Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?
22 Jul 2010, 6:43 PM
Prof John Bourne, who conducted the infamous ten year, government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled what he was told by a senior politician:
"Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers."
This strand on the forum deals mainly with the wildlife reservoirs involved in the bovine TB saga. In the UK this is, as we are probably all aware by now, believed to be mainly the badger. No other mammal has been studied in the UK as intensely as the badger so actually we don't really know just how other animals are implicated. In other countries different species are implicated. There are some anomalies too, including the example below.
Has anyone an explanation for the following!
According to last issue of Gwlad, Australia is now bTB free after 27 years of trying. We are told it has no wildlife reservoir. New Zealand is still aiming for eradication. It has a wildlife reservoir - possums - which are considered a pest species as not indigenous so are being culled - and vaccinated!
HOWEVER - possums ARE native to Australia and bTB was rife in country for years so - why are the Australian possums not a reservoir?
16 Aug 2017, 7:26 PM
Current data/evidence points clearly to cattle movement, none of it implicates badgers at all. Maybe the key to exposing the true route of transmission is through genotyping. Genotyping cattle and badgers is one of several components of the NI TVR project but the results won’t be available until 2019 at the earliest. However, Biek et al presents an interesting smoking gun, where badgers are the end host of bTB originating from local herds – see the genome sequencing map in Fig 2...
Genotyping is being used, e.g. to identify an animal imported from NI to identify the original source of the bTB in Cumbrian badgers, but we doubt if the government and others will choose to be transparent about the uncomfortable bigger picture that it may reveal with respect of direction of transmission.
14 Aug 2017, 5:28 PM
Bovine tb in Cumbria.
The recent publicity surrounding the outbreak of bovine tb in Cumbria suggests that there is a link to locally infected badgers, in fact the farming press once again are baying for their blood.
I have seen nowhere that DEFRA, AHPA have given an honest explanation for the outbreak. Your epidemiology reports for the area quite clearly state that the origin of cattle being bought in is unknown to the purchaser until after the purchase and many are purchased from high risk areas, Ireland being one of them. I understand that since 1996 cattle can be transported from Ireland without the need for pre-movement testing as it was not considered cost effective by DAFM. Northern Ireland only requires a clear annual herd test for export to GB except for post OTW restricted herds. These factors coupled with a 4 year testing regime in Cumbria is high risk for introduction of disease.
It is high time DEFRA owned up to its failings with bTB control and provide the farming industry and media with honest information/ explanations together with sensible guidance for disease management. Cattle vaccination is long overdue, it was quietly shelved to make way for badger culling and the removal of the Badger Protection Act. DEFRA should be looking to replace the archaic,inadequate, unreliable SICCT with the PHAGE-RPA test, itself a DIVA test. Adopting a scientific approach to disease management would be far quicker and financially beneficial to the taxpayer than resorting to the long term, ludicrously expensive situation DEFRA has created for itself.
I do not expect a standard reply. I am fully aware of bTB statistics and its implications for the taxpayer, furthermore, longterm, UK-wide badger culling will far exceed compensation paid to farmers as DEFRA's own cost benefit analysis has shown.
Linda Griffiths SA43 2QT
19 Jul 2017, 10:08 PM
Badger Trust Cymru Science and Evidence Event in Cardiff. New BovineTB blood test and Badger study re-appraisal together point to new direction for bTB management in Wales.
The Badger Trust Cymru Science and Evidence Workshop and Public Meeting was held at the Cardiff and Vale College Conference Centre on 13 July 2017. Delegates from Academia, Welsh Farming, Veterinary Practice and Wildlife Groups and a wider audience at the evening meeting.
The afternoon Workshop with three guest speakers and nine delegates from Academia, Welsh Farming, Veterinary Practice and Wildlife Groups met to discuss three of the key Science and Evidence issues surrounding bovineTB. Lively informed discussion took place after each presentation.
Catherine Rees Associate Professor in Microbiology, Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham with Berwyn Clarke of PBD Biotec Ltd. are seeking to provide a more sophisticated bTB detection process using a PHAGE RPA blood test to find disease early and with more precision, potentially providing the answer to the bTB problem. Ref. 3 Cath presented an overview of her team’s progress to date and shared preliminary field trial results carried out at a Devon farm, which could transform the bTB testing regime in the U.K. and beyond. Results indicate that the Phage RPA blood test detects bacteria in the blood long before the current skin test elicits an immune response and that bTB can be cultured from the blood of these animals. This enables the removal of infected animals at a much earlier stage thus reducing the spread of disease among cattle and wildlife. Consultant Biologist Tom Langton, who is also head of secretariat for the European Communications Network Eurobadger presented, A re-evaluation of the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) Tom has reviewed, with the help of numerous experts, the findings of the RBCT, a £50 million badger culling trial, its ISG Final Report (ref.1) in 2007 and publications based on it. His re-evaluation reveals, surprises in the raw data, assumptions that we now recognised as invalid or highly questionable and alternative modelling giving several solid grounds for concluding that proactive badger culling did not reduce Btb herd breakdowns at all His work, lends serious consequences for the 2011 and 2014 UK government policy and strategy which rests almost entirely on the ISG report to justify badger culling policy.
Martin Hancox, a former member of the Consultative Panel on Badgers and Bovine TB presented an overview of the badger’s role in bovine tb. Ref.2 Martin provided an overview of cattle TB infection mechanisms and disease epidemiology that he believes should bring about the “death of the great badgers and bovine TB debate.”
