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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?

This just about sums it all up http://bovinetb.blogspot.com/2012/01/pennies-start-to-drop.html
As a farmer I would not sign up!
www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0028904 (see also www.oxfordscibar.com/new-evidence-suggesting-badger-culling-is-counter-productive.html)
'Culling-Induced Changes in Badger (Meles meles) Behaviour, Social Organisation and the Epidemiology of Bovine Tuberculosis'
In the UK, attempts since the 1970s to control the incidence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle by culling a wildlife host, the European badger (Meles meles), have produced equivocal results. Culling-induced social perturbation of badger populations may lead to unexpected outcomes. We test predictions from the ‘perturbation hypothesis’, determining the impact of culling operations on badger populations, movement of surviving individuals and the influence on the epidemiology of bTB in badgers using data dervied from two study areas within the UK Government's Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT). Culling operations did not remove all individuals from setts, with between 34–43% of badgers removed from targeted social groups. After culling, bTB prevalence increased in badger social groups neighbouring removals, particularly amongst cubs. Seventy individual adult badgers were fitted with radio-collars, yielding 8,311 locational fixes from both sites between November 2001 and December 2003. Home range areas of animals surviving within removed groups increased by 43.5% in response to culling. Overlap between summer ranges of individuals from Neighbouring social groups in the treatment population increased by 73.3% in response to culling. The movement rate of individuals between social groups was low, but increased after culling, in Removed and Neighbouring social groups. Increased bTB prevalence in Neighbouring groups was associated with badger movements both into and out of these groups, although none of the moving individuals themselves tested positive for bTB. Significant increases in both the frequency of individual badger movements between groups and the emergence of bTB were observed in response to culling. However, no direct evidence was found to link the two phenomena. We hypothesise that the social disruption caused by culling may not only increase direct contact and thus disease transmission between surviving badgers, but may also increase social stress within the surviving population, causing immunosuppression and enhancing the expression of disease.

The conclusion reveals that 'this study clearly demonstrates how relatively simple practical measures can substantially reduce the likelihood of badger visits to buildings. Given the opportunities that visits to farm facilities may present for the transmission of M. bovis between badgers and cattle, these measures could potentially have an important role to play in reducing the incidence of TB in cattle. However, we observed wide variation in the extent to which exclusion measures were employed by farmers. In addition, the frequency of badger visits amongst farms varied independently of the presence of exclusion measures, suggesting that badgers are more attracted to some farms than to others and hence that the potential benefits of exclusion measures will also vary. Consequently, the identification of factors that might determine the likelihood of badger visits to farm premises would be a useful aid to individual farmers in making decisions about whether to spend their time and money on installing and maintaining badger exclusion measures'.
The so-called ‘trial’ badger culls are scheduled to take place later this year in two areas yet to be agreed. Most of the costs are supposed to be paid by the farmers but how much will they really cost the taxpayer? What are the implications of such culls for farmers? Will they result in a PR disaster for the farming industry with so much public opposition? Will the costs and effort be disproportionate? Will it lead to disorder, increased public spending on additional policing? Will it be safe? So many questions and the answers will not be known until too late.
Farm minister Jim Paice has admitted DEFRA will not be able to keep the location of the culls a secret from the public. He apparently spoke to journalists at the Oxford Farming Conference today and said that the government and its badger cull licensing body, Natural England, would not announce where the culls were being held but it was impossible to prevent the public from learning where the trials to shoot badgers would be held. “In the end the public will know,” he said. “I don’t deem it possible that once this gets under way that the grapevine will not work. It may seem tough, but farmers and landowners will have to take that into consideration when they sign up to take part in the trial.”
Shadow farm minister, Mary Creagh, has expressed concern about the costs of policing a cull: “Estimated police costs have already risen tenfold to £2m in each cull area over years,” she told reporters. “There are also discrepancies between DEFRA and the industry over how much it will cost to carry out the culls.”
Mrs Creagh said her biggest concern was that the police costs indicated that armed officers would be needed to patrol the countryside to protect farmers and people licensed to carry out culls.

We have been sent correspondence by a farmer, who, despite being in the middle of a so called bTB hot spots has never suffered a herd breakdown. We have been given permission to publish the exchange of correspondence that gives a lot of interesting information about the number of officially TB free herds. The farmers conclude that the 'never restricted' figures add significant weight to the criticism that the reporting style chosen by the government and the NFU in their efforts to justify a badger cull is proportionately negative and sensationalised.
The farmer concluded, from the correspondence he received (www.bovinetb.co.uk/admin/admin_article.php?category_id=32) that:
“If we take as an example the Farmers Weekly 'TB Key Facts' http://www.fwi.co.uk/landing-page/livestock/badger-cull/key-facts/ based on a Defra press release. They report that '10.8% of herds were restricted in 2010' but they could equally report that '89.2% of herds were not restricted in 2010. They report that ‘22.7% of cattle farms in the south-west were under cattle movement restrictions in 2010’, instead of saying 77.3% of cattle farms in the south-west were free of TB movement restrictions.
