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?
Dear Theresa May , Andrea Leadsom, and Rachael Maskell / Natural England (licensors)
URGENT RE-THINK ON SOLVING CATTLE TB (DECISIONS Before Parliament ends 21st July ):- 1. ANY FURTHER BADGER CULLS ARE UTTERLY MEANINGLESS, THEY SIMPLY DO NOT WORK 2. 3 URGENTLY NEEDED FOR BETTER CATTLE TESTS :-
A. Nick Clegg just said NO to the Dorset cull 2 years ago .. it is long overdue that DEFRA explained that ALL the breakdowns supposedly "Due to badgers" are simply caused by newly infected early TB reactors (No Visible Lesions , so Unconfirmed reactors which DO Have TB )..hence from 6th April PRE- & POST-MOVEMENT CATTLE TESTS;
B. CHRONIC Herds, under restriction 5-10-16 years+ , such as Meurig Raymond , Minette Batters, Stephen James, even Princess Anne . Simply need a different test to find the skin test NON-reactor culprit:- late TB fast blood tests ENFER, ENFERPLEX, IDEXX Ab test (OIE Approved), or simply PCR for M. bovis in faecal swabs, Cath REES of Notts Uni. has just found a fast "NEW BLOOD TEST FOR TB "(Google it);
C. the re-trial for EU approval of the CATTLE BCG VACCINATION with DIVA test, 68 % effective should be rolled out across whole counties as part of routine controls... on the understanding cannot go for export .
WELL, a few days is a long time in Politics, never mind a week .. so Congratulations on your New Jobs ! I used to live in Kettering so would have been one of your constituents !
Badgers and TB has long been Absolutely 100 % about POLITICS (NOT PERTURBATION + PSEUDOSCIENCE, see below).. the real science has been for some time that no-one has explained in 45 years how badgers MIGHT give cows a respiratory lung disease , so the badger contribution to cattle TB is actually ZERO, so even the £50 million cull of 11,000 badgers HAD NIL Effect on cattle TB.. reactive cull versus no cull areas same accumulated herd breakdowns 356 vs 358 (more detail in 2 versions below sent internationally).
WHICH IS WHY Continuing with the 3 current Pilot Culls plus maybe an additional 7 new ones , & 1 in Wales will be a crass betrayal of farmers, and waste of huge money/resources .. 3 pilots so far HAVE COST £ 30 MILLION .. WITH NIL EFFECT ON CATTLE TB .. WHICH INCLUDED £7 ON EXTRA POLICING (Protecting shooters from protestors or vice versa ! ??)..DO YOU REALLY WANT TO INCITE 10 MORE PILOT CULL CIVIL WARS THIS SUMMER !! ?
sincerely, Martin Hancox , MA OXON , ex-government TB Panel
2 May 2016, 1:01 PM
Natural England is all set to approve more badger culling in England - yet more great expense and at what level will they stop? Is the badger set to become yet another rapidly declining species in England? A growing number believe culling to be pointless, inhumane and a waste of money.
A recent article, 'Dodgy data, bad science, rotten politics: why the badger cull is wrong and stupid,, by Tom Langton -can be read at:http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2987627/dodgy_data_bad_science_rotten_politics_why_the_badger_cull_is_wrong_and_stupid.html
2 May 2016, 12:56 PM
European Commission confirms Eurobadger view that bovine TB reduction in the UK and Ireland will only be achieved through cattle-based measures.
Following its launch in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 14 April, Eurobadger, the new european badger protection network, met with senior representatives of the European Commission in Brussels on Thursday 21 April.
The meeting organised with the assistance of Eurogroup for Animals involved The Badger Trust and Team Broc; the coalition of Irish groups opposed to badger culling, together with the Acting Head of the European Commission's Directorate for Heath and Food Safety (Bernard Van – Goethem) and the Head of Disease Control (Francisco Javier Reviriego Gordejo).
Ecological consultant Tom Langton opened the meeting on behalf of Eurobadger with a presentation looking at the failure of the UK and Irish Governments to focus sufficient attention on tackling bovine TB in cattle, in view of their unsuccessful strategies of culling badgers for decades.
Responding to the presentation, Bernard Van-Goethem confirmed that the European Commission were not providing any EU funds to the UK Government to cull badgers and that the Commission would be looking carefully at the progress being made in bovine TB reduction in both the UK and Ireland.
EuroBadger raised fears with the European Commission over the huge number of cattle movements in the UK, compared to other Member States and how this remained a key factor for the spread of bovine TB. As he had commented to members of the EFRA Select Committee in Westminster in February 2013, Bernard Van-Goethem told EuroBadger that the only proven and successful way to eradicate bovine TB is through thorough TB testing, movement controls and where necessary, whole herd depopulation.
Responding to concerns about how an astonishing half of the annual 62.5 million Euro European bovine TB funding budget was being used in the UK, Bernard Van-Gothem accepted that the EU was making a major investment in UK bovine TB reduction and he confirmed that he held regular meetings with the DEFRA Chief Vet in Brussels to ensure these funds were being used to implement effective cattle based measures.
When pressed on the issue of gamma interferon testing for cattle, Bernard Van-Goethem confirmed that the European Food Safety Authority had found this test method when used in conjunction with the TB skin test, could result in the identification and removal of more TB infected cattle from herds.
He confirmed that the Commission was happy to see EU funds being used for greater use of gamma interferon testing, although it is yet to be approved for TB free disease free status within the EU or the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Responding to the issues raised at the meeting, EuroBadger spokesperson and CEO of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said;
“The meeting with the European Commission was very constructive and positive. We are very pleased to see the increasing pressure on the UK and Irish Governments to focus their attention on proven cattle based measures to reduce the spread of bovine TB, rather than the continuation of the disastrous, cruel costly badger culls.