He pointed to the costly mistake in the 1980 Zuckerman Report Ref.5 which failed to understand that cattle TB is primarily a respiratory infectious disease that spreads within herds by close prolonged aerosol contact.
-debunked the myth that the spike in bTB breakdowns attributed by the RBCT to badger perturbation actually occurred before the badger cull and was caused by 2 years without cattle testing during the Foot and Mouth outbreak. This rise also happened in both Wales & Norther Ireland despite no badger culls.
-referenced several studies using radio-proximity-collars which have shown that badgers avoid cattle both at pasture,in barns and farmyards. Ref 4.
At the public meeting the three guest speakers gave presentations on the same subjects to a wider audience followed by a lively Q and A. Over 40 people from as far afield as Sussex, Manchester and Pembrokeshire attended.
Both sessions were chaired by Steve Clark of Badger Trust Cymru who said “This workshop was an excellent forum for a wide range of stakeholders to come together to review the latest science and evidence around BovineTB. The new blood test and Badger study re-appraisal together point to a new direction for bovine TB management in Wales.”
Bovine Tuberculosis; a closer look at the Science. This Cardiff event followed the very successful format established in Oxford and Cambridge consisting of an afternoon Workshop with guest speakers and an invited group of academics, involved and informed practitioners and wildlife groups to discuss key issues and action points. Followed by an evening presentation to a wider audience.
Catherine Rees Associate Professor in Microbiology, Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham and Dr.Berwyn Clarke of PBD biotec discussed their work to provide a more sophisticated bTB detection process using a PHAGE RPA blood test to find disease early and with more precision. Potentially an answer to the bTB problem?
Bovine tuberculosis has spread and re-established over west side of England and is increasing in the central Edge area. The government 2038 trajectory for control is based on a slow gradual year-on-year decline. Huge and growing public finance is placed into compensation payments, yet bTB testing effort and cattle management methods cannot by design, rapidly drive down disease as in the past.
Government policy seeks to cull cattle and badgers but UK and Ireland have seen little progress over the last decade with this approach. Why is this and why are views and approaches so diverse?
Tom Langton, an independent ecologist and head of secretariat for the European Communications Network Eurobadger, discussed some of the key factors in badger culling trials in the UK & Ireland over the last 40 years. He looked at aspects of hindsight that might help break the current stalemate with bTB control.
Martin Hancox, is a former member Consultative Panel on Badgers and Bovine TB. He provided an overview of cattle TB infection mechanisms and disease epidemiology that he believes should bring about the “death of the great badgers and bovine TB debate.”
Catherine Rees is Associate Professor in Microbiology, Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham and with Berwyn Clarke of PBD biotech are seeking to provide a more sophisticated bTB detection process using a PHAGE RPA blood test to find disease early and with more precision. Potentially the answer to the bTB problem?
REPORT FROM TOM LANGTON Having recently learnt a bit about the Phage RPA test at the London bTB Symposium, I have spent a bit of time looking at it and Catherine Rees and Berwyn Clarke have been kind enough to comment and help me with a ‘beginners guide’ to the subject. Below are some notes that I hope will help get us all more quickly into the subject, in advance of our next workshop in Cardiff. I take full responsibility for this and any errors…. But hope it proves useful.
Bovine tuberculosis has resurged since the 1970s across the beef and dairy industries in England and Wales rising more steeply in the 1990s. It is described by government policy in 2011 as a crisis. The standard SICCT tuberculin skin test (SICCT) has become better understood in recent years, but has limitations since the evidence indicates that it does not detect all infected animals. Because of this infected and infectious individuals remain within a herd after multiple testing and form a ‘hidden reservoir’ after a herd has ‘gone clear’.
Gamma interferon testing, used extensively in Wales, is more sensitive than the skin test but is less specific as to exactly which disease is present and so it cannot be used as a primary screen. This test detects signs of infection due to an activated immune system, but cannot indicate what has caused this response. Used in combination with a positive SICCT test, Gamma interferon is a good way to help find infected and infectious individuals within a herd, but farmers may have less confidence in this test due to the reported issues surrounding which disease is being detected (specificity).
Some basics When a cow is infected by a bacterium, normally the immune system attacks and prevents disease by destroying the bacteria. This usually results in the bacteria being cleared from the animal’s body and the infection is fully resolved (cured). However, the bacteria that cause bovine TB have the ability to avoid clearance and instead can be become dormant or ‘latent’. Exactly where is not known, it may be tiny structures or granulomas in the lung or lymph nodes or perhaps somewhere else such as bone marrow as it circulates in white blood cells.As in humans, the bacterial infection is ‘contained’ but has the capacity to break out at a future date, often when health deteriorates for another reason, such as additional infection or stress. This situation is also seen in cases of human TB infection. To give a positive result with the SICCT test, a cow needs to be producing an active immune response. For bTB infection this is known to occur after first infection, but after that – during the ‘contained’ phase – the immune response is short lived and then returns to normal. Later on, if the infection breaks out, the immune response will go up again – and this can result in the infection being knocked back into the ‘contained’ state again – or will continue to increase if the infection goes on to become uncontrolled. This pattern of chronic infection means that whether or not an animal gives a positive SICCT test depends on at what point in this cycle the test is performed and the same animal may not give a consistent SICCT test result. This is often seen in herd tests when cows may show a small reaction to the SICCT test but may not be big enough for it to be considered a ‘reactor’ (classified as Intermediate Reactors or IRs) but are then negative at the next round of testing. However such a pattern suggests that bTB is already in that cow.
