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Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?



 Added by  Thomas (Guest)
 22 Jul 2010, 6:43 PM


Prof John Bourne, who conducted the infamous ten year, government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled what he was told by a senior politician:
 
"Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers."
 
This strand on the forum deals mainly with the wildlife reservoirs involved in the bovine TB saga. In the UK this is, as we are probably all aware by now, believed to be mainly the badger. No other mammal has been studied in the UK as intensely as the badger so actually we don't really know just how other animals are implicated. In other countries different species are implicated. There are some anomalies too, including the example below.
 
Has anyone an explanation for the following!
 
According to last issue of Gwlad, Australia is now bTB free after 27 years of trying. We are told it has no wildlife reservoir. New Zealand is still aiming for eradication. It has a wildlife reservoir - possums - which are considered a pest species as not indigenous so are being culled - and vaccinated!
 
HOWEVER - possums ARE native to Australia and bTB was rife in country for years so - why are the Australian possums not a reservoir?

becky
New report at http://7thspace.com/headlines/415661/impact_of_external_sources_of_infection_on_the_dynamics_of_bovine_tuberculosis_in_modelled_... entitled '  Impact of external sources of infection on the dynamics of bovine tuberculosis in modelled badger populations'.
 
'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
 
becky
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 [1].
 
 
 
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.
 
[1] Randomised Badger Culling Trial – www.archive.defra.gov.uk/.../tb.../100915-tb-control-measures-annexb.pdf
 
becky
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.
 
becky
The Badger Trust’s action for a judicial review of the Government’s decision to kill badgers will be heard on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th June before Mr Justice Ouseley at the High Court in London. The hearing will begin at 10.30 am in Court 76 and the court usually rises at 4.30 pm. A decision is likely to follow several weeks later.
 
The Trust is acting alone in mounting this legal challenge in which it will ask the court to quash the decision to authorise culling made by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs in December 2011.
 
The Trust’s Judicial Review of the Welsh Assembly Government’s decision to kill badgers succeeded on all grounds in the Court of Appeal in 2010. The Welsh Government then announced in March 2012 that it would vaccinate badgers and step up its cattle-focussed measures rather than kill badgers unnecessarily in light of the science. However, despite a constant stream of evidence that culling will make matters worse and growing consternation from many farmers, DEFRA is pressing ahead with its expensive culling project.
 
The Trust will ask the court to review the decision on the basis of three grounds:
 
1. In short, according to DEFRA’s own evidence, the cull will cause the spread of bovine TB.
 
The Secretary of State has authorised Natural England to issue licences to reduce the rate of new incidences of bovine TB (although she expects a mere 12-16% reduction in bTB after 9 years at a huge net cost to the farmer). However, ‘reducing incidence’ is not the purpose for which the legal power was granted.
 
The culls proposed will not meet the strict legal test of “preventing the spread of disease” in the areas being licensed. DEFRA’s own evidence for the hearing confirms that the proposed cull would in fact cause the spread of disease in and around the cull zones. Badger Trust considers that this is entirely antithetical to the aims in the strict test set down in section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
 
 
2. The cost impact assessment underpinning DEFRA’s decision is flawed, as its cost assumptions are based on the farmer free-shooting option (this is estimated to be approximately ten times cheaper than cage-trapping badgers before killing them). However, after the first year of piloting the cull plans, the free-shooting method may be ruled out for being inhumane, ineffective or unsafe to the public. In that case, farmers will find themselves legally obliged to continue the cull on the much more costly “trap and shoot” basis until the end of the 4-year licences. This is a significant cost risk for farmers, yet it is not properly reflected in the cost impact assessment which underpinned DEFRA’s decision.
 
The Secretary of State did not ask herself the right questions so as to obtain crucial information on costs. She made a decision on basis A, when in reality the plan may be rolled out on basis B. Badger Trust considers that this renders the decision entirely unlawful. Given the poor cost-benefit prognosis for the cull, the Trust also hopes that Parliament and the farming community will now carefully reconsider DEFRA’s DIY cull plans.
 
3. Guidance which DEFRA issued to Natural England is invalid. Under section 15(2) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 the Secretary of State may issue guidance to Natural England as to how Natural England should exercise its functions. However, killing badgers is not one of Natural England’s original functions, which are mainly focussed on maintaining biodiversity. Even though DEFRA is making Natural England responsible for the licensing arrangements, under section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, culling badgers ‘for the prevention of spread of disease’ still remains the Secretary of State’s own function. Thus, she had no legal power to issue section 15 guidance to Natural England in these circumstances.
 
