Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?
22 Jul 2010, 6:43 PM
Prof John Bourne, who conducted the infamous ten year, government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled what he was told by a senior politician:
"Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers."
This strand on the forum deals mainly with the wildlife reservoirs involved in the bovine TB saga. In the UK this is, as we are probably all aware by now, believed to be mainly the badger. No other mammal has been studied in the UK as intensely as the badger so actually we don't really know just how other animals are implicated. In other countries different species are implicated. There are some anomalies too, including the example below.
Has anyone an explanation for the following!
According to last issue of Gwlad, Australia is now bTB free after 27 years of trying. We are told it has no wildlife reservoir. New Zealand is still aiming for eradication. It has a wildlife reservoir - possums - which are considered a pest species as not indigenous so are being culled - and vaccinated!
HOWEVER - possums ARE native to Australia and bTB was rife in country for years so - why are the Australian possums not a reservoir?
15 Oct 2012, 9:16 AM
Re bit below on 12/10/12 comment which says ''Many campaigners apparently suspect the reasons for the culls going ahead as being partly due a caving in by the Coalition government to blood-sport enthusiasts...' There is more evidence of such cruelty in Daily Mail yesterday reporting that middle-class professionals such as doctors and dentists are betting on cockfights. It seems cockfighting is gaining in popularity - despite it being illegal in UK. The organisation raised concerns about the growing trend after raiding two farms where inspectors found 500 birds, including 97 mature fighting cocks, and metal spurs that are used as weapons.Mark Giles and his son, also called Mark, have pleaded guilty to animal cruelty at the properties they ran in Billingshurst, West Sussex, and will be sentenced by Brighton magistrates on Wednesday..
14 Oct 2012, 6:35 PM
'Badger cull 'mindless', say scientists', shouts the headline in the Guardian yesterday (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/13/badger-cull-mindless). Damming indeed when the Government is claiming that the two trial culls are science-led.
The article follows on from a letter ttop animal disease scientists had published in the Observer recently. BIn it they launched a devastating attack on the government's 'mindless' badger cull, accusing ministers of failing to tell the truth and demanding the immediate abandonment of the killings. The government's own chief scientist has refused to back the killings.
More than 30 eminent animal disease experts describe the cull as a 'costly distraction' that risks making the problem of tuberculosis in cattle worse and that will cost far more than it saves.
However, the scientists reject the idea of scientific support for the cull, which could wipe out 100,000 badgers, a third of the national population. The cull policy is 'mindless', according to Lord John Krebs, one of the UK's most eminent scientists and the architect of the landmark 10-year culling trials that ended in 2007. 'The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case.'
Another signatory, Lord Robert May, a former government chief scientist and president of the Royal Society, said: 'It is very clear to me that the government's policy does not make sense.' He added: 'I have no sympathy with the decision. They are transmuting evidence-based policy into policy-based evidence.'
The current government chief scientist, Professor Sir John Beddington, refused to back the cull. Asked if it could make a meaningful contribution to tackling TB in cattle, he said: 'I continue to engage with Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] on the evidence base concerning the development of bovine TB policy. I am content that the evidence base, including uncertainties and evidence gaps, has been communicated effectively to ministers.'
A Defra spokesman said: 'The leading experts Defra brought together in April 2011 agreed that the evidence shows that culling done in the right way can reduce the spread of the disease to cattle, with benefits remaining for many years. The culling policy has been developed to maximise the benefits shown in previous trials, and to minimise the impact of badgers spreading disease beyond the cull area by including hard boundaries such as motorways and rivers.'
However, scientists say the two-page document produced by the April meeting does not support the cull. Professor Rosie Woodroffe, of the Zoological Society of London, said: 'The document simply does not endorse the policy.'
The scientists, whose letter is also being sent to Paterson, claim scientific opinion in the UK is overwhelmingly against the cull. 'I just don't know anyone who is really informed who thinks this is a good idea,' said Professor John Bourne, who led the decade-long trial.
The scientists reject other statements from ministers and even David Cameron, who said last week: "I believe this is the right policy for healthy badgers as well as healthy cattle."
Woodroffe pointed to research showing that just 14% of badgers in previous culls had TB and just one in a hundred had severe symptoms. 'Furthermore, all the evidence shows that culling badgers increases the proportion of badgers that have TB,' she said.
In a separate development, nine leading vets have written an open letter, co-ordinated by the Humane Society, to Defra and Natural England. They warn that the shooting permitted by the cull licences 'will inevitably result in the targeting of many pregnant sows and, if culling extends towards the end of the open season, could result in the shooting of lactating sows, leading to the starvation of dependent cubs'.
The letter can be read at www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2012/oct/14/letters-observer
12 Oct 2012, 6:16 PM
As the badger culling start date looms the media have carried many reports, mainly about the massive public opposition to the proposed shooting and evident strength of feeling among those who are opposed to the policy.
Ardent opposer of the cull, Brian May, is currently in Brussels to campaign for cattle vaccinations as a humane alternative to the slaughter. He is campaigning hard for a change in the law to allow the use of the BCG vaccination, due to be licensed soon for cattle. He is joined by Gavin Grant, RSPCA Chief Executive. Brian established Teambadger which brings together all the leading UK animal charities opposing the cull.
