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Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat ...?

 Added by  Thomas (Guest)
 22 Jul 2010, 6:43 PM

Prof John Bourne, who conducted the infamous ten year, government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled what he was told by a senior politician:
"Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers."
This strand on the forum deals mainly with the wildlife reservoirs involved in the bovine TB saga. In the UK this is, as we are probably all aware by now, believed to be mainly the badger. No other mammal has been studied in the UK as intensely as the badger so actually we don't really know just how other animals are implicated. In other countries different species are implicated. There are some anomalies too, including the example below.
Has anyone an explanation for the following!
According to last issue of Gwlad, Australia is now bTB free after 27 years of trying. We are told it has no wildlife reservoir. New Zealand is still aiming for eradication. It has a wildlife reservoir - possums - which are considered a pest species as not indigenous so are being culled - and vaccinated!
HOWEVER - possums ARE native to Australia and bTB was rife in country for years so - why are the Australian possums not a reservoir?

Defra's free Bovine TB advice offered to 233 farmers in the cull zones has been taken up by only 10 farmers - is Bovine TB such a big issue then? Are farmers really interested in controlling Bovine TB or has it become just an excuse to kill badgers?
An announcement giving the go-ahead for bovine TB culling in England is expected shortly – with Prime Minister David Cameron adamant that culling badgers ‘is absolutely the right thing to do’.
Questioned on a visit to the Royal Welsh Show today (Thursday, July 23), he said that evidence from around the world showed that if you wanted to have a real strategy to get rid of TB then culling had a part to play.
“Cattle movements and vaccination can all play their part but at the heart of a strategy you do need to have culling – and we are going to be making an announcement soon about taking pilot culls forward,” he said.
“But the key thing is to make sure they are carried out properly on a multi-year basis. I am sure they will demonstrate clearly that culling has its part to play in eradicating bovine TB.
“It is a matter for the Welsh Government what it does but I think politicians need to be bold on this issue. What we want are healthy cattle and healthy badgers.
“Do not forget either that TB is a miserable disease for badgers, too. Vaccination can play a part but does not cure an infected badger.
“We are looking at rolling out culling in other areas of England and will be making an announcement shortly.”
Info from: www.fginsight.com/news/culling-badgers-is-the-right-thing-to-do-prime-minister-says-4993
Typical with Conservatives now holding balance of power, so much for science and the mass of public opposition against culling.
DARD has published its report on year one of the TVR project: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/tvr-year-1-report.pdf
We weren’t expecting any detailed year one data and we understand and accept DARD’s reasons for this. Apart from the rigour of the scientific process, there is a risk that prematurely releasing data into the public domain may result in some aspects of the project being subjected to bias which may affect the integrity of the outcome.
This report accurately reflects our understanding of the TVR process. We are very satisfied that best practice has been implemented at all stages of the TVR, crucially with respect to badger handling and welfare. A member of our group has observed the TVR in action and was impressed by the competence and diligence of the DARD team.
From this year (year two) of the project, confirmed TB positive badgers will be humanely euthanased. This is entirely in line with the original terms of the TVR and does not signal any change in direction or emphasis. We understand that the blood test used, the Dual Path Platform (DPP) VetTB test*, is most sensitive to higher levels of infection – i.e. those individuals most likely to be infectious will test positive. Given the specificity of this blood test, ‘false positives’ are highly unlikely.
(* the planned Stat Pak test was withdrawn by the manufacturer for commercial reasons)
As I’m sure you have noticed, some sections of the media continue, unhelpfully, to spin the TVR project as a pilot cull. DARD has clarified that it is, and will continue to be, a vaccination-led research project. We can’t predict the number of TB-positive badgers likely to be removed but we do anticipate that the actual number will be small, based on the blood test performance, TVR modelling outcomes and context of likely levels of badger infection in the project zone. In that respect, we also believe it has been very beneficial that all badgers caught in year one were vaccinated (none was removed).
You can find links to all aspects of the TVR project, including completed reports and studies, here:
Finally I would add that, to its credit, DARD has been as transparent and as forthcoming with information as the requirements of the TVR project have allowed. We believe that DEFRA in GB and the DAFM in the Irish Republic could learn from this example – and then some!
Info from NOGB email 18/7/15
From Nigel Gibbens
Chief Veterinary Officer and Director General
Dear Mr Herring,
Open letter on badger cull in Gloucestershire
I refer to your letter dated 23rd June 2015.
Following my advice on the outcome of the second year of the badger culls, to which you refer, there is ongoing dialogue between Natural England and the cull company about measures that the latter is putting in place to ensure that culling in subsequent years is carried out more effectively in terms of numbers of badgers removed.
Improvements introduced by the cull company will be reflected in their 2015 operations plans, which Natural England will consider once submitted, with advice from me as Chief Veterinary Officer.
Planning the 2015 operation is an iterative process and I will of course not be in a position to comment on the extent of any improvements in the cull company’s plans until the point of final submission. As outlined in my earlier advice, areas where I will be expecting to see evidence of lessons learned will include training and assessment, operational planning, monitoring and delivery.
An authorisation letter for a 2015 cull in Gloucestershire will be issued only if Natural England is satisfied that the cull company’s operations plans demonstrate that it has taken on board lessons from its culling experience in 2014, and is in a position to deliver a more effective cull in terms of numbers of badgers removed.
If on reviewing the plans I am not satisfied that this is the case, my advice to Natural England will be not to authorise a cull in Gloucestershire in 2015.
I trust that this will reassure your organisation.
