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?
10 Mar 2013, 6:59 PM
Seems police forces in Glos and Somerset, venues for infamous cull purported to be starting in June, have no money to 'police' the culls. There seems to be massive public opposition to the proposed shooting of badgers so once it starts and there are protests - and guns - not an enviable task for the police. Could be a massive costs - again - for the public purse.
There are reports that senior police officers have told the Government it will have to draft in private security companies to stop the planned badger culls being overrun by animal rights activists. The two forces involved believe the operation will be a “nightmare” and have told civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that they do not have the manpower to cope.
4 Mar 2013, 6:52 PM
Our neighbour, a dairy farmer, has been spreading slurry on his fields. He has been doing this over several days and several of his fields involve driving along the public highway. Notwithstanding the risks of spreading slurry on the land (I assume the mixture is from his herd - he has had bTB breakdowns for some years but is supposed to be clear at the moment - but then the test may not always be reliable?!). My concern is that when he has finished the field and is driving back the slurry still drips from the tank and it has coated much of the road - the whole length of the area he has travelled, about a mile. So, if there is any bacteria what a good way to spread disease - to other mammals, on vehicle tyres, on people's shoes (the area is popular with walkers and there are no pavements so people have to walk in the slurry.
I am sure this farmers cannot be the only one - no wonder disease spreads ...!
27 Feb 2013, 6:46 PM
Cull ill conceived and irresponsible
The Coalition’s decision to press ahead with two pilot culls –at a time when more new research has challenged assumptions about the badger’s role in bTB--shows contempt for public and scientific opinion, says the Badger Trust.
“Thousands of healthy badgers will die or be wounded in a night-time fusillade of rifle fire that will kill and wound and put members of the public at real risk,” says Badger Trust chairman David Williams. “And for what? At best a minimal reduction in bovine TB levels over nine years, a time span which could see huge advances in vaccination—for cattle and badgers—and the emergence of a scientifically validated bTB control mechanism.
“Owen Paterson has chosen in the past to cherry pick bits of peer-reviewed science in a vain attempt to justify his decision. He is now blundering ahead in the face of yet more research, this time from Durham University, which further undermines his rationale.”
Professor Peter Atkins, of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, has concluded (1) that a widespread badger cull will not solve the problem of tuberculosis in cattle. He says: “Badgers almost certainly play a part in spreading the disease, but my conclusion is that their impact over the decades has been far less than suggested.”
He goes on to conclude that bTB in badgers is a spillover disease from cattle rather than an endemic condition and probably does not persist over a long period. He contends the cull could even exacerbate the problem.
“Bit by bit Owen Paterson’s case for badger culling is falling apart under independent scientific scrutiny”, said Mr Williams.
“We see the slaughter of an iconic previously protected indigenous British mammal as a speculative, irresponsible, politically driven decision which will inflame public opinion and cause immense damage to the reputation of Britain’s farmers.
“We will continue to oppose this appalling decision by every legal means possible.”
(1) Durham University News
Press release from Badger Trust 27/2/13
14 Feb 2013, 6:52 PM
According to an article in the Northern Echo (www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/10228969.Badger_cull_will_not_solve_bovine_tuberculosis_problem_in_cattle__Durham_University_ study_claims/) experts from Durham University say a widespread badger cull will not help re bTB. The study results were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection
Prof Atkins said “bTB has been around for several hundred years and appears to have become more prevalent here in the UK because of the intensive cattle breeding and farming from the 18th century onwards.
"It is an airborne infection generally, so if cattle were confined without much ventilation, the disease inevitably spread.
"We think the peak of bTB probably was in the middle or late 19th century, with perhaps as much as 80 per cent of cattle then infected in some counties.”
Prof Atkins said that after World War Two, bTB fell dramatically because of a policy of slaughtering all cattle that tested positive and herds were free of the condition by 1960.
“It is very probable that other animals did and do carry TB including badgers and deer, but cattle-to-cattle transfer is likely also to be an important factor," he said. "For example, only one out of nearly 400 badgers killed in road accidents in Cheshire over two decades tested for the disease turned out to be positive.
