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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?

The NFU (National Farmers' Union) has applied for an injunction against people opposed to the badger cull. The application, which runs to more than 400 pages, is due to be heard by the High Court TODAY.
If granted, it would make it illegal for protesters to enter land belonging to farmers who are taking part in the cull. However, it is of concern that the application, as currently worded, could prevent peaceful protest which is surely a freedom that is an important right in a democratic society?
In view of the recent uncertainties regarding the badger cull proceeding in Gloucestershire David Drew, Labour's parliamentary candidate and a previous Glos MP has said "The government's project to cull badgers in Gloucestershire has been a fiasco from the start. We need to know exactly what the government plans are for the proposed cull. New figures released by DEFRA show that they expect around 120 shootings will be independently observed out of around 5000. This is a pitifully small number to ensure humane culling methods.This comes on top of the financial cost of policing these culls not to mention the animal welfare issues.
Two pilot culls intended to 'supposedly' test the safety, efficacy and humaneness of culling badger posedly s could begin very soon for a period of six weeks in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire.
Somerset badger group can vaccinate for just £25 per badger so why does it cost a massive £600 in Wales?!
Badgers could be given contraceptives as part of fertility control measures designed to limit numbers and tackle bovine TB. The plans are included in the government's draft strategy for tackling bovine TB. The plan aim to make the UK TB-free in 25 years - they haven't achieved it yet even after many decades of control, research funding ....
Scientists are examining the potential for administering injectable contraceptives in both captive and free-living badgers. However, because capturing and injecting badgers is expensive, developing an oral badger contraceptive is viewed as a key part of the research.
A DEFRA spokeswoman said: "We are testing the science and the application of both injectable and oral contraceptives in badgers.
"Contraceptive products are already used to control other wildlife species in other countries.
The Welsh government is to expand its badger vaccination programme to areas outside of the existing intensive action area (IAA) re bTB. Farmers and landowners who are prepared to pay 50% of the costs themselves are to be offered grants to vaccinate badgers from May 2014.
The Welsh government has allocated £1.2m - £250,000 a year over the next five years - to help fund the scheme. Vaccinating a badger is estimated at a hefty £600 - unnecessary if farmers could vaccinate cattle!
In the meantime the current five-year vaccination project in the IAA will continue to be delivered by the Welsh government. Last year's badger vaccination programme cost £945,000.
Stars Sign Up to Save England’s Badgers
007, M, an Avenger, Prince Vultan, Judge John Deed, a Prime Minister and a lion-hearted lady unite to Battle for Badgers
Sir Roger Moore, Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley, Brian Blessed, Martin Shaw, Anthony Head and Virginia McKenna OBE are among over one hundred celebrities, scientists, naturalists, veterinarians and leading animal welfare and conservation groups to have signed a statement calling on the Government to stop the badger cull. In a plea for compassion, the signatories ask the Government for its policy of killing to be abandoned and replaced with more scientifically credible, humane and effective solutions to tackling bovine TB (bTB).
The joint statement reads:
“We the undersigned ask the government to stop the badger cull and to implement instead the more sustainable and humane solution of vaccination, improved testing and better bio-security.”
Two pilot culls intended to test the safety, efficacy and humaneness of killing badgers by free shooting or cage trapping and shooting are planned to begin any day now for a period of six weeks in undisclosed areas of West Somerset and West Gloucestershire. If deemed successful, these plans could then be rolled out further, throughout the West Country to Derbyshire and the Midlands, in the mistaken belief that killing badgers will have a significant impact on the spread of bTB. Up to ten licences will be issued each year for four years, possibly resulting in the killing of as many as 130,000 badgers according to Natural England.
