 10-year period comprising treatment for five years and the subsequent five year period without treatment. Against a background of existing disease control measures, where 144 cattle herd incidents might be expected over 10 years, badger culling prevented 26 cattle herd incidents while vaccination prevented 16. Culling in the core 150 km2 plus vaccination in a ring around it prevented about 40 cattle herd breakdowns by partly mitigating the negative effects of culling, although this approach clearly required greater effort. While model outcomes were robust to uncertainty in parameter estimates, the outcomes of culling were sensitive to low rates of land access for culling, low culling efficacy, and the early cessation of a culling strategy, all of which were likely to lead to an overall increase in cattle disease.
29 Jun 2012, 5:01 PM
If badgers can be vaccinated why can't we vaccinate our cattle?
Watched WAG's video about vaccinating badgers at www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3VHL08UiJU I was amazed to see the vaccinators dressed up in masks, disinfecting everything and wondered why this is necessary? I have been involved in testing my cattle for some forty years, slobbered on by reactors and IRs, splashed with muck ... never used disinfectant - and never picked up TB. In fact I don't know of any farmers that take any such precautions. Seems over the top to me but then so is the whole wretched business of TB testing.
Another interesting comment I read recently. Badgers used to be treated as vermin before they were protected so in most areas were 'controlled'. How then did bTB in cattle manage to raise to 40% in the 1940s and only came under control when annual cattle TB testing and movement control took place?
'The persistence of bovine TB (bTB) in various countries throughout the world is enhanced by the existence of wildlife hosts for the infection. In Britain and Ireland, the principal wildlife host for bTB is the badger (Meles meles).
The objective of our study was to examine the dynamics of bTB in badgers in relation to both badger-derived infection from within the population and externally-derived, trickle-type, infection, such as could occur from other species or environmental sources, using a spatial stochastic simulation model.
Results: The presence of external sources of infection can increase mean prevalence and reduce the threshold group size for disease persistence. Above the threshold equilibrium group size of 6-8 individuals predicted by the model for bTB persistence in badgers based on internal infection alone, external sources of infection have relatively little impact on the persistence or level of disease.
However, within a critical range of group sizes just below this threshold level, external infection becomes much more important in determining disease dynamics. Within this critical range, external infection increases the ratio of intra- to inter-group infections due to the greater probability of external infections entering fully-susceptible groups.
The effect is to enable bTB persistence and increase bTB prevalence in badger populations which would not be able to maintain bTB based on internal infection alone.
Conclusions: External sources of bTB infection can contribute to the persistence of bTB in badger populations. In high-density badger populations, internal badger-derived infections occur at a sufficient rate that the additional effect of external sources in exacerbating disease is minimal.
However, in lower-density populations, external sources of infection are much more important in enhancing bTB prevalence and persistence. In such circumstances, it is particularly important that control strategies to reduce bTB in badgers include efforts to minimise such external sources of infection.'
Author: Joanne L HardstaffMark T BullingGlenn MarionMichael R HutchingsPiran C L White Credits/Source: BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:92
26 Jun 2012, 6:00 PM
Press Release from Badger Trust dated 26/06/12.
BADGER CULLING: THE VERDICT IS AWAITED
The judicial review into the decision of the Coalition Government to kill badgers concluded today [June 26] at the High Court in London. In the course of the next few weeks, Mr. Justice Ouseley will deliver his judgment, which will determine whether the decision of the Secretary of State, Mrs. Caroline Spelman, will be quashed or whether the costly, counterproductive badger cull will be allowed to proceed later this year. Farmers’ groups in Somerset and Gloucestershire are already preparing to obtain licences to shoot free-running badgers in England as part of Defra’s scheme to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB). DEFRA agrees that the proposed cull would cause the spread of disease and new cattle herd breakdowns in the 100 sq km surrounding the 150 sq km cull zones.
Not only the Badger Trust but local Badger Groups and their supporters across the UK and Ireland have financed the entire expense of this challenge to the legality of the decision. In addition, they have enjoyed the support of scientists, wildlife organisations and concerned individuals. Whatever the legal outcome the science remains clear: killing badgers could make no meaningful contribution to the eradication of the disease in the UK, and cattle measures, rigorously applied, would be sufficient .
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “Whatever the result of this judicial review we could have done nothing other than try our utmost to have this pointless policy scrapped, particularly because detailed, fully-validated science has revealed the serious risk of making a bad situation worse. None of this was known 40 years ago when the prejudice against badgers began, and none of the evidence that has emerged since has altered the deep-rooted attitudes of a strident section of the agricultural industry. At least 40,000 badgers in England could be facing extermination over the next four years.”
Astrophysicist Dr. Brian May – Founder of Save Me, and a legendary rock star – is a passionate advocate for animal welfare and a staunch supporter of the Badger Trust. He said: “We are all hoping that the action brought by the Badger Trust will save the badger population from the merciless slaughter proposed by the Coalition Government in England. Enough animals have already died. Bovine TB should be tackled by improved biosecurity and cattle controls, together with a change in European law to enable the vaccination of cattle as well as badgers”.
Local badger groups together with the Trust and its individual supporters are actively involved in developing a badger vaccination service. Jointly, we call on the Coalition Government to follow the lead of the Welsh Government and fund vaccination instead of pointlessly killing our wildlife and making matters worse at great cost to farmers and the taxpayer.
The UK as a whole must continue to press the European Union to allow vaccination of cattle where the real reservoir of the disease remains.
Te Guardian reports (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/25/badger-cull-high-court-challenge?INTCMP=SRCH) that cull opponents are now attacking the 'undue influence' of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) in the decision to go ahead with the shooting of badgers across England. In a February letter to the Badger Trust, seen by the Guardian, officials at the environment department (Defra) argued that "advice from the NFU was so integral to the development of the cull policy" that it considered the NFU to be a part of the government in this instance, and would therefore not release its "internal" communications with the lobby group.
"The NFU has had an undue influence on the culling policy. My question is what do they have to hide?" said Jeff Hayden of the Badger Trust. Gwendolen Morgan, a solicitor at Bindmans, who are representing the trust, said: "Whilst the NFU clearly have expertise on farming, the fact remains that they are an external, unelected, unaccountable lobby organisation. Defra's argument goes against accountability, transparency and good governance."
Apparently Martin Haworth, NFU director of policy, said: "The development of such a policy would not be possible without the farming industry working in partnership with government, becoming an integral part of the process." He said it was "entirely appropriate" that NFU advice and input on this policy should be treated as internal communications.
The Guardian has also revealed that the new group set recently to advise the government on TB in cattle has no members with wildlife or conservation expertise, despite official statements that such experts would be included.
The freedom of information request made by the Badger Trust to Defra for their communications with the NFU remains subject to an internal review that is due to conclude the day after the judicial review ends on Tuesday. "The timing is most unfortunate," said Morgan, acting for the Trust.