And they fail to report that the 25000 cattle slaughtered in 2010 for TB control is less than 0.5% of the 7.5 million cattle tested and is a figure easily beaten by the number of fallen stock on beef and dairy farms in the normal course of events.
(Defra DETAILED TB STATISTICS: 1 Jan to 31 Dec 2010 (GB) http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/stats/documents/10/2010gb.pdf)”
The farmer goes on to say say: “These 'never restricted' figures also counter the argument that the disease is 'cycling' around all of the herds but instead show that the bulk of the problem is most likely made up of the same herds 'cycling' in and out of breakdowns. A map on the NFU's 'TB Free England' site adds weight to this in its efforts to paint a gloomy picture - see http://www.tbfreeengland.co.uk/TB-Graphs-and-Maps/Map-showing-location-and-durations-of-breakdowns-Jul-2009---Jun-2010/ The 'never restricted' figures also demonstrate that far more research could and should have been undertaken along the lines of the report from the Royal Society - 'Bovine tuberculosis - reduced risk on wildlife friendly farms' http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/suppl/2008/12/08/2.2.271.DC1/rsbl20060461supp.pdf comparing farms which remain clear to those that do not”.
The farmer points out that “The high number of 'never restricted' herds also explains the ease with which the Royal Society found their control farms which had remained OTF since 1994, ie. at least ten continuous years clear at the time they were collecting data.n
And it is interesting to note that, despite the time which has elapsed since the Royal Society study was undertaken, the figures show that researchers would still have no trouble finding their 'control' herds in the area studied as there are 3367 herds which have never been restricted in the Devon/Hereford/Worcester area”.
If you calculate overall totals from the spreadsheet, the result is as follows:
As of 4th Sept 2011
out of a total of 78006 Officially Tuberculosis Free (OTF) herds in GB,
60811 herds have never been under TB restrictions.
If this is broken down into regions then
out of a total of 48363 OTF herds in the East/North/Scot region,
43340 herds have never been restricted
out of a total of 29643 OTF herds in the West/Wales 'hot-spot' region,
17471 have never been restricted
The spreadsheet only gives the total number of OTF herds but the total number of herds overall can be obtained from Defra stats
Taking the figures from Defra DETAILED TB STATISTICS: 1 Jan to 31 Dec 2010 (GB) http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/stats/documents/10/2010gb.pdf , the total number of herds overall is given as:
83636 for GB
50683 for East/North/Scot region
32953 for West/Wales 'hot-spot' region
This confirms that, based on the figures provided by the AHVLA, the percentage of herds which have never been restricted - ie. consistently OTFthroughout - is the majority of herds overall and also by region.
See www.bovinetb.co.uk/admin/admin_article.php?category_id=32 for full story and all correspondence referred to.
Media reports are suggesting the badger cull could lead to up to a third of badgers being killed. Most of these will be healthy.
Lord Krebs asked following question in the House of Lords on 20/12/11.
'To ask Her Majesty's Government what scientific evidence they have used in developing their proposals for controlling bovine tuberculosis by culling badgers.'
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach)replied: 'My Lords, evidence of the effect of badger-culling on bovine TB incidence rates comes principally from the randomised badger-culling trial. The scientific evidence from the trial suggests that proactive badger-culling, done on a sufficient geographical scale in a widespread, co-ordinated and efficient way and over a sustained period of time of at least four years, will reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle in high-incidence areas. It is the Government's judgment that these results can at least be replicated by a farmer-led cull using controlled shooting. The two pilots will test our assumptions about the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of this method.'
Lord Krebs went on to say: 'Lord Krebs: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I should declare an interest as the instigator of the randomised badger-culling trial some years ago. I agree with the Minister that sustained, long-term culling could reduce the incidence of TB in cattle by about 16 per cent, but can he help me with two questions which are puzzling me concerning the Secretary of State's announcement last week in another place? First, this pilot involves two areas. As a scientist, I know of no statistical technique for analysing the results from a trial involving just two areas, so perhaps the Minister could enlighten me on that point. Secondly, the Secretary of State referred to a wider rollout depending on the results of the pilot. Does that mean that the Government would consider rolling out this shooting policy to the 39,000 square kilometres of the English countryside affected by bovine TB, with the implication that one would end up shooting between a quarter and a third of the UK's badger population?'