The signatories stand in solidarity with 263,000 members of the British public who have so far signed the Stop the Cull petition launched by astrophysicist and rock guitarist Dr Brian May. It is the most successful ever H.M. Government e-petition. Brian May founded Team Badger whose member groups including Save Me, Care For The Wild International, the League Against Cruel Sports, IFAW, Humane Society International/UK, Blue Badger and the RSPCA, have been joined by a host of other organisations adding their support to the joint statement, such as the RSPB, Woodland Trust, People's Trust for Endangered Species, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Their joint outreach is to approximately four million members of the public, who subscribe to these organisations in order to protect wildlife and conserve the countryside for future generations. (A full list of signatories is below).
Brian May – Save Me, said:
"On behalf of supporters of the Save-Me campaign and 263,000 signatories of the anti-badger cull petition on the Government's website, we would like to remind the Government that there is massive public opposition to this ill-fated cull, which, it is becoming ever more clear, will not be of any advantage to cattle or farmers. The Government is acting, for political motives, on a course which cannot succeed in eradicating Bovine TB. We urge David Cameron to take positive action to accelerate progress towards vaccination of wildlife and, most importantly, vaccination of the source of bTB in this country, cattle, along with full review of the skin test method of removing supposed reactive animals from herds, and an overhaul of biosecurity and movement control measures."
Simon King said:
“Ten years of study, the leading scientific brains, all said the cull of badgers will do nothing to improve the condition of cows and more importantly the status of bovine tuberculosis in the British Isles. This cull is a travesty –do not let it happen.
“We all want to see an end to Bovine Tuberculosis in the British Isles. Killing badgers is not the way forward. All the science clearly points to the cull being a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of life. Ban the cull.”
The organisations within Team Badger and the Badger Trust which has issued this news release on behalf of all signatories, care equally about badgers and cattle and do not believe a cull is the answer to bovine TB. Science shows that a badger cull will be of little help in reducing this disease in cattle and yet at least 70 per cent of the badger population – the majority of which is likely to be healthy - will be wiped out in the pilot areas, a virtual elimination of this iconic British species. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Full list of signatories: /www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/899_S4.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,1ROO5,906LDO,6B2H9,1
PM WANTS TO KILL BADGERS TO SAVE THEM! The Badger Trust is not happy with this and in its latest press release makes some interesting points - see below.
The Prime Minister and his friends in the cattle industry are busy trying to brainwash the public about killing badgers. ‘Pilot’ culls are due to begin before the end of the year and there is an increasing barrage of propaganda to soften up public opinion with outrageous and unsubstantiated claims about bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and its impact.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “Mr Cameron told BBC’s Radio 4 [1] that there could be '...appalling consequences for badgers' if the culls did not go ahead. The Trust says it beggars belief that he is forgetting the horrific reality of the slaughter he is backing. More than 100,000 badgers, the vast majority disease free, will be slaughtered or maimed. Nothing could be more appalling than that”.
The PM also said the Government could spend "another billion pounds" dealing with the consequences of bovine TB if culls were not carried out, but killing the animals would have only a marginal effect in the long run [2]. But with an eventual benefit of only 12-16 per cent at best the compensation bill will be barely affected. New restrictions introduced this year at the insistence of the European Commission are likely to have a real and lasting effect. They are similar to the successful Area Eradication Scheme of the immediate post war years which did not include any assaults on wildlife [3].
Mr Williams added: “Mr Cameron boasts that the Coalition had the political courage to help the countryside, whereas culling will help no one other than those who wish to kill any wildlife at will anywhere.
“Successive governments should have called the cattle industry to heel 20 years ago when it was resisting pre-movement restrictions, cattle movement monitoring and more frequent testing. In the meantime the number of cattle slaughtered was rising from about 1,000 a year on average to almost 38,000 last year. This tragic outcome followed 20 years of stability with various local badger culling schemes making no difference, and even now the new but long overdue cattle-based policies are not being given time to have an impact before the killing".
