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?
8 Jun 2013, 5:36 PM
Press release from Badger Trust received today.
‘PRESSED MEN’ OF PARLIAMENT VOTE FOR BADGER KILLING
----- says the Badger Trust, fighting on against the cull
The Commons vote on the impending badger culling programme in England  was pure politics, says the Badger Trust: independent scientific consensus is overwhelmingly one of opposition; huge numbers of the public are passionately opposed; the forecast benefits over nine years are very modest; the risks to the public of shooting running badgers are obvious but underplayed; and many farmers could face a rise in bovine TB (bTB) through disturbing badgers' social groups.
Any objective analysis of this ill-conceived onslaught on iconic and indigenous wildlife shows it to be driven by political expediency, leaving major issues responsible for the bulk of the problem unresolved, says the Trust. “The taxpayer is entitled to know whether this Government has the will to tackle the true causes—lax controls, far too many cattle movements, an unreliable skin test—and whether it will introduce cattle-based measures with real impact, because that’s where the real problem lies”.
The licences authorising the pilot killing trials in Somerset and Gloucestershire apply from 1st June but nobody knows when the first bullet will be fired. It is important to note that the slaughter has not yet started - that information is still to be revealed. The pilot trials will add nothing to scientific knowledge about the control of bTB, but only attempt to show that free shooting would be effective, safe and humane. Even so, thousands of badgers are to be killed outright and any that are wounded will have their screams timed to assess how “humane” their ultimate deaths were.
In the debate Coalition MPs were mostly forced to vote in support of their parties’ policies, however misguided. But last October a free vote produced a significant majority against culling  when Government “whips” were not enforcing attendance and loyalty to party dogma.
The usual list of downright errors and half-truths emerged during the speeches, notably in the comparisons the Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson made with Australia, the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand where wildlife have been killed . He failed to mention that the UK itself was the first to contain bTB without killing badgers, reducing cattle slaughter by 96 per cent by the early 1970s. It remained there for 20 years. Northern Ireland had already achieved the same rate of reduction without killing badgers as the Republic had with culling, showing that claims about the need to kill wildlife are ill-founded. Several Members passed on the mistaken belief that bTB was increasing in Great Britain. In fact it levelled out three years ago and has since been reduced, again without culling badgers according to the latest annual figures.
Wednesday’s vote, although close, failed to reflect known public opinion – 69 per cent against culling after the Coalition’s own consultation in 2010 and in many others since. The culmination last month was a disappointing result for the National Farmers’ Union when its own poll showed a majority against culling and a large proportion of don’t knows . It was anything but a resounding endorsement of its policy of killing badgers.
To reflect public opinion the Badger Trust has just released a video and launched a social media campaign #canthecarrot. It was made specially by a top team of wildlife film-makers from Bristol with Anthony Head providing the commentary. It showed hundreds of people travelling from all over the country assembling in a Somerset field to be filmed from a helicopter as they represented the face of a badger. The video, which fades to a chilling finale, highlights the likely effect on the countryside if culling takes place. http://www.justdosomething.org.uk/?dm_i=1NFN,1JWOV,906LDO,5BG8K,1
In the meantime it is essential that people continue to sign the e-gov petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257?dm_i=1NFN,1JWOV,906LDO,5BG8L,1 and write to their MPs. The Badger Trust will never falter in its determination to protect badgers, by all legal means, against this unscientific and unwarranted slaughter.
 250 against culling, 299 for  147 against, 28 for.   (34 per cent are against killing badgers with 29 for and 27 effectively "don't knows". Such a result is barely representative of anything. Also, there is no culling planned in Wales yet part of the sample is taken from there).
6 Jun 2013, 12:10 PM
This is Cornwall today (www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Ground-breaking-plan-vaccinate-Penwith-badgers/story-19204307-detail/story.html#axzz2VQunNwKo) & nbsp; 'This week also provided a chance to tell Parliament that west Cornwall could be the ground-breaking focus for the first community Bovine TB project in the country, with a plan to vaccinate badgers over the 200sq km of the Penwith district between now and 2018.
I had proposed this initiative six months ago to a, then, sceptical audience. But support for the proposal is gathering pace.
I am fortunate to be strongly supported by the able and highly respected Professor Rosie Woodroffe, of the Zoological Society of London, with whom I am jointly submitting a bid to government farming ministers to part-fund our proposed community-led initiative aimed at eliminating Bovine TB from the Penwith peninsula – an area facing one of the most chronic TB problems in the country. The initiative entails a partnership between farmers, veterinarians, wildlife groups and the local community, with guidance from scientific experts.