David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said:
 
“We stand alone in initiating this action and raising funds for it, although we have been grateful for encouragement from other wildlife organisations. The Trust acts on behalf of local badger groups across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and we see it as our duty to use all legal means of persuasion and scientific argument to overturn this decision which risks making a bad situation even worse”.
 
The Trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans LLP, said:
 
“The Trust’s arguments are three-fold. First, the proposed badger cull will cause rather than prevent disease in cattle. This fails the legal test for licensing. Second, in terms of its cost-benefit analysis, DEFRA made a decision on basis A, when in reality the plan may well be rolled out on basis B. As a matter of public law, that is unlawful. Finally, the Guidance to Natural England is legally flawed.
 
Badger Trust has not embarked on this litigation lightly. However, against DEFRA’s ‘flat earth’ approach to the evidence and determination to pursue an unlawful and costly culling spree, they have been left with no option.
 
DEFRA’s culling plans are bad for farmers, bad for cattle, and bad for badgers. The plans cost millions, and threaten to prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease. We hope that the decision to cull will be struck down by the court.”
 
becky
The Badger Trust's judicial review of Defra's badger cull plans starts next week (June 25th). There are some interesting information in this article for those interested in the badger/cattle bTB issue.
 
http://biosecurityresearch.blogspot.co.uk/
 
becky
Understandably the Badger Trust has picked up on the latest concerns regarding the proposed badger culls. In a recent press release entitled 'Scientists spell out more uncertainties in badger killing plan' it is stated that:
 
Two leading scientists have spelt out likely consequences of uncertainties in accounting for the proportion of badger populations culled. A letter by Prof. Christl A. Donnelly of Imperial College, London and Prof. Rosie Woodroffe of the Institute of Zoology, London appears in the current issue of the international science journal Nature.[1].
 
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “We welcome this work which further undermines the Coalition Government’s statement that the cull would be science led. It also serves to endorse our view that the results of free shooting cannot be accurately estimated [2]. The letter also underlines the crucial points that killing too few would risk making matters worse while the alternative of killing too many risks wiping out the entire local population. The extra cost to the agricultural industry of sufficiently detailed badger population surveys has not been allowed for, further undermining any estimated benefits to farmers”.
 
Under the heading “Reduce uncertainty in UK badger culling” the letter notes that the Coalition Government’s plans to license badger culling for the control of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle were controversial whereas, by contrast, the Welsh Government decided to vaccinate badgers rather than kill them.
 
The letter continues:
 
“Extensive badger culls may reduce cattle TB (C. A. Donnelly et al. Nature 439, 843–846; 2006), but complex disease dynamics mean that killing too few animals can actually increase it (C. A. Donnelly et al. Nature 426, 834–837; 2003). However, culling too many badgers risks local extinction, contravening the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Natural England, the agency monitoring the cull, will therefore be required to set minimum and maximum cull numbers for each licence. But the effects are difficult to predict.
 
“Targets for licences will draw on regional estimates of badger abundance, but badger densities are uncertain, owing to their secretive behaviour. Surveys of TB-affected areas in Gloucestershire, where one of two pilot culls is planned, indicate a mean density of 3.3 badgers per square kilometre, with a 95% confidence interval of 2.4–4.6 and substantial local variation (D. Parrott et al. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. 58, 23–33; 2012).
 
“As well as measurement uncertainty, there will be random (Poisson) variation about mean densities, and binomial variation around mean capture probabilities. These three sources of uncertainty together mean that licensed culling of 344 badgers — intended to represent 70% of badgers within a 150-km2 area — could eradicate anywhere between 51% of the resident badger population (risking an increase in cattle TB) and 100% (risking a breach of the Bern Convention).
 
“This uncertainty cannot be eliminated, but could be reduced by detailed badger surveys before and after each cull. This would increase culling costs, which are already projected to exceed the financial benefits for farmers”.
 
[Signed] Christl A. Donnelly MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Imperial College London, London, UK. c.donnelly@imperial.ac.uk 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).
 
