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?
18 Jan 2015, 6:45 PM
Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was economical with the truth and downright misleading when she spoke in Oxford recently about bovine TB and badger culling.
One sentence in the statement is clearly alarmist and particularly misleading: "...the disease increased ninefold between 1997 and 2010".
Firstly, there are warnings in Defra's own documents to be conscious of the acute rise in bTB incidence during the Foot & Mouth outbreak during 2001/2002 as inclusion of figures from these years will skew any conclusions, so using a time period spanning 1997 to 2010 is either negligent or duplicitous.
Secondly, any reference to the rise or fall of bTB incidence must be made relative to the number of herds/cattle tested as these have increased dramatically over the years meaning there will be a rise in cattle detected but not in cattle infected, as confirmed in the latest AHVLA 'Bovine TB Annual Surveillance Report 2013' which states:
"Since the beginning of 2003, the RELATIVE RATE of increase of OTF-W [confirmed] breakdowns has fallen by more than a half" - see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/388679/tb-pub-surveport-eng13.pdf, page 24
(email from P 15 Jan 2015)
18 Jan 2015, 6:11 PM
Improved Testing of Infected Cattle Can Beat bTB – Without Culling Badgers, says the Badger Trust in its latest press release, following the recent research results produced by Queen Mary University of London.
Badger culling will potentially reduce the number of bTB infected cattle by just 12 out of 15,000, according to new research. But reducing the interval at which the cattle are tested for bTB by just one month could reduce the number of sick cattle by 193.
The research, released by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) on 14th January 2015, states that ‘regular and frequent testing of cattle could eventually lead to the eradication of the disease, whether or not badgers were culled’. Keeping cattle housed in large sheds over winter could also double the number of infected cattle in a herd, the research says.
Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said:
“This research is large-scale, objective, and takes into full account the possibility of badgers being responsible for bTB infections in cattle – yet still it concludes that the answer to beating this disease is to focus on the cattle. This is the message we at the Badger Trust, Care for the Wild and many others, have been hammering home over the last couple of years, so maybe now the government will feel the need to actually listen.
"The role badgers play in spreading this disease has been massively exaggerated, and the impact of culling them has been completely misunderstood. The fact that keeping large numbers of cows in winter sheds can lead to a doubling in the number of infected animals shows again the simple truth that bTB is caused by cattle spreading it to other cattle. The impact of more frequent testing simply highlights the issue that many infected cows are currently being missed, and are thus spreading the disease without anyone realising. Find the infection, you’ll beat the disease.
"Defra will no doubt dismiss this as irrelevant, because it doesn’t fit with their political strategy. The NFU are trying to claim that the cull has already reduced rates of TB in the area, but there’s no way they can be claiming that. Bovine TB rates are dropping across the whole of the south west – of which the cull zones are an utterly tiny part – and the reason for it can only be the increased testing and better cattle control measures brought in, reluctantly, by the government two years ago."
New figures seen yesterday from the Welsh badger vaccination programme also highlights just how exaggerated the impact of badgers has been.
• In 2014, 1316 badgers were vaccinated and all were returned to the wild in good health. None needed veterinary treatment in view of poor condition, none were found to have visible signs of TB
• After three years of the five year vaccination project, over 3,500 badgers have been vaccinated. None have been found to have visible signs of TB, no badgers have been removed and euthanased as a result, all have been returned to the wild
• Between June 2013 and April 2014 the Welsh Government undertook a road kill survey of badgers in the Intensive Action Area (ie high risk TB area where vaccination is taking place). 30 badgers were collected and tested for TB, only 2 were found to have TB (early stage, no visible TB lesions) which is 7% of the total number of badgers tested
Dominic Dyer added:
“A poll in the Gloucester Post showed this week that two out of three people are against the badger cull being rolled out across the rest of the country. But this figure would be much higher if people weren’t being given the impression that huge numbers of badgers are infected, and weren’t told that culling them is vital to beating the disease. Huge numbers of badgers are not sick, and as we’ve been saying, and as this new research tells us, culling them is not vital, and in fact is not even useful. Wales has improved testing and cut the number of animals slaughtered for bTB by 50% – the answer is staring us in the face.”