The initiative involves three main components: the vaccination of badgers by trained volunteers (which we believe is likely to be more productive and less costly than culling, and with greater prospects of long-term elimination of infection); improved cattle management – through biosecurity advice and, possibly, more stringent cattle testing; and scientific monitoring – to assess and interpret impacts of the interventions for both badgers and cattle.
It is hoped that the lessons learned from the west Cornwall work can then be transferred to other parts of the country.'
5 Jun 2013, 7:36 PM
The professional body for vets has cast a “dark shadow” over the profession by supporting the Government’s badger cull, according to a group of veterinarians who claim its senior officials are too close to the farming industry (www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/vets-say-their-professional-body-was-wrong-to-support-government-badger-cull-8644638. html).
Members of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have launched a fierce attack on their representative body for failing to consult its full membership before endorsing the cull.
The following letter was published in the Independent today (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters/letters-badger-cull-has-no-basis-in-science-8644011.html). It is from vets who are opposed to the cull. They make some very good points.
The badger cull is proving to be a highly contentious issue, not least within the veterinary profession in Britain, of which we are members. Last month, in the lead-up to “open season” for the “pilot culls” in which more than 5,000 badgers could be shot in Gloucestershire and Somerset, both the president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer came out in support of the Government’s plans. Their support comes in spite of the overwhelming scientific opinion that culling badgers will not help to reduce TB in cattle, and amidst grave concerns over the impact that culling will have on the welfare of badgers and the future of many populations.
In The Independent on 30 May the Chief Veterinary Officer made a startling assertion: that culling badgers will somehow protect human health, in spite of his department’s description of the risk to human health in the UK as being “negligible” in an article in the Financial Times on March 31. Such irresponsible scaremongering smacks of a CVO desperately clutching at straws to justify a policy that has no basis in science.
The British Veterinary Association reached its position of support for the Government’s pilot culls without consulting its full membership, and has ignored subsequent calls from veterinarians and one of its own member societies for it to reconsider. The public needs to understand that the BVA’s position is not necessarily representative of majority veterinary opinion, and that many vets oppose or have serious reservations about the policy.
Rather, it represents the position of an organisation that, in our view, has lost touch with its key purpose of providing leadership and guidance on animal welfare on this issue and whose judgment is being influenced by a close historic alignment with the farming industry. Their failure to respond to very serious concerns raised over the humaneness assessment is damning.
We are saddened that this episode brings shame upon the profession we studied so hard to join. That some vets in positions of influence appear to have abandoned precaution for the sake of what appears to be political and perceived economic expedience, casts a dark shadow over our profession. In our opinion these actions damage the credibility of the profession and bring it into disrepute.
We can only hope that its future leaders will adopt a more precautionary, independent, science-led and, most importantly, empathetic and welfare-led approach to the issues facing all of the animals with whom we share our world. Young vets have much to learn from this sorry episode and much to gain by aiming to do better than some of their predecessors.
Caroline Allen; Heather Bacon; Fiona Dalzell; Bronwen Eastwood; Richard Edwards; Mark Jones; Andrew Knight; J Lewis; Alastair MacMillan; Iain McGill; Andre Menache; Paul Torgerson
5 Jun 2013, 6:50 PM
Emailed comments received today re The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report on vaccination.
From MR: 'Interestingly, I don’t see anything in the EFRACOM document that adds significantly to the case for a badger cull. What it does highlight are shortcomings of cattle testing regimens.'
From P: '... much criticism of Defra - page 34, Conclusions and Recommendations - including the line: "It is perplexing that the Government has maintained that field trials were prohibited under EU law when, as recent events have shown, this is not the case."
Emailed comment received today re The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report on vaccination.
From MR: 'Interestingly, I don’t see anything in the EFRACOM document that adds significantly to the case for a badger cull. What it does highlight are shortcomings of cattle testing regimens.'
5 Jun 2013, 6:46 PM
The Labour Party's Opposition Day debate today on the plans for a badger cull was defeated by 299 votes to 250 - there was 'intense government whipping' - it is somewhat worrying to hear David Cameron brought in a three line whip. As there is so much uncertainty regarding badger culling it is hardly democratic to find MPs being whipped into a decision, regardless of public opinion and science.