Phage RPA is a test that uses a specific harmless virus that only infects the type of bacteria that cause bovine TB. Unlike SICCT and Gamma, this test can actually detect bTB bacteria in blood samples from cows and takes advantage of the natural ability of these viruses to efficiently find and infect its target host cells and multiply. Hence the method allows detection of very low density of bTB cells that could not previously be detected.
Work arranged by Dick Sibley in Devon in a large ‘closed’ herd with a long term bTB problem is focussed on SICCT unreactive individuals that produced a reaction to the SICCT test. It looked at the size of the ‘lump’ that is smaller than that produced by the avian TB injection (avian PPD) and classed as non-reactors for the SICCT test. For a dairy cow living to 7 years of age these animals now present a continuous risk of infecting other animals as they can switch to being bTB infectious at any point in their lives. This is reflected by the results in the Devon study where, of the 245 tests carried out on SICCT-negative animals, the phage-RPA test detected bovine TB in the blood of 52% of these and 16 went on to become SICCT-positive over the next 6 months. These results suggest bTB has become far more difficult to locate using the skin test than in the 1960s. The issue becomes – what do we do about these SICCT unreactive infected individuals – that appear healthy but that may go on to be infectious at any time and before they are SICCT detected? Live with bTB in perpetuity or remove them? This is where quarantine and use of the Phage-RPA blood test could be very helpful. The approach is the same for a beef farm based on a 2-3 year cycle vs a dairy operation with mixed ages. One of the bigger issues in bTB management is the suggestion that bTB transmission between cattle is slow or rare. This thought was instrumental in thinking in the 1990s behind the RBCT experiment – looking for alternative sources of infection but was also re- stated by the Chief Vet during the bTB Symposium in London in March 2017. However another explanation of the pattern of infection would be not that cattle-cattle transmission is slow, but that SICCT detection of bTB infection when done on annual or less frequent testing basis may be slow to detect infection (Conlan et al. 2012). Work that needs doing Phage RPA method has only been recently developed and therefore has been used in a limited number of tests. However the initial results indicate that the ‘hidden reservoir’ within a herd with a long term TB problem could be larger than previously thought and that breakdown of these animals into the uncontrolled state results in the reappearance of SICCT reactors. It may be that more animals than in the 1960s are bTB ‘carriers’ for a number of reasons; -Animals that give strong response to the SICCT have been selectively removed/bred out and they are a smaller proportion of infected cows. -The genetics of cattle may have changed and depleted their ability to respond (see Amos et al., 2013; Waters et al., 2017) -Other new and spreading diseases (such as para TB) could be affecting the immune response detected by the skin test or repeat testing results in a lower response (see Coad et al., 2010).
Studies with Phage RPA have only been carried out on animals suspected to have infection based on the fact that the animals produced a reaction to SICCT. Tests need to be carried out on whole herds to understand the levels of undetected bTB in these herds. The potential for Phage RPA to allow the above questions to be answered is huge and is a contender for a massive breakthrough needed in the bTB crisis.
What is getting in the way? Phage RPA It is not an authorised test – to become validated it must be tested using blood samples from naturally infected cattle, but in the UK this is not allowed using a non-validated test. There is a need for a properly undertaken, controlled trial to show the value of Phage RPA, g-IFN and SCITT both in intra-herd disease control and as a Quality check pre-movement. This might be achieved relatively quickly. The APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency, formerly known as the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, an executive agency of DEFRA) have been approached about collaborative studies but they have expressed concern about their involvement being seen to help validate a new commercial test There is also a concern that the level of SICCT-negative bTB animals in herds with a long term problem (initial results of up to 52%) may mean that it is costly to remove all ‘carriers’ because their numbers may be large and would require a new policy approach to achieve the 2011/2014 policy. However the current policy is unattainable under the current approach.
Implications It is suspected that many infected herds have a high proportion of SICCT unreactive individuals with latent infection but this may not always be the case. With wider removal, this could be controlled and phased to help manage re-stocking as long as movement controls were adhered to although reduction in the national herd seems inevitable the aim would be to minimise this impact. Question ? How many herds have unreactive SICCT ‘carriers’ – is the national herd infected? Would pre-movement testing with Phage RPA be the most effective intervention –cutting off bTB transfer between herds could make a big contribution.
The choices are : -Use Phage RPA test and monitor accepting bTB is omni-present. ‘Learn to live ‘ or: -Remove – progress a revised government policy for eradication in the light of the new findings. - Badgers: The ‘hidden reservoir ‘ revealed by Phage RPA undermines the thinking in the 1990s behind the RBCT experiment and further indicates that culling badgers is futile under the current policy approaches.
Politics Defra want to push towards vaccination because they realise that herd depopulation is unpopular and things have gone too far. Hence avoiding compulsory use of Gamma interferon (advice at present is only that it may be used privately) and so England lacks the kind of progress seen in Wales. Vaccination needs a DIVA test. [Note: Phage is actually, effectively a DIVA test]. Export industry is a very small proportion of total trade. Phage RPA offers the key to unlocking trade restrictions. Vaccination could be used creatively with Phage RPA. UK could regain bTB free status by fast-tracking Phage RPA..