Yours sincerely
Northern Ireland Badger Group Press Release
Issued 5th July 2015
Badger conservation group affirms support for 5 year test & vaccination project and rejects claims of a Northern Ireland ‘pilot badger cull’
The Northern Ireland Badger Group is the lead badger protection and conservation body in Northern Ireland. Since it was formed in 2006, its volunteers have worked to protect these iconic animals from a range of threats including persecution, sett disturbance and destruction, and human ignorance.
The threat level remains high, fuelled by those who scapegoat badgers for the problem of TB in cattle. We recognise that bovine TB is a serious disease that brings hardship to the industry and farming families. However, the available evidence indicates that badgers do not play a significant role, if any, in herd breakdowns. Indeed current research in Ireland has failed to demonstrate any significant contact between badgers and cattle. It is a matter of record that not one actual herd breakdown has ever been conclusively proven to have been caused by badgers anywhere in these islands.
So, what needs to be done? We need to increase our understanding of the dynamics of this disease in our environment. The link between badgers and cattle is uncertain. Both species get the same TB but the direction and route of transmission remain unknown. Indeed, Professor Sir John Bourne, Chair of the group that analysed the data from the most robust and most expensive culling trial in history holds the view that “Badger infections are following, not leading, TB infections in cattle”.
Significantly, the same Independent Scientific Group that reported on the British Randomised Badger Culling Trial concluded that “culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to the control of TB in cattle in Britain".
This is why the Northern Ireland Badger Group opposes, and will continue to oppose, badger culling as part of any bovine TB strategy anywhere in these islands. There is no credible evidence that the badger culling programmes in England or the Republic of Ireland have reduced TB in cattle. Both Northern Ireland and Wales have halved TB using cattle measures alone. TB continues to fall in Northern Ireland without the need to slaughter badgers.
A range of measures will ensure healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. We, along with the other major conservation groups and industry stakeholders, give qualified support to the Northern Ireland TVR project. Although this may involve a very small number of confirmed TB-positive badgers being humanely euthanased, TVR remains primarily a vaccination-led project. All 280 badgers trapped in year one (last year) were vaccinated and any ‘new’ badgers in year 2 and beyond will also be vaccinated.
Our record on culling is clear. To date, with the support of the Badger Trust, we have successfully foiled previous attempts to cull badgers in Northern Ireland. The Badger Group has long advocated an evidence-led bovine TB strategy in Ireland. We expect the TVR project to greatly inform our understanding of the dynamics of the disease and we have been transparent about our support for this initiative.
Ultimately, bovine TB is a bovine disease requiring a bovine solution. There is broad agreement that cattle vaccination is the key to eradicating TB from our herds. Badger vaccination, which is already being realised by the TVR project, is a stepping stone to achieving this.
This release is a direct response to a recent article on the BBC Northern Ireland website. A remark made by Badger Group spokesman Peter Clarke that the ‘TVR project was proportionate and had buy in from everyone’ was carelessly and incompletely quoted in a way that wrongly suggested that we support a pilot cull. This has since been corrected by the BBC.
The Northern Ireland Badger Group is the lead badger protection and conservation body in Northern Ireland and works to protect these iconic animals from a range of threats including persecution, sett disturbance and destruction, and human ignorance
It is an independent voluntary group and receives no funding from any government, corporate or commercial source
NIBG is affiliated to the Badger Trust and plays an active role in the Team Badger and Team Broc campaigns against badger culling in GB and Ireland respectively
NIBG contributes to the Department of Agriculture’s TB Stakeholders’ Group where it champions an evidence-led bovine TB strategy.
The Badger Group also supports and promotes the DARD road kill badger study.
The Northern Ireland TB Strategic Partnership Group today launched its Interim Report. The Northern Ireland Badger Group made a submission to the initial consultation and also had a face-to-face meeting with the Strategic Partnership Group members.
The report can be downloaded at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/tbspg-interim-report. The consultation period runs from the 30th June until the 4th of September.
Stand up for badgers in Ross on Wye on the 4th July
Badger cull protest comes to Ross on Wye as culling is set to continue in Gloucestershire and Somerset this summer.
A peaceful, family friendly protest against the government's unpopular badger cull policy will come to Ross on Wye on Saturday 4th July.
Organised by the Badger Trust and the Gloucestershire Badger Conservation Group this will be the 30th March against the badger cull policy held in towns and cities across England over the last 2 years. Speakers will include leading anti-cull spokesperson Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, Tosca Cabello from Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting and wildlife protection campaigner Lynn Sawyer.
Dominic Dyer said "I've worked in the agriculture and food industry for most of my career, and this is the worst agricultural policy I've seen in 30 years. I'm sympathetic to farmers, but culling badgers simply won't work. Ordinary people from around the country have come out to protest against this barbaric cull, and we're looking forward to seeing many of them come to Ross on Wye on Saturday.
“The badger cull has been a complete disaster on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds. To date two years of badger culling in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire has resulted in the death of 2,476 badgers at a cost of £15 million pounds to the tax payer or £6,600 per badger, the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. None of the badgers killed were tested for TB by the government, but based on test data from previous badger cull research projects, 85% are likely to have been completely free of the disease.
“The pilot badger culls were set up to test the efficiency and humaneness of free shooting at night by trained marksmen, nothing more. On this basis they have been a disastrous failure as free shooting has proved highly ineffective as a killing method and has been found to be inhumane by both the government’s Independent Expert Panel and more recently the British Veterinary Association.
“To continue this summer with such a costly, deeply flawed and unpopular badger culling policy in Gloucestershire and Somerset, when vaccinating badgers is cheaper and more humane is a national disgrace."