Brian and Gavin are meeting a range of European officials and parliamentarians, including figures from the European Environment and Agriculture directorates general. Brian May said: “What is absolutely clear from the available scientific evidence is that vaccination of cattle and badgers, along with bio-security and movement controls in the farming industry, is the only way to make meaningful progress.”
"As far as badger culling is concerned it has nothing to offer in terms of controlling TB in cattle, and could indeed make the situation worse" was the emphatic, and damning, conclusion reached by Professor John Bourne, the man charged with assessing the biggest and most comprehensive scientific experiment ever conducted in the British countryside - the Randomized Badger Culling Trials, or RBCT, in June 2007.
In the meantime prominent scientists question the cull. Lord John Krebs at the University of Oxford (he headed the team that carried out the Randomised Badger Culling Trials), calls the cull 'crazy' and says: "The pilot cull is flawed because it aims to remove 70% of badgers without an accurate estimate of the starting number". He has accused ministers of 'cherry picking' from his results to justify the programme. "I'm certainly not impressed with the current policy," he said. He said it smacks of fitting the facts to the answer you want to achieve in the first place, 'I have to say I've not found any scientists who are experts in population biology or the distribution of infectious disease in wildlife who think that culling is a good idea. People seem to have cherry picked certain results to try and get the argument they want'.
Christl Donnelly, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, who was also a member of the team that performed the original trials has reservations too; 'Is it worth culling so many animals for 16% fewer infected herds? There, you get very different answers depending who you ask.'
Responding, Farm Minister, David Heath said it was a 'little disrespectful' of those scientists who followed up previous trials to 'simply say that their work is not effective'. A pretty pathetic response.
Many campaigners apparently suspect the reasons for the culls going ahead as being partly due a caving in by the Coalition government to blood-sport enthusiasts - who like nothing more than running around at night shooting helpless wild animals. We should remember that badgers were tormented for generations in England by blood sports enthusiasts until the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 made badger baiting illegal. UK animal welfare charities report a resurgence of this illegal barbaric practice in recent years, along with an increase of animal cruelty in general.
'Yes, better testing cuts bTB'—Defra. So scrap the cull! says the Badger Trust.
New figures issued by Defra show a marked drop in bovine TB levels. And it’s mostly down to increased testing, something that the Badger Trust and independent scientists have demanded for years.
Defra, the Government department which continues to justify the planned prolonged slaughter of tens of thousands of badgers, says in its latest monthly bovine TB briefing (1):
“There has been a notable decrease in the incidence rate over the past six months, mainly as a result of an increased number of tests on unrestricted herds compared to last year. The provisional June 2012 incidence rate is 4.2 per cent, compared to 6.0 per cent in June 2011.”
Combined with previous figures that equates to a 30per cent decline in 12 months, says the Badger Trust. That’s twice the 12-16 per cent reduction achieved in the RBCT (randomised badger culling trials) over nine years and 10 times faster than the Government’s predicted reductions from the planned badger culls.
Yes, the figures are provisional, says the Trust, but the Defra statement is unequivocal—increased testing works, and it appears to be dramatic in its effect. So why this unseemly rush to slaughter badgers? This very encouraging trend dramatically undermines the Government’s justification for a widely condemned policy.
Independent scientific opinion is almost universally critical—Lord Krebs described the culls as crazy. Public opposition is overwhelmingly opposed. Wildlife experts, among them Sir David Attenborough, Simon King, Chris Packham and Bill Oddie, have all called for the culls to be scrapped. Badger Trust has repeatedly argued that the culls are driven not by robust science, as the Government claims, but by politics and the power and influence of the farming unions.
Says Badger Trust chairman David Williams: “Defra’s conclusion that the improved results are down to better testing are very telling. Publicly they attempt to justify an unprecedented slaughter of a protected animal. At the same time, tucked away in a dull routine report, they admit in effect that way back in 2007, the ISG (the Independent Scientific Group) got it right when they said, after 10 years of research, that the way to bring the spread of bTB under control was not by killing badgers but by toughening up cattle-based measures.
“The ISG highlighted the frailties of the existing testing system; urged much tighter controls over the movement of cattle from bTB hotspots; and said improved biosecurity on farms would help control the disease. Culling badgers would make no meaningful contribution.
“The Government’s response has been wretched: minimal action on the true causes of the disease, and an unholy rush to kill and scapegoat badgers. The culls should be scrapped, cattle management controls should be much more rigorous; the clear advantages of badger vaccination should be implemented; and every ounce of energy put into making cattle vaccination achievable. Protesting that a cattle vaccine may be years away isn’t good enough. The claimed benefits from badger culling are only 12-16 per cent over nine years.”
Defra’s abject failings the key to bTB spread—Badger Trust
The Coalition’s decision to authorise the slaughter of badgers is a frank admission of failure on their part, says the Badger Trust. Environment ministers and their departmental aides are quick to cherry pick bits of science that appear to support their case. But the public is being deliberately misled. The Coalition remains silent and evasive on the real issue: cattle management, and their own continuing abject failure to impose, through DEFRA, the kind of tough, effective, long-term remedial measures spelt out by independent scientists, following 10 years of peer-reviewed research .
If—and it’s a big if—says the Trust, the proposed night-time rifle-fire slaughter of tens of thousands of an iconic and protected animal goes ahead, the Government forecasts only a 12-16 per cent drop over NINE years in bovine TB in cattle. Self-evidently that means bTB won’t be solved. Self evidently that can only mean that cattle are the main vectors and that the bulk of the problem—that untouched 84 per cent—is being ignored or unreasonably delayed.