14 Jan 2015, 3:57 PM
Press release from Queen Mary University of London on TB cattle testing and badger culling concluding:
“Our modelling provides compelling evidence, for those charged with controlling Bovine TB, that investment in increasing the frequency of cattle testing is a far more effective strategy than badger culling.”
Modelling produced by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has found that the only effective potential Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) control strategies are badger culling, cattle testing, controlling cattle movement, and ceasing the practice of housing farm cattle together during winter. The modelling found that in a region containing about 1.5m cows of which 3000 to 15,000 might have TB, badger culling could account for a reduction of 12 in the number of infected cattle. While reducing the testing interval by one month could reduce the number of those infected by 193.
The model showed that regular and frequent testing of cattle could eventually lead to the eradication of the disease, whether or not badgers were culled, and despite the current test being at most 80% accurate. Badger culling alone, however did not lead to TB eradication in the study and is therefore unlikely to be a successful control strategy.
The model also suggested that housing cattle in large sheds over winter could potentially double the number of infected animals in a herd, as under such conditions there is a much greater chance of TB being passed between cows.
This is the first large-scale model of TB in cattle and badgers that included the possibility of the infection being passed in both directions between the two species. The model successfully mimicked the changing patterns of TB in the UK, including the changes seen after TB controls were reduced during the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2002.
Researchers Dr Aristides Moustakas and Professor Matthew Evans, of QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, used state-of-the-art computer modelling to understand how the interaction of different factors impacted on infection rates. Such factors included the movement and life-cycles of badgers and cattle; how cattle are moved and housed; how frequently cattle are tested, different types of badger culling; and the infection rates between animals.
The research is published online in Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment.
Professor Matthew Evans, Professor of Ecology at QMUL, said:
“Of the available Bovine Tuberculosis control strategies we believe that how frequently cattle are tested and whether or not farms utilise winter housing have the most significant effect on the number of infected cattle.”
“TB is a complex disease and modelling it is difficult but we’ve successfully used our model to replicate real world situations and are confident that it can be used to predict the effects of various changes in the way we tackle the disease.”
“Our modelling provides compelling evidence, for those charged with controlling Bovine TB, that investment in increasing the frequency of cattle testing is a far more effective strategy than badger culling.”
8 Jan 2015, 6:01 PM
Why isn't more being done to ascertain why some farms do not appear to get any bovine TB? Perhaps this is what Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should be concentrating on, rather than insisting on rolling out further badger culling across the rest of England? Here is a story of a farmer, with an active badger sett, in Somerset where we are told bovine TB is rife in the area and has led to intense badger culling. Let's hope this farmer's situation does not change as a result of any perturbation effect.
A Somerset farmer is celebrating 60 years clear of bovine TB, after all of his cattle passed their most recent test for the disease last month.
Chris and Margaret Burnett, who farm near Martock, keep a total of 51 cattle, made up of 12 Highlands, Longhorns and Charolais.
Chris, 74, who was born on the family-owned farm, has managed to keep the herd’s TB-free status intact for six decades, following the results of their most recent test on December 15, in which all the cattle tested negative for the disease, which continues to cause misery for hundreds of livestock farmers across the South West and further afield.
“I’ve never had a failure here and I have had cattle right from when I left school,” he said.
Chris went on to say that he has a number of badgers on his farm, which are very often in the same field as the cattle. He added that he didn’t know if neighbouring farms were having the same run of luck as him.
“We’ve got badgers here and I have seen them in with the cattle. I have got a badger sett about 60 metres away from my house,” he said.
“The only fault I have with the badgers is that they keep digging up my tulip bulbs.”
Chris admits that despite his long running clear status, he does still get nervous when the cattle are due to be tested. “You could have quite a few go down, you just don’t know, but up until now I haven’t had any.”
He went on to explain that conservation plays a huge role on the farm, part of which is open to the public and includes a landscaped garden, lake and mock Tudor tower.
“It is all down to conservation here,” said Chris. “I don’t use any concentrates and it’s all about feeding them good hay.” He added that he works to maintain the hedges which surround his farm in order to provide shelter for the cattle.