A three-line whip is a strict instruction to attend and vote, breach of which would normally have serious consequences. Permission not to attend may be given by the whip, but a serious reason is needed. Breach of a three-line whip can lead to expulsion from the parliamentary political group in extreme circumstances and may lead to expulsion from the party. Consequently, three-line whips are generally only issued on key issues, such as votes of confidence and supply.
According to the ITV (http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/update/2013-06-06/colleagues-have-barely-spoken-to-me-says-chatham-mp/?dm_i=1NFN%2C1JSQR%2C906LDO%2C5AZTI%2C1) the Chatham and Aylesford MP, Tracey Crouch, says some of her Tory party colleagues have barely spoken to her since she defied the government by voting against a mass cull of badgers.
She was one of six conservative party members to vote against the government amendment to the Labour motion. Last night Labour was defeated by forty nine votes.
5 Jun 2013, 3:08 PM
The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Vaccination against bovine TB Second Report of Session 2013–14 has been published today, presumably rushed out to co-inside with the Common's debate). A significant section is dedicated to 'An injectable vaccine for badgers'. There is no reference to the present Government's preferred method - culling, presumably because the report's main focus is on vaccination
The conclusions are below:
Para 45. 'In order for vaccination to be considered part of a strategy to eradicate bovine TB we first need to establish what level of efficacy can be expected. The research undertaken by Chambers et al was vital in gathering the data required to get a badger vaccine licensed and available to use and we congratulate those involved in achieving this aim. To have another tool to use against bovine TB is valuable. However, what is also apparent is that substantial data clearly showing the effect of the vaccine in the field are lacking. Now that a vaccine is available the Government should consider addressing this evidence gap by researching the efficacy of the BadgerBCG vaccine in the field'.
Para 47 relates to the badger cull trials that were cancelled. 'Although they were not originally planned to test the effectiveness of the vaccine or the impact of its deployment on the incidence of TB in cattle, the cancellation of five of the six Badger Vaccine Deployment Projects represents a missed opportunity to collect valuable data on the effect of the badger vaccine.'
Para 48. 'The absence of empirical evidence of the impact of badger vaccination on the incidence of TB in cattle is not on its own a reason not to pursue a vaccination strategy. A vaccine that reduces the excretion of M. Bovis bacteria is a powerful tool. An effective programme of badger vaccination in areas where badgers are the suspected source of TB in cattle would be expected to reduce transmission of the disease between the species.'
Para 51. 'Although the extent of infection transmitted between badgers and cattle is subject to debate, we believe there is merit in gathering information on potential transmission pathways and we welcome FERA’s research project on badger farm visits. Developing and implementing effective badger exclusion methods may prove more cost effective than other measures aimed at addressing the impact of infected badgers on cattle.'
Para 54 - far more info on herd immunity in badgers - it was barely mentioned in the section on cattle, despite being a vital element. 'Herd immunity is a sought after outcome of any vaccination programme. It means transmission of disease is reduced and non-vaccinated animals are given a measure of protection reducing the need for further deployment of the vaccine. The identification of the indirect effect of badger vaccination on unvaccinated cubs is an important step forward in research on the effectiveness of the BadgerBCG vaccine. For herd immunity to occur, a significant proportion of the uninfected badger population must be trapped and vaccinated. The precise numbers depend not only on local factors such as badger population, density and environmental factors but, as importantly, on the efficacy of the vaccine. While herd immunity may mean that not every badger has to be vaccinated every year, we need to be confident, without testing each badger, that herd immunity has developed. Further research on the indirect effect of vaccination is therefore necessary and must be included as part of future evidence-gathering on the efficacy of the vaccine in the field. '
Para 56.' Although vaccination is costly, scope exists for economies of scale but this will need a more coordinated national approach to badger vaccination to enable equipment and information to be shared more effectively. There is great enthusiasm among voluntary organisations for deploying the badger vaccine. The Government should not miss the opportunity to use them both to gather evidence and as a resource to carry out vaccination. A first step should be to set up an advisory service to help NGOs plan and deploy a programme of vaccination and to advise what data it would be useful to obtain.'
Para 59. 'PCR testing of badger faeces has the potential to identify those setts which harbour infected badgers. Doing so will not only enable a vaccination programme to be better targeted and therefore more cost-effective but may also be able to show whether the vaccination has been successful in creating herd immunity in particular social groups. We recommend that the Government provide funding to explore how this research might be applied practically in the field.'