Ministers protest loud and long that something must be done to control this highly infectious respiratory disease, says Badger Trust. But the blame for inaction lies squarely with them. They appeal for calm; they protest that culling is unavoidable. But when it comes to tackling the root causes of the disease they fail the farming community, the public—who are forced to pay farmers a huge annual compensation bill—and of, course, wildlife.
The EU’s recently published audit of UK measures to control bovine TB highlighted a catalogue of failings, all of them the responsibility of DEFRA and the farming industry: they ranged from inadequate disease prevention measures, numerous cattle movement derogations, test exemptions, and failures to remove reactors (diseased cattle) quickly enough.
The ISG for its part emphasised the dangers of disease spread centred on the buying and selling of cattle from farms in TB hotspots but the Government—confronted by massive lobbying from politically supportive farming interests—have barely reacted. Very belatedly they recently introduced long overdue pre-movement test controls over linked holdings. Until then farmers had been able to freely move cattle from one area to another, sometimes hundreds of miles.
There’s a hint that in the New Year more might be done. But why the delay? Why the dithering? Why the rush to slaughter badgers? It’s time the Government was honest with its voters and the tens of thousands of committed conservationists who have actively voiced their horror and disgust at the proposed slaughter of the badger, a slaughter which the Government admits could worsen bovine TB spread.
The time for weasel words and departmental spin is long gone, says Badger Trust. Britain’s farmers are being let down by a Government that weakly refuses to tackle the root causes of bovine TB. And that weakness has also put the health and future of an iconic animal at stake.
Badgers: Prime Minister’s claims “absurd” says Badger Trust.
Claims by Prime Minister David Cameron and newly appointed Environment Secretary Owen Paterson that the planned slaughter of badgers will lead to a healthier species, are absurd, says the Badger Trust and should be withdrawn and binned.
Speaking to news reporters covering the Conservative annual conference Mr Cameron said he was convinced a cull of badgers to tackle bovine tuberculosis in cattle was the right thing to do and he went on “…I believe this is the right policy for healthy badgers as well as healthy cattle.”
Addressing the conference Mr Paterson said the disease would get worse if the Coalition followed the “cowardly inaction” pursued by Labour in government. “We have to use every tool at our disposal and that’s why we’re trialling a badger cull. We need healthy wildlife living alongside healthy cattle.”
Both claims are patently absurd, says the Badger Trust. The pilot culls and the planned subsequent prolonged culls are non selective and will destroy mostly healthy local badger populations. That is beyond question.
It is not possible to take out only diseased animals. The indisputable facts are that thousands of healthy badgers making no contribution to disease spread will die or be critically wounded. The research the Government cherry picks to try to justify its onslaught on badgers shows that even in TB hotspots most badgers are not infected .
What’s more, that same exhaustive programme of research (the Randomised Badger Culling Trials overseen by the Independent Scientific Group) concluded that the prevalence of disease in badgers which survived the culls was HIGHER than before the culls began.
David Williams, Badger Trust chairman, commented: “It beggars belief that the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary can claim that culling is in some way good for badgers, that killing them by the thousand will somehow result in healthy badger populations. Let them explain how they have reached this astonishing conclusion, one that the Prime Minster also made on Countryfile. If they can’t, and we are sure they will be unable to, they should apologise--the Prime Minster, through the aides who have briefed him so badly, and Mr Paterson because he must know better.
“With every passing week the case put forward for a badger cull is collapsing around the Government’s ears. They should listen, think again and abandon this provocative counter-productive plan, one that Lords Krebs described as crazy.”
 ISG final report 2007. The overall prevalence of M. Bovis infection in proactively culled badgers was 16.6 per cent and in road killed badgers 15 per cent.
Source: Press Release from Badger Trust dated 10/10/12
10 Oct 2012, 2:22 PM
A row has brewed over the use of a photo of a badger on a the front page of the Countryfile calendar. (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9525945/Row-as-BBC-chooses-badger-photo-for-Countryfile-calendar.html)
This is when one knows the whole situation has got ridiculously out of hand. The badger is still an iconic mammal of our countryside. It is an indigenous species that is much loved by the British public - as witnessed by the overwhelmingly opposition to the proposed trial culls. Why shouldn't it be shown in a calendar? I doubt those pushing so hard for the cull of badgers would have objected if photos of cattle had been used.
8 Oct 2012, 6:56 PM
'Cull is state-backed vandalism', says the Badger Trust in a press release received today and reproduced below..
The country’s leading badger conservation charity today publicly rejected the dual threat of extremism by activists and what it sees as state-backed vandalism –an unscientific, counter-productive badger slaughter.
As rumours mounted that a pilot cull of thousands of badgers could start within days in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset, the Badger Trust said it was absolutely opposed to illegal action and threats of violence against farming families. But it also described the impending cull as Government backed vandalism which flies in the face of public opinion and overwhelming and utterly persuasive independent scientific opinion.
The Government’s own forecasts –a possible 12-16 per cent reduction over nine years--are a frank admission that slaughtering tens of thousands of badgers will barely dent, let alone solve, the bovine TB problem, says the Trust.