“The EU is spending a significant amount of its disease control budget on supporting the UK bovineTB eradication policy and as such it can have a major influence over its future direction. I am pleased to see that the Environment Secretary Liz Truss and the DEFRA Chief Vet Nigel Gibbons are coming under increasing pressure from the European Commission to show that EU funds are being used effectively to introduce tighter testing and cattle control measures to reduce the spread of bovine TB.
The view that the culling of badgers is a dangerous distraction from tackling the root cause of the spread of bovine TB in cattle is an important one. We welcome the opportunity to engage further the European Commission on this issue in the months ahead.”
27 Apr 2016, 10:25 PM
BOVINE TB IS AEROGENOUSLY SELF-MAINTAINING WITHIN THE CATTLE POPULATION /URGENT : PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS / COSTLY MEANINGLESS BADGER CULLS VERY IMMINENT ?!
Dear Jeremy Corbyn and Kerry McCarthy, Lord Krebs, ...... Caroline Lucas, Tim Farron, Douglas Carswell, Alex Salmond ,
Since farmers and vets are still wrongly "certain, that Badgers Are the main cause of the spread of TB", and c. 30 expressions of interest have been lodged with Natural England licensors, it is very likely Natural England WILL announce Licences for 7 or more Pilot culls, traditionally at 5 o'clock on Friday the 29th before the May day bank holiday !;
It would be extremely helpful if you could ask verbally at Prime Ministers Questions , or via Written Parliamentary Questions in the Commons and Lords , 3 key questions :-
1. Would the Prime Minister agree that since cattle TB is entirely a respiratory air-borne lung infection contracted via prolonged close contact in enclosed spaces, it cannot after all be coming from badgers ? (See 3. Transmission below);
2. Would the Prime Minister agree that the new cattle testing and movement restrictions introduced by DEFRA on the 6th of April to stop the spread of TB from hotspot areas is the clearest possible demonstration that cattle, not badgers are the main spreaders of TB within the cattle population (see 2. Inciting Civil war below);
3. Since farmers and vets still mistakenly believe that "Badgers are the main cause of the spread of TB", and details of the farmers who have applied to participate in the Devon Pilot Cull were "leaked" c. 2-3 weeks ago, why have Natural England / DEFRA , still not confirmed these allegedly "Vital and Urgent" New Pilot Cull Licences ? (see 1 . Political absurdity below);
I'd be more than happy to meet and discuss, sincerely, Martin Hancox.
21 Apr 2016, 12:48 PM
DO NOT LICENCE FURTHER BADGER CULLS, WESTERN DAILY PRESS ,18TH APRIL 2016
URGENT : - BADGER CULLS WILL NEVER WORK ; SO A BETRAYAL OF FARMERS TO LICENCE ANY MORE BADGER CULLS OR VACCINATIONS
Dear Prime Minister, Minister, DEFRA, Natural England,
Nick Clegg called off the 2014 Dorset cull at the 11th hour, he was uneasy it would work !
Natural England ought to refuse to licence any further culls , and DEFRA should simply explain to farmers that cattle, NOT Badgers, are the main cause of the spread of CATTLE TB after all !!
The 45 year old "Great Badgers and TB Debate" was finally solved on the 6th of April , with the introduction of tighter cattle movement controls. Defra's 28th August 2015 three consultations on measures to stop the spread of TB, actually recognised very belatedly, that the early TB cattle skin test reactors without confirmatory Visible Lung Lesions, DO in fact merely have early TB... they are not "perfectly healthy" after all. So, the majority of these herd breakdowns supposedly "due to badgers" , are actually caused by, and first identified by these so-called Unconfirmed reactor cattle. And the 90 % or so of such breakdowns spreading out from annual test hotspot areas are hence simply via local cattle movements. Some 20 million cattle moves /a, and since foot & mouth 2001, out of c. 450,000 cattle removed, some 260,000 such unconfirmed No Visible Lesion new early TB cases .
The very simple answer , somewhat resented by farmers, who still mistakenly think that "Badgers are the main cause of the spread of TB", is pre- and post-movement cattle testing, which has been working in Scotland since it went "OTF" , TB free in 2009 , incidentally without culling a single badger !
DEFRA still seem to think Badger Edge Vaccination work, but this is simply bonkers, since there are no armies of badgers marching outwards into Edge Areas.
The 3 Pilot badger culls so far have cost towards £30 million, including a disgraceful near £7 million on extra policing to protect shooters from animal rights activists (or vice versa !); Civil War in England's Green and pleasant land !. But out of the 3942 badgers culled , based on the ISG /RBCT cull data, only c. 1.6 % are likely to have been the "Super-infectious" badgers which might have posed a risk to cattle ie. a mere 66 from c. 450 sq.km. :- NIL Effect on cattle TB .These culls are a spectacular time and money. Even farmers now recognise that the £5 million Welsh IAA area trial badger vaccination of 4500 badgers in 288 sq.km. has had Nil effect either. And unbelievably, no-one in 45 years research have actually shown how badgers might give cows a respiratory lung disease in the first place.
So it is to be hoped that DEFRA/ Natural England , as a matter of scientific, intellectual and moral integrity, will refuse to Licence any further utterly meaningless badger culls or badger vaccinations.
Sincerely, Martin Hancox, MA Oxon, ex-government TB Panel.
SEE Death of Debate, WWW.BADGERSANDTB.COM
21 Apr 2016, 12:29 PM
EUROBADGER; the newly formed Federation of European Badger Protection Organisations, has called upon the European Parliament, MEPS, the European Commission and EU Member States, to combine forces and to outlaw the needless and cruel mass-killing of badgers across Europe.
With tens of thousands of badgers being killed across Europe as a result of Government sanctioned culling programmes, illegal persecution, hunting, building developments and death on the roads, the species is under greater threat than ever before.
