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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?

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.
If the cull goes ahead how many badgers will be killed in England and Wales?
Email from BH 16/9/11,
Our sheep do exactly the same thing with badger setts, it's to do with the sun warming up the bare earth works like a little heat matt for the sheep, where we have open badgers setts actually in the grass the sheep sneak under the electric fence we've put round and fall asleep in the entrances of the setts.
In fact this is the only way we lose lambs to badgers ... lost two this year.
The lamb falls asleep right at the entrance we think probably a pregnant sow - defensive of her territory woke up in the evening walked out found a white wooly thing on her doorstep eviscerated it.
You can always tell a lamb thats been killed by a badger to a lamb thats been killed by a fox, badger kills = lots of bloody, and lambs look like they were beside a bomb, fox kills are a lot cleaner.
At this point a lot of farmers would then shoot the badgers, we didn't we moved the lambs and sheep to a new field problem sorted :)
Watching Countryfile recently when Adam Henson did a piece on the badger, I noticed that when they were filming his farm he showed some film from his night camera which had captured his sheep at a badger set. This got me thinking again about other mammals. Looking at Adam's sheep that were obviously lying all around the badger set and presumably in contact with areas frequented by badgers (and perhaps badger urine?) why do sheep not contract bTB more often? The number of sheep found to have bTb is miniscule (only one case last year according to Defra) but no-one seems to know why as they may be more exposed to badgers than cattle are - or maybe it is not the badgers ... Perhaps sheep don't succumb to diease easily - which I find hard to believe ... Yet another example of how little is known about bTB ...
Email from JK 15/9/11
The effects of the terrible 1080 poison are horrific – and especially when you take into account the collateral damage of unintended wildlife. Again, it’s a case of wildlife dying when problems closer to home are being ignored.
According to a posting on Warmwell (www.warmwell.com) Aug 15 2011 it causes poisoned animals a slow and very nasty death. It is not currently banned in New Zealand or Australia.
On www.1080facts.co.nz 1080 attempts are made to justify the use of this poison.
There have been recent reports (www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5446799/New-possum-poison-approved) of a new poison to kill the possums in New Zealand. The EPA has approved the application and a number of advantages have been cited, such as reduced secondary and tertiary poisoning of livestock and domestic animals associated with brodifacoum, 1080, diphacinone and pindone.
The poison, zinc phosphide, will target brush-tailed possums and apparently does not leave residues in venison for export or domestic consumption.
The EPA has imposed strict conditions on its use, including limiting it to trained and licensed operators.
A poison is designed to kill, No poisons are without their problems.
www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1109/S00013/farmers-disgusted-at-aerial-1080-drop.htm This recent article tells us that farmers in New Zealand are disgusted that the Animal Health Board & the Department of Conservation have begun dropping the poison, 1080, on North & South Okarito Forests.
This was apparently permitted to go ahead even though the consent was issued for possum control only and DoC have widely advertised that they are targeting rats and stoats. 'This action flies in the face of the lengthy studies e.g. Wendy Ruscoe showing that some of the unexpected consequences of 1080 drops are the arrival of rat plagues, knowing that stoats are not attracted to the baits and seldom eat dead rats but prey switch from 6% birds in their diets to 67%'.
'Ignoring this is clearly a process of wilful blindness on behalf of the Department of Conservation and legalised ecocide by both them and the Animal Health Board, the belligerent bureaucratic juggernaut that poisons because it can. If the AHB put its poison money into meaningful farmer education, there would be no bovine TB'.
New Zealand was widely recognised as the world leader in TB management and WAG has made many references to its strategy in Gwlad. However, what has not been admitted is the growing opposition to the widespread use of poisons being used to kill possums but which are also affecting other species.
It has recently been reported that New Zealand taxpayers will pay $150 million in the five years to 2015 to fund the Government's share of killing possums and managing bovine tuberculosis. The taxpayers' contribution of $30m a year is on top of $45m a year from beef, dairy and deer farmers, and $6m from regional councils.
The funding would appear to be financing a revised National Pest Management Strategy, to eradicate the disease in possums and other wildlife from one quarter of New Zealand's vector risk areas. This was about 40 per cent of land area. The initial 1998 pest management strategy was aimed at the trade-oriented target of meeting international levels for 'official freedom' from TB - having only 0.2 per cent of deer and cattle herds infected in 2013 - a level which would prevent trade rivals using TB incidence as a basis for seeking non-tariff trade bans on NZ meat and milk exports. But in 2007 MPs were told that TB-infected possums, ferrets, and feral pigs and deer remained in nine million hectares of NZ - about a third of the country - and those animals would continue to infect farmed livestock until the disease was eradicated from wildlife.