“The predictions confirm what the country’s top scientists have argued repeatedly: cattle not badgers are the problem. There are of the order of eight and half million cattle in the UK. Ineffective testing, inadequate controls over cattle movement, and a virtual rejection of biosecurity (disease control) measures by the farmers who nonetheless claim millions in compensation are the main causes of bovine TB spread. The Government knows that. And what is it doing about it? Very little. To justify a badger cull the Government promised the country a balanced package of science-led measures. It has cherry-picked bits of the science it liked and ignored almost everything else.
“On the one hand it says something must be done and quickly. On the other it admits bTB is a complex disease that will take decades to bring under control. Scientists said that to stand any chance of working culling had to be simultaneous, in its terms over a couple of weeks. The Government plans instead a six-week cull, possibly longer.
“In choosing badger vaccination over wholesale non-selective slaughter the Welsh Assembly has got it right; meanwhile their rigorous cattle management controls continue. Scotland is TB free and it does not cull badgers. The Republic of Ireland has slaughtered thousands of badgers and still has a major bTB problem.”
“The meagre claimed benefits from badger culling will take nine years. Viewed in that timescale a cattle vaccine—the near ultimate solution—is not far off. So why this vindictive rush? No wonder that we, and countless thousands of voters, see badger culling as unjustified, counter-productive politically inspired wildlife vandalism. With every passing day the cull is exposed as nothing more than a trumped up excuse to win political favour with farming voters and big business agricultural interests. The fact that thousands of iconic animals will die in the planned pilot culls tells us how little regard the pro-cull protagonists have for wildlife and how vacuous and deceitful the Government’s science-led claims are.”
8 Oct 2012, 1:50 PM
According to the latest media reports farmers who participate in the pilot badger culls may be subjected to the following actions from those protesting against the culls.
Loud noises and bright lights. Citizen arrests if badger cull licenses are not revealed. Squatting of barns and farm buildings. Farmers will be named and shamed if they are not complying with bio-security or animal welfare rules.
In addition pressure has also been put on farmers by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has said farmers supporting the cull will be denied the Freedom Foods endorsement that their produce is ethically sourced.
6 Oct 2012, 6:52 PM
McGill I, Menache A, Knight A, Allen C, Hill S & Eastwood B. Simultaneous vaccination ‘best way’ to tackle bTB. Letter to Vet Times [UK] 2012; 42(38): 35.
We are all veterinary surgeons - either clinicians or scientists - and are dismayed that there is a very real prospect that this government will pursue a cull of badgers.
The report of DEFRA’s own Independent Scientific Group (ISG)1 which was set up to look at the issue, states in the conclusions of its £50 million research project: "Careful evaluation of our own and others' data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain."
Despite this weighty opinion to the contrary, the Coalition has chosen to cherry pick data that supports the need to cull badgers - a policy that, in our opinion, is flawed on many levels.
The cull would cause untold suffering to the unfortunate badgers targeted in this massacre, and would result in additional suffering due to resultant ecosystem imbalances. Bovine TB reduction is likely to be very small at best, and in some areas may actually increase1. Attempting to remove the major carnivore from a local ecosystem by shooting, not only encourages badger movements into neighbouring areas and then back again1, it would also disturb the population numbers and increase movement of other species such as foxes, deer, rats, voles, mice and birds, which potentially also carry TB2,3 thus furthering its spread.
We do have to question as to whether a thorough Disease Risk Analysis has been properly carried out on shooting large numbers of potentially TB infected animals in the same vicinity. Far from removing the threat of TB, it is entirely possible that the contamination of the land with TB bacteria will simply further its spread into other wildlife, and ultimately, dairy cows.
We are dismayed that the heads of veterinary organisations such as the BVA and BCVA have made statements supportive of the cull, and feel that this gives a misleading impression as to the views of the veterinary profession as a whole. The veterinary profession is almost entirely composed of individuals who care a great deal about animal welfare, and who, in general, respect wild animals and their right to live wherever possible unabused by humans.
Solving the problem of TB in the UK will require study of the mode of transmission to naturally infected cows. In particular the genetics of resistance to TB in the dairy herd needs to be further elucidated. Breeding preferentially for milk yield via artificial insemination (AI) has undoubtedly had some adverse impacts on the genotype of the cow in other respects4,5,6, as natural selection is no longer operant. The susceptibility of most of the dairy herd to BSE, for example, was largely due to the paucity of genetic variation in the PrP gene, which controls susceptibility to BSE7,8. Indeed, evidence suggests that the BSE agent actually arose de novo from mutated PrP genes in the dairy herd9. When this BSE agent was delivered into the food supply by the recycling of cattle offal back into cattle food, the catastrophic results were all too predictable - for cows, for farmers, for consumers, and for the UK. Have we learned nothing from that debacle?
Infectious agents and their hosts tend to adapt or co-evolve together such that a balance is formed between infection, immunity and survival, and this is demonstrably true for TB10,11. In badgers, this balance with TB has happened across millennia. Dairy cows stopped co-evolving with TB more than 50 years ago, due to AI. The only thing dairy cows have co-evolved with, is human will, industrial economic policy - and money.
We need to start implementing the outbreeding of dairy cows to introduce some heterozygosity, or hybrid vigour, back into these unfortunate creatures, before they become the ticking bio time bomb that intensification, and a breeding programme based on AI, could result in.