Refs:
 
1 http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7400/full/485582a.html
 
2 http://www.badgertrust.org.uk/DocFrame/DocView.asp?id=537
 
becky
Reading Damian Carrington's latest piece in the Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/may/31/badgers-cull-tb-cattle) one wonders just why the government is not pushing more for cattle vaccination. Surely getting the legal implications resolved would be a lot easier than attempting to cull/vaccinate badgers. The latest news brought to us by Damian relates to badger population issues and the views of two leading experts. Christl Donnelly and Rosie Woodroffe, who both worked on the 10-year Randomised Badger Culling Trial. Their letter, published in the scientific journal Nature, argues that our poor knowledge of existing badger populations presents a serious problem. 'That's because the culls have to wipe out at least 70% of the animals to avoid making matters worse, but it's impossible to know whether you've hit this target if you don't really know how many there were to start with.'
 
Uncertainties over badger populations mean a cull could result in anywhere between 50% and 100% of the creatures being killed.Randomised Badger Culling Trial.
 
'If "only" half of badgers are taken out, there is a significant risk that fleeing survivors will increase TB rates in cattle in neighbouring areas, the so-called peturbation effect. On the other hand, if all the badgers are killed, the cull will have broken the Bern wildlife convention which forbids local extinctions and to which the UK has signed up.'
 
'There are perhaps 300,000 badgers in England. "But knowledge is not as good as you would expect, given that they are widespread and well known," says Woodroffe. "They live underground and come out only at night, so it is hard to count them. Most people have never seen one."'
 
'The pair's calculation was based on data from Gloucestershire, where populations are in fact much better known than elsewhere. Night-time surveys were done there using a spotlight to count badgers, but there is clearly an uncertainty in such measurements. To that Donnelly and Woodroffe added the uncertainty associated with trying to catch the animals and the random variability of a population.'
 
What could be done is full surveys in each of the cull areas, before and after the shooting. DNA testing of badger droppings or bristles can apparently give good estimates of numbers. But, says Woodroffe, this would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and add to the heavy costs farmers will already bear for the culling, which the goverment already accepts will be higher than the financial benefits.
 
becky
Press release received today from Badger Trust:
 
Badger culling: Judicial Review
set for June
 
The Badger Trust’s Judicial Review of the Coalition Government’s decision to kill badgers in England has been set for Monday and Tuesday June 25 and 26. It will be heard in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, in the Administrative Court.
 
The Trust’s Judicial Review of the Welsh Assembly Government’s decision to kill badgers succeeded on all grounds in the Court of Appeal in 2010. The Trust considers that culling would not prevent the spread of disease but rather make matters worse at great cost to farmers, the tax payer and badgers. The Welsh Government announced in March 2012 that it would vaccinate badgers and improve cattle testing methods etc rather than kill badgers in light of the science.
 
The Trust will ask the court to overturn DEFRA’s decision on the basis of three grounds:
 
1. The Secretary of State has authorised Natural England to issue licences to reduce the rate of new incidences of bovine TB (although she expects a mere 12-16% reduction in bTB after 9 years at a huge net cost to the farmer). However, ‘reducing incidence’ is not the purpose for which the legal power was granted. The culls proposed will not meet the strict legal test of “preventing the spread of disease” in the areas being licensed, and may in fact amount to a recipe for spreading the disease. DEFRA’s own evidence confirms that the proposed cull would in fact prompt the spread of disease in and around the cull zones. Badger Trust considers that this is entirely antithetical to the aims in the strict test set down in section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
 
2. The cost impact assessment underpinning DEFRA’s decision is flawed, as its cost assumptions are based on the farmer free-shooting option (this is estimated to be approximately ten times cheaper than cage-trapping badgers before killing them). However, after the first year of piloting the cull plans, the free-shooting method may be ruled out for being inhumane, ineffective or unsafe to the public. In that case, farmers will find themselves legally obliged to continue the cull on the much more costly “trap and shoot” basis until the end of the 4-year licencev. This is a significant cost risk for farmers, yet it is not properly reflected in the cost impact assessment which underpinned DEFRA’s decision.
 
The Secretary of State did not ask herself the right questions so as to obtain crucial information on costs. Badger Trust considers that this renders the decision entirely unlawful. Given the poor cost-benefit prognosis for the cull, the Trust also hopes that Parliament and the farming community will now carefully reconsider DEFRA’s ‘Big Society’ DIY cull plans.
 