The pre-cull smokescreen has recently included, in the Daily Telegraph:
• June 2: a farmer in Gloucestershire tearful about losing cattle for which he is compensated, a member of the industry that kills prematurely ten times as many cattle for diseases other than bTB;
• June 2: the British Veterinary Association saying the only weapon Britain has against bTB is killing badgers, repeating the myth that no other country has controlled the disease without killing wildlife – forgetting the UK itself which did just that from 1950 to 1990;
• July 28: overblown tales of terror (one farmer) in Derbyshire, where the county council has decided not to allow culling on its land;
Those who see badger killing as a cheap shortcut or even as a salve to their discomfiture at being rebuffed in the past are, like the lady in Hamlet’s play, protesting too much.
1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b037vb39?dm_i=1NFN,1RF74,906LDO,6A2AN,1
2. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,1RF74,906LDO,6A2AO,1
3. [3] [1] W. D. Macrae, MAFF. Symp, Zool. Soc., Lond. No. 4, pp. 81-90 (Published April, 1961).
New report (published 24 June 2013) A restatement of the natural science evidence base relevant to the control of bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain available to read in full at: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1768/20131634.long
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a very important disease of cattle in Great Britain, where it has been increasing in incidence and geographical distribution. In addition to cattle, it infects other species of domestic and wild animals, in particular the European badger (Meles meles). Policy to control bTB is vigorously debated and contentious because of its implications for the livestock industry and because some policy options involve culling badgers, the most important wildlife reservoir. This paper describes a project to provide a succinct summary of the natural science evidence base relevant to the control of bTB, couched in terms that are as policy-neutral as possible. Each evidence statement is placed into one of four categories describing the nature of the underlying information. The evidence summary forms the appendix to this paper and an annotated bibliography is provided in the electronic supplementary material.
Does anyone know if any badgers have been culled yet?

The British Veterinary Zoological Society is a division of the British Veterinary Association, BVZS views on bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle and badgers, especially with respect to the targeted cull of badgers, differ significantly from BVA policy. BVZS believes, for reasons based upon strong scientific data, that there is no evidence to support the culling of badgers as part of policy to control bTB in cattle. Other methods of controlling the disease, such as vaccination, must be used and are already available to us. BVZS therefore welcomes this opportunity to provide evidence to the Committee on the vaccination of badgers and cattle in relation to bTB.
This was part of the evidence submitted to the Parliament http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenvfru/writev/bovine/m17.htm
A new study has shown a lot more cats are carrying bTB than originally thought. As there are some 8 million cats (according to 2012 estimates), compared to around 300, 000 badgers and cats, including ferals, roam around virtually all farms could they be a greater risk to cattle than badgers?
It is feared one in a thousand cats could be carrying the mycobacteria, a much higher number than first thought.
Interestingly cats are thought to catch the disease from rodents (not badgers or cattle - so maybe rodents are an even bigger risk - could be around 80 million rats in UK!). There is a risk that cats could pass TB to humans because Britons are no longer routinely inoculated against TB. The nationwide school vaccination programme was scrapped controversially in 2005.
The research is published in the Journal of Transboundary and Emerging Diseases: “The aim of this study was to estimate the incidence of mycobacterial infections in cats in Great Britain (GB). This was performed using the proxy measure of feline tissue samples submitted to diagnostic laboratories in GB that were found to have histopathological changes typical of mycobacterial infection (‘MYC’). Sixteen primary diagnostic laboratories were asked for information on the number of feline samples submitted in 2009, the number with MYC, the number undergoing Ziehl–Neelsen (ZN) staining and, for comparison, the number diagnosed with lymphoma.
“Eight laboratories provided full data for the whole year: 11 782 samples; lymphoma 3.2% (mean, 95% CI: 2.89, 3.5), MYC 1.16% (0.98; 1.37) and ZN-positive 0.31% (0.22; 0.43). Data on 1569 samples from seven laboratories that provided partial data on samples for the whole year revealed similar results, although all changes were more frequent: lymphoma 5.42% (4.35; 6.66), MYC 2.36% (1.66; 3.23) and ZN-positive 0.77% (0.40; 1.33). One laboratory only provided data for part of the year (4.5 months), reporting all three types of histopathology less frequently: 18 232 samples; lymphoma 0.2% (0.18; 0.32), MYC 0.07% (0.04; 0.12) and ZN-positive 0.05% (0.02; 0.09). The reasons for low reporting rates in this high-throughput laboratory are unclear.
