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?
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.
From his questions asked in parliament, Rob Marris MP has discovered that the development of a tuberculosis vaccine for cattle has been sacrificed in favour of a costly compensation scheme for farmers.
Since 1998 the government has paid out an £341 million1 in compensation to farmers for the slaughter of cattle infected with TB, but has spent only £35 million on research to develop a vaccination and associated diagnostics. (2)
Rob Marris said: “Prevention is better than cure for both farmer and badger – yet these astonishing figures indicate a skewed set of priorities. Since 1998, government has spent on average £19 million per year in compensation and only £1.9 million on research.3 If the government keeps focussing on compensating farmers at the expense of developing a vaccine, we’ll all end up paying out for evermore.”
The development of a vaccination would help both farmers and badgers – animals which are currently facing the largest ever cull, with the government recently announcing a tripling of the areas where badgers can be culled.
The loss of cattle can be heart-breaking for farmers, and is not a short-term problem. Nor can it be solved through compensation. According to the ‘Farm Crisis Network’, slaughter can have a longer term impact on the growth of a farm, and only one third of farmers said the compensation covered the loss.(4)
Mr Marris commented: “It is right that there is a compensation scheme for farmers whose cattle are devastated by the spread of TB, but it is wrong that the government spends such a relatively small amount of funding into a viable vaccination. That discrepancy must not continue. There is a clear economic argument to implement a stronger policy of ‘prevention’ (vaccination) rather than the ‘cure’ (compensation) which is costing the taxpayers tens of millions a year.”
Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust & Policy Adviser Born Free Foundation said:
"Trials in Ethiopia and Mexico have shown that a TB vaccine could be 58-68% effective in preventing the spread of bovine TB in cattle. For the past 5 years the government has stated it will trial a TB cattle vaccine in the UK. In 2014 Defra commissioned a consortium including Triveritas UK, scientists from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Cambridge University to design field trials in the UK.
“Triveritas, which specialises in undertaking livestock field trials, was to design the trial for the vaccine together with a new diagnostic test for differentiating between infected and immunised cows
“Despite the importance of developing an TB cattle vaccine, Defra announced in 2015 that it had called off the trial on cost grounds.
“This decision causing anger and concern in both the farming and wildlife conservation sectors. However the government has made no new commitment to move forward with a TB cattle vaccine trial since the 2015 General Election.
“We are now calling on the Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadson to urgently move forward with a TB cattle vaccine in the UK, as this will provide a highly effective means of lowering the spread of bovine TB in cattle, without having to waste tens of millions of pounds of public money on a scientifically ineffective and cruel badger cull.”
1 George Eustice MP. 2016. Written questions and answers. [ONLINE] Available at: parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/writtenquestionsanswers/?page=1&max=20& questiontype=AllQuestions&house=commons%2clords&member=1468. [Accessed 3 November 2016]. 2 George Eustice MP. 2016. Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control. [ONLINE] Available at: parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/writtenquestion/Commons/2016-10-26/50605. [Accessed 28 October 2016]. 3 George Eustice MP to Robert Marris MP, October 19, 2016, Bovine Tuberculosis Letter, DEFRA Ref: MC412912/AD 4 Farming Community Network. 2009. Stress and Loss: A report on the impact of bovine TB on farming families. [ONLINE] Available at: tbfreeengland.co.uk/assets/4200. [Accessed 1 November 2016].
9 Nov 2016, 11:01 AM
The government response to e-petition ‘End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas’ was so inaccurate and selective that it appears to represent a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. The government responded to this petition when it received 10,000 signatures. Unfortunately, the government’s response was so inaccurate and selective that it appears to represent a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. There are four key inaccuracies in the government response: (1)The response claims that recent experience in Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Dorset has shown that licensed culling “is safe, humane and effective in reducing the number of badgers needed to bring down disease levels in cattle”. This statement conflicts sharply with the available evidence. An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) established by Defra to evaluate the first year of culling concluded that the free shooting approach did not meet their standards for humaneness1. When a second year of culling yielded no evidence of improvement, the British Veterinary Association called for free shooting to be abandoned2. Ministers responded by simply stating that “we don’t agree”3. The government’s claim that licensed culling is “humane” is thus not shared by respected authorities on animal welfare.