3. Guidance which DEFRA issued to Natural England is invalid. Under section 15(2) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 the Secretary of State may issue guidance to Natural England as to how Natural England should exercise its functions. However, killing badgers is not one of Natural England’s original functions, which are mainly focussed on maintaining biodiversity. Even though DEFRA is making Natural England responsible for the licensing arrangements, under section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, culling badgers ‘for the prevention of spread of disease’ still remains the Secretary of State’s own function. Thus, she had no legal power to issue section 15 guidance to Natural England in these circumstances.
 
The Trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans LLP, said: ”We have identified some serious flaws in the way by which the Secretary of State reached her decision to cull badgers. Given that DEFRA’s proposals come at an enormous cost to farmers, and threaten to prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease, we hope that this ill-conceived decision will be struck down by the court.”
 
Dave Williams, Badger Trust’s Chair added: “The listing of Badger Trust’s judicial review comes just days after new peer-reviewed scientific evidence was published in Nature http://www.nature.com/news/bovine-tb-disguised-by-liver-fluke-1.10685, which suggests that approximately one third of cattle TB tests may be inaccurate due to the presence of liver fluke. This has major consequences for the transmission of TB from cattle to cattle. Badger Trust has written to Defra to ask them to address the issue as a matter of priority. Currently, the Secretary of State is expending huge amounts of tax payers money on a side show, when the real problem is cattle-cattle transmission and inaccurate TB testing.”
 
becky
Press Release dated 22/5/12 from Badger Trust saying:
 
Up to a third of infected cattle could be missed by the standard test for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) because a liver parasite may be hampering eradication of the disease, research suggests. Dairy cattle carrying both TB and the 3-cm fluke Fasciola hepatica were less likely to reveal the infection, but the fluke has been increasing in the UK [1].
 
Prof Diana Williams of Liverpool University said the research team had been surprised to find that where there was more fluke there was less evidence of disease. Prof Williams also said fluke had become more common in the UK over the last 15 years - the very period that has seen a threefold increase in the number of cattle herds where bTB was present. She added that flukes could be thriving partly because of climate change and because of on-farm schemes that encouraged farmers to maintain ponds, lakes and marshes to support wildlife.
 
This carries forward work published in May last year by the Veterinary Sciences Division of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute of Northern Ireland [2]. One of their conclusions was that “co-infection with parasites, most notably liver fluke, and also the mycobacterial Johne’s disease, influenced the diagnostic sensitivity of both the comparative skin test and the gamma interferon test”.
 
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The cattle industry should not only welcome these findings but actively follow them up, particularly on behalf of farm businesses that endure persistent bTB breakdowns. For decades badgers have been blamed, now this research clearly shows how infection could stay undetected in a herd. Instead of spending its money on trying to kill badgers the industry should be pressing for all efforts to be made to improve testing and remove the danger of leaving up to one third of a herd still infected.
 
“Until the science is clear, we should not be making the badger a scapegoat. Remember DDT, myxomatosis and Thalidomide. We thought we knew that these were scientific certainties but they were disastrous. We should be wary for the future”.
 
 
[1] http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n5/full/ncomms1840.html
[2] http://www.dardni.gov.uk/de/afbi-literature-review-tb-review-diagnostic-tests-cattle.pdf
(The Badger Trust has been granted permission for a judicial review of the legality of the Coalition Government’s decision to kill badgers).
 
becky
A report by This is Somerset (www.bovinetb.co.uk/forum_topic.php?thread_id=8&page=1) refers to new research which could pour cold water on Government claims linking badgers with the spread of bovine TB. The research, which comes from the Government’s own scientists, suggests that rather than the badgers spreading the disease, cows could be carrying TB for years without detection, spreading it to other members of their herds.
 
The warning comes in two reports from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Northern Ireland, a leading research centre. One, already published, warns the tests used for TB often produce negative results if cattle are co-infected with liver flukes. This is because the flukes secrete hormones that suppress the immune response on which the TB test depends.
 
becky
Live web debate at Farmers Guardian website today (www.farmersguardian.com), typically concentrating on the badger with very little mention of any of the other issues.
 
Of particular note were the pertinent comments by Michael Ritchie, Rethink bTB Press Officer;
 
'Some of us are left with the impression that obsessive concentration on badgers by unions and government is a decoy from the real issues. Why are the farming unions not demanding that EU law (which takes precedence over ours) banning cattle vaccination against BTB be repealed immediately, clearing the way for use of the BCG cattle vaccine and the DIVA test as soon as they are licensed? Even a voluntary scheme would reduce the number of cattle seized from farmers, without any adverse effects. Ask the Ethiopians who are already using the cattle BCG vaccine as they cannot afford, economically or politically, to slaughter cattle unnecessarily.'
 