Somerset Against the Cull has revealed today that following an independent post-mortem badger 41 tested TB free. Yet again a badger post mortemed by independent experts tests negative for TB whereas the government have tested but a few. Why?
With the police investigation into this female badger's death ongoing they will have more results from the post-mortem as they become available. There is an ongoing police investigation into the shooting as the cull company apparently deny it was part of their operation that night.
Wildlife protection groups in Gloucestershire have reacted strongly to suggestions they were in any way responsible for the low numbers of badgers killed in the county’s recent badger cull.
Peter Martin, formerly of Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) and now with the Badger Trust said, “This claim is ludicrous. Badgers are notoriously sensitive to any human disturbance and are therefore extremely difficult to cull in any circumstances. Clearly the badgers have become wary of traps and human activities from last year’s cull and this was reflected in the very low target number issued by Defra for this year’s cull. However, the contractors have failed even to achieve this.”
“The insinuation in a government Press release that this failure had anything to do with “extensive unlawful protest and intimidation” from protesters is not only insidious propaganda but has been roundly contradicted by the police (1). The shooting licence was altered this year so that gunmen had to retreat if any member of the public was in the area and this was adhered to by the cull company. The protests were entirely peaceful, and did not in any way contribute to the failure of the cull. Nevertheless, we will be asking the Environment Minister to locate the source of this statement and make sure it is never aired again.”
The Badger Trust remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of TB in cattle. Gloucestershire Badger Trust Group Chairman, Tony Dean said, “Blaming badgers for TB is a dangerous time-wasting exercise preventing farmers from getting to the real source of the problem in cattle. Not one of the culled badgers has been tested for the disease and the government and farming pressure groups have continually refused to do so. They are ignoring the scientific evidence and simply scapegoating badgers to disguise their own failure to control the disease.”
“Meanwhile, the Welsh government has reduced their TB rate in cattle by half in just five years by stringent testing, movement controls and a badger vaccination programme. This is clearly the way forward. The badger cull has cost taxpayers £5,300 per badger killed, which mounts up to millions. This money could have been much better spent testing and vaccinating.”
“This latest failed cull should be the end of it,” concludes Tony Dean. “We know from past experience (2) that botched badger culls like this one actually make the TB situation worse for cattle not better. It’s time for the government and farming lobby to move on.”
(1) Statement from Glos Police: “There was not extensive criminal protest in Gloucestershire, there were only three arrests from criminal offences during the entire period of the cull and most protect activity was conducted lawfully. The offence of trespass is a civil offence. All reports made to Gloucestershire Constabulary of intimidation and harassment have been fully investigated and there are no prosecutions pending.”
(2) Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT)
20 Dec 2014, 10:07 AM
Email received 19/12/14
Gloucestershire Cull fails again but government fails to tell the truth
What can we read to the timing? What a good time to release news to be buried quickly. The day after MPs went home from Parliament for Christmas the government has finally admitted that this year’s Gloucestershire Badger Cull was a failure for the second year running. The cull operators killed 274 badgers, just 25% of the maximum number of badgers they intended to kill in this year’s Gloucestershire cull and missed their minimum target by over 340 badgers.
Sadly yet again the government and the NFU are not telling the truth.
Whilst DEFRA confirmed that the Gloucestershire Cull wasn’t effective they are blaming the failure to“extensive unlawful protest and intimidation”. This is despite the Gloucestershire Police confirming yesterday that there were only three arrests during the cull and most protest activity was conducted lawfully.
The Chief Vet, Nigel Gibbens has stated that despite this year’s failure, the Gloucestershire cull should go ahead as long as “there are reasonable grounds for confidence that it can be carried out more effectively in 2015”. This is despite this year’s cull being no more effective or humane than last years. The shooters took almost twelve hours to shoot each badger they killed and had to set each trap more than 50 times for each badger they trapped and shot.
THE NFU have blamed the failure on both protestors and there being far fewer badgers than had been estimated originally. Earlier in the cull they blamed the slow start on the full moon! Despite all of this they are pressing for other areas in Gloucestershire to be included in a wider cull in 2015.
Make no mistake, the cull will go ahead again in 2015 if the Conservative government is re-elected.