References. Amos, W., E. Brooks-Pollock, R. Blackwell, E. Driscoll, M. Nelson-Flower & A.J.K. Conlan (2013) Genetic Predisposition to Pass the Standard SICCT Test for Bovine Tuberculosis in British Cattle. PLOS ONE 8, (3) e58245 Coad, M., D. Clifford, S.G. Rhodes, R.G. Hewinson, H. M. Vordermeier & A. O. Whelan (2010) Repeat tuberculin skin testing leads to desensitisation in naturally infected tuberculous cattle which is associated with elevated interleukin-10 and decreased interleukin-1 beta responses. Vet. Res. 41 (2):14 Conlan A.J.K. , T.J. McKinley, K. Karolemeas, E. Brooks Pollock, A.V. Goodchild, A.P. Mitchell, C.P.D. Birch, R.S. Clifton-Hadley & J.L.N. Wood (2012) Estimating the Hidden Burden of Bovine Tuberculosis in Great Britain. PLoS Computational Biology 8 (10) e1002730 Waters, R.W. M.H. Vordermeier, S. Rhodes, B. Khatri, M.V. Palmer, M.F. Maggioli, T.C. Thacker, J.T. Nelson, B.V. Thomsen, S. Robbe-Austerman, D.M. Bravo Garcia, M.A. Schoenbaum, M.S. Camacho, J.S. Ray, J. Esfandiari, P. Lambotte, R. Greenwald, A. Grandison, A. Sikar-Gang & K.P. Lyashchenko (201&0 Potential for rapid antibody detection to identify tuberculous cattle with non-reactive tuberculin skin test results BMC Veterinary Research 13:164TL 06/7/17
12 Jul 2017, 10:11 AM
Science and Evidence: Bovine Tuberculosis; a closer look at the Science. is on Thursday at 18:30 13th July 2017 in Cardiff.
A free event:
Science and Evidence. Bovine Tuberculosis a closer look at the Science. Illustrated Presentations and open discussions. Chair Dominic Dyer Badger Trust What does the Randomised Badger Cull Trials data really show? Tom Langton Consultant Ecologist Martin Hancox Former member Consultative Panel on Badgers & Bovine TB What next for bTB testing? Prof.Catherine Rees Nottingham University Dr. Berwyn Clarke PBD Biotech
Extremely disappointing that Lesley Grifiths announced a new Welsh TB Policy on 20th June, following their 2016 TB Refreshed Consultation. Previously Dr. Glossop ruled out any widespread indiscriminate badger culls , because they do not work. So disappointing policy now includes a badger cull under the mistaken impression that they are the problem in Chronic herds. Their own data found only 40 TB badgers in 580 sampled, and a mere 154 out of 3504 sampled 1971-2016:- badgers have never been the problem, but a minor spillover from bad breakdowns. Problem herds with repeat breakdowns or Chronic infection simply retain active spreader skin test negative cows .. and the magic bullet to sort this within weeks is very simply a different late TB test, ENFER, IDEXX Ab, or PHAGE-RPA. Is'nt it obvious that it would be worth trying these on a few of the 60 chronic herds, urgently rather than wasting time on costly badger culls which will have spectacularly no effect whatsoever ! ( http://gov.wales/docs/drah/publications/170616-tb-eradication-programme-delivery-plan-en.pdf)
Yet more pursuit of political expediency way beyond the point of adsurdity . Alas poor scapebrock and misled farmers.
And what about England. With the Queen's speech out of the way (21st June), Michael Gove may well be advised by brain dead Civil Servants in DEAFRA that culls are a good idea, even though their own 2015 Consultation re-discovered the embarrassingly simple fact that Badger TB is " The greatest pseudoscientific hoax since Piltdown strode the Sussex Weald" . All the so-called Unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "Due to badgers" have actually been caused by Unconfirmed reactors which DO have TB, and caught in the preceding breakdown, absolutely nothing to do with badgers whatsoever
BOVINE TB, THE BADGER CULL AND HUNTING HOUNDS – THE PLOT THICKENS
Following an outbreak of bTB in the Kimblewick hunting hounds, the disease has spread drastically in the local area. Given the severity of the disease, this evidence must surely warrant serious consideration? Apparently not.
In a letter published in The Veterinary Times on 5th June (McGill et al 2017) 25 veterinary professionals state:
“Repeal of the Hunting Act could increase the risk of spread of infectious disease agents. Indeed, it was over just such biosecurity fears that hunting with hounds was stopped during the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak of 2001. Biosecurity in the countryside needs to be taken seriously and a reinstatement of hunting with dogs would be totally inappropriate. Whether or not there is any change in hunting legislation, we recommend the risk from hounds spreading disease among livestock, wildlife and people is urgently analysed.”
Given their responses so far, it is highly likely that Defra and the Master of Fox Hounds Association will be hoping that the matter of the Kimblewick Hounds quietly goes away.
Te full impact of hunting hounds on the spread of bTB must be investigated appropriately.
It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 hunting hounds in the England bTB epidemic zone alone, which may be out in the countryside an average of two days a week during the six-month hunting season. There are hunts in every area where there are bTB outbreaks.
Yes, it’s a possibility that hounds are not spreading bTB. But it’s also a possibility that they have been a secret conductor of the disease all along.