In 2009, a plan was implemented over 40 years, proposing to eradicate TB from pest animals, starting with a 15-year stage to 2025: trial TB eradication from large selected areas of heavily-forested country through control operations over a five-year period involving annual ground control and four to five yearly aerial 1080 control operations.This would be followed by five years of intensive wildlife monitoring and herd testing to ensure the disease was eradicated. IT IS NOT KNOwN IF THIS WILL BE SUCCESSFUL as it goes on to say 'If large-scale eradication proved feasible, the AHB would progressively eliminate it from the rest of the country under a new pest management strategy from 2025, with nationwide eradication taking another 20 to 30 years'! If these projections are true, this is farcical and NZ should not be held up as a country whose example the UK should be following.
Main information from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10692507
New Zealand is being upheld by WAG as an example to follow with regards to dealng with bovine TB. But ... have they really got it right! Friends returning from New Zealand recently commented about the number of warning signs indicating use of poison and dead carcasses strewn around, not just of possums, but other species too.
To kill the possum they use a poison known as 1080. It kills without discrimination and a lot of other species too are being poisoned. The United Future party has pledged to push for a ban on this poison. This has disappointed some farmers who are battling to deal with bTB in their herds and are apparently losing stock worth thousands of dollars. However, because the poison is killing a wide range of animals, not just possums, and is polluting streams and rivers, The United Future's leader, Peter Dunne, plans to negotiate a ban in the wake of next year's general election. He said the party would encourage other forms of pest control, including the greater use of traps, and support more scientific research to that end.
Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/61765/1080-ban-would-jeopardise-tb-fight,-say-farmers
Reports of meeting of top scientists 09/11/10 'Zoological Society Debate on Badger Culling'
Whilst the UK's top environmental scientist strongly defended government plans to cull there was an impassioned intervention from the floor by Professor Bourne, who chaired the Independent Science Group conducting the former Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT). He said that whilst he found it reassuring that DEFRA had based their proposals on the RBCT they had stepped away from science in how they propose to implement the programme. He was very aware of the logistics involved in achieving 80% removal of badgers – it had involved dedicated teams working around the clock. To suggest farmers could do this was a ‘by guess and by God approach’. If they really intend to cull he said let the Government do it, spend a lot of money and accept that the returns won’t be great. He went on to say that he was distressed that DEFRA hadn’t had a coherent TB strategy over so many years and refuse to learn from the former eradication programme in this country in the 60s and from Australia’s experience. He called for an approach based on a ‘herd test’ leading to identification and quarantine of infected herds (for up to 2 years) – rather than the current inefficient individual animal testing. Without such stringent measures, he said, Australia made no progress – with it they made progress. He ended by saying that ‘farmers are being led up the garden path’ by current policy and practice.
Even Professor John Bourne, who co-ordinated the RBCT killing 'experiment', stated to the BBC 
. 'I think it is true to say the badger has been made a scapegoat,'
'... we conclude that badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain.' (ISG Final Report, 2007 The science that says a cull will not work (Prof Krebs) was actually set up for the Conservative government by Angela Browning MP in November 1996.
The following post is of interest from www.warmwell.com/2010fink.html 'I am still of the opinion that feeding stations with high dosage of triple antibiotics for say 6 months coordinated, could be worth a try. It would not be that expensive, but would need very good attention to detail. It would at least reduced the bacterial load in those wild animals that are a reservoir for infection and often excluded from the badger setts'. 
Email received January 7 2010 from Dr Colin Fink,
There is a problem with badgers highlighted to me by Professor Liz Wellington at Warwick, whose team have done the surveillance work. Evidently there will be a few badgers who are the high excreters of Mycobacterium bovis. They are ill and often excluded from the setts. The question which is difficult to answer is how many unaffected badgers are carrying the bacterium? They may remain healthy and not excrete particularly. We could decide to eliminate whole sett populations. If we do we would have to destroy and disinfect the setts as they will be re-colonised by other individuals and the Mycobacteria will still be there to infect the new population. It may be possible to both undertake sett elimination if the evidence of infection is available, and also treat geographically around the sett with triple antibiotic loaded bait (repeatedly). So those locally will at least have any infection reduced and carriage eliminated. It may also be possible to bait with contraceptive hormones so populations also naturally decline.
I do not think that any single policy is a panacea and we need to consider combined approaches, to reduce the carriage and excretion of organisms, minimise population pertubation, which creates stress and increases mycobacterial disease ( rather than carriage), by using selective sett culling and also consider in conjunction, both contraception and antibiotic baiting.
Any combined approach will need very careful policing and implementation. Surely that is a better investment than constantly killing herds of cattle and all that which goes into raising these animals?
We have no other alternative as vaccines are not available because the organism is not amenable, and we are losing herds of cattle, alpacas etc and increasing the organism load in the wild population at an alarming rate.