The protest starts at 12.30 on Saturday 4th July at the Bandstand, Wye Street in Ross on Wye.
National Trust blocks badger cull on its land
A roll-out of the badger cull in the fight against bovine TB could be sunk by the National Trust's refusal to allow cullers onto its land, campaigners claim.
The Trust has confirmed that it will not consider the use of its land until it can assess the results of the four-year pilot culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire. Each cull has two more years to run. The Trust owns 35,000 hectares of land in the West Country, on which there are around 300 tenanted farms. As prime dairy country, the West has a high incidence of bovine TB (bTB), which costs farmers nationally, and the taxpayer, many millions of pounds a year.
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director of the National Trust has written to campaign group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting to state: "It remains our position following the first IEP (Independent Expert Panel) assessment that we cannot support the roll out of further badger culls on our land … we accept that the current culls should run their proposed four-year course. Only then can a proper assessment take place."
Alex Reader, National Trust natural environment expert said: "The majority of our land in the West Country is used for livestock farming rather than arable and the majority of animals would be cattle so it is extremely unlikely that it would not be affecting in some way where potential culls go forward, but we just don't know."
Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Badger-cull-new-war-words/story-26666355-detail/story.html#ixzz3eARgoOcs
Latest Commons briefing on badger cu (http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06837)
Badger Culling: Controlled Shooting Pilots
Published 23 June 2015
Controlled shooting of badgers has been trialed in Gloucestershire and Somerset. The aim was to determine if it is a humane and effective culling method.
Jump to full report >>
In contrast to the previous Labour Government’s policy on bovine TB, the coalition Government proposed the use of badger culling as part of their bovine TB control strategy. The decision to carry out pilot badger culls was announced in December 2011, and culls took place in two areas in 2013 and 2014.
In January 2012, two pilot badger culling areas were announced: West Gloucestershire and West Somerset. Under Government proposals, farmers in each area would be licensed to control badgers by shooting and would bear the costs of any culls. The Government would bear the costs of licensing and monitoring the culls.
An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was appointed to monitor the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting. The cull was not intended to make any assessment of the effectiveness of shooting to control TB. Licenses for the pilot areas were initially granted by Natural England in the autumn of 2012, but, following concerns from the NFU, the start of the cull was postponed until 2013.
The culls commenced on 27 August 2013, initially for 6 weeks. After failing to meet the culling targets of 70% of the badger population, the culls were extended in both areas. Despite the extended cull period, both cull targets were missed. An estimated 65% of the badger population was culled in Somerset and less than 40% was culled in Gloucestershire.
The IEP raised concerns about the humaneness of shooting as a culling method in their report in April 2014, highlighting that standards of humaneness needed to be improved if culling was to continue in the pilot areas. The Government announced that the culls would continue, with amendments to improve effectiveness in the proportion of badgers killed and time taken for shot badgers to die.
The second year of the cull took place in autumn 2014. Minimum targets for the number of badgers to be culled to meet licence conditions was met in Somerset, but not in Gloucestershire.
The cost of badger control in the first year of the culls was £6.3 million, with an additional £3.5 million spent on policing. The third year of the four year culls are due to start in autumn 2015, although there are no dates yet available
Commons Briefing papers SN06837
Author: Elena Ares
Topics: Agriculture and environment, Animals, Agriculture, Animal welfare, Wildlife, Countryside, Animal diseases, Farmers
Badger Shooting to Continue in Spite of Veterinary Concerns
The culling of badgers, as part of the Government's strategy for controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle, has proved extremely controversial and divisive, not least because of concerns over the humaneness of 'controlled shooting' (the shooting by marksmen of free-roaming badgers attracted to bait points at night).
In order to try to offset these concerns, the Government stated in its 2011 policy document that "If monitoring of the humaneness, effectiveness and safety indicates that controlled shooting is an acceptable culling technique, then and only then would this policy be rolled out more widely". It then licensed the 'pilot culls' that have been ongoing in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset over the past 2 years, in order to test whether these criteria could be met.
Following the first year of the pilot culls, the Independent Expert Panel commissioned by the Government to analyse the results concluded that the culls had failed on both effectiveness and humaneness. The panel concluded: "It is extremely likely that between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers that were shot at were still alive after 5 min, and therefore at risk of experiencing marked pain. We are concerned at the potential for suffering that these figures imply".
The Independent Panel was disbanded before the second year of culling. In spite of this, the culls continued to receive the support of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), on the basis that recommendations made by the Independent Panel would be implemented. However, following last autumn's culls the BVA concluded that the results from the pilot culls "have not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely", and that it could "no longer support the continued use of controlled shooting as part of the badger control policy".
The Government's response has been to dismiss the BVA's concerns. Farming Minister George Eustice was recently quoted as saying that controlled shooting "is also used as a method of controlling all sorts of wildlife, such as foxes and deer... I am not persuaded on what they [the BVA] had to say on controlled shooting". In a response received on 2nd June to a Freedom of Information request by the Born Free Foundation, DEFRA has confirmed that "controlled shooting will continue to be authorised as a [culling] methodology".
The policy of culling badgers has consistently been shown to be unscientific, ineffective, inhumane and unnecessary. In spite of this it seems the Government is set to press on with its policy of licensing a killing method which has failed to satisfy either the Independent Expert Panel or the BVA, in terms of its humaneness.
A more progressive approach to controlling TB in cattle using cattle-based measures is badly needed, as is greater protection of our wildlife from cruel and unnecessary government-backed persecution.