Eurobadger calls upon the European Institutions and Member States to particularly focus on effective cattle-based disease reduction strategies to reduce bovine TB, a serious cattle disease that is once again on the increase This is rather than to allow EU funds or resources potentially to be used, or to support large scale, scientifically ineffective and cruel badger culls in England, Ireland and other countries where the disease may now spread.
Presenting a new Eurobadger report focusing on one of the many threats to the survival of badgers across Europe to MEP’s meeting at the European Parliament Intergroup on Animal Welfare and Conservation in Strasbourg, the Chief Executive of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to the Born Free Foundation, Dominic Dyer said:
“The badger has lived in the landscape of Europe for over half a million years but its future today is under ever increasing threat. The crisis in the European dairy industry is directly linked to the fate of the badger. With falling milk prices, dairy farmers are already having to increase the size of their herds, keep more cattle indoors for longer periods of time, and move and sell more cattle to remain profitable.
All of these developments are increasing the risk of the spread of bovine Tb. To make matters worse, any steps to introduce a TB cattle vaccine are being put on hold in view of the danger of losing key export markets for meat and dairy products in the EU or countries such as China. We cannot allow the local extinction of badgers from certain parts of EU Members States, to enable increasingly desperate dairy farmers to produce powdered milk for the China market.
We must develop food and farming systems that encourage nature and landscapes to thrive as well as supporting livelihoods and local communities. Public health, animal welfare and wildlife protection must be at the heart of good policy. To do this we must recognise that bovine TB is primarily a cattle- based disease and that limitations within TB testing regimes combined with inadequate biosecurity and movement controls are all leading to continued spread of the disease and not badgers”
15 Apr 2016, 6:34 PM
Martin Hancox (ex-government TB Panel has sent the following letter to those involved with pushing for badger culling.
EXTREMELY URGENT RETHINK NEEDED ; IMMINENT (6th April) SEMI-FLAWED NEW POLICY ON TB:- CATTLE MOVEMENTS AND LICENSING FURTHER BADGER PILOT CULLS
A BETRAYAL OF FARMERS IF YOU DO NOT CALL OFF ANY MORE MEANINGLESS BADGER CULLS, AND EXPLAIN TO THEM THAT THE MAIN SPREAD OF TB HAS BEEN VIA TB CATTLE THEMSELVES ALL ALONG
Dear Prime Minister, Minister, DEFRA, and Natural England,
Saddened and disappointed but not really surprised that you seem to be ignoring my many repeated recent suggestions on "Stopping the spread of TB in cattle and badgers ".
As I said in response to the 3 DEFRA Consultations last year (28th August 2015, post-movement tests, badger cull licences, non-bovines) , one innovation was unwittingly the biggest and most important single breakthrough on TB policy in 50 years, but DEFRA probably did not fully appreciate the implications of this shift in the tectonic plates:-
there have always been 2 types of cattle reactors to the skin test ; ones with early TB with No Visible Lesions in the lungs (NVL) , and later TB cases which have progressed to having Visible Lesions which are confirmatory of TB.. a bit like failing to detect non-malignant breast cancer "micro-lumps" versus progressive malignant cancer "tumours "... lung TB progression:- __________________________________________________________________ ......ooooooo No Visible Lesions ooo / 1 year / OOOOO Visible Lesions OOOO TESTS IFN // SKIN TEST // ENFER Antibody __________________________________________________________________ Traditionally for decades it has been assumed that these NVL cases were "perfectly healthy" and did NOT have TB, so badgers got the blame as the hidden source of TB for the 90 % or so of new NVL hence Unconfirmed herd breakdowns, particularly spreading outwards from HRA "hotspots" to Edge /LRAs; but the movement Consultation made the watershed "re-discovery" that all these NVL /Unconfirmed cases DO Actually have early TB , with hence FOUR MAJOR IMPLICATIONS FOR TB Policy :-
1. MOVEMENT RESTRICTIONS hence the new policy from 6th April on movement restrictions :- pre and post-movement testing for cattle moving out of hotspots, and 2 clear tests needed to de-restrict both unconfirmed and confirmed breakdowns in the HRA ( ** Actual details given below);
2. BADGERS Exonerated , they are no longer the "Main cause of this spread of TB " either within or in expanding hotspots; so licensing any further badger culls or Edge badger Vaccination is utterly pointless /meaningless. In fact neither the £50 million RBCT cull of 11,000 badgers or the Welsh IAA £5 million vaccination of 4,500 badgers in 288 sq.km. had any effect on the accumulated herd breakdowns... the ISG 2007 Report noted explicitly (p. 96, 101) that culls had NIL Effect on unconfirmed breakdowns , supposedly "due to badgers" but in fact caused by NVL/Unconfirmed reactor TB carriers;
in addition, there were 6 herd breakdowns on the National Trust Killerton Estate, nr Exeter in 2014, so vaccinating 569 badgers in 20 sq.km. was a spectacular waste of time .. it is a disgrace that FERA are still saying that "badger vaccination has a role to play in stopping the spread of TB" (Smith 2016 report on IAA Vaccination) , it does not even stop badgers from catching TB from the next herd breakdown (Lesellier 2011);
3. CHRONIC HERDS, as I've been pointing out for years, the very simple quick solution for herds with persistent TB, under restriction for 5 .. 10 .. 16 years + , is a fast blood late TB antibody test, such as the ENFER , ENFERPLEX, or IDEXX Ab test (OIE approved) .. or simply PCR on faecal swabs to find the skin and IFN NON-reactor cow;
4 . CATTLE BCG VACCINATION WITH DIVA TEST , works .. a 68 % effect, re-trials to gain EU Validation should be rolled out across whole counties, or key areas such as the Welsh IAA former badger vaccination area (even farmers are now saying that did NOT Work !);
( *** These Key Conclusions are embodied in the DEFRA 2015 post-movement Consultation, Section 6, "A more robust approach to dealing with TB breakdowns in the High Risk Area (HRA)":-
"Government believes that the current approach for these "OTF-S" (Officially TB Free Suspended ) herds in the HRA increases increases the risk of lifting restrictions before all infected animals have been identified, allowing potentially high risk animals to be moved to other holdings and increasing the already high risk of recurrence of infection in the same herd. The current approach also perpetuates the view that test reactors without visible lesions at post-mortem examination are false positives whereas the testing odds suggest that they are true positive results; test specificity 99.99 % ie. only 1 in 5000 reactors are truly TB free; "To simplify the terminology and counter the perception that lesion - and culture-negative breakdowns represent false positive test results we also propose that APHA no longer distinguish between "OTFS" AND "OTFW" (WITHDRAWN) breakdowns in official correspondence and notices served to owners of TB breakdown herds ". N.B. ALL NVL / UNCONFIRMED / "OTFS" breakdowns ARE NOW CONFIRMED / "OTFW" , which in fact completely overturns current EU Policy of TB !