“In total, 187 samples were reported as having MYC. Five Reference laboratories were also contacted, reporting 174 feline tissue submissions in 2009, with mycobacteria being cultured from 90.
“The study shows that MYC are frequently reported in tissue samples from cats in GB, being reported in ∼1% of samples, with confirmation as ZN-positive in ∼0.3%. Lymphoma is recognized as a common disease in cats, being seen in ∼3% of samples in this study. When compared against MYC, lymphoma was reported only twice as frequently. This confirms that far from being rare, clinically significant mycobacterial infections occur commonly in cats in GB.”

DARD has published the FERA TVR Modelling Report - http://www.dardni.gov.uk/fera-tvr-modelling-report.pdf.
Ultimately, the data from the TVR should clarify the role of the badger as a TB-susceptible species.
The report supports those parts of the TVR methodology already in place.
All of the available information about the TVR programme has now been placed on the DARD website along with other TVR related research and information detailing the Department’s broader approach to bovine TB in NI. This is the main page from which this information can be accessed http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-diseases/bovine-tuberculosis.htm

BADGER culling has been banned on all Derbyshire County Council owned land. The council will, instead, give support to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s badger vaccination programme.
The decision was announced today after considering the available scientific evidence that suggests culling badgers actually increases the spread of TB.
It is also feared that by allowing culling on council land could promote illegal badger baiting and worsen the problem in Derbyshire.
Infor from: www.burtonmail.co.uk/News/Badger-culling-banned-on-council-land-20130722115317.htm

So, public money is being wasted then and much upset caused for no good reason ...?
Heath's answer to MP Anne Main's question:
'Mr Heath: The main purpose of the pilots is not to determine the impact of badger culling on TB incidence in cattle.'
Hansard 17 July 13 : Column 755W
Bovine Tuberculosis
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to his Department's Consultation on a Draft Strategy for Achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis-Free Status for England published on 4 July 2013, for what reasons the UK is not following the approach used in the rest of the EU of only culling infected cattle when faced with a herd breakdown. [164522]
Mr Heath: In accordance with EU law, and in line with what happens in other member states, all cattle in England that react positively to a TB diagnostic test are compulsorily slaughtered. In cases where the TB problem in a herd is particularly severe or extensive, other cattle considered to be at high risk of being infected (or becoming infected) will also be removed and slaughtered.
17 July 2013 : Column 756W
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to his Department's Consultation on a Draft Strategy for Achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis-Free Status for England published on 4 July 2013, for what reasons biosecurity measures will be voluntary; and what evidence was taken into account in the decision between a voluntary and mandatory approach. [164523]
Mr Heath: With regard to specific TB controls, including bio-security measures, I hope that DEFRA's consultation on a draft TB strategy will generate innovative ideas on how Government and industry can work in partnership to eradicate this devastating disease. No options are off the table. However, the business costs associated with a TB breakdown provide many farmers with the incentive to maintain good biosecurity measures voluntarily so as to reduce the risk of their herds contracting the disease.
Mandatory biosecurity controls against TB are also in place—for example, cattle herds are regularly tested for the disease and if a herd owner fails to have a test completed on time cattle movement restrictions are applied immediately; tight movement restrictions are also applied on TB infected herds to minimise the risk of disease spread; and cattle moving from annually tested herds must be pre-movement tested.
We are also working with industry to implement the recommendations of the Risk-Based Trading Group. This will involve putting in place measures that will better enable farmers to share TB history information at the point of sale to enable farmers to make informed risk-based decisions when purchasing cattle.
When making a decision on whether to implement a mandatory approach the Government considers a range of evidence including the benefits and the costs.