Likewise, evidence indicates that the culls have not been “effective in reducing the number of badgers”. Defra has repeatedly stated an intention to reduce badger numbers by at least 70%, relative to their pre-cull levels, acknowledging that failing to do so would risk increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it4. The IEP concluded that the first culls fell far short of that aim1. Since then, Defra has reiterated its aim of reducing badger numbers by “at least 70%”, while quietly setting targets with only a slim possibility of achieving this aim5. Defra’s claim that the culls are “effective” is thus not consistent with available evidence.
(2)The government’s claims about the outcomes of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) are highly selective. Its response refers to many earlier studies, even though it commissioned the RBCT precisely because these earlier studies were inadequate6. The government’s response indicates that the RBCT “confirmed what the previous exercises had shown”, ignoring the unique (and vitally important) insight of the RBCT, namely, that badger culling can increase cattle TB as well as reducing it7,8. Large-scale RBCT culls reduced cattle TB inside the culled areas, but consistently increased it on adjoining land and in areas where small-scale culling occurred7,8. In referring to the RBCT, the government cites a maximum reduction in cattle TB of 54%, which it says occurred “when the full benefits began to appear”. In fact, the 54% figure refers to just 18 months in the middle of a ten-year monitoring period, and only to the areas culled and not adjoining land. When the full monitoring period and affected area are taken into account, the estimated net benefit is 12%4.
(3)The government claims that its approach “has successfully eradicated bovine TB in Australia and is working in Ireland and New Zealand”. This statement ignores evidence from Britain itself which shows patterns fundamentally different from those in the three countries mentioned. The major challenge of reducing cattle TB by culling badgers is that culling disrupts badger social behaviour9 in ways that increase TB transmission between badgers10,11 and from badgers to cattle7,8. There are no badgers in Australia or New Zealand; these countries tackled TB in different wildlife species which do not share badgers’ social behaviour. Although badgers are involved in Ireland’s TB problem, baseline densities are much lower than in Britain7, which may explain why culling consistently reduced badger infection rates in Ireland12, but consistently increased them in Britain10. Given these differences, it is not clear why Defra would prioritise evidence from other countries over evidence from Britain itself. (4)Defra’s response claims that vaccination “cannot replace culling” because it “does not provide complete protection and... has no impact on infected badgers”. However, while most vaccines have no impact on individuals which are already infected, they have nevertheless controlled multiple diseases. It was vaccination that eradicated smallpox and rinderpest globally, and vaccination that eradicated rabies from mainland Europe after culling had failed to do so13. Vaccination is far more likely than culling to contribute to TB eradication, because vaccination reduces infection rates in badgers14,15, while culling increases them10.
Defra begins its response by stating that “it is essential that we eradicate bovine TB”. Achieving this aim demands eradicating infection in badgers as well as in cattle. Eradicating a disease demands that either the proportion of infected animals, or the area affected, be reduced over time. Yet, as noted above, culling increases the proportion of badgers infected10,11 and spreads the infection both within and beyond the culled land7,16. It is hard to see, therefore, how badger culling can contribute to TB eradication.
Defra committed to a science-led policy to tackle TB4. Unfortunately, its response to this e-petition undermines all confidence in Defra’s respect for science, and hence in the likely outcome of its TB control strategy. It is sad to see such distortion of facts being sent out by the government to the public .It is time we got together to resolve this serious issue by looking at the facts, instead of continuing to rely on folklore, hearsay, and politics.