So, these twin innovations on movement restrictions and testing are entirely sensible , the policy for Scotland since it went OTF IN 2009 (without any badger culls incidentally) . A very costly mistake blaming badgers for the problem from Zuckerman 1980 on .. if pre and post movement tests had been in place then TB would not have spread from the tiny residual c. 1000 sq.km. southwest hotspots to an area now of half of GB. . )
But any further badger culls or vaccination are utterly pointless : they are simply a waste of money, do not work, because badgers have never been the problem in the first place !.
I would be more than happy to meet and discuss,
sincerely, Martin Hancox, ex-government TB Panel.
15 Apr 2016, 6:31 PM
'DEFRA "UNKOWINGLY" SOLVE "ALLEGED" BADGER TB PROBLEM ! 31st March 2016' says Martin Hancox. He has written the following letterto the Prime Minister.
Dear Prime Minister, Minister, DEFRA, Natural England,
The highly complex and emotive Great Badgers and TB Debate has now rumbled back and forth for 45 years without resolution. Having been on the government's TB Panel, and involved for 25 years I'm rather amused now that DEFRA actually solved the problem without realising it . Last Autumn's Consultation on cattle movement testing in fact profoundly shifted the tectonic plates underpinning the entire TB strategy with the biggest leap forward in 50 years. They at last belatedly realised that all the new cattle TB reactors identified so early that they have not yet progressed to the stage of having Confirmatory lung lesions, DO after all merely have actual early stage TB. So, in an Unbelievably and embarrassingly simple case of mistaken Identity, all the 90 % of new herd breakdowns caused by these Unconfirmed reactors , which supposedly did Not have TB, ie. False positives, which were hence assumed to be "Due to Badgers" , have actually merely been caused by truly tuberculous new TB reactor cases.... nothing to do with badgers at all. Since foot & mouth, out of c. 450,000 cattle removed, c. 260,000 Unconfirmed reactors swirling about within the cattle population. Towards 20 million cattle movements / year .. so the expansion of TB hotspots has been simply via local movements of mostly unconfirmed reactors .. a clonal expansion of cattle TB " DNA Spoligotype Home Ranges"... simple cure = pre & post-movement cattle testing.
There has never been any widespread self-sustaining reservoir of badger TB in these hotspots ..a mere 6000 TB badgers out of 53,000 sampled 1972- 2005. And both bovine TB in cattle and human "Consumption" TB spreads by aerosol CLOSE Prolonged contact in enclosed spaces (barns or prisons, TB wards) , so it has never been caught from badgers in the first place.
Badgers are categorically NOT the main cause of the spread of TB, so it will be a betrayal of farmers to licence any further badger culls or vaccinations which are very silly and utterly pointless : Why shoot the messenger !! I've repeatedly pointed this out to everyone for some time (eg. letter below), but message ignored or not understood .. a Dialogue of the DEAF , with DEAFRA ! Best regards, Martin HANCOX
15 Apr 2016, 6:29 PM
Protesters against badger culling have been accused by the NFU and current Environment Secretary of intimidation of farmers. However, the recent tribunal judgment (for a summary visit http://bit.ly/22Cou54) confirms that claims of intimidation are exaggerated and misleading
Claims of harassment and intimidation were tested in court last autumn at an Information Commission Tribunal involving Natural England. Natural England withheld information on the basis of preventing harassment of those participating in the cull. Natural England lost the case and were ordered to disclose the information.
The Judgment of the Tribunal did not agree with the unsubstantiated assertions of Liz Truss and the NFU, noting that:
Lobbying participants, using lawful methods, to try to persuade them to stop participating in the badger culls is perfectly legitimate in a democratic society.
The Government’s badger culling policy is “a matter of substantial debate and concern” and therefore “the provision of environmental information, including information facilitating protest, is vitally important.” a police liaison representative stated that there have been incidents of harassment and intimidation against, and damage to the property of, anti-cull protesters.
Harassment and intimidation of farmers are not widespread as has been claimed. “Unacceptable behaviour” has involved “a small number of activists”, there have been very few arrests since 2013 and “almost no prosecutions throughout the cull”. In the case, Natural England relied predominately on evidence supplied by two farmers.
15 Apr 2016, 6:24 PM
'Bovine TB crisis driving Somerset farmers to suicide' is the heading of a local paper in Somerset. Despite culling badgers apparently bTB in the area is worse than ever. When is the government going to stop concentrating effort and huge expense on culling badgers and instead let farmers vaccinate their cattle against bTB?
Badger Trust claims BBC guilty of demonisation of badgers in its Hope and Glory series which could lead to more persecution of the species
The Badger Trust has written to the Director General of the BBC Lord Hall, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss its concerns over the corporations failure to provide due accuracy and impartiality as required under its Royal Charter and the OFCOM broadcasting code, on the issue of badgers and bovine TB in "Hope and Glory" broadcast on BBC 2 on Friday 4 March.