"This goes against received wisdom that bTB would have stayed in badgers which obviously weren’t culled when the cattle were in previous decades and they then reinfected cattle stocks.
"But this interspecies transference seems unlikely to have occurred on the necessary scale.
“Furthermore, no one has yet proved definitively which direction the infection travels between species. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which ran from 1998-2006 indicated complex, interwoven patterns of infection and concluded badger culling was unlikely to be effective for the future control of bTB.”
Professor Atkins believes bTB in badgers is a spillover disease from cattle rather than an endemic condition and probably does not persist over lengthy periods.
And he believes a cull could even make the problem worse: “When badgers are disturbed, they seem to perceive they are being attacked and move from their original area by a kilometre or more and join other badger groups, which spreads the disease ..
12 Feb 2013, 4:44 PM
On Tuesday 12 February the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee will hold the first evidence session of its inquiry into vaccination of badgers and cattle against bovine TB. The first part of the session will primarily focus on the effectiveness of the injectable BCG vaccine for badgers and the work FERA are undertaking under the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project (BVDP) in Gloucestershire. The Committee will then question the AHVLA on the development of a cattle vaccine, its likely effectiveness and cost, and the timescale for the availability of both the vaccine and DIVA test. The development of an oral vaccine for badgers will also be discussed. In the final part of the session the Committee will question the AHVLA about the Schmallenberg virus.
Details of the session are as follows: Tuesday 12 February 2013, 2.45pm, Room 16, Main Committee Corridor Bovine TB vaccination At 2.45pm Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) Dr Gavin Wilson, Team Leader Dr Steve Carter, Senior Scientist At 3.30pm Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) Professor Glyn Hewinson, Chief Scientist Schmallenberg At 4.30pm Professor Glyn Hewinson, Chief Scientist, AHVLA Professor Trevor Drew, Lead Scientist for Virology, AHVLA Alick Simmonds, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra More information about the inquiry can be found on the Committee’s website www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/inquiries/parli ament-2010/bovine-tb-vaccine/
5 Feb 2013, 5:35 PM
An interesting report, Bovine tuberculosis and badgers in Britain: relevance of the past', by Atkins PJ, Robinson PA. Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham, UK (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23347609)
If, as mentioned in the report, 'epidemiologists and ecologists are mistaken and that bTB in badgers is a spillover rather than an endemic disease' then the badger is no more relevant than any other mammal that can (and does) get bTB.
Abstract SUMMARY The European badger (Meles meles) has been identified as a wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis and a source of transmission to cattle in Britain and Ireland. Both behavioural ecology and statistical ecological modelling have indicated the long-term persistence of the disease in some badger communities, and this is postulated to account for the high incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle across large tracts of England and Wales. This paper questions this consensus by using historical cartographic evidence to show that tuberculosis in cattle had a very different spatial distribution before 1960 to the present day. Since few of the badgers collected in road traffic accidents between 1972 and 1990 had tuberculosis in counties such as Cheshire, where the disease had until shortly before that been rife in the cattle population, the role of badgers as reservoirs in spreading disease in similar counties outside the south-west of England has to be questioned.
30 Jan 2013, 10:15 AM
The 'Bovine TB Eradication Programme IAA Badger Vaccination Project Year 1 Report' by the Welsh Assembly has just been published and can be read in full at:
Of course many will ask the question - 'If badgers can be vaccinated, why can't we vaccinated our cattle?'
The conclusions of the report are below:
The Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer considers that the first year of this project was successful in meeting the objective to trap and vaccinate as many badgers as possible within the IAA. The confirmed number of badgers caught and vaccinated is 1424, which was achieved without incident or injury during one of the wettest summers on record. Solid project management and the dedication of the entire team contributed to this outcome.
This year's success depended on the co-operation of landowners and occupiers granting access to land to set traps and vaccinate captured badgers.
Round 9 which was undertaken in November, covered a smaller area than previous rounds and resulted in proportionally fewer badgers being trapped. The lower trapping rate is likely to be due to the extremely poor weather conditions experienced during November and the fact that badgers become less active during winter months.