Info from www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mark-jones/badger-cull_b_7503494.html
Follow Mark Jones on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fishvetmj
The following letter from a well qualified group of vets was published in the May edition of Veterinary Practicice.
Ref: Evidence-based measures needed to control spread of bovine TB
The February and April editions of Veterinary Practice have featured articles by Roger Blowey and others relating to the control of bovine tuberculosis. In these articles the authors make or reference various claims relating to the efficacy of badger culling, which we would like to address.
The latter article emphasises the need for ‘evidence-based measures’ and describes the Bovine TB Forum discussions which took place at the VetSouth 2015 meeting earlier this year. It goes on to focus almost entirely on the role of badgers in the epidemiology of bovine TB, and claims that evidence provided by Blowey et al in the February article ‘has demonstrated the benefits of the 2013-14 badger cull in reducing the numbers of local cattle failing the tuberculin test’.
Data from DEFRA certainly suggests that TB rates in cattle have been falling, which is to be welcomed. However, attempts to attribute these declines to the recent pilot badger culls do not reflect an ‘evidence-based’ approach.
The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) remains the only source of credible scientific data on the impact of culling badgers on TB in cattle in the United Kingdom (ISG 2007). Data generated from the RBCT suggests it is extremely unlikely any substantial reductions in TB in cattle would have resulted from the pilot culls following two years of culling. Even had the pilot culls been carried out according to the proactive culling protocols employed during the RBCT (which they were not), the Meeting of Scientific Experts convened by Defra in April 2011 concluded that the average net benefit of culling over 9 years would likely be in the region of 12.4-16%, and would be relatively small (if any) in earlier years (DEFRA 2011).
However, substantial reductions in the incidence of TB in cattle are being achieved across large areas of the country in the absence of badger culls. Wales has reduced the numbers of cattle slaughtered per annum by nearly 50% since 2009 following the introduction of compulsory annual cattle testing and other measures across the principality. More recently, according to DEFRA’s figures, the numbers of cattle slaughtered in Gloucestershire, Hereford, Worcester and Dorset have reduced by approximately 40% over the last two years, reflecting an ongoing decline across the region in response to the introduction of stricter cattle testing and movement controls.
That strict controls over cattle testing and movement should result in substantial declines in cattle TB incidence should not come as any great surprise – the Area Eradication Strategy adopted in the late 1950s and 1960s achieved a greater than 90% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered nationally over a 10 year period using just such controls, a decade before the first TB-infected badger was identified.
The pilot culls have to date been conducted over limited areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset, reportedly representing approximately 4% and 7% of the land areas of those counties respectively. To claim the culls have had a substantial impact on TB in cattle, without providing any control data from outside the cull zones, is clearly highly misleading. Even DEFRA’s Chief Veterinary Officer, who has been supportive of the government’s badger culling policy, has been quoted as saying that it is too soon to attribute a fall in TB rates in either the cull zones or the Welsh badger vaccination area to anything other than tighter cattle control measures.
Rather worryingly, Mr Blowey also references discussions which took place at the VetSouth 2015 meeting on what veterinary surgeons should do when faced with evidence of farmers using illegal methods to control the numbers of badgers on their land, methods which allegedly include introducing food materials laced with paracetamol into badger setts. Apparently, some veterinary surgeons expressed discomfort with the idea of warning clients against using such illegal activities, because of the impact it might have on their relationship with the client. The welfare impacts of badger culling methodologies are rightly the subject of significant public concern, and should be at the forefront of veterinary considerations. For veterinary surgeons to contemplate ‘turning a blind eye’ to badger persecution by their clients, when those clients are suspected of using methods which are not only illegal, but would also clearly have a devastating impact on the welfare of affected animals, is extremely concerning, and risks undermining public confidence in the veterinary profession’s claimed primary concern for animal welfare.
Badgers and their setts are protected by law and Defra has stated unequivocally: ‘Any illegal activity should be reported to the police.’
We welcome the call for an evidence-based approach to the complex issue of TB control in cattle. However, the evidence clearly does not support the government’s current policy of badger control. The exponential rise in cattle TB during this century reflects the relaxation of cattle measures in previous years, particularly the replacement of annual testing by 3 to 4 year testing in the 1980s, and the abandonment of testing during restocking following the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001. Control of this disease can and is being achieved through tightened controls on cattle testing and movement, which will hopefully be augmented by the future availability of effective vaccines for both cattle and badgers.
If we aspire to a future where human activities can coexist with nature, is vital we move away from a default position of blaming and persecuting wildlife for problems we create, and instead look for more effective and sympathetic methods of meeting our societal needs.
Marc Abraham BVM&S MRCVS CEVA Special Recognition Award for Animal Welfare 2012. Brighton.
Caroline Allen MA VetMB CertSAM MRCVS. London.
Heather Bacon BSc (Hons) BVSc CertZooMed MRCVS. Edinburgh.
Fiona Dalzell BVSc BA (Hons) MRCVS. Christchurch, New Zealand.
Bronwen Eastwood BSc (hons) BVetMed CertGP (SAP) MRCVS. Hove.
Richard Edwards MSc, MA, VetMB, MRCVS. Fontwell.
Phill Elliott BVM&S MSc MRCVS. Essex.
Geoffrey Hale BVSc MA MSB CBiol MRCVS. Manchester.
Geraldine Hale BVM&S PhD CertPM MRCVS. Manchester.