Lord Taylor of Holbeach replied: 'I am grateful to the noble Lord for that supplementary question, and I acknowledge the authority with which he raises these questions. The purpose of the pilots is to evaluate the effectiveness of the process, rather than to provide a scientific appraisal of the cull, which is designed to last over a four-year period, and I think that the noble Lord will understand that. At the bottom of this is the fact that we are hoping to monitor the humaneness and effectiveness of a shooting policy before we roll it out, and I hope that noble Lords will agree that that is right and proper. It is suggested that the pilots should be held over a series of areas, rather than one complete area, as that would defeat the object of trying to find areas that are viable. The pilots will cover an area of at least 150 square kilometres, perhaps extending to as much as 350 square kilometres.'
A message from Badger Friendly Farmers (email 17/12/11):
"If you have healthy badgers leave them, they are your best defence if you shoot them you'll run the very high risk of getting infected ones move in. "
Good to see from letter in Guardian 16 December 2011 that they are calling for cattle vaccination.
'We are disappointed that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decided not to listen to scientific evidence, the majority of the public or the advice of external stakeholders and, instead, is to go ahead with badger cull trials (Report, 15 December). These proposals are providing false hope that badger culls will eradicate the terrible problem of bovine TB. The trials will cost farmers £1.4m and cost £2m for police forces in each cull area over four years. If the government goes ahead with 10 cull areas from 2013 onwards, it could cost £20m plus in policing costs alone. We call on the government to focus its resources on improving biosecurity, limiting the transfer of TB between cattle, and producing fully functional vaccines for both badgers and cattle.'
Joe Duckworth Chief executive, League Against Cruel Sports
Mark Jones Executive director, Humane Society International/UK
Anne Brummer Founder and trustee, Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue
Andrew Tyler Director, Animal Aid
Lorraine Platt Co-founder, Conservatives Against Fox Hunting
Libby Anderson Acting chief executive, One Kind
Simon Cowell Founder/director, The Wildlife Aid Foundation
Robbie Marsland UK director, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Wally Burley, Chair, Labour Animal Welfare Society
Peter Bottomley MP Conservative, Worthing West
Martin Horwood MP Liberal Democrat, Cheltenham
Dr Caroline Lucas MP Green, Brighton Pavilion
Kerry McCarthy MP Labour, Bristol East
Bob Russell MP Liberal Democrat, Colchester
Adrian Sanders MP Liberal Democrat, Torbay
Mike Weatherley MP Conservative, Hove and Portslade
Chris Williamson MP Labour, Derby North
For the last few months, an independent review panel commissioned by the Welsh Government has been undertaking an assessment of all the evidence that underpins the badger-bTB debate. On the 7th December, John Griffiths AM (Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development) issued a written statement to the effect that he had met with Professor John Harries, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, and Professor Chris Gaskell, Principal of the Royal Agricultural College and Chair of the independent review panel. At this meeting, he formally received the report on the science base for the bovine TB eradication programme. The Welsh Government have stated that they are now considering the report and its implications, and we expect that they will report further on this early in the new year.
Meanwhile in England and at a UK level various other moves have been made by the Government and its agencies. WTSWW, along with many other stakeholders, have been contacted by FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) about a badger survey of England and Wales, commissioned by Defra. It is to be the third in a series of such monitoring schemes dating back to 1985 and aims to assess changes in population size and distribution over time.
Meanwhile in England this week, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has announced two badger culls in pilot areas using the ‘free-shooting’ technique, where badgers are shot by marksmen, without trapping. She said, “there is great strength of feeling on this issue and no one wants to see badgers culled. But at present there is no satisfactory alternative.”
Last year the government cancelled five out of six pilots for the vaccination of badgers, on cost grounds. Vaccination is currently being trialled by the National Trust and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Under the proposed free-shooting trials, the farmers themselves will incur the costs of the culling and will be required to seek licences from Natural England and use marksmen with special shooting permits.
Rosie Woodroffe, one of the researchers involved in the Independent Scientific Group’s Randomised Badger Culling Trial (which found that culling badgers could not make a meaningful contribution to the control of TB in cattle), said that “It is likely to cost farmers more than they save, and there is a serious concern that such culling will make cattle TB worse rather than better”.
The Government is already facing opposition to Caroline Spelman’s announcement. Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said “a badger cull is the wrong tool to address this serious and complex problem and a distraction from other measures to tackle bovine TB.
An industry-led cull with open shooting in the countryside is untested and these pilots will not provide a scientific evaluation of the impact on bovine TB. The rationale for any cull of native species needs to be extremely clear and well proven. We do not believe this is the case with the proposed badger cull.”
The Badger Trust has said that it is ‘very disappointed’ with the decision and that they are studying the decision with their legal advisors to determine what actions they should take.
Meanwhile the Humane Society International/UK (HSI/UK) is already submitting a complaint to the Bern Convention against the UK in response to the announcement. HSI/UK believes proceeding with a badger slaughter breaches the international convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats because it lacks ‘legitimate purpose’ and poses a significant threat to local badger populations. In addition, HSI/UK does “not believe that alternative strategies for controlling tuberculosis in cattle (bTB) and badgers have been sufficiently explored”.