It is a disgrace that the veterinary profession would even consider a cull of badgers when there are alternative strategies for the long term, such as vaccination, which haven't been tried on any large scale. This, rather than slaughter, is the preferred method for the control of TB in humans. Perish the thought that the medical profession would choose to follow the same medieval control methods as the veterinary profession. Both cattle and badgers should be vaccinated, in our view, to give such a trial the best chance of success. The ISG recommended that a vaccine for cattle should be a priority1.
For the long term, putting a sticking plaster over one running sore, when there are metaphorical sores breaking out all over the dairy industry, will not, in our view, resolve the problem. The problems need to be tackled at their fundamental root - and that is the way that the dairy industry has evolved during the past 60 years. Since the 1950s, AI has been used to selectively breed mutant cows which produce large quantities of milk, but which evidently have little resistance to diseases such as TB and BSE. The fact that any herds with cattle showing detectable immunity to TB (TB reactors) are summarily slaughtered, further increases the immunological naivety of the herd.
The economic pressures brought to bear have recently brought the value of milk down below the cost of production, further pressuring farmers and cows, and compounding the problem. Intervention by the Government to protect small-scale milk producers financially, would alleviate many welfare issues in cattle brought on by sheer poverty - of both small farmers and cattle. TB is often a disease of poverty, in humans as well as animals, and many of our dairy cattle live in poverty equivalent to that of a workhouse during the industrial revolution. Most importantly, there is poverty in the lack of any normal relationships around breeding and calf rearing. The only long-term solution is a paradigm shift in favour of cattle welfare, small farmers and wildlife - not mega-dairies and money. We need to start looking, right now, at the economic and genetic background to the dairy industry, and fix it, before it's too late.
We support the long term restructuring and de-intensification of the dairy industry to better support the health and welfare of cattle, as well as that of small farmers and consumers. This would go some way to help to ensure a more natural, less pressured life for the dairy cow.
We wish to register a view that we believe represents the majority of our profession. We the undersigned do not support a badger cull. The widespread shooting of a protected indigenous species like the badger would be brutal, misguided, foolish, disgraceful, expensive and potentially counter-productive.
We believe that a simultaneous vaccination programme, for both cattle and badgers, would be the best solution to protect animal and human health.
Iain McGill BSc(Hons), BVetMed, MRCVS Andre Menache BSc(Hons), BVSc, MRCVS Andrew Knight BSc(Vet Biol), BVMS, CertAW, DipECAWBM(WSEL), PhD, MRCVS, FOCAE Caroline Allen MA, VetMB, CertSAM, MRCVS Sophie Hill BA(Open), MA (Cantab), VetMB, PGCE, MRCVS Bronwen Eastwood BSc(Hons), BVetMed, MRCVS
1. DEFRA. Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence. Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. June 2007.
2. Hardstaff JL, Bulling MT, Marion G, Hutchings MR, White PC. Impact of external sources of infection on the dynamics of bovine tuberculosis in modelled badger populations. BMC Vet Res 2012 Jun 27;8(1):92.
3.Chambers MA. Review of the diagnosis and study of tuberculosis in non-bovine wildlife species using immunological methods. Transbound Emerg Dis 2009 Aug;56(6-7):215-27.
4. Stachowicz K, Sargolzaei M, Miglior F, Schenkel FS. Rates of inbreeding and genetic diversity in Canadian Holstein and Jersey cattle. J Dairy Sci 2011 Oct;94(10):5160-75.
5. Hinrichs D, Thaller G. Pedigree analysis and inbreeding effects on calving traits in large dairy herds in Germany. J Dairy Sci 2011 Sep;94(9):4726-33.
6. Nino-Soto MI, Heriazón A, Quinton M, Miglior F, Thompson K, Mallard BA. Differential gene expression of high and low immune responder Canadian Holstein dairy cows. Dev Biol 2008;132:315-20. 7. Goldmann W, Hunter N, Martin KN, Dawson M and Hope J. Different forms of the bovine PrP gene have five or six copies of a short, G-C-rich element within the protein-coding exon. J General Virology 1991; 72: 201-204.
8. Juling K, Schwarzenbacher H, Williams JL, Fries R. A major genetic component of BSE susceptibility. BMC Biol 2006 Oct 2;4:33. 9. Nicholson EM, Brunelle BW, Richt JA, Kehrli ME, Greenlee JJ. Identification of a Heritable Polymorphism in Bovine PRNP Associated with Genetic Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy: Evidence of Heritable BSE. PLoS ONE 2008; 3(8): e2912.
10. Dorhoi A, Reece ST, Kaufmann SH. For better or for worse: the immune response against Mycobacterium tuberculosis balances pathology and protection. Immunol Rev 2011 Mar;240(1):235-51.
11. Gagneux S. Host-pathogen coevolution in human tuberculosis. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2012 Mar 19;367(1590):850-9.
5 Oct 2012, 6:37 PM
KEY TB REPORT CONDEMNS WEAKNESSES AND FRAGMENTED CATTLE CONTROLS - PRESS RELEASE FROM BADGER TRUST dated 5/10/12
The Badger Trust circulates the keynote report summarised below which provides authoritative and independent support for its conviction that the UK agricultural industry is failing to observe tuberculosis restrictions imposed in its own interests.
There can now be no reasonable justification for slaughtering more than 100,000 badgers – a protected species – while such examples of mismanagement and even corruption are allowed to continue.