The variance in capture rates across rounds may be due to several contributing factors, including varying badger density, time of year and size of areas trapped.
During 2012, the project delivered badger vaccination in areas that had been surveyed in 2010. It is intended to expand the project where possible into previously un-surveyed areas to further increase coverage in future years. Increasing the duration of a cycle of work and increasing the number of field operatives will also be considered to ensure vaccination can be delivered over a wider area.
It is difficult to make inferences based on a single year’s data, but as the project progresses there should be increased scope to interrogate the dataset and reach meaningful conclusions.
18 Jan 2013, 6:32 PM
According to a study, carried out by a team from Bangor University, the University of Kent and Kingston University, about one in 10 livestock farmers in Wales has illegally killed a badger recently.
The study involved a "randomised response technique" sometimes used to find out about illegal or controversial subjects. The survey was carried out between June and September 2011 at five major agricultural shows and 12 farmers markets across Wales. The findings suggest about 10% of farmers had killed a badger in the 12 months before they were approached. The figure rose to 14.5% among those who farmed cattle.
The researchers believe the findings are important because of concerns that killing a relatively small number of badgers in an uncontrolled way can increase the spread of bovine TB, as infected badgers move on when social groups are disrupted.
Paul Cross, from Bangor University's school of environment, natural resources and geography, said he believed the results of the survey were important.
"The proportion of farmers estimated to have killed badgers should be considered by policymakers and in the wider debate," he said. "Intensive badger culling is one approach being considered by policymakers in an attempt to control the spread of tuberculosis in cattle. However, studies investigating the effects of badger culling on TB outbreaks in cattle have not factored in the prevalence of illegal badger killing, and its potential to spread disease."
The scientists were interested that sheep farmers, whose animals are not affected by bovine TB, also appeared to have killed badgers. The research paper said: "The finding that 6.7% of sheep-only farmers reported killing badgers is intriguing as there is no explicit reason for such behaviour. It may suggest a background level of badger-killing for sport, or that farmers have a collective sense of responsibility to control badgers, particularly in regions where sheep and cattle farms share boundaries."
Info from: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/17/livestock-farmers-kill-badgers-study
26 Dec 2012, 1:21 PM
Letter, dated 24 December 2012, by Dave Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust:
As we move towards the New Year I’m writing to briefly update you on our plans for 2013. Put simply, we fight on. Clearly it will be a difficult year with the Coalition apparently adamant that the postponed culls will go ahead. There are rumours—and that’s all they are at present—that the pilot culls may be switched to other areas, but there is little point in speculating why that might happen until we have positive news, one way or the other. Legal action remains the most promising line of attack to stop the culls ever taking place and we will continue to explore every viable option. We stopped the proposed Welsh cull in its tracks and as you know the new administration in Wales has opted for vaccination rather than slaughter. That solution remains the best long-term way forward for the remainder of the UK, with cattle vaccination the ultimate weapon against this insidious disease. The Government attempts to justify a badger cull with the fatuous statement that “to do nothing” is not an option. No, of course, it isn’t, but a massive costly non-selective counter-productive slaughter of mostly healthy badgers isn’t the answer, either.
Using the ISG’s 2007 final report, in which it analysed the findings of 10 years of peer-reviewed research, we have argued consistently that until there is a cattle vaccine bTB will be brought under control only when farmers and the farming industry are forced to adopt much more rigorous disease control procedures. Belatedly the Government introduced some new measures in 2012 and more will take effect in 2013. Those measures should be allowed to take effect and the badger cull should be shelved. Remember, the Government’s best forecasts only claim a reduction in bTB spread of 12-16 per cent over NINE years. Self evidently badgers are NOT the main problem. The scientific case for a badger cull remains weak, so with the help of scientific advisers, and the support of other organisations in Team Badger and the Badger Protection League, we will continue to expose the myths and half truths that prop up what we see as a politically driven campaign and we will continue to highlight every strand of new research that strengthens our case for a cure rather than a cull.