Subject: Wales TB Eradication Programme Delivery Plan. FYI page 7
As part of the ongoing Action Plan process, where the Welsh Government views that badgers are contributing to the persistence of disease in chronic herd breakdowns, badgers will be trapped and tested on the breakdown farm and test positive badgers will be humanely killed. Persistent herd breakdowns will be focussed on initially.
This implies non CHB's will be subject to badger intervention in the future.
The Welsh Government Badger Cull plans ignore science and their own Manifesto
The Welsh Labour Government has ignored the science, their own 2016 Manifesto commitment and the views of the public by including a badger cull in its Refreshed TB policy. Making the announcement in the Senedd today the Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths failed to provide any substantive detail of her wildlife intervention plans which we understand from our communication with the Welsh Government includes an open ended cull of badgers on chronic breakdown farms 1
Steve Clark, Chair of Badger Trust Cymru, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Environment Secretary has chosen to ignore the science and proceed with an unproven exercise to kill badgers on farms with a history of bovine TB. Lesley Griffiths is also breaking a promise not to cull badgers until other measures have proved ineffective.”2
Badger Trust Cymru welcomes the enhanced cattle control measures about to be introduced, and calls on the Environment Secretary to postpone her wildlife intervention plans, as previously promised. This will give time for the impact of the latest cattle controls, trading restrictions and biosecurity measures to be fully assessed. Then there should be a proper public consultation including a cost benefit analysis of the wildlife aspects of the bovine TB Policy. The final decision to cull badgers must be based on firm evidence and science – which is currently lacking - and not turn our farms into an unproven and costly exercise with no quantifiable benefit to farmers or the public purse.
Sarah Reisz from Dyfi Badger Group added: “This decision seriously damages the Welsh Government’s outstanding reputation for tackling this disease in a science-led way which has already resulted in a 47% reduction in new incidents since 2009.”3 The Environment Secretary’s decision also breaks the manifesto pledge on which this Welsh Labour Government was elected only last year, which stated: “We support the ban on fox hunting and take a science-led approach to evaluate and review the best way of tackling Bovine TB.”4 A public consultation on the proposed ‘Refreshed TB Eradication Programme’ gave no detailed information on, and no scientific support for, the wildlife intervention aspect, which seriously undermines the credibility of the Welsh Government consultation process.
The plan to cull badgers on chronic TB farms whilst also introducing the new cattle controls, trading and biosecurity measures means it will not be possible to establish any effect of badger culling on bTB in cattle, as the Chief Vet has admitted.5
A leading ecologist and expert on badger culling described the Welsh Government’s plans for wildlife intervention as “crazy” and contrary to the scientific evidence, and a representative of the British Veterinary Association agreed with her on this point.6
14 Apr 2017, 5:18 PM
Lies, damned lies and twisted statistics - fake science set to kill 100,000 English badger, writes Tom Langron in the Ecologist.
The government / NFU badger culling policy is based on a single study, the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT), which found that area-wide badger killing reduced TB 'breakdowns' in cattle herds. But a robust reanalysis of the RBCT data reveals that culling is entirely ineffective, writes Tom Langton. The only scientifically valid conclusion is that culling badgers has no effect on TB in cattle. Defra and Natural England must think again!
He concludes: Now is the time to find out - before £100 million that would be better spent helping cattle farmers is used to kill and injure 100,000 or more English badgers, all because weak science, and weaker statistics, failed the farmer, cow and badger.
Full article at: ttp://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988859/lies_damned_lies_and_twisted_statistics_fake_science_set_to_kill_100000_ english_badgers.html
13 Apr 2017, 11:13 AM
'Bovine TB summit: science-based policy, or policy-based science?', asks Tom Langdon in his article for the Ecologist 7/4/17.
The Bovine TB conference in London last week was disrupted by media reporting of scientific conflict over badger culling studies, writes ecologist Tom Langton. But the real story is the collapse of confidence in the Randomised Badger Culling Trials, used to justify the mass killing of badgers; and the emergence of reliable new TB tests. The simple solution: stop the cull, and spend the money on gamma interferon cattle TB testing.
The Science Symposium at Imperial College, London on 28th March revealed new insights to both science and politics of this insidious disease.
TB control on the never-never (literally)
Gamma interferon works! Best not use it too much then ...
What does work, and what doesn't
Enough #fakescience to shake a stick at! Including the RBCT
The answer: stop the cull, roll out the gamma testing
Bovine TB Symposium Tuesday 28th March 2017: New insights into the control of bovine tuberculosis
Tuesday 28th March 2017
“We have great hopes for this conference. By bringing so much wisdom together in one room we hope to take a step towards establishing the whole truth about bovine TB, and, in frank and open discussion, open a new era of genuine cooperation in the fight against this pernicious pathogen.” Dr Brian May
Professor Woodroffe talks about fake science but she is just as guilty. The fact is that badger to cow transmission remains unknown and it will always remain unknown simply because TB is not an infectious disease. It is a bacterial response to a stressor in the environment of a cow or a badger or a deer or a human, and so TB is our friend, not our enemy, meaning that TB is a natural immune response. When we understand this, then we can forget all about our theories that cannot even find the evidence, in the sense of disease transmission. Read my letters to the Badger Trust, the Welsh government, a Todmorden farmer and to Professor John Krebs. This stagnation in TB science will continue on until academia can face these harsh realities. John Wantling, Rochdale http://www.whale.to/a/wantling_h.html
John Wantling April 6 at 3:26am
It depends on what you call 'it' as the animals they slaughter and cull are not necessarily sick or infectious animals. Badger to cow transmission remains unknown and cow to cow transmission is assumed. There is no science that we can turn to that proves that bovine TB is infectious. Read my letters to the Badger Trust and to the Welsh government and to a Todmorden farmer and to Professor Krebs. An updated version of TB NOT INFECTIOUS is in the pipeline. John Wantling, Rochdale http://www.whale.to/a/wantling_h.html
6 Apr 2017, 7:59 PM
Email from DH 30/3/17 who has copied us his letter to Welsh Assembly AMs.