Mark Jones BVSc MSc (Stir) MSc (UL) MRCVS. c/o Born Free Foundation, Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham RH12 4QP *
Andrew Knight BSc (Vet Biol) BVMS Cert AW DipECAWBM (AWSEL) PhD MRCVS FOCAE. Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, University of Winchester.
Jo Lewis BSc BVMS (hons) MRCVS. Berkshire.
Iain McGill BSc (hons) BVetMed MRCVS. Brighton.
Andre Menache BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS. Kent.
Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS CertZooMed DZooMed (Mammalian) CBiol MSB. Bristol.
Peter Southgate BVetMed MSc MRCVS. Suffolk.
DEFRA (2011) Bovine TB - Key conclusions from the meeting of scientific experts. Held at Defra on 4th April 2011. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110911090544/http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf
ISG (2007) Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence. A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle. An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis. Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20081107201922/http://defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/isg/pdf/final_report.pdf
Figures released by the Government show the number of cattle slaughtered in Dorset fell by more than 30% in a two-year period.
There was a 37.25% decrease from 1,192 slaughtered cattle in 2012 to 748 in 2014.
Dorset is rumoured to be next on the list to implement a badger cull, following on from pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Surely this is not necessary and a complete waste of money, not to mention the welfare of the badger population?
Badger Trust Statement re. Café Nero/Sainsbury’s
The Badger Trust is not involved in any campaigns aimed at boycotting food retailers, restaurants or cafe chains over their milk sourcing policy in connection with the badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
The Badger Trust is firmly opposed to any threats or intimidation by groups or individuals against these businesses, their premises or staff.
The Badger Trust sees no connection between the continued unnecessary killing of badgers and the government’s austerity programme, and will therefore not be involved in any capacity in the anti-austerity protest march taking place in the City of London on 20 June.
From a press release from the BT dated 1 June 2015.
New Zealand MP Richard Prosserasked a parliamentary question about TB in NZ possums. Details are below but apparently only 54 out of 124,213 possums PM’d were found to have TB!
It seems NZ and British Isles are similar after all – wildlife is irrelevant to bovine TB in both regions!
Order Paper and questions
Questions for written answer
Content provider

18 May 2015
Primary Industries
• Metadata
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 GuyDate Lodged:18/05/2015
Answer Text: 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 10,930 surveyed 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
Spokesperson for Primary Industries : Biosecurity : Outdoor Recreation : Serious Fraud Office
Spokesperson for State Owned Enterprises
The British Veterinary Association has withdrawn its support for "controlled shooting" of Britain's largest land carnivore, saying it is unethical when other human methods are available.
Using marksmen to shoot badgers while they are running free has come in for criticism during the two highly controversial culls of the animal in the West Country to tackle bovine TB.
Critics of the strategy say it is far less humane than trapping an animal and shooting it at close range as badgers make difficult targets for even the most skilled shooters, with only a small area on their muscular bodies suitable for a quick kill.
Since the Government first announced its cull plans two years ago, there has been widespread concerns expressed whether it is ethical, humane or based on sound scientific evidence.
But the Government has no appetite for changing its culling policy and ministers today pledged to continue the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
The decision to continue with "controlled shooting" as well as trapping and shooting concerns the BVA.
Its president John Blackwell said: "We are disappointed that the Government has taken the decision to continue using controlled shooting in the pilots given that the first two years of culling failed to demonstrate conclusively that controlled shooting could be carried out effectively or humanely based on the criteria that were set.
Info from: www.express.co.uk/news/nature/580731/badger-cull-marksmen
The British Veterinary Association said at a meeting on 27 May 2015 it could no longer support free shooting and instead called on the Government to switch to a policy of cage trapping badgers before they were shot, on the grounds that it would be more humane.
The Badger Trust has written to the leader of Britain’s vets urging him to withdraw support for the culls, which are due to resume in the Westcountry this autumn.
Dominick Dyer of the Badger Trustsaid: “From our legal action against Natural England we know the Government have largely funded the £15 million costs of the culls to date although they are doing all they can to continue to present the cull as a farmer led and funded policy
“A complete shift to cage trap and shooting would cost around £3,500 per square km to be funded by farmers. Compared to £200 per square km for free shooting it is not sustainable
"Farmers and the NFU cannot meet these huge increase in costs".
In a Badger Trust letter to the BVA chairman John Blackwell he says: “Until now the Government has been happy to take advantage of the BVA’s support for the badger cull to give the impression that their policy is humane and has the full support of the veterinary profession. However, it has been quick to dismiss your views now that they no longer concur with their political objectives.
“This is the kind of disdain and disrespect we have been experiencing all along from this government and now the BVA has joined us and the many eminent scientists whose work and expertise is simply being brushed aside regardless of the truth, animal welfare or even basic rationality in pursuit of reducing TB in cattle.
“The Badger Trust fully appreciates that the veterinary profession relies on the farming industry for much of its income and has to balance its advice against its own self-interest. However, it nevertheless has to maintain professional standards of scientific integrity when giving its advice and that its reputation and long-term survival also depend on this”.
He tells Mr Blackwell: “We feel your reputation has been challenged in a very off-hand way.”
He goes on: “We therefore urge the BVA to publicly withdraw its support for the badger cull policy on the basis that free shooting, which has been proven to be both cruel and ineffective and is now opposed by the BVA, will continue to be used in the pilot culls.”
Read more: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Badger-Trust-calls-vets-abandon-support-cull/story-26590387-detail/story.html#ixzz3bortimGK
The Badger Trust has reacted strongly to pro-culling comments made by HRH Prince Charles in his recently revealed correspondence with the government.