Para 64. 'The development of a vaccine that reduced the level of infection in badgers would be a valuable tool in the battle against bovine TB but, despite 10 years of research and £11million spent in development, it is one that Defra lack a strategy for using. A number of voluntary organisations are deploying the vaccine and, while we commend their actions, in the absence of a clear nationally coordinated strategy this work can only have a limited impact on the wider problem of bovine TB. We are particularly concerned that Defra may miss the opportunity to make use of the enthusiasm that exists in the voluntary sector for badger vaccination.'
Para 65. 'Badger vaccination is expensive and no magic bullet. We agree with the Wildlife Trusts that if it is going to make a difference, it needs to be deployed strategically in areas where it is likely to have the biggest impact. The vaccine has been available for use for more than three years. Having developed the vaccine, Defra must now produce a clear strategy for its use.'
5 Jun 2013, 1:35 PM
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published its report today (presumably rushed out just in time for the Common's debate) on progress to develop a vaccine solution for bovine TB. In it it is scathing about the imperfect test. Bear in mind this test forms the backbone of existing policy ....
'We currently rely on a skin test that could miss one in four infected cows. Liver fluke, Johne’s disease and even pregnancy may impact on the result of the skin test. While the skin test has served us well, if other more sensitive tests exist, they should be employed alongside it. We accept that the gamma interferon blood test is expensive and not without limitations, but a test that catches infection earlier when animals are less likely to have transmitted the disease is a valuable tool and one that should be deployed as widely as possible. The Government should explore whether it is possible to improve the performance of the test and bring down its cost.'
4 Jun 2013, 5:37 PM
The NFU is claiming that since 2008, badger control measures in the Republic of Ireland have resulted in a decrease of TB in cattle by almost a third. In New Zealand, a comprehensive bTB management programme including wildlife control has reduced infected herd numbers from 1,700 in 1994 to around 70 today. However, we have heard via an email today that apart from the post F&M spike (caused by the industry), the trends in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are remarkably similar. There has been no badger culling in Northern Ireland. The NI trend and levels have been achieved by cattle measures alone. Apparently no-one in Northern Irleland has attributed the 2011 rise in TB incidence to badgers although the cause remains unknown. We understand that NZ research ruled out INDIRECT transmission of TB from possums to cattle. Yet it is indirect transmission that is being cited by the NFU and others. Evidence shows that very little DIRECT contact takes place between badgers and cattle.
An interesting point about the 2011 rise is that it was consistent across ALL veterinary divisions in Northern Ireland. This is most unusual as individual divisional incidences normally vary, contributing to the published aggregate incidence for the whole province. This could well suggest an underlying industry or data handling cause.
A peaceful march (attended by around 2,800) was held on 1 June 2013. This clearly shows the level of public opposition to the proposed trial culls - people from all walks of lives, all ages, all united to try and halt the current government plans to kill an animal that is clearly loved by many.
(Play by clicking white arrow above small 'Audio MP3' banner part way down page)
Read too the blog by Gordon McGlone, 'The value of badgers in the full cost of a badger cull':
'I have spent my career thinking like a scientist, acting like one and making considered comment based on evidence and balanced reason...'
'... What I have not discussed before, and nor does Defra, is the cultural value of the badger. The huge number of marchers on the streets of Westminster on Saturday demonstrated to me that there is a profound respect for the badger in society. That respect lies deep in the psyche and not lodged in the wallet...'
... 'So far Badgers have only been given a negative financial valuation in a badger cull debate, on the cost side of the equation; the ecological and cultural plusses have been ignored. But even the money case is now falling apart In the argument used to justify a badger. The pilot culls will cost £6M in projected police time and sunk survey and licencing costs. That is an overall negative cost benefit. Just how much additional hard data is required before Defra, supposedly the department for all environmental issues, understands that it has got the equation badly wrong?'
4 Jun 2013, 1:50 PM
Culling badgers is not cost effective, particularly if huge sums are spent on policing culls. Culling, involving free shooting, will be particularly risky as there is so much public opposition - fueled by scientists and other experts who are speaking out against the poroposed trial culls.
The BBC today report that Cornish badgers may be vaccinated against TB' (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-22763702).
Plans have been put forward to vaccinate badgers in west Cornwall to prevent them catching tuberculosis and passing it on to cows, says Liberal Democrat MP, Andrew George.
If approved, the £2m scheme would mean badgers being caught in traps and then vaccinated, St Ives e said.
