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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
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.

 
becky
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, [1] 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. [2].
 
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 [3]. 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.
 
[1] “. . . localized badger culling not only fails to control but also seems to increase TB incidence in cattle.” (C. A. Donnelly et al. Nature 426, 834–837; 2003). http://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/682
 
[2] Letter to Nature [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).
 
[3] Drawings from Guidance to Natural England – Shooting Strategy. http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13716-shooting-guidance.pdf
 
Trevor
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”.

 
becky
 
becky
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?'
 
'Boy shot in head while walking dog', Guardian 25th Set 2004, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/sep/25/ukguns.martinwainwright
 
'Lamping' killer escapes jail, Saturday 3 September 2005 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/sep/03/ukguns.stevenmorris
 
'Man injured in Derbyshire [pheasant] shooting accident, This is Derbyshire, 2nd Feb 2009, http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/Man-injured-Derbyshire-shooting-accident-recovering/story-11576859-detail/story.html
 
'Man injured in [pheasant] shooting accident at Strensall, BBC News, 22 Jan 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-16670656
 
This week:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2190437/Sothebys-chief-airlifted-grouse-shoot-blasted-52-pellets.html#ixzz23y1Dmuiw
 
From 2004 but still relevant as it is human error with a gun at night:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/3652852.stm
 
becky
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?
 
becky
For those concerned about where the shooting is going to take place the only maps we can find are at http://badger-killers.co.uk/where/
 
becky
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.

 
becky
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 [1] 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.
 
becky
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)”.
 
becky
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.
 
becky
This paper is well worth reading for anyone interested in badger culling. It is a good outline of the situation.
 
www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05873.pdf
 
becky
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?”
 
becky
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.”
 
becky
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.

 
becky
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
 
Abstract 
 
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.

 
Trevor
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?

 
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.”
 

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