The final report of an audit carried out in the United Kingdom in September last year to evaluate the operation of the bovine tuberculosis eradication programme  concludes that the disease situation overall in GB is at best static and may be deteriorating in England.
However, the audit is at odds with the conclusion of the £50 million Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) of 1998-2007. The audit says wildlife culling is a significant element of the approved eradication programme, and that the lack of it remains the major obstacle to progress. However the RBCT report allowed that badgers were implicated but said categorically that killing them could make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control . It added: “Weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone”.
David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The idea of culling is an outdated prejudice when the real problem, as it always has been, is cattle. The audit highlights the scandal of overdue tests and the need for prompt removal of infected cattle and inconclusive reactors from farms. "The group has clearly spent much time and effort on the cattle aspects, but has not re-investigated matters concerning badgers to the same degree, leading to a lack of balance. The reference to the delay in culling as a 'major' obstacle is grossly overstated”.
The executive summary in full:
The objectives of the audit were to assess the application of the national programme for eradication of bovine tuberculosis approved and co-funded by the European Union (EU), and compliance with EU rules related to the disease.
Official controls related to bovine tuberculosis, and the operation of the programme have been given a high priority by Government (it represents over 40% of the DEFRA animal health budget). Nonetheless, despite efforts to date, the disease situation overall in GB is at best static and may be deteriorating in England.
While the approved eradication programme is broadly applied as described, the audit identified a number of potential weaknesses. These include numerous movement derogations, pre-movement test exemptions (including extended time intervals between testing and movement), the operation of "linked" holdings over large geographical areas, incomplete herd testing and the operation of specialist units under restriction, which lacked the necessary bio-security arrangements.
Furthermore, despite efforts by the CA [competent authority] some of their key targets could not be met in relation to the removal of reactors from breakdown herds and the instigation of epidemiological enquiries.
There is a fragmented system of controls, involving a number of responsible bodies. This combined with a lack of co-ordination (particularly with Local Authorities) makes it difficult to ensure that basic practices to prevent infection/spread of disease (such as effective cleaning and disinfection of vehicles and markets) are carried out in a satisfactory way.
Many of the weaknesses have been identified by the CA, and enhanced controls have been incorporated into a pilot area (intensive action area in Wales) where the CA has removed movement test exemptions, "broken" links, increased test frequencies and sought to improve biosecurity by formal education of animal keepers. The CA will assess the lessons learned from this area, to determine whether the measures could be applied more widely in Wales and England.
Measures to prevent re-infection from other sources focus on the risk presented by wildlife (badgers). The CA maintains that the delay in implementing the proposed wildlife controls (i.e. a managed cull of badgers), which is a significant element of the approved eradication programme, remains the major obstacle to progress. Recommendations were made to the UK CA to address the shortcomings described in this report.
Interesting Guardian blog by Damian Carrington (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/oct/05/badger-cull-tb-cattle?newsfeed=true). It relates to the recent figures that reveal a reduction in bTB breakdowns in England. He asks:
'Is a belated tightening of measures to stop bovine TB spreading between cattle starting to bear down on the disease in England? That's what the latest government data suggests, making the proposed badger cull even more nonsensical than ever.'
5 Oct 2012, 1:16 PM
Back in 2008 Professor John Bourne ( Chair of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bovine TB) stated (AVTRW looks at the science of TB Vet Rec. 2008 162: 571-572) made the following comment:
‘I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said, “fine John we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers”.
5 Oct 2012, 1:08 PM
An article in the Guardian describes a catalogue of failures in how England's farmers prevent their cattle spreading TB between herds. These failures were uncovered by an official European Commission inspection. The Guardian says they undermine the case for the imminent cull of badgers.
Prof Graham Medley, at the University of Warwick, told the Guardian the only way to eradicate TB in cattle would be a return to the strict and effective controls in place 40 years ago. "There is no scientific underpinning for the proposed killing of badgers."
A landmark study in 2008 of badger culling as a way of controlling bovine TB concluded it could make "no meaningful contribution", with its leader, Prof John Bourne, telling the government: "Scientific findings indicate the rising incidence of disease can be reversed by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone."
Information from www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/04/farming-shortcomings-badger-cull-bovine-tb
4 Oct 2012, 6:08 PM
Natural England has today (www.naturalengland.org.uk/about_us/news/2012/041012.aspx) issued a licence permitting the control of badgers in West Somerset for the purpose of preventing the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
Control operations can only commence once Natural England has formally confirmed with the Licensee the specific dates when these operations will take place, the persons authorised to carry them out, confirmation that the necessary funds are in place, and the permitted number of badgers that will be subject to control operations. These formal confirmations are expected to be completed within the next few weeks.
4 Oct 2012, 5:35 PM
Landowners in the Forest of Dean district are encouraged to follow the council’s lead in refusing the cull of badgers on their land. This is the notice that appears on the Forest of Dean District Council's website www.fdean.gov.uk/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=7968&tt=graphic
4 Oct 2012, 12:57 PM
As badger culling looms it is interesting to see more and more farmers coming out against culling. The latest is a farmer from Northumberland, John Wilson) who talks to the Independent (www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/a-cull-wont-solve-our-farming-problem-so-stop-blaming-the-badgers-8192416.html). & nbsp; It is such a good article we are reproducing it below.