The programme, the first episode of a three part series, followed Country Life magazine over a year of its production and included an in depth focus on Maurice Durbin, a dairy farmer in Somerset who has TB in his herd.
The Badger Trust recognises that bovine TB has a significant economic and social impact on farmers as well as being a major cost to taxpayers and we understand why the programme wanted to focus on the experiences of Maurice Durbin to get this across to viewers.
However what we cannot accept is the complete failure by the BBC to provide viewers with any balance when it came to explaining the role of badgers in the possible spread of TB to cattle.
From false claims about the level of TB in badgers, to a failure to explain the inaccuracies of the TB skin test for cattle and hugely misleading statements on the number of badgers and their need for protection, the programme makers went out of their way to demonise the species.
Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, said:
"A key concern for the Badger Trust is the demonisation of badgers to justify the continuation of the highly controversial badger cull policy and we regularly call on the farming industry, politicians and the media to be extremely cautious in the language they use to discuss badgers and bovine TB.
The BBC failed to show sufficient caution in this area when producing Hope and Glory. On a number of occasions in the programme a clearly distressed and emotional Maurice Durbin appeared to be encouraged to make angry remarks about badgers and those who seek to protect them. In one scene the camera zooms in on Mr Durbin after one of his cattle has tested positive for TB, for him to say "bloody badgers". In another part of the programme Mr Durbin talks of "do gooders telling farmers what to do" and how he is placing himself at personal risk by talking of the need to kill badgers.
The tension was further increased by the Editor of Country Life, Mark Hedges talking of farmers committing suicide as a result of bovine TB, which in his view has been made worse by political indecision over the need to kill badgers. As a result of allowing such incendiary statements to be made in the programme without any attempt to provide a balanced opinion, the BBC is giving encouragement to farmers and landowners to take the law into their own hands and illegally kill badgers".
Remarking on the wider editorial failures of BBC coverage on the bovine TB issue, Peter Martin, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said:
"The BBC appears to have abandoned any pretence of balance on the bovine TB issue, by continuing to give opportunities to the government, farming lobby and pro cull supporters including members of the Royal Family to create a climate of fear over badgers across its range of programming, without equal opportunities for either the scientific or the wildlife protection community to present their case.
The Badger Trust feels that the BBC is not only being irresponsible in its duty to the public but is also showing all the hallmarks of 'institutional bias'. The corporation is perfectly entitled to take a position based on its own independent investigations and to challenge all views but it nevertheless has an obligation to present the truth"
Copy of the letter sent to the Director General of the BBC, Lord can be read at: Hall.http://i.emlfiles1.com/cmpdoc/7/2/0/7/7/files/356491_bbc_lord-hall-letter.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,4352P,J7O91H,ETE0S,1
4 Mar 2016, 9:45 AM
Tall stories: BBC's anti-science support for badger culling
A programme to be broadcast on BBC2 promoting badger culling as the answer to bovine TB is praised in the corporation's flagship Radio Times, writes Lesley Docksey. But both are criticised by experts for their inaccuracy and bias. The main reservoir for bTB is, and always has been, the cattle themselves ....
For full article: http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2987314/tall_stories_bbcs_antiscience_support_for_badger_culling.html?dm_i=1NFN,42NEO,906L7E,ER9GH,1
4 Mar 2016, 9:35 AM
Badger population at risk as Government orders cull of more than 50,000?
The Government has decided to expand the cull that has taken place over the past three years
More than 50,000 badgers are to be culled in a dramatic expansion of Government’s efforts to protect cattle against tuberculosis.
Over the past three years, just under 4,000 badgers have been killed in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset at a cost of more than £5m.
But The Times reported that the Government had now decided to expand the cull by killing more than 12 times that number at sites across the country, starting this autumn.
4 Mar 2016, 9:33 AM
Following from BWRD
After the cessation of Vaccination of Badgers in the IAA, we as a Group have been seeking a meeting with the BTB Eradication Team of the Welsh Government to find out their plans for a way forward.
We , have had 2 meetings, these are our findings from the meetings.
A more complete report of meeting (2) will be released on this website when minutes of the meeting have been agreed and published.
(1) Representing the West Wales Badger Watch and Rescue group, I attended a meeting on the 3d of February along with Steve Clark from Badger Trust Wales and representatives of other interested groups held in Cardiff at the Life Sciences Hub Wales. We were invited there to hear a briefing by Graham Smith who was commissioned by the Deputy Minister to model simulations of the effect of badger vaccination on bovine TB in badgers and cattle.
This simulation was commissioned to enable the Welsh Government to better understand the impact the non-availability of the badger vaccine for 2016.
From his figures, Graham drew the conclusion that the badger vaccine has had a rising impact on the spread of TB in cattle during the first 4 years since the program of vaccination was started. His simulation showed that there is a leveling off period after the initial vaccination period and suggested that a lull in the vaccination program during this leveling off period would not significantly change the outcome of the success of the program.
The TB vaccination team who were represented at the meeting were praised for the hard work they have put into making the project a success.
report by Debbie Day Donnelly
(2) The Welsh Governments BTB eradication Team state that as of this Month (March 2016) 95.2% of Welsh Farms are BTB Free. (Detail figures are available,and will be made public later).
By any measure, this a vast improvement on the past, and proves that the Welsh Government’s approach is working, both for Welsh Farmers and Badgers. For this figure was acheived without Culling a single Badger. It was acheived with improved testing regimes, ie. Gamma Interferon, instead of the standard Skin Test. And stricter cattle movement orders, and of course Vaccination, although the testing and cattle movement are the principle reasons for the success. Just 4.8% more and Wales will be a completely BTB free Zone. report by Ray Jenner
SO, No Culling is needed in Wales.