Dear Assembly Member
I responded to the recent Welsh Government consultation on bovine TB – A refreshed TB eradication programme despite the fact that it was lacking in detail and evidence though I noted NO reference to a possibility of a badger cull here in Wales.
You can imagine my surprise then that our Chief Veterinary Officer Ms Glossop announced a badger cull in Wales when addressing delegates at the BOVINE TB SYMPOSIUM in London this Tuesday and seemingly without the authority of the Welsh Government though she now blames the media for inaccurate reporting.
She however admits that culling is not without bad consequences - the worst being that bTB incidence could well increase. I don’t understand why a professional person given so much credit for reducing bTB in Wales WITHOUT culling ONE badger (48%) and with far greater impact than in England now proposes a badger cull here in Wales where in England the badger cull is seen as a disaster.
May I conclude by asking you the AMs to bring these issues before the Welsh Assembly when bTB comes before them and who is going to be brave enough to insist that hunting with dogs illegally or legally is banned as it is known that hounds ARE carriers of bTB and while hunting will transmit bTB from field to field? The badger restricts its movements unless avoiding a cull.
10 Mar 2017, 7:46 PM
So, hunting probably does help spread bovine TB? The news that the Kimblewick Hunt's hounds are infested with bovine TB has come as a shock to farmers and hunters, writes Lesley Docksey in the Ecologist on 9th March 2017 (http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988743/bovine_tb_found_in_foxhounds_and_nothing_to_do_with_badgers_now_what.html).
The news finally broke cover a few days ago, news which the Kimblewick Hunt had been sitting on since December.
The Kimblewick is an amalgamation of three former hunts, and hunts over land in six counties, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. 25 of its foxhounds had to be put down because they were infected with bovine TB, with a further 120 undergoing testing, has made both wildlife organisations and farmers sit up. Information given to Hounds Off claimed that at least 40 hounds had been culled.
The same problem could be lurking in hunts across the British Isles.
The League Against Cruel Sports, which gives an account of just how the bTB outbreak was made public through the work of Hounds Off, is demanding that all hunting should stop until the problem has been fully investigated.
Defra says that bTB in dogs is not a notifiable disease, but an outbreak of this size in dogs that work across farmland must surely now be taken seriously. Just how many other packs are infected?
And of course hound-to-cattle bTB transmission, perhaps via hound excrement left in fields pastured by cattle, is entirely plausible - a fact that concerned farmers are waking up to. Hound excrement may even be infecting badgers with bTB.
Some farmers, belatedly trying to protect their cattle, have banned hunts from their land. Those local to the hunt kennels are refusing to let the hunt exercise the hounds on their land.
The hounds fed TB-infected 'fallen cattle' meat
The answer is simple. The hounds have been fed raw, TB-infected meat. Although this would be a contravention of meat hygiene rules and bTB controls, rules have never bothered either the hunts or farmers.
For years hunts have removed 'fallen cattle' from farms, a favour that works both ways - hunts get meat to feed their hounds and farmers get rid of unwanted carcasses. During the 2001-02 foot and mouth epidemic, the government broke its own rules by paying hunts to slaughter cattle and remove the carcasses because their own staff could not cope.
The fact that such cattle fed to hounds may have 'fallen' due to disease will be is ignored. Or perhaps not. It would make sense to many farmers that, if they suspect one of their beasts is infected with bTB, they should get it slaughtered and removed before it is tested positive and Defra puts the farm under restrictions.
You would think the farmer would rather have a disease-free herd. But more than one has been prosecuted for swapping ear tags (an individual identification tag that all cattle must have), allowing a poor but disease-free cow go to slaughter rather than the good milker which also happens to have bTB.
It should not come as a surprise that the hounds are open to this disease. A 2010 Republic of Ireland study into the diseases of hounds and the reasons why they are culled, found bTB in some of the hounds they autopsied, along with a lot of other painful conditions. Being a foxhound is not a comfortable life.
Will Defra take real action?
Two or three years ago the Northern Ireland hunt saboteurs managed to film the kennelman of the North Downs Hunt butchering cattle carcasses that had come from local farms. Government officials apparently issued a warning at the time, and the sabs thought that there had been previous warnings, due to the risk of spreading bTB.
If NI government officials recognise the risk, why are they not cracking down on it? And will Defra follow suit?
While packs of hounds exist, whether they are being used illegally by fox hunts or legally by drag hunts, the hunts will seek supplies of free meat for their hounds. And sadly, pro-hunt farmers will go on offering it, regardless of what disease they might be passing on.
And in the meantime, of course, the badger will still be blamed by some for spreading bTB.