Peter Martin, the Trust’s newly appointed Chairman and a close neighbour of the Prince in Tetbury said, “These comments display a complete lack of understanding not only of basic badger ecology but also of the true causes of TB in cattle. His comments on overpopulation are completely wrong. Badgers have no natural predators and their population has always been controlled by their own territorial behaviour and by the availability of habitat and food. Their numbers are simply recovering after centuries of persecution by farmers and baiters, which threatened to wipe out the species prior to their legal protection in 1992.”
Responding to comments made by the Prince of Wales that the badger lobby is ‘intellectually dishonest’ the Badger Trust CEO Dominic Dyer said, “This is an extraordinary accusation. He is effectively condemning some of the finest scientific minds in the country, who have clearly stated that culling badgers can play no significant part in the control TB in cattle. This was confirmed by the failure of the two recent pilot culls which were condemned as inhumane and completely ineffective, failing even to reach their basic targets for badgers culled. Moreover, the Prince has insulted 90% of his future subjects who, in a recent ComRes poll, opposed any further culling of badgers.”
The Badger Trust is contacting Clarence House to seek an urgent meeting with the Prince of Wales to clarify its position on badger culling and to present him with the latest scientific studies and farm-level data that prove cattle testing, basic bio-security and movement control measures are the only effective way forward in controlling bovine TB. The Trust feels that if there has been any ‘intellectual dishonesty’ then it is to be found in the farming industry and government’s point-blank refusal to test culled badgers for TB.
“Whilst we accept these comments were made ten years ago,” continues Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin, “they nevertheless demonstrate a worrying level of misunderstanding on the Prince’s part. Rightly or wrongly he is considered to be very influential not only in farming circles but also as a public opinion former. We need to make sure he is fully apprised of the facts and that his future comments on the subject are based on these rather than persistent rural mythology surrounding the role of badgers in cattle TB.”
“Bovine TB is a form of industrial pollution,” concludes Peter Martin, “our wildlife is being infected with it at an alarming rate and it is incumbent on farmers to prevent that happening by adopting simple good husbandry practices. As a case in point, I was walking on a footpath on the Highgrove estate just this morning and noticed two basic examples of bad practice. Firstly there was a salt-lick placed on the ground [picture taken) where it will attract all sorts of mammals and create a disease hot-spot for TB if it is present in the cattle. Secondly, the cattle trough behind it was too low thereby allowing all kinds of wild mammals to drink from it, including badgers. Both of these are basic mistakes and we feel His Royal Highness should start to address this sort of thing before pointing the finger at wildlife or casting aspersions on the intellectual integrity of the scientific community or the population at large.”
Pictures: Taken were taken by Peter Martin 14th May 2015 showing land on Highgrove Estate with cattle salt-lick on the ground and low mounted cattle trough behind in contravention of basic bio-security guidelines. This location is approx. 100m from a badger sett.
In 1994 Prince Charles had 15 badgers slaughtered after an outbreak of bTB on his Highgrove Estate. All were found to be free of the disease
The Badger Trust is disappointed by the outcome of the Election which has resulted in the return of a Conservative Government remaining committed to the continuation of the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset together with the possible extension of badger culling to other counties of England. The Badger Trust will continue to oppose the badger cull policy on scientific, economic and animal welfare grounds.
We will challenge the badger cull policy in the Courts and in the media; we will lobby MP's of all parties and continue to campaign alongside you in the streets of our towns and cities. Badger Trust will support the wounded badger patrol movement, in order to help rid our countryside of this cruel, disastrous policy, which fails farmers, tax payers and our wildlife.
We will also continue to work with the Government, farmers and landowners to expand badger vaccination in order to build immunity against bovine TB in the badger population.
We would like to thank all our Groups and supporters for your tireless determination and efforts to stop the badger cull policy and we look forward to working closely with you as we continue the fight to end this new Government’s badger culling policy.
Best regards,
Dominic Dyer
CEO Badger Trust
Although farmers and vets are still absolutely certain that "Badgers are the main cause of the spread of TB", so more culls are essential post May 7th; this is a spectacularly wrong misunderstanding of how TB is actually transmitted and spread within the cattle population, and there are two reasons why the actual badger contribution to cattle TB is probably Zero !
There are far too few super-excretor badgers which might be a risk to other badgers or cattle "out there". The 2 recent Pilot culls came to 2494 badgers, so translating from the RBCT/Krebs cull data , perhaps c. 400 with TB, but only 1.65 % superinfectious ones ie. just 7 TB badgers from c. 300 sq.km. A cost of c. £15 million , including some £ 3 million disgracefully wasted on extra policing to protect shooters from protestors or vice versa. And if a typical herd breakdown costs c. £30,000, that is a mere £210,000 possibly saved if they actually improbably did cause herd TB, hardly a rational cost-effective policy.
DEFRA's textbook high density , high risk badger study area is at Woodchester Park, with some 350 badgers in 9 sq.km.
But there has not been even a single herd breakdown in the dozen herds there since 1975, which could unequivocally be "due to badgers". Not surprising given that there were only 17 superexcretor TB badgers over 14 years. And a mere 32 TB badger scats out of 4023 sampled over 5 years, hardly a major risk to cattle.
And despite the confusion over how cattle catch TB it most certainly cannot be from badgers. The Godfray 2013 latest review in the Proc. of the Royal Society, in identifying areas of uncertainty clearly states (para.15):-
"Little is known about how M.bovis is transmitted between badgers and cattle. Transmission may be indirect; for example, through contamination of pasture, feed, and drinking water. Alternatively, direct transmission via aerosol droplets at close contact may occur, possibly inside farm buildings as well as outdoors. No quantitative estimates of any of these transmission rates or their relative importance are currently available ". So after 44 years research, as the Krebs 1997 review noted "It is not known If, How, or to What extent badgers might transmit TB to cattle".