Mrs Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether an evaluation of the incidence of TB in cattle in the badger cull pilot areas will be conducted during the pilot period. [165085]
Mr Heath: The main purpose of the pilots is not to determine the impact of badger culling on TB incidence in cattle. However, information on cattle TB incidence will continue to be collected from the pilot areas as part of DEFRA's ongoing TB surveillance programme. We are putting in place research that will examine this information as it becomes available, to evaluate the impact of the badger control policy. However, it will be a number of years before culling has an impact on cattle TB incidence.
Mrs Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how humaneness will be defined in his Department's terms of reference for the badger cull pilots. [165086]
Mr Heath: Independent monitoring will be undertaken to assess the humaneness, along with the effectiveness and safety, of controlled shooting during the pilots. The design of this monitoring has been overseen by an independent panel of experts, who have advised on the appropriate methods for monitoring, which will include field observations and post mortems. Further details
17 July 2013 : Column 757W
of the monitoring protocols are available online at the following link and I have also placed copies in the library of the House:
The online e-petition 'Stop the badger cull' has today become the most successful petition ever on the HM Government website having hit over 258,270 signatures. The number of signatures is still increasing and currently stands at 258,469.
This is well worth reading.
Coalition culls and zoonotic ontologies
Diseases which can pass between animals and humans (zoonoses) have been headline news several times in the last ten years. This paper looks at bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in the United Kingdom, which, although not a major health hazard for humans, has been problematic for farmers and the veterinary health institutions. At its current rate of spread, the disease will cost the authorities £1 billion in compensation to farmers for slaughtered animals and in administrative expenses over the next decade. The present Coalition government are planning to cull badgers in England because they are the principal wildlife reservoir of bTB and are said to pass infection to cattle. We argue in five stories that the heterogeneities of bTB help explain the difficulties in dealing with it. In our opinion the present reductive set of policies would be improved by taking this ontological multiplicity into account.

Dr Chris Cheeseman Badger ecologist Retired head of Woodchester Park Badger Research Station dispels some of the typical myths that are doing the rounds at the moment regarding badgers and culling.
I share Prof Paul Torgerson's view 'bTB and public health: what's all the fuss about'. The human and bovine form are very similar and there are many parallels. The link at www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/factsheets/general/ltbiandactivetb.htm gives an excellent and clear summary which could, I think, apply equally as well for badgers and cattle. It confirms that only in a very small minority does the TB bacteria overcome the defenses of the immune system and begin to multiply, resulting in the progression from latent TB infection to TB disease. Interesting facts re latency (and remember ALL cattle testing positive are culled - most will not be diseased and the aim is to kill min 70% of all badgers in an area without testing - most of these will be healthy):
... not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and TB disease.
Persons with latent TB infection do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms. They are infected withM. tuberculosis, but do not have TB disease. The only sign of TB infection is a positive reaction to the tuberculin skin test or TB blood test. Persons with latent TB infection are not infectious and cannot spread TB infection to others.
Overall, without treatment, about 5 to 10% of infected persons will develop TB disease at some time in their lives. About half of those people who develop TB will do so within the first two years of infection.
Secret badger shoots pose 'a risk to public safety' says the Observer/Guardian (http://m.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jul/06/badger-cull-shooting-risks?CMP=twt_fd)
Despite warnings by police and campaigners over dangers to the public, Defra is against releasing a risk assessment of culls
The government has refused to publish risk assessments of danger to the public during England's imminent night-time badger shoots because doing so "could have an adverse affect upon the health and safety of the public", the Observer can reveal.
The police have previously warned of the "clear potential for harm to public safety" but the location and timing of the culls remain a closely guarded secret, which campaigners say puts those vaccinating badgers or patrolling for wounded animals at grave risk.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson, who has argued against the shooting of foxes as an alternative to hunting with dogs, said: "It is highly unlikely that any government would wish to see a proliferation of rifles in the countryside."
Campaigners requested the publication of the risk assessments under freedom of information rules, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs refused, stating: "Disclosure of this information would impact adversely upon the protection of the public, e.g. from acts of sabotage, and could have an adverse effect upon the health and safety of the public."