A few days ago the usually well informed Guardian have suggested that the cull operators are planning to start the cull in June in 2015 with the intention of targeting badger cubs which will be much easier to trap and shoot. Experts suggest that this will solely be about increasing numbers when in fact most cubs are not infected with bTB. As usual it’s not about the science or what works.
Despite the dismal failures at many levels (ineffective, costly, unpopular ...) of the badger culls they will apparently be continuing from next summer and the target, we understand, will be badger cubs.
Badger cubs will be shot under plans to shift the controversial cull to early summer in 2015.
The badger culls have so far taken place in the autumn and have repeatedly missed their minimum kill targets. Cubs are easier to catch and shoot and are more numerous in early summer, making it more likely an earlier cull will hit its target.
But scientists have warned killing cubs rather than adults has less effect on cutting TB, while animal campaigners condemned the plan as “appallingly crude and desperate”.
The National Farmers Union (NFU), which speaks for the culling companies, said government licences permit culling to begin any time from June. The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the timing of the culls was a decision for the culling companies.
“An earlier cull would seem to be more about trying to achieve a target number of badgers killed, rather than controlling TB. It’s more like meeting the letter of the law, rather than the spirit,” said leading scientist and badger expert Professor Rosie Woodroffee. She believes the cull pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire, judged in April not to be effective or humane, should stop immediately.
Badger cubs are born underground in February and first emerge in April. While the cubs and their parents legally cannot be culled until the start of June, it is legal to shoot them under licence afterwards. The cullers intend to start in June or July 2015, according to Guardian sources.
Fewer cattle have been killed in the South West because of bovine TB according to official figures for the last two years.
Figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) show a 12% drop.
The Badger Trust says the figures show a mixture of badger vaccinations and controls on the movement of cattle are working.
The 12% fall in the numbers of cattle slaughtered covers 2012 and 2013. Up to the end of August 2014 it had fallen by 15.2%.
9 Dec 2014, 2:30 PM
The media has reported on leaked minutes from the BVA that were seen by the Press Association. The main item of interest is in BVA 5 Annex A which details minutes from the BVA's Ethics & Welfare group. They show very clearly that a significant section within the BVA is voicing concern that the BVA's public endorsement of the badger cull does not reflect the views of all BVA members, and in fact many believe the BVA should not be supporting the cull at all. This is crucial as DEFRA has made much of the BVA's support. The main points are:
- point 6 the group's disappointment that DEFRA will announce its 2015 cull plans at the same time as the data from the 2014 cull.
- Point 11 shows that at the July 2014 meeting there was strong feeling by the EWG that the BVA should not continue to support the badger cull for a second year unless there was independent analysis of the data, which of course there isn't. It states that the BVA's public position deviates from that of the majority of EWG members, and they are concerned that their opposition is not being publicly revealed, giving the impression of a consensus that simply isn't there. What is referred to as a previous "fragile consensus" is then dismissed as no longer there at all. Some clearly think the BVA should be open about the fact that not all at the BVA agree.
The Badger Trust has called for the badger cull report to be released now.
Full disclosure of DEFRA’s Independent Audit Report into the effectiveness and humaneness of the 2014 badger culls should be made immediately, otherwise the government risks losing both credibility and support, claim two charities.
Ahead of a meeting between the DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) on Thursday 11 December, the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild are calling for the immediate release of the report which will show how many badgers were killed in the Somerset and Gloucestershire culls, and the manner in which they died.
Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild said: “Two months on since the end of the second year of the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset, Liz Truss must now explain why we have seen no official data on the number of badgers killed, or the results of the much heralded Independent Audit Report which she reassured MPs would prove the Government remains committed to maintaining a level of independent scrutiny of the culling operation.
“The Independent Expert Panel found that the 2013 badger culls were ineffective and failed the humaneness test with up to 18% of badgers taking up to 5 minutes to suffer long painful deaths from gunshot wounds. Without any independent monitoring for the 2014 culls we have no confidence the situation has improved and have real fears it could have got much worse. We therefore call on the Secretary of State to provide full and immediate disclosure of the results of the Independent Audit Report. Should this not be forthcoming we call on the British Veterinary Association to withdraw its continued support for the badger cull policy.”