The above information is taken from the newsletter of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, The Wildlife Trusts will continue to work together to support vaccination as an alternative to culling.
So Spelman has allowed the two trial culls to proceed. "NFU estimates it will cost groups of farmers between £75,000 and £95,000 per 150sq.km area." What will it really cost the taxpayer too? Will it involve expensive policing? And all to reduce disease by just a few percent - and this is not even proven?
Expensive for farmers, an unknown outcome, bad PR and yet again badgers polarize the debate and take resources and attention AWAY from finding a permanent solution! In view of the cost, detailed requirements for culling and overwhelming public opposition (consistently ignored by the government), how many farmers are going to be signed up for the first two?
I see Defra is about to spend (waste?) nearly 1 million pounds on attempting to get information on numbers of badgers in GB. Apparently it will inform their policy on badgers?The last National Badger Survey of Great Britain was completed in 1997 so why do we need another guess in these times of financial cut backs in so many other areas. And when will focus go back to cattle and away from badgers?
First Minister Carwyn Jones says a decision on plans for a badger cull in parts of west Wales will be made early next year (2012).
The cull was put on hold in June when ministers appointed an independent panel to review scientific evidence.
Let's hope they, instead of more culling, push for cattle vaccination.
According to recent media reports, James Paice, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has said that the cost to groups of farmers applying for a licence to cull badgers will total a massive £1.4million!
Mr Paice said DEFRA had calculated the costs to farmers and landowners within each 350sq km cull zone.
Answering a question in the House of Commons last week (7 November), Mr Paice said the costs covered all aspects of carrying out a cull to tackle bovine TB, including co-ordinating and surveying.
Mr Paice said DEFRA was also in discussion with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office over the police response and associated costs related to the proposed cull.
Shadow environment minister Mary Creagh said DEFRA's estimated costings for carrying out a cull proved the badger cull plans were bad for farmers and taxpayers.
"It is huge amount for people to find when they are being squeezed by rising fuel, feed and fertiliser prices," she said.
We agree! Culling badgers is not proven to be cost effective, is disproportionate, publicly unpopular .... we need cattle vaccination!
We were delighted to receive a joint NFU and Badger Trust press release today. To see the two groups working together at last must surely mean there is light at the end of a very dark tunnel. One comment: if badgers can be vaccinated against bTB, why can't cattle?
The NFU and the Badger Trust have agreed to work together on an initial project to vaccinate badgers on two farms owned by members of the NFU.
NFU chief farm policy adviser John Royle and Badger Trust Director Simon Boulter have agreed a joint project in which the badgers on two farms owned by NFU members will be vaccinated. In addition, the Badger Trust has identified five other landowners around the UK wishing to vaccinate badgers and is working independently with them as part of the initial trial project.
Vaccination on all seven farms started in October after surveys were carried out to identify active badger setts and licences have been granted by Natural England. The vaccination project will run until the end of November 2011 and resume in May 2012.
It is hoped that the two programmes, although small in scale, will help to identify whether the injectable vaccination of badgers is practical and cost effective. The NFU and the Badger Trust will continue to encourage research and development into an orally-delivered badger vaccine.
Speaking for the NFU, chief farm policy adviser, John Royle said: “We are pleased that the NFU and the Badger Trust have successfully liaised to facilitate this joint project, sharing equipment and resources as necessary, despite having differing views on the degree to which badgers are implicated in the transmission of bovine Tuberculosis.”
Simon Boulter, speaking for the Badger Trust, said: “We hope that with the use of volunteers to help with the work of surveying, trap-setting and pre-baiting, we can successfully implement an effective badger vaccination programme.”
During the summer of 2011, the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) ran four courses to enable people to be trained as lay vaccinators, qualified to inject badgers with the BCG vaccine. Two members of the NFU and five members of groups affiliated to the Badger Trust attended and passed enabling them to obtain the necessary certificate of competence.
Interesting article from New Zealand.
'The health of the soil, allied with proper stock management are keys to beating bovine tuberculosis, Waihopai valley farmer Aiden MacKenzie says in a discussion paper presented to a meeting of Marlborough Federated Farmers.'
"In a nutshell, if the soil is balanced in terms of mineral elements and healthy, then grass nutrition is balanced and healthy and healthy stock result," he says.
"The consequence is maximum immunity to diseases whether it be TB or others."
In soil balance, key elements such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium are vital. If grass is well balanced, then the animal gets a well-balanced diet. Hence its immune system is fully functional and repels disease.