Avon and Somerset Police also refused, stating: "Public safety is of paramount importance and there may be occasions when the release of information concerning public safety may not actually be in the public's interest."
George Kearton, from campaign group Badger Rescue and Vaccination Everywhere, who made the FOI requests, said: "In the cull zones there is no information available locally about where the actual shooting is to take place, even if the farms concerned are immediately next to village housing areas. We have yet to see any consideration or reassurance given to the people of this country as regards their safety and that of their children and pets."
A previously released Defra document stated "no shooter will have prior experience of shooting badgers" and "some shots may completely miss the animal".
Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, said: "Allowing pot shots with high-velocity rifles at moving badgers in the dark self-evidently poses a serious risk to human safety. Their rifles have a range of a mile or more, so if they miss their target, where are the bullets going to go?"
A spokeswoman for Defra said: "We will not release the exact cull zone location in order to protect people taking part in badger control. The professionals taking part in the cull will adhere to strict firearms safety, hold the right firearms licence and pass a specific, government-approved training course. [Shooting] is an accepted method of disease control already used [for] other species, such as deer and wild boar."
She added: "There is no reason why people cannot continue to enjoy the countryside as normal. Marksmen will not shoot if people are in the area."
Paterson has been a steadfast supporter of badger culling as part of a TB eradication strategy. But in May 2000 he wrote to the Burns Inquiry into fox hunting with dogs and argued that shooting foxes was not a viable alternative method of control. "Animal welfare groups talk about marksmen; however, it is highly unlikely that any government would wish to see a proliferation of rifles in the countryside," he wrote. At the time several animal welfare groups were advocating that shooting foxes should replace hunting.
Paterson also addressed policing: "I am convinced that the [rural] police simply do not have the resources to enforce a ban on hunting.
"In Welsh border areas, where feelings run extremely high, I have been told many times that people will resort to civil disobedience."
The high expected cost of policing the badger cull means it will be more expensive than a vaccination programme, according to some experts.
Mary Creagh, Labour's shadow environment secretary, said: "Owen Paterson warned against 'a proliferation of rifles in the countryside' when fox hunting was to be banned, but apparently thinks it is fine for the badger cull. The police have significant concerns that the badger cull could present a risk to the public safety of tourists, ramblers and protesters."

According to the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/10160036/Badgers-to-be-given-contraceptive-pill.html) 'Badgers to be given contraceptive 'pill''
Defra is currently funding research into a “pill” or oral contraception for badgers as well as studies of injectable contraceptives.
Half the country could become a badger cull zone, says DEFRA strategy, according to the RSPCA's press release yesterday.
The RSPCA has serious concerns about the newly published government paper which sets out for the first time the scope and scale of the planned badger cull in England.
The strategy looks at the areas the Government will be concentrating its resources on in a bid to eradicate bovine TB and revealed the cull areas for the first time – ‘high risk’ areas are identified as 15 counties including all the southwest and west to Wiltshire, Warwickshire, Cheshire, West Midlands and East Sussex.
The strategy also ignores scientific opinion by continuing give undue focus to culling badgers up until 2019, rather than prioritising non lethal methods such as improving biosecurity, cattle movement and vaccination. However, the RSPCA welcomed the news that cattle vaccination trials could start in 2014.
The consultation also proposes some new cost sharing measures with farmers but does not crack down on farmers breaking the TB rules, leaving a serious question mark over the influence of the NFU on Government policy.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “There is far too much short term focus on culling badgers - this document sets out a plan that could eradicate up to 70% of the badger population from almost half of England. That is a big chunk of a ‘protected’ species slaughtered over the next five years,” he added.
Other points raised in the strategy include:
· Biosecurity measures are highlighted as voluntary measures
· Proposals would reduce compensation for farmers and increase it if they abided by biosecurity measures or are members of assurance schemes but still allow movement of cattle from high risk areas to other areas.