'Cheaper than policing'. Mr George said a vaccination programme would have to be carried out until 2018 or 2019, with each dose costing about £650. He said it would cost "about £2m" in total.
The vaccine stops TB being passed from badger to badger, and scientists believed it could stop it being passed on to cattle, he said.
He added that, although it sounded like a lot of money, it would be "cheaper than policing costs" of opponents of the culls who might try and disrupt them.
Mr George said he had had "positive" talks with Minister for Agriculture and Food David Heath.
He said: "I think he can be persuaded to cooperate in a scheme such as this."
He added the National Trust was also "on board" with such a scheme locally and others "could be persuaded".
In terms of funding, Mr George said: "I don't think the government would put up the full costs, but other animal charities and bodies might be prepared to match fund what the government are prepared to stump up."
The march on Sat was well attended. Sadly I couldn't go but a friend sent me this
In a nutshell, official march, brian may et al. lots of different people from vegans to pro vaccine people, a hare krishna gave us free food, me, becky and rosie shouted the most out of anyone, went to afterpicnic in st james park and danced with reggae badgers, again we were probably some of the most enthusiastic ones there and got the other badgers in a conga line sort of accidentally, danced around a fake reporter filming for some satire show, then accidentally stumbled accross tory headquaters where a man with a megaphone was verbally abusing them from the lobby and we cheered him on outside with our placards, then about 8/10 riot vans showed up and we skidaddled, not before the those revolutionary radicals blocked up a rat trap by way of a parting blow. then we went to the tate britain for a spot of culture
31 May 2013, 7:31 PM
The Labour Party has announced it will table an Opposition Day debate on Wednesday 5th June 2013 on the plans for a badger cull. The wording for the motion reads: “This House believes the badger cull should not go ahead”. The debate will last for either 3 or 6 hours and the earliest it will start is 12.30 p.m. after Prime Minister’s Questions.
The licences to cull badgers in the two trial areas became valid from today, 1st June 2013, and many badgers in parts of Gloucestershire and West Somerset will face death from shooting while they are foraging. They will be shot by marksmen armed with high-powered rifles fitted with silencers and night sights. The shooting area will be pre-baited for a few days beforehand to encourage the badgers to forage at that point. It is not known when the culling will commence as that information has not been released, the only certain knowledge is that it can happen at any time between 1st June 2013 and 31st January 2014. The sole purpose of these two pilot trials is to test the humaneness, efficacy and safety of the free-shooting of badgers. If deemed successful, the slaughter of badgers will be rolled out in 10 further areas per year for the next four years in so-called TB hotspot areas. Most of the badgers slaughtered will be healthy and so will die an unnecessary death.
31 May 2013, 6:45 PM
The Badger Trust's press release today states the Trust is appalled at the
COALITION's PLAN TO TIME THE SCREAMS OF DYING BADGERS
The Badger Trust is appalled and disgusted that David Cameron and Nick Clegg are presiding over a plan to time the screams of wounded badgers to estimate the level of “humaneness” of shooting free running badgers at night. Worse, the noises made by shot badgers will be compared with those of harpooned whales according to a document released under freedom of information rules .
The paper, by the Coalition, also acknowledges the crucial fact that none of the shooters will have experience of killing free-running badgers, and that Defra’s requirement to target the heart and lungs is untested.
David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The Japanese have slaughtered whales for decades to international condemnation and now our own Government proposes to subject one of its own protected species to this gruesome torture. An injured badger is likely to flee down one of its burrows while the farmers’ shooting contractors record the time to death – officially the 'TTD'. But after its initial shrieks a wounded animal would tend to lie quietly, eventually dying a slow, lingering and silent death many hours or even days later. We have constantly reiterated the difficulty of humanely shooting badgers, this new paper does nothing to disprove our view.
“The Coalition is allowing brutal behaviour which would be criminal in abattoirs and on farms, and any vet could be struck off for timing the screams of a dying animal”.
He said politicians, at the beck and call of the cattle industry, were already facing allegations that they have no idea of the present badger population in the culling areas. Without those figures they cannot satisfy the rule that shooters must prove they had killed at least 70 per cent, or that the technique is effective and safe.
But Mr Williams said: “If free shooting is banned because it fails these tests the farmers’ culling groups are going to have to pay ten times as much for the more humane, but still pointless, cage trapping and shooting method. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg could well come to regret their rash promise to ‘address’ wildlife”.