Historical studies of Tb that go back to the Iron Age or before, have shown the disease had always hit populations "nutritionally impoverished". Scientific studies have shown apart from reduced soil fertility, acidic soils are directly related to increased "myco-bacteria" problems, such as bovine Tb.
"In summary, acidic soils create a cascade effect of an accumulation of available iron. High iron levels allow myco-bacteria to thrive and increase and create the pathology within an animal's body for strains such as tuberculosis. Myco-bacteria `hijack' the iron from the animal's body, which leads to classic anaemia, associated with chronic Tb." In addition, the "theft" of iron disables the immune system with a resultant increase in Tb.
Tb bacteria is almost always present, but needs lower animal condition with a low immune system, to take hold. "If animals are healthy because of a balanced environment in soil and pasture, then the efficient immune system stops Tb taking hold." Tests in Michigan, US, had shown conclusively, liming the soils caused a 10-fold reduction in Tb.
On his Waihopai Downs station property, Mr MacKenzie said by concentrating on balanced soil, thus balanced feed and therefore a healthy balanced animal with an efficient immune system, not only diseases but parasites became non-existent. "We rarely have to drench animals for parasites, depending on random but regular dung samples to measure any parasites."
Mr MacKenzie said his views were not new and back in the 1930s, studies showed cattle raised on balanced soils and boxed in with foot and mouth disease infected cattle, did not contract the disease. Other research proved the same in the 1950s with Tb and brucellosis. "What I am telling you is not new science – it has been proven over 80 years, over and over again. It can be seen in humans with disease. A lack of proper balanced diet and overcrowding creates an optimum environment for disease.," he said.
Mr MacKenzie criticised the Tb policy of the Animal Health Board in scattering toxins like 1080 indiscriminately over large areas and ignoring the solution of soil and stock management.
"Yet under pressure from chemical companies and vested interests, New Zealand during 1960 to 1970, embarked on aerial top dressing with principally super phosphate, thus creating a soil imbalance. It was not a coincidence that TB increased greatly in those decades." New Zealand's TB rates were currently very low at 0.3% compared to UK countries with 5 to 9 % incidence.
The strategy dependent on 1080 poison drops was not addressing the major cause of TB, he claims. The meeting decided to forward the discussion paper to Marlborough's TB-free committee.
Press Realease from Badger Trust dated 4/11/11
Caroline Spelman lets badger consultation cat out of the bag
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman told a Commons Select Committee (1) that the “difficult Government decision . . . of how to eradicate bovine TB was taken through a very detailed process engaging all the stakeholders as much as possible in making that decision in order to minimise the potential for public adverse reaction”. But there was a further purpose, revealed when she said: of the “different parties” involved “; they are likely to go out and engage with the pubic themselves and help to explain why it is such a difficult decision”.
The Badger Trust has been one of those parties and regards the decision not as difficult but as perversely pandering to the pressure of a stubborn and ill-informed cattle industry.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The Badger Trust is a stakeholder and has responded to consultations in good faith to inform the decision-making process, but not to have its “potential for adverse reaction” minimised nor to act as a messenger for government”.
Ms Spelman also said “the reaction to that [badger culling] decision was significantly less than other decisions we have made in relation to forests." Mr Williams commented that the comparison was entirely false: ”Decisions about the control of bovine tuberculosis involve sophisticated science whereas the Coalition Government’s sell-off policy on forests was based on creating commercial opportunities and saving public expenditure.
“Unfortunately the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties foolishly committed themselves to killing badgers without thinking through the complexities and dangerous consequences. Such recklessness may be fine in opposition, but now they are reaping a poisonous harvest and are having to save face by cynically manipulating the public and pushing the costs on to the farmers involved.
“The Coalition should forget badgers, rigorously enforce and supervise better cattle controls and deal with farmers who break the rules”.
(1) http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9259 at 43’ 40”
More concern re poison being used to kill possums in New Zealand as part of bTB policy. Apparently the research used to support the 1080 poison use in New Zealand does not stand up to basic scrutiny, and suggests bird species that are most likely to show harm, are overlooked for researching.
The study piece clearly demonstrates that the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand is not only harming our wildlife, but also accelerating extinctions for some species.
The truth about aerial-dropped 1080-poisoned food 02/11/2011
By Dr Alexis Pietak (Dr Alexis Pietak is a biomedical research scientist, biophysicist, and author who lived in New Zealand from February 2005- May 2011. More information about Dr Pietak can be found at: www.omecha..org)
Aerial-dropped 1080-poisoned food is a hotly contested issue. Anti-1080 proponents claim that the widespread, uncontrolled distribution of highly lethal food into wilderness ecosystems has the capacity to decimate certain bird populations and wreak ecological havoc. Advocates claim that 1080-poisoned food is selective for mammals, and even if bird deaths do occur, the benefits of mammalian predator removal apparently outweigh the risk of bird deaths. According to advocates, aerial-dropped 1080-poisoned food is the only way to protect New Zealand’s last stands of flora and fauna, and must be used to control bovine tuberculosis in New Zealand’s cattle and deer herds. Who is right? What is the truth about aerial-dropped 1080-poisoned food?