In the last few days, leaked papers (from the Council of the BVA) have shown that the fragile consensus within the veterinary industry in support of the highly controversial badger culling policy is breaking down. BVA President John Blackwell has also expressed surprise that the report had not been released so far, particularly as monitoring of the cull was meant to have taken place ‘in real time’. There are also concerns that the results of the 2014 cull will not be announced until the government announces its policy for a 2015 cull – thus not allowing the BVA or other interested parties time to assess the data.
Dominic Dyer added: “The BVA refused to support the Badger Trust's legal challenge against the Government in the High Court over the lack of independent monitoring of the 2014 badger culls, which was a real shame. Rather, they relied on reassurances from the Government that the culls would be subject to significant improvements and would also be subject to an independent audit. Their faith in the government is being sorely tested, and the fragile consensus among vets is clearly also close to breaking point. If the report into the 2014 culls isn’t released immediately, we’re calling on the BVA to withdraw its support for the culling process, because clearly something is amiss.”
9 Dec 2014, 9:45 AM
Sharing the location of TB infected farms The WAG is proposing change to the Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2010 to allow us to publish information on cattle herds infected with bovine TB
Start of consultation: 08/12/2014 End of consultation: 30/01/2015 We believe that by publishing the location of TB breakdown herds, awareness of the risk will improve and encourage farmers to take additional precautions to protect their herds from TB.
The Welsh Ministers will make a final decision on whether to change the Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2010 after fully considering the responses to the consultation.
How to respond
Please submit your comments by 30 January 2015, in any of the following ways:
Post TB Team Welsh Government Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NQ
This paper may be of interest. It deals with the effects of culling wolves in an attempt to reduce the number of farm animals they take. A similar result is achieved to culling badgers to stop them spreading BTB to farm animals - the problem increases rather than reducing.
Badger Vaccination Grant opens for applications (bit still no sign of a vaccination for cattle). A grant to support privately delivered badger vaccination projects in Wales has opened for applications for the second year, Rebecca Evans the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food has announced
The Badger Vaccination Grant provides farmers, landowners and others who wish to vaccinate badgers against TB with the opportunity to benefit from financial support covering up to half their costs.
Rebecca Evans said:
“The latest statistics continue to indicate a downward trend for bovine TB in Wales. This is thanks to the suite of measures we have introduced as part of our eradication programme and co-operation between the Welsh Government and the industry.
“The good work being done to vaccinate badgers in the Intensive Action Area has been well documented and this grant allows groups or individuals to vaccinate badgers in other parts of Wales.
“As a result of last years badger vaccination grant, there are currently seven privately run vaccination projects benefiting from funding and I hope to see more approved following this application window.”
The application window will run until March 2015. Successful applicants can receive up to 50% of the eligible costs of badger vaccination, with a total of £1.25m available over the next five years.
There was concern that at the NFU conference on Bovine TB last week a discredited and potentially illegal photo was used n the presentation by Professor Mark Chambers, School of Veterinary Medicine. A complaint was made to him.
The infamous photo (used widely over the years by the pro cull lobby, showed a badger in close proximity to a cow in a field in broad daylight. However, it was discovered that this was actually a staged photo taken nearly 30 years ago at Secret World, Somerset. The photo shows an abnormal situation as the badger/s were tame badgers either orphaned or victims (RTA or sett interference) which were being 'walked' - it is highly unlikely that any of them could have been returned to normal existence in their natural wild habitat.
The pro cullerswere very keen to use this photo to support the misconception that such badger/cattle interaction and behaviour is normal and happens during the day. This photo representation is not only abnormal but also highly misleading in suggestion.
Following a complaint to The Press Complaints Commission some time ago about the photo being used in Farmers Weekly they ruled this year that it contravened press standards and was "deliberately misleading to the public". The newspaper in question (Farmers Weekly) had to remove the photo, stop using the photo and make a statement on the matter. The photographer himself is a Patron of Secret World and had no idea that his photos (because they are part of a series of staged photos) were being used in this way. Also the Agency that housed the photos have removed them from their website.