16 Feb 2017, 9:44 PM
Colin Loveless The ibtb website shows North Cornwall incidents of BTB shot up 10 fold in 2016, ironically the year they relaxed rules on farmers moving cattle within 10 mile area & the start of officially culling badgers. Prior to this incidents were extremely rare. Check it out www.ibtb.co.uk
9 Jan 2017, 4:27 PM
The two-year Badger Found Dead survey, undertaken in Wales, indicates that, as of early December, only 6.6% of badgers tested positive for M.bovis. In detail, the results so far show an interesting picture as regards any connection between badgers and cattle herd breakdowns: the Intensive Action Area has one positive BFD (almost hidden on the map available at the WAG website, by all the negatives), and only two pendings. The whole of West High TB Area has only five more positive BFDs, with another three which look (on the map) to be outside its eastern edge, and about 25 pendings. Overlaying these with open and multiple-closed breakdowns on the ibtb database, there seems little or no co-incidence. Obviously we have to wait until all pendings are tested before coming to conclusions on this, but so far there seems little likelihood of showing that it “can be demonstrated” that badgers are a problem … in fact, this evidence is to the contrary. It is likely that any decision to cull badgers on Wales will be challenged on a strict evidence basis.
The WAG consultation on its Refreshed TB eradication Programme closes 10th January 2017.
9 Jan 2017, 4:24 PM
“Transmission routes” are frequently mentioned, particularly by farmers re badgers and cattle.. In reality we know little about these, and the notion of a ‘wildlife reservoir’ is a hypothesis only. The little we do know is that badgers and cattle seldom come into direct contact (e.g., Badgers prefer cattle pasture but avoid cattle implications for bovine tuberculosis control – Rosie Woodroffe et al – August 2016 – Ecology Letters http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12654/full ). What they both do is graze or forage some of the same land, so it is possible that they both get TB from soil and vegetation which is already contaminated with M. bovis. This would explain why despite removing infected cattle quite thoroughly (as in Wales) or culling thousands of badgers (as in England) TB is so persistent. It would also explain why herd depopulation and replacement does not always guarantee freedom from infection. The assumption that badgers ‘give’ TB to cattle is simplistic. So the next question is, how does a grazed/foraged environment become contaminated. There will some disease level in badgers and other wildlife, as there is in humans, but intensive grazing by large herds of cattle, especially immune-compromised dairy cattle, slurry spreading, and frequent introduction of new cattle, is likely to be the main cause.
9 Dec 2016, 11:42 AM
The 'Save Me' Trust calls for an evaluation of the role of badger vaccination, alongside a proper review of the effectiveness, if any, of badger culls on bovine TB in cattle.
It also draws attention to the fact that it is no longer possible to believe that badgers are the main cause of the spread of the disease, or even a significant component of its transmission. The principal mechanism of reinfection now being confirmed to be in undetected, infectious cattle in the herds themselves.
In the latest research revealed this week on Bovine TB management, science has once again put an end to speculation - with the ZSL’s new paper published this week - ‘Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin’.
Two years ago, a cattle vet in Devon speculated that vaccinating badgers might disrupt their behaviour, thus spreading TB to new areas. His ideas were based on no evidence at all; nevertheless they were repeated in the media as though they were facts, undermining support for badger vaccination.
Research published today by the Zoological Society of London confirms that vaccination, in fact, has no detectable effect on badger behaviour. In the ZSL experiment, badgers were trapped, vaccinated and released, and were subsequently tracked with GPS collars. It was found that they travelled no further than those which had not been vaccinated.
This is encouraging news for badgers and cattle alike. ZSL’s research confirms that vaccination does not have the same potential to increase the incidence of TB in cattle as culling. Culling DOES disrupt badger behaviour and, while it’s now also clear that badgers are at most a very small part of the re-infection of cattle herds, scientists believe that the Government’s present policy of culling badgers is likely to make matters worse.
ZSL’s new research shows that vaccination has no negative effects. Undisrupted, ‘normal' badger behaviour sees badgers in tightly defined communities, which give the best opportunity for vaccination to be effective. Since vaccination is also cheaper and more publicly acceptable, the choice between vaccination and culling should be straightforward. Bovine TB is a major problem for British cattle farmers, so TB control efforts must be based on the best available evidence. Hopefully, this new research will encourage proper studies of the role that vaccination could play in TB control.
However, to put this in perspective, recent evidence confirms the fact that transmission of TB has very little to do with badgers. At least 96 per cent of re-infection is due to undetected carriers of the bTB Micobacterium in the herd. Current Government policy forces farmers to rely on the infamous skin test to detect and remove infected cows, a course of action which is demonstrably failing. Only an enhanced testing regime can give hope to farmers who are, at present, locked in a hopeless situation.
We must review all the new available science and remove this expensive, ill fated and ineffective policy. It doesn't support the science, the badgers, the cattle or the farmers.
7 Dec 2016, 1:08 PM
Since 2013 it is now estimate that the government has spent over £30 million of tax payer’s money to kill over 10,000 badgers.
None of the badgers killed have been tested for TB and many have died as a result of an experimental ‘free shooting’ method, which has been condemned as inhumane by both the government’s Independent Expert Panel and the British Veterinary Association.
After four years of badger culling, few can doubt the policy has been a disastrous failure on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds. We could kill every badger in England but bovine TB will continue to spread in cattle herds due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements, and poor bio security controls.”