29 Feb 2016, 2:30 PM
GOVERNMENT WASTES £23 MILLION KILLING BADGERS BUT WAS UNWILLING TO FIND £427,000 TO FUND NATIONAL WILDLIFE CRIME UNIT
Note: we heard 2/3/16 that funding for the NWCU has been secured. Defra and the Home Office have made a commitment to maintain its funding, allowing it to continue protecting our wildlife from criminals.
The Badger Trust had criticised the government’s failure to commit to funding the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), which plays a key role in helping tackle badger persecution.
Despite widespread protests from leading conservationists, wildlife protection charities and MP’s across the political spectrum, Britain’s world-leading police unit dedicated to tackling wildlife crime at home and abroad, is facing closure at the end of March.
The National Wildlife Crime Unit has had to fight to maintain funding for a number of years and was only saved at the last minute in 2014, as a result of securing new funding from DEFRA and the Home Office.
Commenting on the imminent closure of the NWCU the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:
“This government has wasted over £23 million killing mostly health badgers in a disastrous culling policy which has failed on scientific and humaneness grounds. Despite this huge expense, they refuse to commit less than £0.5 million to save the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Following a meeting with the Badger Trust in April 2015, the DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss confirmed to me that badger persecution was a UK national wildlife crime priority, but this commitment rings hollow with the expected closure of the police unit, which plays such a key part in protecting badgers against wildlife criminals”
Responding to the possible closure of the NWCU the Chairman of the Badger Trust, Peter Martin, said:
“Wildlife is a fundamental part of British life and, as a nation, we are famous, the world over, for our care and conservation principles. This failure to protect our National Wildlife Crime Unit will be seen as a national disgrace and sends an appalling message to those sections of society that delight in or profit from the suffering of all kinds of animals.
Despite its protected status we are already seeing an alarming increase in badger persecution incidents as a result of the demonisation of badgers by the farming lobby and the government’s policy on culling, most of which is going unreported. This is another example of a thoughtless, ideologically driven political initiative that will push wildlife crime prevention onto individual police forces at a time when their own budgets are being cut and will likely end up costing more than they are hoping to save. And all this will be achieved at the expense of untold suffering not just to badgers but all our country’s animals.
29 Feb 2016, 2:07 PM
BADGER / CATTLE AVOIDANCE
The great badger TB debate has gone on for some 45 years without clear resolution. Several recent Irish studies have re-confirmed that the TB DNA strains are the same in badgers and cattle, so irrefutably transmission is still happening... but who is infecting whom !?
Cattle TB is 100 % a respiratory infection, caught via prolonged close aerosol contact with other cattle in enclosed spaces such as barns or milking parlours. So too human "consumption" ..you wont catch a cold passing someone with a sniffle in the street, but you will get a bad dose of flu sharing an office or bus for a few hours with someone coughing and sneezing the bugs. So is unlikely to be from badgers. Recent elegant studies in Ireland with GPS Proximity data logger collars have actually now shown that badgers avoid cattle both at pasture and in farmyards. Enda Mullen in Eire found 3 badgers visited 19 grazing paddocks, but 76 % of the visits were when cattle were absent. She also found that out of 30,764 "fixes" there were only 66 visits to farmyards. Another Ulster study by Declan O'Mahony, found that out of 439,776 "fixes" there were only 34 visits to farmyards.
And Julian Drewe in Glos. found that out of 582,535 "animal to animal" interactions at pasture , there were just 4 within a "breathing" distance of 1.4 metres. Earlier studies found that badgers visited English farms quite frequently, but most visits were brief in the summer for a drink and snack of cattle nuts , when cattle were out at pasure anyway. Some 500 hours of video footage showed there was no close contacts under 2 metres separation even in barns.
So, in truth, cattle are extremely unlikely to catch TB from badgers. Whereas badgers turning over cow pats for dor beetles and worms are almost guaranteed to get the bugs by accidental ingestion. Incidentally no-one has checked whether Greater Horse shoe bats too get TB from dung beetles in cattle TB areas.
So unsurprising that the RBCT/Krebs cull of 11,000 badgers had Nil effect on cattle TB ; accumulated breakdowns were identical in reactive cull versus no cull areas 356 vs 358 . And as regards the Welsh IAA Vaccination trial , Dr. Glossop admitted vaccinating 4500 badgers in 287 sq. km. has had Nil effect so far either. So a waste of some £55 million....towards £30 for the three recent Pilot culls.. including a disgraceful £7million on extra policing.
DEFRA in their Aug.28th Consultations on TB at last discovered that the 90 % or so herd breakdowns supposedly "Due to badgers" were merely caused by early cattle reactors with No Visible lung Lesions, so unconfirmed cases . Since foot & mouth 2001, out of some 450,000 cattle removed .. c. 260,000 were these NVL/ unconfirmed reactors spreading TB far and wide .. some 20 million cattle movements annually...so absolutely nothing to do with badgers after all.
sincerely, Martin Hancox, 17 Nouncells Cross Stroud GL5 1PT (sorry no phone) .
OVER-PRICED BADGERS WILL NOT CURE CATTLE TB ( re. Stop Press Farmers weekly 12th Feb. 2016)
The very long running (45 year old) Badger TB debate may have accidentally reached a U-turn watershed ? If farmers and vets have at last belatedly realised that any further badger culls or vaccinations are a spectacular waste of time and money , because they do not work, because badgers have never been the problem in the first place ! . The un-noticed "Final Death of the Great Badgers and TB debate actually occurred on the 28th of August 2015 .. with DEFRA's 3 consultations on cull licensing and added cattle controls. There have always been 2 sorts of cattle skin test TB reactors .. early cases have NVL = No Visible Lesions (in the lungs) so are Unconfirmed reactors , and later TB cases with Visible confirmatory TB lesions. DEFRA have AT Last woken up to the fact that these NVL cases DO have TB ( are not false positive), so badgers as "the main cause" of the 90 % of unconfirmed herd breakdowns in re-stocking after the BSE/Mad Cow peak in 1993, in areas TB free in either cattle or badgers for 20 years , were simply due to local movements of NVL/Unconfirmed cattle reactors... QED : badger edge vaccination spectacularly meaningless .. pre & post-movement cattle tests the simple solution.