And later he commented; ''Nick Fenwick is missing the point in his eagerness to stick to badgers. BCG will not be licenced unless and until effective. There is no reason the EU should not change the law in reciognition of this to allow the use of licensed vaccines. It can be used alongside any other policy and therefore cannot have an adverse effect.'
 
There was a rather apathetic response to this from Cartl Padgett, President of the British Veterinary Association, (a former president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association and former Chairman of Trustees of the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation.), who said;
 
'... we are talking about it and trying to make those changes (and hopefully they will be based on sound, scientific reasoning). But when the majority of the EU countries don't have a problem they don't know why they should support the UK bovine market.'
 
Yes, we agree, all they do is talk - about badgers mainly!
 
becky
According to a report in the Scotland Herald, (www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/tb-outbreak-not-caused-by-wildlife.17548874 the scientists have ruled out wildlife being behind the recent outbreak of bovine TB in Scotland that led to the slaughter of a herd of cattle (60 animals). It is said to be one of the worst outbreaks in Scotland in recent years.
 
Scottish Government officials are still trying to pin down what caused the disease to appear on the farm at Ballencrieff, Bathgate, West Lothian. Investigations are continuing.
 
Discounting a possibility the infection came from wildlife means there will be no plans to cull badgers 'or other potential carriers of the disease' (we wonder what this means?).
 
However, the appearance of the disease does not mean Scotland will lose its TB-free status as it is an isolated case which does not affect wider stocks.
 
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "Our investigations are still on ongoing. We have so far ruled out the possibility that it came from wildlife, while there have been no positive tests on cattle on neighbouring fields."
 
becky
I see that Stroud District Council have voted to ban any badger culling on their land and are signing up to the Stroud 100 initiative. This initiative is getting land owners in Stroud to sign up to confirm they will be refusing any badger culling on their land. To date well over 100 landowners have signed up. http://stroud100.blogspot.co.uk
 
becky
Interesting farm diary at www.smallholderseries.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=344&Itemid=27 expressing the concerns and issues that must face many farmers in the two cull areas. It is a well written piece, obviously done by an intelligent person who has researched all the facts and concluded that badger vaccination is a better way forward. The following extracts are of particular interest.
 
'The announcement by Defra in January this year of the two pilot areas in which landowners and farmers may apply for licences to cull badgers brought the subject of badgers back to me in clear, sharp focus. We appear to be slap-bang in the middle of one of the two areas (West Gloucestershire, the other is in West Somerset) – although the precise locations are still under wraps. It is, however, likely to affect Green Farm directly, as we have a large, active badger sett at the end of our Orchard, set into a bank against an old hedgerow. We believe our sett is healthy, as our neighbour has kept cattle in the adjoining field for some years and has never had any reactors to the regular testing for mycobacterium bovis. This set me thinking about how a cull would work … what if some landowners denied access to their land? What about ‘perturbation – if ‘our’ resident sett is culled, diseased badgers may move in? Are there effective alternatives to culling?'
 
't’s perhaps worth stating the obvious at this point: the subject of Bovine TB and badgers is both highly complex and very sensitive. It’s estimated that it will cost taxpayers around one billion pounds over the next 10 years if not effectively dealt with. More painfully for farmers, the disease forced the slaughter of 25,000 cattle during 2010 alone. So it is a serious subject for ALL concerned, and I have always stated that, if I felt a badger cull would solve the problem, I would support it.'
 
'In early March, we had ‘our’ badger sett and surrounding fields surveyed, for badger activity as well as the feasibility of carrying out a vaccination programme. This in itself was an interesting exercise as the ‘vaccination team’ are very knowledgeable about the secret life of badgers, and I learnt more that day than I could have from any TV wildlife programme! During the survey the team mapped setts, runs, latrines, foraging signs and interestingly, a couch (a grass nest) in an old drainage pipe! There was evidence of plenty of badger activity, and well-used latrines. Factors affecting the practicalities of trapping and vaccinating badgers were recorded.'
 
'Their recommendation is to vaccinate badgers (through intramuscular injection) annually for 5 years – roughly the lifespan of a badger, to ensure that all badgers of all ages are treated, which will increase the level of immunity within the badger group.'
 