Cattle TB is in fact simply a respiratory broncho-pneumonia, like human "consumption" ( lesions in the lungs or draining lymph nodes www.badgersandtb.com); caught by prolonged close contact in barns or milking parlours. A classic study in 1904 placed 13 calves in a barn with a 2 yard gap to older TB cattle, so purely aerosol spread happened, 5 calves were reactors after 6 months, the other 8 by 1 year. In the only proven case where badgers gave TB to calves in a very artificial yard experiment, 4 calves exposed for under a month did not apparently have TB .
The vast number ofnew herd breakdowns allegedly "Due to badgers" are in fact caused by, and first identified by early TB reactor cattle,which have not yet progressed to the visible lung lesion stage, so-called unconfirmed cases ; 245,000 out of 410,000 cattle removed since foot and mouth 2001, contrasts with just 6123 TB badgers out of 53,130 sampled 1972-2005.
sincerely, Martin Hancox, ex-government Badger TB Consultative Panel.
A joint vet letter on bovine TB and badger culling I put together, rebutting the claims of Roger Blowey and others, has been published by Vet Practice - see P14 of http://www.veterinary-practice.com/issues/2015/05/vp_05_2015.pdf
Dear Sir or Madam:
The science underlying the topic of badgers and bovine TB is highly complex.  This has led to information being deviously manipulated by those who want to cull badgers, whereupon they seize on scraps of data to misrepresent in support of culling while ignoring the overwhelming evidence against it.  As such it has descended into a propaganda exercise by the National Farmers Union to win support for culling and distract attention from the real problem.
The truth is that the persistence of TB in cattle is largely due to the continuing spread of the disease among the cattle themselves.  Scientists at Imperial College London estimate that less than 6% of cattle TB outbreaks are due directly to badgers.
Wales has reduced cattle TB incidence by almost a half in just five years by more rigorous testing of cattle.  While England lags behind, the Westminster Government continues with its badger culling policy, despite two successive years of failure on both efficacy and welfare grounds.  And the cost?  The two pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have cost the tax payer a staggering £15million in just two years.
This Government has consistently shown a wilful disregard for the science in its pursuit of badger culling.  The Government estimates that badger culling will, at best, lead to a 12 to 16% drop in cattle TB over 9 years, while many experts predict that due to significant changes in protocol it may actually make TB in cattle and badgers worse.  As a result, we have to ask why our politicians are pursuing such an ill-conceived strategy. Political analysts conclude that it is to appease farmers and influential landowners in order to win their votes and financial support.  If re-elected, the Tories will roll out more badger culls across the South West of England that will result in the needless slaughter of thousands more badgers.
Fortunately there are people who are not prepared to tolerate this contemptuous attitude towards our native wildlife for political ends.  I recently joined a number of other scientists and veterinarians in writing to David Cameron to express our deep concerns about the Government’s TB policy
The reply was disappointing and gave no indication of the changes that are so desperately needed.
MPs are there to engage with their constituents on nationally important issues – badger culling ranks as the fifth most common subject of complaint to MP’s in 2014.  I wrote to our Stroud MP, Mr Neil Carmichael, many weeks ago asking for his views on our correspondence with David Cameron.  Apart from the usual acknowledgement, he has yet to reply.  Indeed, he has failed to respond to all my written challenges and offers to discuss this subject since being elected.  Instead of pursuing an objective position based on the facts in his stance on bovine TB, Mr Carmichael simply follows the Conservative whip in Government debates and votes in favour of badger culling.
Dr Chris Cheeseman
Badger Ecologist and former government adviser
You can read the abridged version of Dr Cheeseman’s letter published by Stroud News and Journal here:
You can also read his guest article for Badgergate on why a badger cull won’t work here:
Rethink Btb says 'SAY NO TO TVR CULLING.' They have sent us the following.
We have been researching various aspects of the Test Vaccinate Remove (TVR ) concept which aims to cull diseased badgers and protect,via vaccination, uninfected ones.
In reviewing various scientific papers, communicating with Defra, APHA, DARDNI and others ( links will be posted later), we can see no scientific, practical, economic or moral reason for agreeing to the use of a TVR strategy to reduce BovineTb in cattle.
There is no convincing evidence that selective culling will have a significant effect on the level of cattle Btb. Indeed, there appears to be a risk that it could increase cattle breakdowns due to perturbation.
There is currently no fully evaluated trap side test available for use in a Badger TVR project.
Defra project SE3281 (which includes an informal evaluation of the Chembio DPP test being used by DARDNI in Northern Ireland) will not be looking at cost effectiveness or delivery models.
SE3281will not be complete until September and is unlikely to report this year. Its terms of reference suggest significant further work will be required before
any field trap side test could be evaluated.
DARDNI' s 5 year TVR research project which is field trialing the Chembio DPP test , comparing its results with Gamma IF and Post Mortem results, is not due to complete until 2019.
There is no evidence TVR culling will provide a cost benefit to cattle Btb reduction. Indeed DARDNI have budgeted £7.5million(excluding policing cost) for a 100 sq. km. area which indicates TVR is a very expensive concept to implement.
This test will not differentiate between immune, infected and infectious badgers. There is also uncertainty about the test’s ability to identify vaccinated badgers.