Last September the various vaccination schemes were called off ostensibly due to a shortage of Badger BCG. In fact, Chief Vet Dr. Glossop actually noted that vaccinating some 4,500 badgers in the Welsh IAA 287 sq. km. trial area , at a cost of c. £5 million had had no effect on cattle TB. Despite the allegation that up to 40 % of new herd breakdowns are supposedly caused by badgers. This has been re-affirmed by the urgent AHVLA re-assessment of whether culls/vaccines will ever do the slightest good :- Simulations of the effect of badger vaccination on Btb in Badgers and cattle within the IAA http://gov.wales/docs/drah/publications/160203-iaa-vaccine-modelling-report.pdf . These "Scientific" computer simulation models suffer from the well known painful GIGO Ailment, Garbage in = Garbage out .. assumptions on transmission rates amongst and between badgers and cattle are pure fantasy guesswork... and this is still claiming the rise in TB in the 2 km wide buffer ring outside the proactive cull area was due to the badger cull, even though there was NO cull out there. The true result of the £50 million RBCT/ Krebs cull of 11,000 badgers was also in fact Nil effect on cattle TB . Reactive cull versus no cull areas, accumulated confirmed cattle TB herd breakdowns 356 vs 358 ! In addition, vaccinating 569 badgers in 20 sq.km. did not prevent 6 herd breakdowns on the Killerton Estate in 2014. And the North Nibley perturbation cull of 27 badgers (10 TB +) , did not stop repeat breakdowns in the following 3 years.
So, there will have been Zero effect on cattle TB from last years cull of 1467 badgers in the Glos., Somerset & Dorset Pilot areas , maybe a mere dozen with infectious TB as extrapolated from the RBCT data in c. 450 sq.km.. Costs so far heading towards £ 30 million. And just revealed , the disgraceful costs of extra policing came to nearly £7 Million ... 2013- 2015 : 3.5; 1.4; 1.7 million = £6.6 million.
Interesting the farmer/ politician responses to all this .. Brian Thomas of the Farmers Union Wales, urges Rebecca Evans to stop wasting time on vaccination ( if BCG becomes available in 2017 ), since there has been no impact between vaccinated / non-vaccinated areas.. bring back culls! Liz Truss aims to bring back Edge vaccination even though it is blindingly obvious expansion of hotspots is by local cattle movements , absolutely nothing to do with badgers. And sadly, it seems that farmers in at least 10 new areas have expressed an interest in applying for licences for further badger Pilot culls a.s.a.p., since farmers still wrongly believe that badgers "Are the main cause of this spread of TB" :- Cornwall, Devon, North Glos., E. Sussex, Leics., Staffs., Wilts., Worcs., Bucks., Herefordshire.
Sadly too farmers have been bamboozled into "badger proofing" barns at a cost of anything from £600 to £ 12,500 . Everyone have forgotten the only proven case in 45 years where badgers did give calves TB in a very artificial enclosed yard experiment.. both cattle and human respiratory TB is caught via such prolonged close aerosol contact. Little 1982 found 4 calves exposed for under a month apparently didn't get TB. So badgers popping into barns in the summer, for a drink and snack of cattle nuts, will pose Nil risk to the cattle, which are out at pasture anyway ! Several elegant studies with "Proximity data logger collars" have re-established the fact that badgers avoid cattle both at pasture and in barns, so the actual risk of bcows getting TB from badgers is pretty much NIL !
Perhaps the saddest tragedy in this Alice in Wonderland saga (see Death of Debate www.badgersandtb.com) is the flawed advice to hard pressed farmers , from the scientific & veterinary experts, who should know better.
sincerely, Martin Hancox, MA Oxon, ex-govmt. TB Panel. www.badgersandtb.com
16 Feb 2016, 6:14 PM
The whopping taxpayer bill for policing last year’s badger culling in Dorset, Gloucester and Somerset was was £1,675,112. Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have confirmed this amount
The Government previously revealed that 1,467 badgers were killed in 2015 - meaning each badger killed cost around £1,142 in policing costs alone.
Total police costs for the three years of culling have now reached £6.5million. What an utter waste of taxpayers' money.
12 Feb 2016, 12:18 PM
Government report confirms badger vaccination is working and a year break (as a result of the supply problem with tuberculin) will not result in any increase in TB in badgers
The Badger Trust has welcomed a report by the Animal & Plant Health Agency for the Welsh Government on the success of its badger vaccination project.
The report was commissioned after the decision by the Welsh Government to temporarily halt badger vaccination due to a global shortage of BCG TB vaccine. The work was performed in order to determine the most likely effects of not using the BCG vaccine for badgers in 2016, after successfully using the trap and inject approach with BCG for 4 years between 2011 and 2015.
The analysis simulated a variety of different badger vaccination strategies to manage bovine TB within the Intensive Action Area in Wales. It used a current badger and cattle bTB model that has been repeatedly peer reviewed and published in the scientific literature used for reporting to DEFRA, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments.
The report found that 4 years of continuous badger vaccination has substantially reduced the prevalence of TB in badgers and this decline would continue over a ten year period although the benefit of each later year of vaccination was less than in earlier years.
Due to the group immunity effect, a 1 year interruption in badger vaccination in 2016 was not found to result in any increase in the prevalence of TB in badgers.
Commenting on the findings of the report the Chief Executive of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said:
“We are delighted to see confirmation that badger vaccination is leading to a substantial reduction in the prevalence of TB in badgers and that any temporary halt while the global stocks of BCG vaccine recover, will not lead to an increase in the spread of the disease in badgers.