Our case against the cull is built on three powerful platforms: the law, science, and public support. All will be crucial in 2013. In the months since our judicial review to stop the culls was turned down we have continued to explore all current legal options, and I attach with this note a letter from our legal team which summarises the latest exchange of letters with Natural England and with Defra and you will see that we continue to question and challenge them on every point of detail.
As we move ahead, your support and encouragement remains vital. We are, after all, your voice. All of us at the Badger Trust have been heartened by the encouragement we have received so consistently. It motivates us to battle on. Rest assured we will do all we can to save the badger and bring the scourge of bovine TB under control. It won’t be easy. But we won’t give up.
26 Dec 2012, 10:50 AM
Interesting story in the Guardian on 11 November 2012. 'The truth about bovines, badgers and the spread of TB'. It tells us that convention held that humans had caught tuberculosis from cattle – but the DNA record apparently tells a different story.
As the ex-Defra Field Manager running the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) in the South West, I feel well qualified to make recommendations as to the best way forward if a cull is to be acceptable by the general public, including the Badger Trust and its many allies. Firstly, unless land owners are convinced that only, and I mean only, infected badgers are being removed from their land they will never participate in any trial willingly.
I had the task of visiting all those who refused to participate in the RBCT. The common theme was – "unless my badgers are infected you can’t touch them." No amount of cajoling would change their stance.
In February 2010, I met with a minister and other interested parties at the Enigma Diagnostics HQ in Porton Down. There we discussed the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology as a way forward in combating the disease. We were all totally sold on the idea as it would keep all factions happy if it were introduced. Sadly, since then, the idea seems to have fizzled out for whatever reasons. It is now time to resurrect that interest and to introduce it, on a trial basis, as a way forward in combating the disease.
As an aside, we were then told that in 2010, there wasn’t enough time to undertake PCR trials as the farming industry wouldn’t entertain the idea of waiting for a solution. They were after a “quick fix”. Here we are, 30 months later, still without an effective tool to combat bovine TB ! How ironic !
I understand that Warwick University have been working on PCR technology for some time with increasingly encouraging results. Surely, by cage trapping badgers, testing their blood/sputum/urine/faeces using PCR, backed up by a blood test, we would have a viable live time, in-field test that could be rolled out fairly quickly? Reactor and field mapping, such as was used in previous culling operations could closer target the use of PCR on infected setts.
Imagine being able to identify the infected badgers and removing them from the countryside, combined with the vaccination of “clean” badgers before releasing them back into the wild – what a way forward for all concerned !
I was involved in the Live Testing trials (of badgers) in 1994/5. The test was dropped as it wasn’t accurate enough to move forward with. When we did find infected badgers we culled them and all the occupants of the setts they came from. Using PCR would facilitate similar action being taken.
You may be aware that the Alpaca TB Support Group have already commissioned the trial use of PCR technology on dead alpacas, diagnosed by postmortem and culture with tuberculosis? Their results to date have been more than encouraging, with an over 80% detection rate. The second phase results on animals with less advanced lesions, are also encouraging. If this small group can do such a trial on a shoestring budget, surely a larger project, publicly funded, could be trialled using badgers instead of alpacas ? If Public funding wasn’t available, levy a TB tax on every animal passing through our livestock markets to raise enough cash to fund it.
DEFRA will never win over the general public with a mass cull of badgers. The fact that 84% of those which we were able to trap and cull during the RBCT were on postmortem, not lesioned, is too fresh in their minds and will always be used as ammunition to fight any 'area' type cull. If you really want to win the public over, go down the PCR route combined with vaccination. Do not let FERA or DEFRA deliver the trials as they can be done more cheaply and efficiently using Contractors. To me it is a no brainer !
I am always happy to input my thoughts into any trial that may occur in the future, in the best interests of farmers, badger lovers and the general public.
Paul Caruana Ex-Defra Field Manager (Polwhele) Paul is now a director of Field Services South West Ltd.,
12 Dec 2012, 6:11 PM
“[We] don't know about our "veterinary leaders", but the oath we took on qualifying was that it would be “my constant endeavour to ensure the welfare of animals under my care”. We remember no oath of allegiance to the Government of the day, trade in animal products or money. We wonder whether it is time the veterinary profession split into those who genuinely care for the health and welfare of animals, and those for whom butchery and massacre are the tools of first resort.” - McGill et al., Vet Times Nov. 19.