For the full article see www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1111/S00133/new-research-calls-for-moratorium-on-1080-poison-use.htm
Press Release from Badger Trust dated 28/10/11
James Paice peddles half truths to MPs
Farming Minister James Paice produced a string of dangerous half-truths in the Commons on October 18th. in replying to a debate on the Coalition Government’s proposals to kill badgers in an effort to control bovine tuberculosis. He implied that the larger areas proposed for the killing of badgers would help considerably to reduce the risk of outbreaks being worsened by “perturbation” of disturbed badger social groups.
1. 1. What he did not say was that the necessary achievement of sufficient kills (70 percent) would be more difficult over the larger area of 300 sq Km (11.5 by 11.5 miles).
2. 2. What he did not disclose was that in a larger area it is even more difficult to reliably assess - rather than to guess - the size of the badger population.
3. 3 What he did not acknowledge was the increased problem of ensuring access to 70 percent of the greater land area.
4. 4. What he did not say was that scientists running the official £50 million badger culling trials had been unable to identify up to 35 per cent of landowners within the smaller areas they had used.
5. 5. What he did not define were his “hard boundaries that badgers cannot cross;” such geographical features are known to be extremely rare and not necessarily round the killing areas.
6. 6. What he did not say was that killing badgers would make no “meaningful contribution” to the eradication of the disease [1].
7. 7. What he did not say was that killing badgers would not in itself prevent the continued spread of the disease into “parts of the country where currently it did not exist” and could make matters worse [1].
8. 8. What he did not tell MPs was that a free-running badger would vanish at the sound of a breaking twig let alone a rifle shot, so that one kill a night would be the likely toll – a great waste of time and money.
[1] http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/isg/report/final_report.pdf (Page 5).
If the pilot cull goes ahead Devon is likely to be one of the areas selected. Email from MG 26/10/11
From the latest (Jan to July 2011) Defra DEVON Stats below it can be seen that:
0.56% of total cattle have been slaughtered due to failing the Btb test. Line 10 +11+12 (3,592*) as a % of Line 4 (644,629)
* Based on Defra's 99.9% (Ha Ha) specificity for the skin test 644 ( i.e. 18%) of those tested positive could have been False.
This false percentage doubles to 36% if the specificity is 99.8%
Of the 937 Herds under Movement Restriction (Line 16) at the end of July 2011 805 were due to overdue tests.
Therefore 132 (937-805) herds were under movement restriction out of 5661 i.e. 2.3%.
0 (Line 14) cases have yet to be confirmed
Based on these numbers why would any rational business person invest £1000's of pounds up front for a Badger Cull which promises at best a zero or negative payback over 7 years.
Plus damage their local tourism industry, and risk a boycott of their products.
DEFRA BOVINE TB STATS FOR JAN to JULY 2011 Published October 2011 Devon
1. Total Number of Cattle Herds registered on Vetnet 5,661
2. ...of which were under TB2 restrictions because of a TB incident at some time during the reporting period 1,092
TB tests carried out (in year to date)
3. Total Number of Herd Tests (incl. gamma interferon tests) 4,168
4. Total Number of Cattle Tested (incl. gamma interferon tests) 644,629
TB incidents (started in year to date)
5. Total New Herd TB Incidents 452
6. ...of which are officially TB free status withdrawn (OTFW) breakdowns 260
7. ...of which are officially TB free status suspended (OTFS) breakdowns 181
8. ...of which are still Unclassified TB Incidents (pending culture results) 11
9. Total number of officially TB free status withdrawn (OTFW) breakdowns in 2010 (year end) 501
Animals slaughtered (in year to date, excluding any reactors awaiting slaughter on the date of the data download)
10. As Reactors (inc. IRx3 and gamma interferon positives) 3,515
11. As Inconclusive Reactors (IRs) 9
12. As Direct Contacts (DCs) 68
13. Slaughterhouse cases reported to Animal Health 110
14. … of which are considered Confirmed 0
TB tests overdue at the end of the month (by time overdue)
15. Total TB tests overdue 805
Herds under TB2 restrictions at the end of the month (due to a TB incident, overdue TB test, etc)
16. Herds under movement restriction on 31 July 2011 937
At the House of Commons badger cull debate James Gray MP said a farmer had seen over 30 TB infected badgers on his farmyard.This is an extremely high number of badgers to be seen at one time and to claim they all had bTB merely reveals the lack of real knowledge these people have regarding bTB as a disease.