Anne Brummer, SAVE ME TRUST References 1. Independent Expert Panel. Pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire – Report by the Independent Expert Panel. (https://http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pilot-badger-culls-in-somerset-and-gloucestershire-report-by-the-independent-expert-panel, 2014). 2. British Veterinary Association. BVA calls for change to badger culling method and wider roll-out in England. (http://www.bva.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News,_campaigns_and_policies/Policies/Farm_animals/Final position on bTB and badger culling AGREED at Council 15 April 2015.pdf, 2015). 3. Bowern, P. Farming minister rejects vets' call for end to shooting of 'free-running' badgers. (http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/farming-minister-rejects-vets-end-shooting-free/story-26568952-detail/story.html - fS7jy01tvICXas94.03, 2015). 4. Defra. The goverment's policy on bovine TB and badger control in England. (http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13691-bovinetb-policy-statement.pdf, 2011). 5. Woodroffe, R. Badger cull didn't kill enough badgers to be effective. (https://theconversation.com/badger-cull-didnt-kill-enough-badgers-to-be-effective-36388, 2015). 6. Krebs, J. R., Anderson, R. et al.Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers. (H.M.S.O., 1997). 7. Donnelly, C. A., Woodroffe, R. et al. Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on cattle tuberculosis. Nature 439, 843-846 (2006). 8. Donnelly, C. A., Woodroffe, R. et al. Impact of localized badger culling on TB incidence in British cattle. Nature 426, 834-837 (2003). 9. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Effects of culling on badger (Meles meles) spatial organization: implications for the control of bovine tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology 43, 1-10 (2006). 10. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America103, 14713-14717 (2006). 11. Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A. et al. Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers in localised culling areas. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 45, 128-143 (2009). 12. Griffin, J. M., Clegg, T. A. et al. in Selected Papers 2002-2003. (eds J.D. Collins & R.F. Hammond) 1-12 (Veterinary Epidemiology and Tuberculosis Investigation Unit, University College Dublin, 2003). 13. Anderson, R. M., Jackson, H. C., May, R. M. & Smith, A. M. Population dynamics of fox rabies in Europe. Nature 289, 765-771 (1981). 14. Chambers, M. A., Rogers, F. et al. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination reduces the severity and progression of tuberculosis in badgers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences278, 1913-1920 (2010). 15. Carter, S. P., Chambers, M. A. et al. BCG vaccination reduces risk of tuberculosis infection in vaccinated badgers and unvaccinated badger cubs. PLOS One 7, e49833, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049833 (2012). 16. Jenkins, H. E., Woodroffe, R. et al. Effects of culling on spatial associations of Mycobacterium bovis infections in badgers and cattle. Journal of Applied Ecology 44, 897-908 (2007).
28 Oct 2016, 1:33 PM
Wales has achieved enviable success in reducing bovine TB in its cattle herds without killing badgers, writes Lesley Docksey. The farming lobby is still demanding an England-style cull, but the Welsh government's 'refreshed' policy on bTB remains firmly science-based and no badgers will be killed without 'objective evidence' of infection.
WHY ARE THE FACTS NOT BEEN CONSIDERED? WHY ARE WE STILL WASTING SO MUCH MONEY ON UNPOPULAR BADGER CULLS?
Martin Hancox, MA Oxon, ex-government TB Panel,says: 'I particularly liked Mike Rendle's view in "Fate" that in Eire, 2012 a cull of 6939 badgers at a cost of 3.4 million euros, had no effect on cattle TB, just 55 reactors fewer than 2011, and culling c. 110,000 badgers since 1984 has halved the population from Small's 1995 survey to Sleeman 2009, but has had Nil impact on cattle TB . The £50 million Krebs/ RBCT Cull of 11, 000 badgers had nil effect either, same accumulated herd breakdowns in reactive cull versus no cull areas 356 vs 359 , and no effect on unconfirmed breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" .. a pity the ISG did not check that there were no TB badgers involved (ISG 2007). So culling badgers simply doesn't work !' http://bit.ly/2dLMUr8 www.fire-raven.co.uk
Lesley Docksey writing in the Ecologust says: 'Thirty years ago, there was no evidence that badgers spread bovine TB among cattle, writes Lesley Docksey. Nor is there now. Yet badgers are still being slaughtered in a futile attempt to control the disease.'