The debate around badger killing continues to rage within the British veterinary press. Government plans to shoot badgers were recently supported in the Veterinary Times by the Presidents of the British Veterinary Association and the British Cattle Veterinary Association.
However, a growing number of vets are coming out against the culling proposals. Letters are being published in veterinary journals, and a group of nine vets have provided a succinct summary of the key welfare problems in a letter to the government. And they also have a Facebook page (with links to the various letters sent) for veterinary professionals opposed to the badger cull. http://www.facebook.com/VetsAndVetNursesAgainstTheBadgerCull
12 Dec 2012, 6:06 PM
More news on this from the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_9777000/9777131.stm).
Crossbench peer Lord Krebs, a leading expert on bovine tuberculosis, has called on the government to 'review all the options' to control the disease, ahead of a proposed badger cull next summer. He was speaking during oral questions on 11 December 2012.
Lord Krebs wanted to know how the success of the trials would be judged, and whether the government would look again at the different options.
He told peers: "Not even the most optimistic proponent of culling would consider that it is a credible strategy for eradication of this dreadful disease."
His view was supported by Leader of the Opposition Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, who insisted there was still no "scientific, economic or moral" basis for culling.
Labour peer, Lord Hoyle, had tabled the original question, saying that scientific evidence over 10 years shows killing badgers makes 'hardly any difference' to tackling the disease. Lord Hoyle went on to urge the government to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly, and opt for 'vaccination over elimination.'
But Environment Spokesman Lord De Mauley said that while the government wanted to use vaccinations for cattle and badgers, there were currently 'practical problems' with this approach.
12 Dec 2012, 5:44 PM
Labour’s Lord Hoyle said scientific evidence suggested the killing of badgers would make no difference to the problem, with some 'eminent' scientists arguing it could make it worse.
“In view of that will you now follow the policy of the Welsh Assembly and decide on a policy of vaccination, rather than elimination?” he demanded at question time.
Lord de Mauley said he disagreed on the science but that the Government was investing in extensive research, though there were “practical difficulties” with the injectable vaccine, including trapping, cost and annual repeat.
Independent crossbencher Lord Krebs, who carried out a scientific review of the bovine TB issue in the 1990s and has been critical of the Government’s move, asked how the success or failure of the two pilots would be judged.
“Is it not right that the Government should take the opportunity between now and next summer to review all the options for controlling TB in badgers – bearing in mind that not even the most optimistic proponent of culling would consider it is a credible strategy for eradication of this dreadful disease,” he said.
The minister told him that an independent panel of experts would oversee the two pilots to test assumptions about the humaneness and safety of the culling plan.
Information from: www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Abandoned-badger-culls-cost-Government-1-15/story-17566318-detail/story.html
14 Nov 2012, 8:16 PM
For anyone interested in reading the Badger Trust appeal it can be found here www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/748_S4.pdf
The letters the Badger Trust and its solicitors sent to Natural England can be read here, together with responses from Natural England:
Now, almost certainly, by this time, the decision had been made to postpone the trial culls. They had not, and could not, answer the BT's LBA and realised that they were staring at another Judicial Review, and that this time there would be no way out. The Secretary of State was called back from Paris and made his announcement in the house.
Welsh public don't want badger cull, were the wise words of Welsh deputy farming minister Alun Davies who recently squashed any hopes that a badger cull will take place in Wales to combat bovine tuberculosis.
At the NFU Cymru conference in Builth Wells on 1 November, Mr Davies said that the arguments for and against a cull were over and that culling was no longer on the agenda.
He told farmers that "When I was campaigning for re-election it was clear that there was no support in the Welsh public for a badger cull; in fact there is active opposition. Politicians in every constituency would lose their deposits if they were campaigning for a cull today. We can constantly look back and wish that things were different but there is no support among the Welsh public or indeed the Welsh government to go ahead with a badger cull. There is simply not a majority in the Senedd to pass the policy you require; it is a matter of mathematical reality.''