(Dr Colin Fink is Clinical Virologist & Hon. Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences University of Warwick, and Company Medical Director, Micropathology Ltd Research and Diagnosis).
Comments received from Ruth by email 24/7/10
I was not previously aware that latent TB could be treated to prevent its reactivation at any time in future life, (unless reinfection takes place later (reinfection is documanted in humans and when opportunitiy for reinfection is high it commonly occurs)).  Latent TB can be treated by 9 months of ISONIAZID alone (and a shorter course for chemoprophylaxis after exposure), unless the infecting organism was already resisitant at the time of initial infection.  I believe this is what some camelid owners are doing for exposed camelids.  Both camelids and goats as species seem to be particularly susceptible to M bovis with progressive infection from which they die.
The infection rate in a confined space such as a social group or sett of badgers will be between 25 and 50% if comparable to humans, but genetics and species may make it higher or lower. The diagnosis of latent M bovis infection in badgers is not accurate in microbiological terms as yet and would be likely to be underestimated by any tests currently used on them.
If Isoniazid alone is put out for badgers then the actively infected badgers that eat it (one cannot exclude actively infected badgers from eating the bait) are likely to develop resistance and the M bovis shed will be resistant to isoniazid within weeks or months and infect other badgers with resistant M bovis, so that strategy won't work.
In humans active infection is treated with multiple antibiotics taken every day, isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol for example- 2 months on this combo, then depending on the culture, typing and sensitivity report, reducing to 3 for a further 4 months, but in the case of M bovis dropping pyrazinamide as M bovis is intrinsically resistant so that in M bovis 3 drug treatment is given for 9 months in total.  If the treatment is taken reliably then the person is cured of that M tuberculosis or M bovis infection.   For example elephants have been cured of M tuberculosis infection (they are only rarely infected with M bovis). (It is likely to be unaffordable for farmers to treat cattle) 
As you have probably heard multiple drug resistant and even extremely drug resistant M tuberculosis is now circulating in humans because they have not taken the full course of treatment.  These organisms can infect hitherto uninfected individuals and may be untreatable and lead to death or indefinite confinement if excretion cannot be stopped by surgical removal of infected lung.
For this reason I have argued against Colin Fink's idea of putting out triple antibiotic therapy bait for badgers hitherto.
However if there is essentially a reservoir of M bovis in badgers and cattle (and deer, camelids, cats etc) that humans almost never get maybe such an approach together with vaccination of badgers and birth control of badgers / population reduction would not be such a bad idea afterall.  Vaccination of cattle and testing and culling of infected cattle would have to continue to get rid of M bovis infection.  The cycles of infection would be broken, stopping reinfection of either badgers or cattle from the other species.
The reasoning would be
1  The closely observed sett would thus have triple drug treatment of the active and latent infected badgers if this was continued for at least 9 months hopefully eliminating infection from that sett.
2  All the setts in possible contact with each other would have to be treated simultaneously.
3  If multiple drug resistant M bovis developed (part of the monitoring) then that group of badgers would have to be culled as it could spread to other badger setts.  If such resistant M bovis infected a human which would be very unlikely that human is anyway very unlikely to pass it on to another human (though this has been recorded on rare occasion).  An epidemic of resistant M bovis in humans would not happen as it is essentially a preventable zoonosis (by pasteurisation of milk).
4  Having small numbers of closley observed and monitored setts would necessitate reduction in the badger population, at least of infected setts (ie latrine PCR positive for M bovis)
5  However vaccination with the live attenuated vaccine BCG would not be successful if treatment was being given simultaneously (vaccine is killed by treatment), so perhaps vaccination could follow the treatment in infected areas.
6  Birth control would be a way of reducing the population without the suffering of culling, the consternation of animal rights people, and be ulikely to perturb the badger society.
A question that I couldn't answer is whether it is possible to get the badgers to eat sufficient of the bait daily for 9 months so that the triple drug therapy had an opportunity to work.  In a way the badgers of the treated setts would have to be trained.  Would some eat so much they would poison themselves?
A method such as this could only be used in a developed country and would have to have the full co-operation of people.
I have corresponded with badger trust people in Wales and they are implaccably against population control of badgers by birth control methods.
I also suspect that DEFRA and the HPA would never countenance the treatment of badgers with triple drug therapy.  The EU rules would be a problem I am sure. 
In conclusion I do think Colin's idea is more interesting and possible than I thought as a first reaction.  People have no difficulty getting badgers to come to their gardens and eat peanuts for example. 
The problem is that to do anything other than killing is obstructed and slowed for lots of different reasons, rules, bureaucracy and scientific difficulties, so that nothing can be given a try.  Why should the Irish be at the stage of trialling oral vaccine for badgers and yet we be 5 years away from it?

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