Professor Chambers responded by saying: 'Thank you for your email. I was completely unaware of the history of this photo, as I’m sure many colleagues in the field are. I’ve worked in the field for 18 years and this is the first I’ve heard of it. I would be most grateful if you could forward to me the ruling of the Press Complaints Commission in this regard so I may communicate the facts regarding this photo to others working in my field.
Defra Admits Only 6% of New TB Outbreaks Caused By Badgers, While TB Rates Continue to Drop Outside Cull Zones
Continuing reductions in the rate of bovine TB (bTB) in the south west of England – outside the badger cull zones – have been revealed, alongside a bombshell from Defra’s Chief Scientist who admitted this week that research says only 6% of new bTB outbreaks come directly from badgers.
At a TB conference hosted by the National Farmers’ Union on Monday, Professor Ian Boyd told farmers in no uncertain terms that it is cattle, not badgers, which are the key cause of the spread of bovine TB. To a hostile audience, he quoted from Imperial College research that says only 5.7% of TB infections in cattle were as a result of direct infection from badgers.
He also stated that bovine TB will never be completely eradicated and that more regular testing, improved TB tests and tighter movement controls were key to reducing the spread of the disease.
Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said "We welcome the DEFRA Chief Scientist’s statements at the NFU TB conference. Despite the howls of protest from some in the audience, it was absolutely critical that he laid the finger of blame for a majority of TB transmissions at cattle and not badgers.
“It's a great shame it has taken Ian Boyd four and a half years to accept the inconvenient truth. For too long he was willing to put politics above science and play the badger blame game. This has resulted in tens of millions of pounds of public money being wasted on a disastrous badger cull which has failed on scientific and humaneness grounds. Hopefully this means that at last the Government is moving its focus to the livestock industry where the long term solution to bovine TB reduction lies, rather than the pointless destruction of our precious wildlife.”
New bTB figures are also showing evidence that a focus on cattle, not badgers, is the way to beat the disease. Most of the West region of England was moved to annual and pre-movement testing in 2010/11. This is a policy which tends to lead to an initial spike in the number of animals slaughtered for TB, as more are found to be carrying the disease due to increased testing, followed by a drop in the figures as the benefit of removing the sick animals kicks in.
• A drop of 12% in the number of bTB cattle slaughtered in the West Region from 2012 to 2013 (prior to the badger culls taking place) • A drop of 14% in the same area between Jan and August 2014
The West Region covers the whole of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Avon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Hereford & Worcs, Warwickshire, West Midlands and the Isles of Scilly.
Meanwhile in Wales, where the focus has been on cattle measures, not badger culling, for five years, bTB rates continue to fall:
• The number of new herd incidents (39) reported this month is the lowest ever recorded in any month since 2008. • The number of cattle slaughtered (264) this month is the lowest ever recorded in any month since 2008.
Dominic Dyer added: “These reductions clearly show that an increased testing intensity is working in removing infected animals and reducing the rate of onward transmission and new infections. While everyone has been focusing on badger culling, they've missed the fact that over the last 20 months there has been a steady decline of the disease in the West Region.
“The UK government seemed reluctant to bring in more frequent and better testing in England, but it’s clearly paying off. While we need to be careful of making short-term judgments based on statistics, the drop in bTB rates in the West is becoming clear, as it’s been happening for 20 months, not just this year as is being claimed. The focus on cattle, as is also being shown dramatically in Wales, is paying off, and that’s where we must continue to concentrate our effort.
“Any claim that the badger cull is having an impact on these figures cannot be taken seriously, as the cull zones are a tiny part of the whole area. The NFU has dismissed claims that the vaccination of badgers in Wales has had an impact on the reduction of TB rates there, because the area is too small, and it’s too soon for it to have had an effect. Exactly the same goes for the cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire – any impact on bTB will not be shown in these figures – this is a success of cattle-based measures, pure and simple.”