He insisted that the Welsh government was the only UK administration that was actively tackling the reservoir of TB in badgers. The first cycle of a five-year badger vaccination programme was completed last month. "I know we have a policy that is in tune with the public mood," Mr Davies added.
He sympathised with farmers whose herds were infected by bovine TB. "One of the great tragedies of the debate is that it is centred on the future of the badger and not the future of Welsh agriculture," he said.
FROM THE LORDS 25/10/12 Lord Krebs: My Lords, as has been said, bovine TB is a serious problem, and it deserves serious science to underpin policy. I do not want to take up too much time, but I hope that your Lordships will forgive me as an individual who has been involved in this over the past 15 years and, as has been said, instigated the randomised badger culling trial and took part in the review of the evidence with Sir Bob Watson last year. It is worth briefly repeating the facts: the long-term, large-scale culling of badgers is estimated to reduce the incidence of TB in cattle by 16% after nine years. In other words, 84% of the problem is still there. To reflect on what that means, this is not a reduction in absolute terms but actually a 16% reduction from the trend increase. So after nine years there is still more TB around than there was at the beginning; it is just that there is 16% less than there would have been without a cull. The number is not the 30% that the NFU quoted; that is misleading-a dishonest filleting of the data. The other thing that the experts conclude is that culling makes the situation worse at the beginning so it will take a long time to emerge into this Nirvana of a 16% reduction, and 84% of the problem is still there.
That is just the background. I turn to questions that I hope the Minister will answer. Last Friday we were told by the Minister of State for Food and Farming that between 500 and 800 badgers would be culled in each of the two areas. The number, thanks to rapid badger reproduction over the weekend, is now 5,530 over the two areas-a fourfold increase. I am impressed. What this underlines is that if the policy is to cull at least 70% of the badgers, we have to know what the starting number is. This variation from just over 1,000 to more than 5,000 in the space of a few days underlines how difficult it is for us to have confidence that the Government will be able to instruct the farmers to cull 70% if they do not know the starting numbers. So my first question to the Minister is: how will he assure us that these numbers are accurate?
If we ask why the NFU has backed out, it is because it was due to pay those who were going to shoot the badgers on a per-badger basis. The NFU calculated it on the basis of shooting 1,300 badgers. Suddenly it is told, "It's 5,500 badgers". The farmers thought it was worth doing-but not that much. They have done their own cost-benefit calculation and say that it is not worth the candle. So my second question to the Minister is: in next year's cull, who is going to pay? Are the farmers going to stump up on a per-badger basis to shoot 5,500 badgers or are we, the taxpayer, going to pay?
Finally and briefly, we have a pause and time to rethink. I urge the Minister to gather together scientific experts and rethink the Government's strategy altogether, starting from square one.
29 Oct 2012, 12:02 PM
The Krebs' report said vaccination was the most promising strategy (see extract below) - so maybe we should be demanding to know why all the attention has, instead, been focussed on the wildlife reservoir (despite most accepting that badger culling is not cost effective, is publicly unpopular and likely to make so little difference and even make situation worse)? Little/nothing has been done to pave the way for EU reg changes. Girling admitted this in the Farming Today interview on 27 October 2012.
The Krebs report has recommended the development of cattle vaccines as the most promising strategy to control bovine tuberculosis in the UK. ‘Testing TB Vaccines in cattle – SE3212’ Report can be downloaded as a PDF from the internet. Cost: £1,609,963
25 Oct 2012, 5:32 PM
Following today's debate on the badger cull motion the vote was overwhelmingly for the motion (147 to 28). I was impressed by the knowledge of many of the MPs that spoke and it was interesting to hear the obvious support for cattle vaccination. At the end, as a point of order, the Speaker advised that the House had voted and offered its views but that it was not binding on Government policy. Before the vote, Heath was asked by Tory MP Mark Pritchard: "Will ministers accept the will of this house?" Heath said they would "listen" to the views of the house.
Mark Pritchard MP: I am sure you will guide me if it is not, Mr Speaker. For clarity, is it still the case, as has been the tradition over centuries in this place, that a vote carried in the House of Commons is binding on the Government?