The Independent has come out against the cull (www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/editorial-these-badger-culls-represent-the-triumph-of-politics-over-science-8638306. html?dm_i=1NFN,1J6UG,906LDO,58FSK,1). In its editorial today under the heading, 'These badger culls represent the triumph of politics over science'. It says'
"Historically, this newspaper took the view that the risks from bovine TB were so great, and the link to badgers so clear, that a cull, while regrettable, was necessary. Subsequently, however, scientist after eminent scientist has concluded that there is little hard research to justify the decimation of badger populations, which is also passionately opposed by animal lovers. In fact, for all the sound and fury in favour of a cull, Lord Krebs, the eminent Oxford zoologist who conducted the last detailed review of the practice, is just one of an array of experts who have denounced it."
"Why? Because trials have shown that killing territorial animals such as badgers only exacerbates the problem. Vacated areas are soon colonised by other badgers, and more movement of badgers means more movement of TB, and that means an increased risk to cattle on the fringes of the culling area. There may be some small benefits for farmers in the central part of the killing zone, but for the rest the situation is worse than ever."
"The Government insists that this weekend’s pilot cull in two areas will address this fundamental flaw by using rivers, motorways and other boundaries to limit badgers’ movements to and from the killing zones. But no one knows how effective the technique will prove to be."
"Neither is there a clear-cut economic case for going ahead with a cull. One recent assessment, for example, found that for every 150km² plot of land where badger-culling takes place, the total costs – including the policing required to deter protesters – come to more than £1.5m. Meanwhile, the savings in terms of TB prevention in cattle amount to only about £970,000. Hardly the best use of all-too-scarce public money."
"Furthermore, ever since bovine TB was found in badgers in 1971, the finger of blame for spreading the disease has pointed at the endearing creature immortalised as the gruff and solitary Mr Badger in The Wind in the Willows. There is good scientific evidence that badgers do help to spread TB in cattle, although other animals, both domestic and wild, may also play some role. But the central issue is how to limit the spread of the disease. Better biosecurity on farms and improved vaccines are both parts of the solution. According to the scientific and economic evidence, culling is not – no matter how much the Government wants it to be."
31 May 2013, 1:33 PM
DEFRA Finally Reveals Shocking Details of Badger Cull Suffering says the HSI/UK after pushing for the release of all information as veterinarians call on BVA to end support for cull.
The HSI UK (see also: www.hsi.org/world/united_kingdom/news/releases/2013/05/badgers_defra_reveal_053013.html) says:
With badger culling in England potentially just weeks or even days away, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has admitted that some animals are likely to be wounded but not immediately killed, with injured animals expected to experience massive bleeding, hyperventilation and shock, and some eventually dying of secondary infection or starvation.
The revelation is in a document about the department’s "humaneness" assessment for shooting badgers at night requested by Humane Society International/UK. Whilst the information supplied fails to explain how DEFRA intends to measure suffering, the heavily redacted document [PDF] does reveal, for the first time, how the killing methods will inflict physical injury and suffering upon many badgers. Bizarrely, DEFRA uses studies on the killings of entirely different species in completely different circumstances—even including the harpooning of whales at sea—in its attempts to justify the methods it will use for assessing the "humaneness" of shooting free-roaming badgers.
“It is clear why the government resisted answering our request for information. This document provides a shocking insight into the cruel fate that awaits England’s badgers—a dreadful massacre made all the more horrific because it has no basis whatsoever in science,” said HSI/UK Executive Director Mark Jones. “I am also puzzled by comparisons DEFRA makes to the killing methods of entirely different species. Killing a large whale with a harpoon to the brain, in broad daylight in the middle of the sea, has nothing whatsoever to do with shooting a badger in the chest with a rifle or shotgun in the pitch dark in the middle of a wood. The public has no faith in DEFRA’s failed attempts to justify this badger cull, and people will be horrified by the animal suffering. We must kill this cull, not England’s badgers.”
Key facts revealed in the information request:
DEFRA makes assumptions about humaneness based on irrelevant extrapolations from shooting completely different species like fox, deer, rabbit, moose and even harpooning whales.
Badgers are likely to endure severe haemorrhaging, increase in respiratory rate, hyperventilation, and bone injury such as bullet damage to the skull, spine, ribs and legs; soft tissue damage to the lungs, heart and liver.