Remember TVR is still culling.
A warning : acceptance of TVR culling will be used by pro cullers to justify badger killing both licensed and illegal.
The badger will become a legitimate target.
The Protection of Badgers Act will be seriously undermined.
Some may argue that TVR culling is better than mass culling.
Our case is that culling badgers to help manage Btb in cattle is the wrong approach.
'Doing the wrong thing better is still 'doing the wrong thing'
Please do the right thing and reject any proposal to accept TVR culling
10 Reasons to Say NO toTVR
1. No evidence TVR will reduce TB in cattle. A trial similar to RBCT would be necessary to establish whether a TVR strategy could have any positive outcome on TB incidence in cattle. Ref.7
2. Modelling and other evidence suggests that TVR could make Btb in cattle worse. Ref.5, 9,
3. Chembio DPP test ( being used by DARDNI in their TVR research project and being informally evaluated by APHA) has not been subjected to a formal evaluation on badgers. Ref.2
4. The DPP test does not distinguish between immune, infected or infectious badgers.
5. Supporting TVR is an acceptance that badger culling can make a meaningful reduction in Btb in cattle.
Cattle vaccination, controls and bio security should be main focus of efforts to reduce Btb in cattle. Ref. 8
6. TVR is culling by another method so keeps culling on the agenda.
7. Why support TVR before knowing:
What the new Government’s policy will be,
Defra Research Project SE3281 is published or
DARDNI .TVR research project is completed.
Ref.3, 6.
8.The long term implication of TVR is that badger persecution could become more widespread as The Badger increasingly becomes a target.
9. If TVR is firmly established and has become the norm the Badger Protection Act would be seriously undermined.
10. DARDNI has budgeted £1-£1.5million per year for 5 years to cover 100sq. km. zone (excluding policing costs). Should TVR be extended to 10 areas each averaging 100sq. km. the expected cost could be as much as £75million, extending to 40 areas at a cost of £300million. This money could be far more effectively invested in the reduction of BTB in cattle by speeding up the introduction of cattle vaccination and other cattle control measures.Ref.6
Badger Test Vaccinate or Remove (TVR)
1. E-mail exchange between Rethinkbtb and Test kit manufacturers CHEMBIO, in Nov. /Dec. 2014. advised that APHA were evaluating DPP on badgers. In fact APHA are only comparing results with the now obsolete BROCK STAT PAK.
2. Freedom of Information request from Rethinkbtb to DEFRA.
RFI 7114. Jan. 2015. Stated DPP evaluation is informal, to compare DDP test with discontinued STAT PAK test to enable proper interpretation of diagnostic test results for future research. This indicates that DEFRA are not evaluating DDP for immediate use in the field.
3. DEFRA SE3281 'Novel field based approaches to the diagnosis of Btb in badgers'. Scheduled finish 1.9.15 when a final report will be prepared. http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=18064&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=S...
4. DARDNI response to questions from Rethinkbtb relating to BROCK STAT PAK and DPP replacement test. https://www.facebook.com/pages/rethinkbtborg/194661603925667?ref=hl
5. A simulation model to support a study of TVR in Northern Ireland by AHVLA 22.05.13
6. DARDNI Press release on Test and Vaccinate or Remove (TVR) wildlife intervention research
. http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-diseases/bovine-tuberculosis/tb-research-and-development/test-an...
7. Email to Rethinkbtb from Dr Chris Cheeseman 18.12.14 This summarises the issues why TVR will not be effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle. Particularly important it states that it would be necessary to carry out a trial similar to RBCT to establish whether TVR strategy could have any positive outcome on TB incidence in cattle.
8. Article arguing against TVR with useful supporting links
9. Badger responses to small scale culling may compromise targeted control of bovine TB. Rosie Woodroffe et al. 24.6.14 Highlights risk of perturbation.
10. Validation of ante mortem TB tests in camelids. Martin Vordermeier et al 28.5.12 Demonstrates poor performance of DPP in camelids. No similar research studies found for badgers
One of the side effects of badger culling, which many pro cullers are not aware of or choose to ignore is the increased persecution of badgers and the extreme cruelty some enjoy inflicting on this creature. There is an depth interview on badger persecution which went out on BBC Look North recently which includes reports at:
Northern Ireland (NI) Badger Group Defends Badgers Against Bovine TB Claims. http://www.downnews.co.uk/ni-badger-group-defends-badgers-against-bovine-tb-claims/
Badger vaccination roll out after success of West Cornwall trial
A project to vaccinate badgers against TB will be rolled out across west Cornwall after the success of a trial.
Andrew George MP, who who instigated the first community led badger vaccination programme in the UK, heralded the first pilot year of the badger vaccination programme, in partnership with the Zoological Society of London, a "great success".
Mr George and Zoological Society of London's Professor Rosie Woodroffe – acknowledged national badger ecologist – developed the project in response to concerns about the Government’s programme to eradicate bovine TB in cattle.
Both were concerned that the Government’s pilot badger cull ran the very high risk of making the problem of bovine TB significantly worse and, in any case, could not be rolled out in West Cornwall because previous experiments showed that landowner cooperation and disruption would render a cull unworkable.
The report states that cooperation amongst farmers and landowners was high and successful trapping and vaccinating badgers was undertaken efficiently with negligible animal welfare consequences. It is planned to significantly roll the project out across the Penwith area next year with an aim to cover the whole of Penwith over the next four years.
Info from: www.falmouthpacket.co.uk/news/11878820.Badger_vaccination_roll_out_after_success_of_West_Cornwall_trial/

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