EXTRACT from From Hansard 18 Oct 2011 – Westminster Hall http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111018/halltext/111018h0001.htm#11101844000002
Mr Gray: My hon. Friend is familiar with scenes such as one described to me by a farmer in my constituency. When the farmer turned on the lights in the yard in the middle of the night, he saw what he thought were 30 to 40 badgers, full of TB, staggering around and unable to stand up. Those
badgers could not be helped even if we had a vaccine, because they are ill badgers; they need to be destroyed, and the only sensible way to destroy them is by shooting them. My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point.
New Zealand are killing possums using the poison known as 1080. October saw the fourth annual report published by The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). It covers aerial 1080 operations conducted in the year ended December 2010 and research carried out to July 2011.
It includes data gathered from mandatory post-operational reporting, from monitoring, and from reported incidents and public concerns.
There were 45 aerial operations in 2010, covering nearly 440,000 hectares.
In 2010, 34 incidents and complaints about aerial 1080 operations were reported to the EPA (17 in 2009). All were investigated and six instances of breaches of the regulatory controls due to operator practice were found.
Sixteen breaches of the law were caused by actions of members of the public, some of which had the potential to create unacceptable risk to people and the environment, the report says.
Ms Eng said the report shows there has been progress in the last four years through research, development of industry standards and better communication, but that there is still room for improvement, as operator breaches are still occurring.
"The EPA will continue to monitor the use of 1080 and provide information on how the industry is performing," Ms Eng said.
New Zealand are killing possums using the poison known as 1080. October saw the fourth annual report published by The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). It covers aerial 1080 operations conducted in the year ended December 2010 and research carried out to July 2011.
It includes data gathered from mandatory post-operational reporting, from monitoring, and from reported incidents and public concerns.
There were 45 aerial operations in 2010, covering nearly 440,000 hectares.
In 2010, 34 incidents and complaints about aerial 1080 operations were reported to the EPA (17 in 2009). All were investigated and six instances of breaches of the regulatory controls due to operator practice were found.
Sixteen breaches of the law were caused by actions of members of the public, some of which had the potential to create unacceptable risk to people and the environment, the report says.
Ms Eng said the report shows there has been progress in the last four years through research, development of industry standards and better communication, but that there is still room for improvement, as operator breaches are still occurring.
"The EPA will continue to monitor the use of 1080 and provide information on how the industry is performing," Ms Eng said.

Good summary from a post by a beef farmer at www.fwi.co.uk/community/forums/p/60717/189404.aspx#189404
The only justification for turning our attention to other hosts of bTB would be if the effects of the disease itself was responsible for the death and ill-health of the majority of warm-blooded mammals in this country including our own species. But this is simply not the case, instead it is the current policy which poses the biggest threat.
If a diary cow has bTB, is her milk a threat to human health?
No, her milk is made safe by pasteurisation.
If a beef animal has bTB, is the meat a threat to human health?
No, meat inspectors will decide how much of the carcass is fit for consumption and cooking kills M. bovis anyway.
Is the welfare of cattle severely compromised by bTB?
No, the vast majority will be in sufficiently good health for their immune systems to cope with exposure to the infection and their relatively short lives, economically speaking, means clinical signs of the disease will be very rare.
Do we need to slaughter cattle for their own health and welfare?
Do we need to slaughter cattle for the welfare of other susceptible hosts?
Humans - there is no evidence to support the argument that the welfare of humans is significantly threatened by bTB in this country because of advances in science resulting in all of the safeguards already mentioned above.
Wildife - there is no evidence to support the argument that the welfare of our wildife is threatened by bTB. On the contrary, our own eyes tell us that Mother Nature's system of 'survival of the fittest' is working very well.
So a change to the way in which we view bovine tuberculosis, ie. by recognising that the disease itself is no longer the serious threat that it once was, would allow us to manage the disease within each herd with little attention paid to other hosts, ie. the badger, in common with our approach to other serious infections which can cross the species barrier.
New group Badgers Friendly Farmers …… now on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/badger_friendly
This twitter page was formed after several discussions between a
couple of beef farmers when they realised they shared similar views.
Their Statement:
We all agree urgent action is desperately needed to stop the wild fire spread of bovine TB, which is destroying the livelihoods of so many farmers. Each one of us I’m sure will have a different take on what should be happening, could be happening or is taking far too long to
happen. But we all as individual landowners have grave concerns about the Government’s proposed “big society” badger cull. We believe it has not been thoroughly thought through and has little, if any, scientific backing.
We cannot see any good will come from this. In fact it has the potential of making matters far worse on many levels.
We realise we are few in number and our voices are drowned out by the might of the National Farmers Union and, as such, have little if any chance of ever stopping this cull.
But what we can do is be conscientious objectors and not partake. So we vow not to apply for badger licences, not allow shooters to enter our land and not allow anyone to disturb or harm the badgers that reside there.