I am disappointed to see the Farmers Union of Wales calling for an end to badger vaccination in the Intensive Action Area in Wales on the grounds that the cost of £700 per badger is a ‘waste of public money’, when DEFRA is spending over £7,000 per badger on a disastrous badger cull policy in England, without testing any of the badgers killed for TB.
Badger vaccination is scientifically proven to work and has huge public and political support in England and Wales. It plays a key role in bringing conservation and wildlife protection groups together with farmers and landowners in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence. It’s a perfect example of David Cameron's "Big Society" in action"
The Chairman of the Badger Trust Peter Martin said
"Rather than attack the Welsh Government for vaccinating badgers against TB, the Farmers Union of Wales should be celebrating its success. They should be calling on DEFRA and the NFU in England to follow the Welsh example of reducing bovine TB by focusing on improved cattle testing and movement controls. New incidents of bovine TB in cattle are now down by 28% in Wales with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This now leaves 94% of the Welsh herd TB free, without killing any badgers.”
10 Feb 2016, 7:24 PM
Will we lose the badger as a species in the UK if badger culling becomes widespread and persistent - despite the fact that badgers rarely contract or pass on bTB? Badger culling is costly policy which scientific experts have warned is both ‘ineffective’ and ‘inhumane’.
Badger culling could be extended to at least 12 new areas of England over the next two years, after Defra Secretary Liz Truss gave the green light to extend the policy last week.
Some areas are already well prepared to go in 2016, including two of about 300-400sq.km in North Devon and North Cornwall, both of which had licence applications rejected in 2015.
An area in Herefordshire, also rejected in 2015, is likely to be in the frame while others are at various stages of preparation across the South West, including in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, as well as further north in the Midlands in areas where bTB is rife. .
NFU president Meurig Raymond said he believed six new areas would be ‘feasible’ next year, with more to follow in 2017.
Mrs Truss announced last week Defra would allow badger culling to ‘take place over a wide number of areas next year’, alongside a tightening up of cattle controls.
She gave the green light after the culls in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset all met their targets in 2015. Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens had advised this confirmed badger control could be an effective way of controlling bTB.
Mr Raymond said: “Farmers are absolutely ready to go in lots of areas for next year and the year after that.
He said farmers in the north of England, in particular, would welcome the introduction of post-movement testing from April as a means of protecting their herds from bTB.
Shadow Defra Secretary Kerry McCarthy echoed the chorus of criticism from animal welfare campaigners, accusing Mrs Truss of ‘stubbornly persisting with a costly policy scientific experts have warned is both ‘ineffective’ and ‘inhumane’.
27 Jan 2016, 11:31 AM
NEW VOICE FOR THE PROTECTION OF BADGERS IN EUROPEAN UNION
The Badger Trust joined badger groups from France, Holland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in Brussels on Tuesday 19 January, to establish EuroBadger, a new European network to raise awareness of badgers and to strengthen legislation at Member State and EU level for their protection.
EuroBadger is promoting a more positive vision for the species whereby humans across the continent learn to live in harmony with and cherish this important wild mammal without destroying its habitat or indulging in the kind of mass killing and persecution they have faced in the recent past. The new body will work closely with the EU Member States, European Commission and European Parliament to achieve its aims and objectives.
A key focus for EuroBadger will be to address the importance of badgers to biodiversity and habitat protection across the EU and to seek alternative polices to the indiscriminate mass killing of badgers being undertaken in England and Ireland, in an attempt to reduce bovine TB in cattle.
Responding to the launch of EuroBadger the CEO of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer said
“Badgers are a hugely important species in the landscape of Europe but they are coming under increasing threat as a result of government supported culling programmes, increasing levels of persecution, and destruction of their habitats for building developments.
EuroBadger will enable badger protection groups for the first time to join forces across Europe and take the battle to protect badgers to Brussels. Protection levels for badgers are fragmented and inconsistent around the continent but we will now be able to push politicians and policy makers for a more rational and coherent approach in order to prevent the possible loss of the species from many regions of Europe”.
The Chairman of the Badger Trust Peter Martin said
“The Trust took a gamble initiating the EuroBadger project so it’s been very rewarding to see such immediate enthusiasm from our colleagues across Europe. In particular we need to dismantle the regressive ‘culture of killing’ that informs so many of our current rural practices. The UK is a case in point where attempts to control bovine TB by mass culling of badgers has proved both very costly and inhumane, but has also halted or worsened the decline in cattle TB levels that is already being seen through improved cattle testing and movement controls.
All this has been done without having to take account of any EU wide framework for the protection of badgers or the impact of culling on other wildlife species. EuroBadger will therefore play a crucial role in opening up the debate on alternative non-lethal TB mitigation strategies for badgers and refocusing efforts for lowering bovine TB in cattle on to improved TB testing methods and the development of effective TB vaccination programmes for both cattle and badgers”
EuroBadger is currently putting together a unique EU country report on badgers looking at their populations, habitats, legal protection and threats to their survival. This report will be launched at an event in the European Parliament in the Spring of 2016.
21 Jan 2016, 1:29 PM
Flooding & Badger Shooting – Who calls DEFRA’s Shots?
The Badger Army is a growing group of volunteers from all over the UK that have come together in protest against the Conservative Government’s badger cull. Over the past two years the campaigners have organised 31 protest marches, surveyed for 100s of badger setts in the cull zones, searched for wounded badgers during the culls and patrolled the cull zones at night with the aim of saving as many badger lives as possible.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Badger Army will be busy over the coming years.
One positive bit stood out - from Dr Ian Givvon, we hope it proves to be factual:
I do not think that the development of a vaccine is years away; we may yet get a shock and find that comes about within six to 18 months. People are working 33WH extremely hard to develop that vaccine and with the new developments in the production of vaccines—including peptide technologies—emanating from the molecular biology in which we are pre-eminent in this country, who knows what will happen? We should be much more positive about that area.