'I’ve been a hill farmer for forty years so I know a thing or two about cattle. I also know quite a bit about badgers because near our farm in north west Northumberland we have several badger setts in the valley. Our badgers and the cows in this valley live happily side by side without incident and without a single case of bovine tuberculosis in cattle on farms in this area.'
'I have firsthand experience of bTB, I know the immense emotional and financial havoc that it brings to hard-working, hard-pressed farmers and I understand how desperate they are to see something done to make it go away. But for the government to stubbornly pursue a badger cull when all the scientific and conservation common sense tells us it simply won’t work, is ultimately not going to help farmers. And farmers themselves have got to come to terms with that inconvenient truth.'
'Jim Paice, the former DEFRA Minister said that doing nothing was not an option. Of course not, but doing the wrong thing is even worse. Culling badgers is very likely to spread bTb to previously uninfected areas. Badgers are timid creatures who are also socially mobile. The badgers on our land don’t just stick to their own setts, they move from sett to sett with a number of satellite setts in between. Badgers under attack will run beyond their territory and if that happens, we could end up with a far bigger bTb problem on our hands than ever before.'
'Killing badgers is also morally bankrupt because it’s diverting much-needed funds and energy away from tackling the fundamental root causes of the TB problem. For as long as this government is obsessed with culling badgers, it’s not focusing on measures to reduce TB on farms and that’s where we need to get to grips with it.'
'My own observation is that bTb hot-spots tend to be in areas where you have dairy farms with ever increasing intensification of cattle. Intensive farming methods are focused on increasing profit by increasing yield from ever more pressured animals who, inevitably, become more stressed and therefore more vulnerable to disease.'
'Intensification of dairy farming in particular, is a growing problem borne of market pressures. The dairy sector is already under enormous financial hardship, with farmers working long hours for decreasing returns. Their solution? Buy more cows and increase their milk production. It’s a terrible downwards spiral that leads to poor cattle welfare, low immunity and a disease disaster waiting to happen.'
'To truly tackle bTB and other diseases like mastitis, we need to detensify cattle farming and stop pushing animals to the very limit. That is precisely what the NFU should be telling farmers, not helping them on to the badger culling bandwaggon. But the NFU is little more than a self-serving bureaucracy more interested in its own survival. '
'We bought our current farm thirteen years ago and we’ve done an immense amount of work to enhance and encourage wildlife and rich biodiversity. We’ve created woodlands and habitats and in so doing, farmed using methods that are in harmony with nature. On our farm we run self-catering holiday cottages, embracing eco-tourism and sharing our passion for wildlife. Our visitors get up close and personal with nature, even having footage of our badgers and barn owls streamed live into every cottage. We are living proof that if you treat the natural world around you with respect and live in balance with nature, badgers and other wild animals are far from being the enemy, they are a wonderful delight to be treasured and protected. '
2 Oct 2012, 1:37 PM
As the Government online e-petition against the cull reaches nearly 142,000 signatures the Badger Trust has, today, sent us a Press Release stating that the “Science-led cull” is falling apart.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Jan Rowe , one of the directors of Gloscon, the company organising the cull in Gloucestershire, has said that the cull may need to be extended beyond the original six-week period.
The Government and the farming industry attempt to justify the cull on the grounds that it is science led, says the Trust. Clearly it is anything but. It is degenerating into a shambles. Lengthening the cull period would be yet another major departure from the criteria spelt out by the ISG (the Independent Scientific Group). The ISG said that to be effective culling should be carried out simultaneously across the cull area. In the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) that provided their peer-reviewed conclusions, culling was carried out for a maximum of 12 days and then stopped. The Government ignored those criteria and decided on six weeks. Now, apparently, there are attempts to justify a further extension. The ISG’s research was based on a Government-led cull. The proposed cull will be farmer-led. The ISG’s findings and conclusions were based on the killing of cage-trapped badgers. On the grounds of cost, the Government has proposed instead a completely untried culling method –“free-shooting” at night. In yet another departure from carefully validated research the cull’s projected benefits—a claimed reduction in bTB incidence of from 12-16 per cent over nine years—assume, without any supporting research or scientific data, says the Badger Trust, that free shooting will be as effective as cage trapping.
With every passing week the Government’s claims that the cull is science led are shown up for what they are, says the Badger Trust—a sham. The plans are unworkable, unscientific, could lead to an increase in bovine TB, and at best offer only minimal reductions over many years. It’s time they were abandoned. The answer to bovine TB, as the ISG said, is the much more effective management of cattle: the way they are tested; the controls which are imposed to limit movements from herds with a poor TB history; and much improved disease controls (biosecurity) on farms.
Vaccination of badgers will make an important contribution. But the long-term solution has to be a cattle vaccine.
 Sunday Times 30-09-2012 Page 17. “Threats force farmer to drop badger cull”. Kevin Dowling.
2 Oct 2012, 1:34 PM
Tewkesbury Borough councillors have decided against passing a motion at a meeting on Monday which would have backed the government scheme to cull badgers. Last Thursday, Forest of Dean District Council voted to ban any culling of badgers on land it controls.
Taunton Deane Borough Council in Somerset is due to vote later on the issue.
Info from BBC www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19784170
30 Sep 2012, 12:07 PM
We have received an email from a farmer in Glos that refers to the current DEFRA Badger/Cattle bTB Transmission survey. This was commissioned by DEFRA in August 2012 and is a two-year scientific study to examine the interactions between cattle and badgers at a cost to the taxpayer of £1,136,449 - see Defra Science & Research Projects.