· While recognising some farmers break TB rules, the strategy states this is through ignorance and advocates education rather than punishing farmers carrying out illegal acts under BTB controls, such as the removal of compensation.
· The consultation relies heavily on learning from New Zealand and Australia, however cost sharing there was stronger as farmers met all costs of testing and surveillance – while the strategy only proposes changes to compensation.
· The strategy does not propose changing the methods to deal with breakdowns in herds, such as culling only the infected cow rather than the whole herd which happens in many European countries.
The European Commission have said the disease can only be eradicated by improving biosecurity and reducing the numbers of cattle being moved. They have also said that the 10 year timetable to develop a cattle vaccine could be reduced dramatically if the UK started vaccination trials now.
The Defra strategy ignores these points and concentrates more on culling badgers which will only reduce the prevalence of the disease by a maximum of 16 per cent whilst wiping out up to 70% of the protected animals.
It is clear the Government missed an opportunity when it scrapped the badger vaccination programmes and despite its own committee recommending Defra should play a leading role in coordinating these programme, this has been ignored.
“This strategy had the potential to consign bovine TB to the history books it is in almost all the other EU countries but it misses its target,” added Grant.
“We care equally about badgers and cattle but this cull simply will not work as a solution to bovine TB. The only real answer will be vaccination for both cattle and badgers, better biosecurity and control of cattle movements.”
Yesterday the Government launched its bovine TB eradication strategy with the aim of England becoming TB free within 25 years - so farmers have to wait ANOTHER 25 years and, in the meantime it looks like badgers will be eradicated from many areas during this time.
You can comment as the consultation stage runs from 4 Jul 2013 to 26 Sep 2013. See all the questions by just keying ''next'' without answering as you go along.
The strategy sets out action in areas such as disease surveillance, pre- and post-movement cattle testing, removal of cattle exposed to bTB, tracing the potential source of infection and wildlife controls including culling and vaccination trials. It also focuses on the development of new techniques such as badger and cattle vaccines and new diagnostic tests that could one day offer new ways of tackling the disease.

BADGERS ARE A DROP IN AN OCEAN OF BOVINE TB MUDDLE says the Badger Trust in its latest press release today:
Two significant news releases issued yesterday (July 4th) by the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the National Farmers Union contain a series of equivocations and unsupportable assertions. They also complain of the ruinous effect of slaughtering TB cattle without acknowledging that ten times as many animals are killed because of other diseases.
The Defra statement: said:
“. . . bovine TB (bTB) was once a disease isolated to small pockets of the country”.
Wrong. The disease was once extremely widespread across the United Kingdom just before and after World War II. A radical programme to eradicate bTB infected cattle brought the number of reactors down from an estimated 47,000 before the war to about 1,000 by 1970 without killing badgers. It remained about this level for 20 years and throughout these decades any “wildlife reservoir” had no effect. Then, from 1990 onwards progressive relaxations of cattle restrictions and lack of pre-movement testing allowed the disease to spread again. Furthermore, testing of cattle after movement should have been brought in many years ago.
“The Government is today publishing a consultation on a draft strategy for achieving official freedom from bTB in England”.
The Coalition and the cattle industry have been finally dragged to this point by the EU thirty years after the industry should have been looking after its own interests. Instead, it ignored the catastrophic rise from the early ‘90s to three years ago and distracted itself with myths about the wildlife reservoir in badgers.
“These demonstrate the importance of applying stringent cattle control measures in combination with tackling any SIGNIFICANT reservoir of infection in wildlife” (Badger Trust capitals).
This windy assertion does not define what is significant in relation to badgers considering the widely varying impact of the disease in various localities and at different times. New Zealand’s achievement of reducing bTB by 94%,which included killing possums, is never set against that of the United Kingdom in bringing down the total by 96% from 25,000 reactors in the early fifties to about 1,000 by the early 1970s.
Defra’s statement also says, ominously for the industry, that both government and the cattle industry would contribute to the cost”.
We say that this once again heralds a Coalition intention to offload the operational cost onto the farmers.