Mr Speaker: 'The answer to that, in short, is no. Only legislation binds. The Hon. Gentleman will have heard the response, as will other Hon. Members. The House has voted and offered its view. I will leave it there. That is as pithy an encapsulation as I can offer to the Hon. Gentleman.'
Surely the Government would be unwise to ignore today's debate and the unanimous support for the motion. Maybe we will now see cattle vaccination expedited?
The call for the parliamentary debate was supported by a cross-party group of 36 MPs. The motion to be debated states: "This house recognises that significant, independent scientific research has demonstrated that culling badgers will have little effect on reducing the rate of bovine TB; acknowledges that culling may even exacerbate the problem; notes that the e-petition against the current plans for culling passed in a very short period of time the 100,000 figure required to make it eligible for debate in parliament and that it continues to attract impressive levels of support from members of the public; calls on the government to stop any planned or present culling of badgers; and further calls on the government to introduce a vaccination programme and measures to improve biosecurity with immediate effect."
Stop the badger cull e-petition currently at 163,594
Responsible department: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Badger Trust responds to recent announcement made to postpone culls and its Press Release sates:
WHAT PARLIAMENT WAS NOT TOLD
The Ministerial statement in the Commons about the postponement of badger culling in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire and the subsequent discussion contained a series of oft-repeated half-truths about bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
In advance of the six-hour debate tomorrow (Thursday October 25) the Badger Trust now repairs some of the omissions:
1. “The disease is out of control”
Fewer cattle have been slaughtered through bTB each year from 2008 to 2011 (last full-year figures). 
2. No other country in the world has successfully overcome bTB without tackling the reservoir of the disease in wildlife.
The UK did. We brought the total of cattle slaughtered down from 47,476 in 1938 to 628 in 1979 without killing wildlife. If there was a “wildlife reservoir” then it could have had little effect – and such a reservoir could not have suddenly appeared when infection began to soar after 1990 .
3. The most recent follow up work of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) has shown a significantly reduced level of TB infection inside the control area . . .
Not “significantly” reduced. Lord Krebs, who originated the trial, said recently  that the benefit would be 16 per cent fewer breakdowns and take nine years to achieve after massive cost. It would be so slight that the average farmer – who would be paying the massive cost - would probably not notice the difference. He also said: ““The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case”.
4. The only available vaccine for badgers involves trapping and injecting each animal – something that is hugely expensive and very impractical.
It is no more expensive or impractical than trapping badgers to shoot them, but vaccination provides immunity for life and does not stir up badger populations. The proposed cheap method of shooting sufficient free running badgers is still untested.
5. Vaccination has no effect on animals that have already become infected which includes a significant proportion of the badger population in “hot spot” areas.
Wrong. The vaccine slows the progress and severity of the disease, reducing the risk of the animal becoming infectious. The proportion of badgers infected is not as he claims "significant". It was one in nine in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) – 1,100 out of 9,000 killed - wrong again. 
6. The number of new bTB cases has increased in recent months, with the latest Defra stats showing a 6.3% increase in the number of new TB incidents in January – March 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.
These figures are out of date and represent a flagrant piece of cherry picking. A “case” is not defined – it could be an affected herd or an individual infected animal, for which a farmer would be compensated.
The full story is this: the latest official provisional incidence rate (herds) for July THIS YEAR is 5.2%, compared to 6.0% in July 2011.
The number of new herd incidents during January to July 2012 was 3,018 compared to 3,021 for January to July 2011 – virtually the same. The number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered was 21,512 in January to July 2012, compared to 20,514 in January to July 2011.
However, the number of tests on officially TB free herds went up by 19 per cent in the same period (45,443 in 2012, to 38,051 in 2011, an increase of 7,392). Perhaps as a consequence 21,512 cattle were slaughtered (and compensated for) in all herds in the same period in 2012 against 20,514 in 2011 – a rise of only 4.8%. 
7. The truth is that culls have been shown to work. The Irish Government has been conducting a badger control programme and it clearly indicates that over recent years the number of reactors has fallen by a third.