'Essentially, the landowner is responsible for the cost, which can only be calculated following a survey. It is not a cheap option, and the farmer must be prepared to complete the full 5 years for it to be worthwhile. There is Defra funding – the Badger Vaccination Fund for England, up to 50% of the cost of the first year’s vaccination for land within the pilot badger cull areas or a surrounding 2km ‘ring’. Before commencing a vaccination programme, the farmer must obtain a license from Natural England – we’re in the process of applying for our licence, and will start the programme this year.'
 
The vaccination is being undertaken by Brock Vaccination.
 
Contacts:
Brock Vaccination: www.brockvaccination.co.uk
 
Defra - Badger Vaccine Deployment Project: www.brockvaccination.co.uk/
 
fera (The Food and Environment Research Agency) - Badger Vaccine Deployment Project: www.fera.defra.gov.uk/wildlife/ecologyManagement/bvdp/
 
Sally
We have been sent this link http://www.save-me.org.uk/news/badger/article/brian_mays_report_on_badger_judicial_review_2_-_july_2010 with particular reference to the table that appears down from the text. This would seem to reveal that compulsory, regular testing controlled bTB in the 70's and '80's but with the relaxing of testing because of BSE and Foot & Mouth it rose significantly in the 90's to current date. Oddly the first infected badger was found in the early 70's so one wonders why there is so much emphasis on the badger?
 
becky
Pembrokeshire Against the Cull have commented that 'the court’s decision times with DEFRA’s publication of the latest statistics on bovine TB. Despite the doomsday picture painted by DEFRA in the run up to the decision to cull in December 2011, the (belatedly published) statistics point to a slight decline in bovine TB -without a single badger being killed. Perhaps, more rigorous cattle testing and restrictions on infected cattle’s movement is having the positive effect predicted by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) which concluded that culling would not work'.
 
becky
We have been sent the following link www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/bovine-tb/glossop-urges-wales-to-unite-behind-tb-strategy/46394.article which relates to the badger vaccination proposals for Wales.
 
Our attention has been drawn to the following extract:
 
'The Welsh Government has no legal powers to farmers to allow vaccination on their land. Dr Glossop said some farmers in the area had made it clear they no longer wanted to attend meetings or participate in the policy.'
 
This seems odd bearing in mind the previous administration were able to give themselves power to enter anyone's land to shoot badgers!
 
becky
The Badger Trust has been given permission to challenge, in the High Court, DEFRA’S decision to permit badgers to be culled in two areas of The case is likely to be heard at the High Court, London, in June.
 
The Badger Trust lodged its claim in the High Court at the end of February. It is asking the court to overturn the decision to allow pilot culls to take place in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset this autumn on three grounds:
 
· 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.
 
The Badger Trust has said that in granting permission, the judge observed that ‘arguably Defra’s evidence shows that the proposed cull may in fact make matters worse and spread bovine TB’.
 
Badger Trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans LLP said “We are pleased that the court has given the Badger Trust’s challenge the green light on all three grounds. The badger cull as proposed would make matters worse at great cost to farmers, badgers and rural communities.”
 
becky
For those of you who want more information on the recent Wales' proposal to vaccinate, rather than cull badgers, a questions and answers paper is available from the Welsh Assembly at: www.bovinetb.info/docs/wales-bovine-tb-eradication-programme-questions-and-answers-04apr2012.pd
 
Sally
MG has sent us this link www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Slaughter-badgers-pointless/story-15694939-detail/story.html which explains why the slaughter of badgers is pointless. Some interesting information in this one and the source seems reliable. 'And in fact Old Brock cannot possibly be the main problem, since after 40 years' research, neither Prof Bourne and the ISG, nor anyone else, has realistically shown how badgers might give cows a respiratory lung infection. Cattle TB is almost 100% a lung infection via breathed in sputum droplets ... and prolonged contact over-wintering in barns is needed to achieve this. A badger popping into a barn for a drink and snack of cattle nuts won't work! And there have been far too few superexcretor badgers which might pose a risk to other badgers or cows: just 166 out of eleven million badgers culled by the ISG. And in the classic Woodchester study, over 14 years there were just l7 among the 350 badger population in 9 sq km, so no wonder there was no spread between badger clans, very little within them (Krebs report, p48), and no cattle breakdowns due to them either.'
 