After Ian Boyd’s statement on Monday, the NFU have called for the management of bTB to be taken out of the political arena, with an independent body in charge of the policy. Dominic Dyer said:
“We agree that the UK’s bTB policy should be non-political, but it’s ironic that the NFU are calling for this now that the government seem to be disagreeing with them. We've said all along that beating bTB must be based on science, not on politics. But bTB policy impacts on a lot of people, not just farmers – a case in point is the £10 million price tag to the tax payer for the 2013 cull. So anyone making the decisions should be accountable to the British public.”
1. Decline in bTB the West Region - over last 20 months: the main points are:
• There was a decline in the total number of bTB cattle slaughtered in the West Region of England between 2012 and 2013 of 12%; from 20,701 in 2012 down to 18,306 in 2013
• This decline is continuing in 2014, with the total number of cattle slaughtered in the West Region of England from January to August 2014 being 14.38% lower than the same period in 2013. The figures published to date (12 November) show a reduction in the West Region from 12,554 cattle slaughtered in Jan - Aug 2013, down to 10,749 in Jan - Aug 2014.
Dominic Dyer, CEO of Badger Trust and Policy Advisor Care for the Wild, said: “If every badger killed last year cost the taxpayer £3000, that would be a horrendous waste of money on a policy that leading scientists say won’t work. But the reality is that every badger killed actually cost £5,200 – and that is simply beyond belief.
“The government claim they have to do something as bovine TB costs the country a lot of money, and they say that ‘doing nothing is not an option’. But just over the border in Wales, they have looked at the problem, thoroughly tested their cattle so they really understand how many actually have the illness, and brought in more frequent testing and better movement controls. By doing that, they have brought down the number of cattle slaughtered for bTB by 48% in five years. Wales has a policy that is far from doing nothing, and is actually working. England has a policy that is inhumane, unscientific and is throwing money down the drain.”
The cost of policing was included in Defra’s cost/benefit analysis prior to the 2013 cull, so should clearly be included in the cost of the cull. Defra had to pay for the policing costs, charged to them from the Home Office, so the true cost of the cull is much higher than has been reported.
10 Nov 2014, 12:28 PM
Read the letter to the Prime Minister on bTB and the Badger Cull from a group of 26 eminent scientists and vets. They are urging the government to abandon badger culling and instead focus on cattle-based measures to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle....
So killing all the badgers in Ireland hasn't worked and now they are starting on the deer? www.independent.ie/regionals/wicklowpeople/news/calls-for-deer-cull-in-wicklow-as-cases-of-bovine-tb-increase-30698191. html
4 Nov 2014, 5:47 PM
Transparency and Evidence-Based Policy: An Open Letter to Defra from Journal of Animal Ecology - services have been offered free of charge
'As a scientific journal, we are in the business of independently assessing the rigour of work conducted by the research community, including the methods it uses to collect, analyse and interpret appropriate data. We are therefore well placed to judge the merits of relevant scientific endeavour and to provide constructive feedback. On October 30th 2014, the UK’s Shadow Farming Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, called for an independent review of the methods being used to assess the outcomes of the ongoing pilot badger culls in England 1. Such a review requires a detailed understanding of the behaviour, dynamics and management of wild animal populations – disciplines that are at the heart of the field of animal ecology. As the UK’s leading animal ecology journal, we hereby offer our services to the Secretary of State to provide an independent assessment of the methods and data collected as part of this year’s badger cull'.
An offer from the Journal of Animal Ecology
In response to recent calls for an independent review of the methods being used to assess the outcomes of the 2014 pilot badger culls, and in the absence of an IEP, we offer Defra the services of Journal of Animal Ecology editors and reviewers to critically appraise the methods used and their power to determine the success of this year’s cull. Should Defra accept our offer, we would provide a transparent and independent review of the available evidence using our extensive international network of reviewers, comprising scientists with acknowledged expertise in wildlife population monitoring and management, as well as expert statisticians and modellers. The Senior Editors of the Journal would personally handle the reviewing process and draw on their team of highly-skilled Associate Editors and external reviewers. To ensure complete independence and transparency, we would avoid calling on scientists that have previously played a part in the contentious badger culling debate, including Tim Coulson, and all reviewers will be identified. In addition, and in line with Journal policy, all relevant data will be archived in a Data repository, such as Dryad or Figshare, where it will be made securely available to the wider stakeholder community. We look forward to hearing from you.