“Government the strategy built upon ….. controls to address the reservoir of infection in badgers”.
We say that the coalition needs to be careful, first to establish that there is indeed a reservoir of infection and secondly to justify its stubborn refusal to acknowledge the serious risk that culling could make matters worse.
“The Government is proposing to work in partnership with the industry to develop risk-based packages”
The Badger Trust understands that "risk-based packages" is sinister, meaning the relaxation of controls where risks are presumed to be low, but with no idea of present or impending conditions.
The Defra statement promises continued investment in the development of an oral badger vaccine and new diagnostic tests for cattle and badgers which could pave the way for “alternative approaches”.
We say: All this has been made massively more difficult, however welcome, because of the shameful lack of will by the cattle industry while smitten by the supposed cheap short cut of killing badgers.
The NFU statement welcomes farmers having a much greater input into TB control policy.
They will pay dearly and face a much greater cost because the NFU vows that farmers are prepared to contribute for "elements" of disease control. The farmers' element will be the shouldering of massive operational costs whereas the coalition will pay only the far smaller costs of administration.
Badger Trust Press Release 4/7/13 (note: the sale of reactor and inconclusive carcasses into the food chain is not new and has been reported on this website from the start - as the meat does not pose any health risk then why should it be wasted?):
The Coalition Government is continuing to allow meat from cattle infected with bovine TB (bTB) to enter the human food chain according to a report in the Sunday Times [1]. In May, Nigel Gibbens, the Defra chief vet, told the Independent: “If we do not maintain and improve our bovine TB controls and levels of bovine TB continued to increase, the risk of infection to other mammals and humans would inevitably increase.”
However, now that it is making £10m a year from the sale of meat from around 28,000 diseased animals, the Coalition claims infection risk to humans is only to people in close contact with infected animals or who drink unpasteurised milk [2]. Recently, the scandal of horse meat entering the food chain without identification came to light but in that case, there was no implication of a health risk.
The primary reason for the Coalition Government’s concern, and that of the cattle industry about bovine TB, is economic. Briefing journalists and MPs last month [3] Nigel Gibbens, Defra’s chief vet and Ian Boyd, the department’s chief scientist, highlighted their projected rise in costs from the present £200m a year to £450m by 2050. But David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, says: “To imagine that killing wildlife could have any meaningful impact on figures liked those is plain nonsense.
“The Coalition has fallen foul of its own hypocrisy. Senior officials have warned of a potential risk to human health but only to support their policy of killing badgers. In view of these contradictions there is no justification for proceeding with pilot trials let alone the need for “a hard cull which could last 25 years”, as envisaged by Owen Paterson, the Defra Secretary of State” [4].
[1] The Sunday Times, June 30, 2013
[2] www.meatinfo.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/15825/Defra_hits_back_at_badger_cull_claims.html?
[3] Briefing to journalists, May 21st 2013.
[4] The Sunday Times, May 26, 2013

Email from farmer GEP 4/7/13:
The criteria for the badger cull is as follows: shoot 70% of the Badgers in an area of 150sq km, regardless of their age or state of health, within a six week period. Leave a randomly reprieved 30% and don't ask where's the sense if these badgers harbour bTB anyway. ( Natural England - Badger Cull Criteria , page 5, para 10.c ) And it's a mystery how they intend to monitor the 'success' of the cull when we've seen no evidence that it's the health status of particular herds determining the choice of cull site but rather a case of which compliant landowner has a large enough estate to meet the acreage requirements.
Scant regard has been given to the fact that a sudden reduction in the number of one species creates an ecological imbalance and neither have we seen any consideration given to the late spring and the risk posed to dependent young.
Even those farmers who want some form of badger control have expressed concern about indiscriminate shooting without identifying those that are infected first but the NFU and Defra are elbowing their way through regardless. (http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahwbe/work/bovinetb/ , BTB workshop reports) One could be forgiven for thinking that a badger shoot was a promise and the case to excuse it an afterthought.

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