The official report on the £50 million Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) concluded: “The elimination of badgers from large tracts of the countryside [as in Ireland] would be politically unacceptable, and . . . badger welfare issues must be taken into account. After careful consideration of all the RBCT and other data presented in this report, including an economic assessment, we conclude that badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain .
The Coalition’s own consultation document  said of the RBCT: “. . . it is not possible to compare the effectiveness of most of these different policies or compare any of them with the impact of not culling badgers at all, because they were not scientific trials. The RBCT is the only one of these that was conducted as a rigorous scientific trial.
 Defra archive, TB statistics.
 W.D. Macrae. Zoological Society of London from Symp, Zool. Soc., Lond. No. 4, pp. 81-90 (April, 1961) and MAFF TB statistics.
 Radio 4, Farming Today, October 12th and Page One, The Observer October 14th.
... and here is the response from the Badger Trust.
POSTPONEMENT GIVES A PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
The statement by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirming the postponement of the proposed badger cull contained a shameful series of evasions and errors in seeking to justify the killing of badgers and the impractical methods the Coalition proposes to use.
Nevertheless, the Badger Trust still hopes the Government will consider more carefully all the new issues that have emerged over the last few months. The Trust calls for an open and transparent public review of all the issues including the costs, public safety, practicability, science, animal welfare and the emergence of alternatives to culling.
Informed scientific opinion seeks a national bTB eradication strategy which would make clear the miniscule contribution and considerable dangers to be expected from culling.
The Badger Trust puts some of Mr Owen Paterson’s remarks into perspective.
There is no evidence that the badger population has increased since the last estimate in 1997. He claimed the Government had devised a much more effective culling method -- one that has never been tried and which they need pilot culls to test. Britain enjoyed 20 years with about 1,000 cattle slaughtered annually. The number rose when testing was disrupted by BSE and foot and mouth, but for 16 years the industry stood out against pre-movement testing. Ten times as many cattle are killed for diseases other than bovine TB. Compensation is paid for the TB-infected cattle, but not for the others.
In saying no other country had tackled bTB without addressing wildlife Mr Paterson, his predecessor and the farming organisations have forgotten that the United Kingdom did so after World War II, bringing the cattle toll down from 47,476 to a low point of 628 in 1979, without killing badgers. Bovine TB is not currently spreading. In fact the number of cattle lost – and compensated for – has been falling from 2008 up to last year. The disease is not being “left unchecked”. A new range of long-awaited and overdue farm-based measures have finally been announced for next year. Marksmen shooting badgers at night will have to kill at least seven out of ten – but the Coalition has no idea how many badgers there are in the first place. Other species do not have to be culled to a specified minimum. The problems for the farming industry remain unaffected by the statement. They are:
Keep the public safe despite the secrecy about boundaries. How to find the badgers and achieve sufficient ‘humane’ kills. Get the farmers to pay up for what promise to be ever-escalating bills. How to keep the shooting, the identity of participating famers and landowners secret from criminal activity by protesters.
Farmers and landowners have been sadly deluded into believing in - and paying for - the proposed unholy mess based on a 40-year-old prejudice impervious to science.
23 Oct 2012, 4:21 PM
www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/10/23/badger-cull/ - here is latest statement from Defra re postponement of cull.
23 Oct 2012, 9:25 AM
The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, will announce today that the government is delaying its plan to cull thousands of badgers, probably until next year at the earliest. There is continued and growing concern about the cost and effectiveness of the controversial scheme.
Apparently he was forced to return from an official trip abroad to oversee the U-turn.
No doubt the decision will please the growing number against the cull, which includes many of the top scientists involved with bTB. These have expressed severe doubts about whether the cull will work.
For some reason no effort had been made to count the badgers until the cull preparations were well underway. Numbers were need or how could the percentage figure be known. We ask how did they arrive at the increased figures? Were reliable methods used? If not then there will be the inevitable outcry from those for the cull stating that as numbers have increased the badger population is getting out of control.
We assume that the Parliamentary debate is still going ahead on the 25th October. This will be the first full debate in the House of Commons on the subject of badger culling.