Many of us own land with fit and healthy badger populations and we’d very much like to keep it that way. So we promise that the food, products and services we produce and create are all Badger friendly because our badgers are safe. If you care to look at who @badger_friendly is following you can see who we are.
What other farmers and landowners choose to do is entirely up to them, best of luck to us all……….
Email response from JB 17/9/11.
Over the next four years up to 90,000 badgers could be killed across the country. Each licence is issued to a group of farmers in an areas from 15 -35,000 hectares (150 to 350km2) where the majority of landowners want a cull to go ahead.
The cull has to be carried out over four years and more than 70% of the badgers in the area must be killed for it to work, although Natural England will insist the animals are not made extinct in any county.
Defra said between 1,000 and 1,500 badgers will be killed in each 15,000 hectare area.
'call to snuff out half of britain's badgers ludicrous and scary'
From this you can guess between 95,000 and 175000 depending on who's 'guesstimate' on population you use. (No idea where NE got their 190,000 total population figure from, can't find it. The only ones I know of are 300,000 and 350,000, and they are probably pretty inaccurate). But they get their figures from the same source as above and are working on the fact that there are between 33 and 40 (according to NE this is possible in the current license proposal) areas identified. We don't know the size of all those areas obviously it could be between 150 and 350km2, but I think now they have set 350kim2 as their lowest limit?
If you go with 40 areas altogether including the two trial areas the total number of badgers estimated by the govt is 140,000. Assuming they are right, because density is very high in the south west. I guess it depends on whether they worked on local levels or national. SO 70% of that is 98000.
There's a nice summary on the above website of all things badger (If I had the time I'd be doing that myself, he really tries to cover everything and it saves me going through a load of papers for you!);
There are typically about 10 badgers per 100 ha in 'good' British badger territory (range: 2 to 300). According to Michael Clark's book Badgers, the smaller territories observed in badger clans from Gloucester were about 40 ha (100 acres), with the smallest being 15 ha (38 acres). Roughly 70 ha (175 acres) was more typical of southwest England, while in the low-density areas of Scotland, territories were around 180 ha (400 acres).
It looks to me like DEFRA have gone off that top line in red. ie 15000(ha)/100(ha) = 1500
So anyway, depending on the territory size, go roughly with 6 -8 (say 7) badgers per territory. Territory can be anything between 15-70, you're talking about 1 badger per 2.14ha-10ha areas. (average size of territory 40ha - 1 badger per 5.7ha). The lowest territory size there you can probably put down as an anomaly so bear that in mind but I'm no expert in the SW.
High density est- 15000ha / 2.14 = 7009 badgers
Average density est - 15000 / 5.7 = 2631.5 badgers
Low density est - 15000ha / 10 = 1500 badgers.
Following from that to achieve 70%:
High: 7009 x 70% = 4906
Ave: 2631.5 x 70% = 1842
Lowest: 1500 x 70% = 1050.
My maths may be way out (I'd like to hope not but you never know), but it seems to me the govt could be just a little low on their population estimates. Not massively, but it will vary.
That's for the 150km size. You change it to 350km (35000 ha) you're looking at;
High: 11448 (at 70%)
Ave: 4298
Lowest: 2450
For the one area.
If you take the lowest at 35km2 you are talking 98000 badgers in total (over the whole period assuming population is static) assuming a total of 40 areas. Mid range is 171920. Highest (I balk at this figure) 457920. Fortunately, there is no way that the highest potential density figure covers all of those areas, or even much of them. If that were the case, there'd be alot more badgers in the UK than we think! It will vary an awful lot in the SW as a whole never mind the rest of the UK. And its all guesswork....
What is playing on my mind is that due to persecution and large areas of moorland we have a much lower density in the north, and probably it's similar in the east midlands. We as a badger group really have no idea how many active badger setts there are in our county. We have 200+ sett records, but no way of checking them. There are probably a lot more setts, but we can't get on the land. At the same time, a lot of the setts we do get around are very heavily dug and baited, so clan size can be much smaller. I surveyed one site for a year, three setts were already dug when I started, one of them was dug at all 7 chambers (that 7 badgers down the drain). I knew there was at least one badger on the site, poor thing was moving from one sett to another on a daily basis just to keep an eye on its territory. I don't believe there were more than that. Clearly there was no badgers on adjoining land to join with. We just don't know basically how many setts are still active, even in our own database. If we don't know, I don't see how anyone else can guess. If no-one knows what the UK population is, how can we take a shotgun to the area with the most of them?
Another summary on figures here http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2011/jul/19/badger-cull-bovine-tb-spelman Lower than mine but again who really knows?
If I could just find out where NE gets its UK population estimate from....
But anywhere if you take the figures above (98-171k) it's most likely to be somewhere in between, possibly lower, not higher.

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