The farmer is extremely concerned about the amount of public opposition to the culling proposals and consequential bad PR for the farming sector. The farmer cannot understand why, just one month after the report was commissioned, the two 'trial' culls have been sanctioned.
'If the results of this survey, due in 2014, show that transmission of bTB between badger and cattle is the result of poor husbandry and bad bio-security, which is more than likely, then the decimation of Gloucestershire badgers will be even more indefensible.
Commissioning the survey is commendable and necessary but refusing to wait for the results is completely unscientific and an appalling waste of taxpayer's money.'
If the Government decisions are based on science then surely the decision on the badger cull should be deferred until this survey has concluded or the farming sector risks losing even more credibility in the eyes of the electorate?
30 Sep 2012, 11:58 AM
Early day motion 509
Session: 2012-13 Date tabled: 12.09.2012 Primary sponsor: Galloway, George Sponsors: Davidson, Ian Hancock, Mike Hemming, John Leech, John Riordan, Linda
That this House opposes the mass cull of badgers; urges the Environment Minister to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly by implementing a vaccination programme with increased levels of testing and improved bio-security as a more effective way to tackle bovine tuberculosis long-term; notes that vaccination is the more sustainable and humane solution which has already been shown to significantly reduce the potential transmission of tuberculosis and that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' own advisory body, Natural England, has said that it has little confidence in the cull delivering the predicted long-term benefits; and further urges the Minister to halt the imminent cull which could make the situation worse and lead to the badger population in some areas being entirely wiped out.
30 Sep 2012, 11:55 AM
Excellent letter from a farmer published in the Independent that sums up the situation very well (www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters-badger-culling-is-emotive-but-debate-over-scientific-evidence-is-ignoring-established- facts-8182022.html)
'We've allowed the facts about bovine TB to be buried by the furore surrounding the proposed badger cull and negative reporting on the part of farming bodies has painted a picture of an entire cattle industry brought to its knees by the effects of the disease. But this is misleading. Defra reports on its website that "11.5 per cent of herds were restricted in 2011". They could equally report the positive side, which is that 88.5 per cent of herds were not restricted in 2011. Only a small proportion of the national herd is affected by bovine TB.
The impact on an infected herd is not caused by the disease itself. The heartache is caused by the "test and cull" policy deployed by our government in response to an EU directive which demands eradication of bTB and simultaneously bans the use of cattle vaccine, thereby making it impossible to achieve the goal they set.
But rather than tackle the EU to allow cattle vaccination, ministers have sanctioned a mass badger-shoot to placate a minority of vociferous farmers who seem hellbent on decimating the badger population. The fact that a badger cull spells disaster in PR terms for the entire farming industry must have eluded them all'.
G E Purser (A badger-friendly farmer), Clapton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire
29 Sep 2012, 6:02 PM
Councillors for Gloucestershire County Council, which owns a number of farms in the Glos area, one of the badger cull pilot areas, have expressed concerns about the dangers of shooting badgers at night and have ordered a review.
There were concerns that night-time shooting of badgers involving high velocity rifles had serious safety and policing issues. They voted for a full Council review of current policy which allows tenant farmers to take part in the Gloucestershire cull.
The committee also recommended that the Cabinet Member responsible for farms requests tenants taking part in the cull to carry out a risk assessment to re-assure the Council that the public would not be put at undue risk.
The Conservative-controlled Forest of Dean District Council has already voted against the cull and will not allow the shooting of badgers on any of the land they own. Their concerns were apparently sparked by a petition signed by 779 people in Gloucestershire in the last few weeks calling on the council to ban the cull on their land. The public outcry led to a heated discussion by a scrutiny committee.
The motion read: "The Forest of Dean District Council must make public safety and the care of our wildlife a priority and to this end this council must endeavour to make contact with all other land owners within its boundary to request that they refuse any culling of badgers on their land."
Information from www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9571942/Badger-cull-could-be-scuppered-by-health-and-safety.html
25 Sep 2012, 6:36 PM
Grossly exaggerated statements in the media, by farmers who should know better, do nothing to help the debate. Devon farmer, Richard Haddock, said (article in This is Cornwall -http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Long-term-solution-vital-bring-bovine-TB-control/story-16979882-detail/story.html),
'setting aside the practical challenge of trapping every single badger (and there are millions of them)...'. There are not millions of badgers. Estimates very from 150,000 to 300,000. To put this into some perspective, there are around 11 million cats in the UK, including over 1 million feral/strays.
GL sent us an interesting graph/statistics (see attached) which shows the population growth of badgers and humans in the UK during the last 100 years. Domestic animals are included too.
25 Sep 2012, 2:10 PM
Clearly the public are not happy with the badger cull trial proposals in Gloucestershire and Somerset. The online e-petition on the government site which asks the government to stop the planned cull stands at over 113,000 - reached in just 2 weeks. It is currently the most active petition on the site with 905 signatures in the last hour.
As the e-petition has now passed the threshold of 100 000 signatures, the Leader of the House of Commons should write to the Backbench Business Committee, who are responsible for the scheduling of debates on e-petitions, informing them that the petition has reached 100 000 signatures and it should then be debated in Parliament.