6 Dec 2016, 10:56 AM
bTB in possums. (Very little it would appear 54 out of 119,342 i.e. 0.045%- see below. From previous scientific evidence the same situation could well apply to badgers. The UK government are even refusing to test badgers culled - are they worried the results would prove badgers are merely being used as a scapegoat for this long term failed policy?
New Zealand Parliament Written Question from Richard Prosser MP to Hon Nathan Guy Minister for Primary Industries. ￼ Information Date: 18 May 2015 Subject Primary Industries
5862 (2015). Richard Prosser to the Minister for Primary Industries (18 May 2015):
How many, if any, possums were dissected to look for Tb for each of the past ten years, and of these, how many were found to have Tb?
Hon Nathan Guy (Minister for Primary Industries ) replied: Reply due: 26 May 2015
Question: How many, if any, possums were dissected to look for Tb for each of the past ten years, and of these, how many were found to have Tb?
Portfolio: Primary IndustriesMinister: Hon Nathan Guy Date Lodged:18/05/2015
Answer: TBFree New Zealand (previously the Animal Health Board) have been carrying out necroscopy surveillance of possums and other wildlife since 2007.
In the 2007/2008 year 4871 possums were surveyed with no Tb infections found,
in 2008/2009 13,874 surveyed with 9 found,
in 2009/2010 23,339 surveyed with 6 found,
in 2010/2011 17576 surveyed with 1 found,
in 2011/2012 25,103 surveyed with 9 found,
in 2012/2013 18,682 surveyed with 12 found,
in 2013/2014 10,930surveyed with 17 found and
in the 2014/2015 year 9,838 possums were surveyed with no infected possums found.
Attachment: NoneDate Received:27/05/2015
Richard Prosser MP New Zealand First List Bowen House, Parliament Buildings Private Bag 18 888 Wellington 6011 P +64 4 817 8363 : M +64 21 243 1199
2 Dec 2016, 5:32 PM
Strikingly, there were only 40 TB badgers out of 584 sampled over nearly 2 years from the whole of Wales, and 37 of these were clearly spillover from the high cattle TB incidence, there has never been any widespread self-sustaining reservoir of TB in badgers, so badgers are not the problem after all. Between 1972 -1996, there were only 46 TB badgers out of 2363 sampled, half from the original Pembroke hotspot. The hidden reservoir of TB has been within the problem herds with chronic TB in hotspots all along, and a different late TB blood antibody test is the simple answer : ENFER, ENFERPLEX, IDEXX Ab, or RPA/ Phage for bacilli directly. Since cattle normally catch TB from prolonged close aerosol "contact" in barns, it has never been coming from badgers in the first place. Helpful, that both Chief Vet. Dr. Christianne Glossop, and new Minister Lesley Griffiths , have ruled out any large scale indiscriminate badger culls.
Despite killing most of their badgers in the Republic of Ireland over 14,000 cattle react to TB test in first 10 months of 2016. Figures obtained by Agriland from the Department of Agriculture show that the herd incidence of bovine Tuberculosis nationally currently stands at 3.12%.
This means that some 14,151 head of cattle have tested positive for the disease in farm herd tests since the beginning of the year.
More proof that culling badgers does not prevent bTB?
As Morse said, "Neglect of the obvious always leads to unwisdom". So as regards the two most pressing issues currently confronting DEFRA are the spread of bovine TB, and increase in flooding in recent decades in low lying areas such as around Tewkesbury and across the Somerset levels, the answers are so simple that no-one can apparently "see "them .
Flooded levels have been happening since the long ago reign of King Arthur in the Vale of Avalon at Camelot/ Glastonbury . But rather simply, there has always been a huge tsunami of top-soil rushing down rivers from the surrounding high ground. Which silts up watercourses, decreasing depth , so spillover to surrounding flat-lands is inevitable. I recall a few years ago an interview with a man who regularly used to dredge out these channels as a matter of course annually; allowing the rivers/ canals/rhines etc to do their drainage job efficiently. Common-sense measures gradually forgotten. No need to invoke climate changes or sea flood surges, etc. for this "new" problem.
And as regards the oft-repeated mantra that "Badgers as the main spreaders of TB"; 3 recent DEFRA & the current Welsh Consultations on enhanced cattle/ badger controls, have actually proved that badgers have never been the problem in the first place ( http://bit.ly/20JSGpR ). There have always been two types of reactors to the skin test :- the newly infected cattle which have No Visible Lesion in the lungs, so-called Unconfirmed cases , and later reactors which have reached the Visible Lesion stage. Traditionally, everyone has assumed that these NVL cases were "false positive" reactors and did not have TB. But c. 40 years late, DEFRA have finally now realised that these are merely newly infected cases. So all the new Unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" have simply been by bought-in NVL cattle. So, both the DEFRA and Welsh consultations now recognise that the spread of TB has simply been from High Risk Areas , through Edge/Intermediate Risk areas to the Low Risk Areas. The greatest risk that such local movement of NVL reactors will spread TB is predictably from high incidence adjacent areas : - Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Oxford/Warks. from neighbouring Worcs./Hereford/Glos.; and also from these reservoirs back into the High Risk Border area of Wales from Powys to Gwent. Strikingly, there were only 40 TB badgers out of 584 sampled, so badgers are not the problem after all.