Sally
'Analysis, Badgers and Bovine, Tuberculosis: The Relationship Between Law, Policy and Science, Badger Trust v Welsh Ministers' by Patrick Bishop [2010] (http://jel.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/1/145.abstract)
 
Abstract
The UK Court of Appeal, in Badger Trust v Welsh Ministers, was called upon to review the legality of a proposed policy of badger culling in Wales. The reasoning of the Court will be evaluated as a means of exploring the relationship between law, policy and science. In particular, the extent to which science is able to define and confine the parameters of available policy options will be considered in light of the Animal Health Act 1981, section 21. Where legislation implicitly creates a requirement to produce affirmative scientific evidence as a condition precedent of administrative action, then science is indeed able to curtail political choice. However, it will be argued that the ability of science to operate in this manner is undermined, first, by the very nature of scientific discourse, where evidence is frequently contested and open to interpretation, and second, by the Court's traditional deference to administrative discretion in cases of a technical nature.
 
becky
One farmer has told us their dealings with the NFU ground to a halt when the NFU were asked if they had a private ballot of their members to establish support for a badger cull and what percentage of their membership voted in favour.
 
'We believe their silence means they have not balloted their members other than possibly asking for show of hands at regional public meeting which, given the tribal nature of the farming community, could not be relied on as a reflection of true feelings.'
 
We wonder if the NFU have contravened Union practice by implying that the majority of their members (referred to them as 'farmers' as if every farmer in the land is an NFU member!) favours a badger cull without holding an official ballot to find out?

 
becky
Reading a recent article in the Farmers Guardian (www.farmersguardian.com/home/livestock/nfu-to-underwrite-cage-trapping-pilot-badger-cull-cost/45888.article#.T3L4TO0vHWo. twitter) it seems the NFU is struggling to get enough farmers to agree to badger culling on their land. This is hardly surprising when one considers the cost, legal structure of the agreements, public opposition to culling of wildlife, possible risks from activists, ... and there is no certainty it will work. The NFU is apparently struggling to get farmers to farmers to 'sign weighty legal documents and management agreements'.
 
According to the Farmers Guardian the company which will be responsible for the badger culling in West Gloucestershire has been formed and so far farmers representing 45 per cent of the land have signed up. The company in West Somerset is due to be incorporated. The intention is to submit licence applications to Natural England in around ‘six to eight weeks’.
 
Sally
For more on the Bow Group think tank www.bowgroup.org/news/bow-group-urges-government-scrap-badger-cull-plans
 
Sally
Following on from the recent decision in Wales to vaccinate, rather than cull badgers, an interesting piece reported in the Guardian today (also in Farmers Weekly). www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/mar/26/badger-cull-bovine-tb-cattle-vaccination?newsfeed=true
 
"The government's planned cull of badgers is impractical, according to an influential Conservative thinktank, and should be scrapped in favour of vaccination to help curb the bovine TB infection afflicting cattle".
 
"The Bow Group paper exposes for the first time divisions in the Tory party over the nocturnal shooting of badgers in bovine TB hotspots and concludes that the scientific evidence favours vaccination over a cull, which it said would be ineffective and expensive".
 
The Bow Group are in favour of vaccinating rather than culling badgers.
 
Interestingly the new vice president, Adam Quinney, of the NFU has teamed up with the Badger Trust to vaccinate badgers on his land after his cattle contracted bovine TB.
 
"Now some Conservatives are pondering the political cost of a cull after the Bow Group found that 81% of people were opposed to it."
 
Richard Mabey, research secretary of the Bow Group, said: "Market research shows that the issue will be costly for the Conservatives in political terms, not least in the marginal seats in which the culling trials are to be held. Vaccination is best for badgers and best for the taxpayer: a shift in focus from culling to vaccination is now essential."
 
"But the Bow Group paper warned that Defra's estimates of the cost of a cull appear 'conservative' and policing costs of £500,000 per area per year could increase. The paper also pointed out that monitoring the requirement that farmers cull 70% of the badger population inside the cull zone was uncosted."
 
"It recommended tackling the disease with a combination of an injectable vaccine and improved biosecurity on farms, with farmers' compensation linked to fulfilment of biosecurity best practice. One scientific trial of the vaccine found it reduced positive TB in badgers by almost 74% but any subsequent reduction in the disease among cattle has not yet been tested".
 

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