Those badgers killed relatively quickly will likely die due to “extensive destruction of a vital organ” but those who are not shot cleanly will likely die due to wounds leading to “secondary infection and starvation because of reduced mobility.”
The established method of assessing death—looking for corneal reflexes—will not be used simply for logistical reasons, because it would interfere with the shooting. “The collection of data must not influence or interfere with the action of the shooters.” This means that shot but conscious badgers will be left in order to allow the shooters to carry on killing other badgers.
None of the shooters will have prior experience of shooting badgers; badgers shot earlier in the study are likely to be less cleanly shot because the shooters are learning on the job.
Read HSI/UK’s full critique at www.hsi.org/world/united_kingdom/news/releases/2013/05/badgers_defra_reveal_053013.html
Meanwhile, a group of veterinarians, which includes Mark Jones and TV’s Marc Abraham and Joe Inglis, has published a letter [PDF] in the Veterinary Times and Veterinary Record calling on the British Veterinary Association to withdraw its support for the cull whilst so many concerns about suffering remain.
One of the three stated objectives of the pilot badger culls due to take place this summer in Gloucestershire, Somerset or possibly Dorset, is to conduct a "humaneness" assessment of the killing methods. For more than six months, DEFRA refused repeated requests by HSI/UK to explain its humaneness criteria, and only now has revealed limited information following an appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office. As DEFRA is still refusing to answer HSI/UK’s questions about how data collected from observations of shoots and examination of badger carcasses will be used to measure suffering, it is avoiding public scrutiny and making it impossible to assess the scientific credibility of its conclusions. The Information Commissioner’s Office is now investigating.
31 May 2013, 1:32 PM
THE cull may be starting in the south west of the country, but there is little doubt it will be rolled out across the rest of the country if deemed successful, writes Adrian Coward, badger conservation campaigner. in the North West Evening Mail (www.nwemail.co.uk/cull-calls-time-on-bovine-tb-1.1059480?referrerPath=home). His concerns are below.
Sometime after Saturday, about 60 mercenaries will start attempting to humanely shoot healthy badgers in West Somerset.
Subsequently, a similar group will start shooting in West Gloucestershire and surveys are currently under way in Dorset to support subsequent badger killing there.
They will keep shooting in Somerset and Gloucestershire until they have killed at least 5,000 badgers at a bounty of £10 a head.
No one will count the badgers shot and injured that run off to die. None of the badgers will be tested for bovine TB.
We know that proven science against culling won’t stop them; common sense is replaced by bloody mindedness, polarised rural communities are accepted without care, tourism is hit, and the integrity and reputation of all farmers is plummeting.
But political expediency reigns supreme over public opinion.
This is about killing badgers at any cost, not resolving the bovine TB problem.
Don’t blame all farmers. Those manipulating government and the National Farmers’ Union are not typical working farmers, but people on a mission to gain a free hand to decimate badger populations.
This is about ultimately removing badger protection so that they can be persecuted and killed at will.
Our most effective weapon is public opposition; overwhelming public opposition against the culling.
31 May 2013, 1:32 PM
Jonathan Leake, in the Times 26/5/13 under the heading 'Hard culling' puts 100,000 badgers in line of fire' says that OWEN PATERSON, the environment secretary has drawn up plans for a big expansion of badger culling - including allowing farmers the freedom to shoot the animals - before the first two controversial trial culls have even begun.
He wants to create 40 more cull zones in the next four years as part of a drive to eradicate bovine TB. The two planned trial culls, scheduled to start in Somerset and Gloucestershire next Sunday, will see the killing of 5,000 badgers.
Estimates suggest the expansion planned by Paterson could lead to the eventual slaughter of up to 100,000 badgers, a move that will infuriate animal rights and conservation groups opposing the trials. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Paterson warned that badger culling would have to continue at a high level for up to 25 years.
Paterson said getting rid of bovine TB would mean giving farmers the freedom to shoot badgers, a protected species, as freely as they can now shoot foxes, rabbits and other vermin. "Further down the road, the culling of badgers should be a completely normal part of life in the country," he said. Hardly a surprising desire for a known advocate of fox hunting and pest control of various species.
Paterson blames a population explosion of badgers caused by the previous government but the Times points out this is anecdotal because Defra, the environment and farming ministry, has not conducted a population survey since 1997 when there were an estimated 300,000-400,000 badgers. Defra statistics show that since badgers became protected in the 1970s, there has not been significant culling under any government.
Even the randomised badger culling trial between 1998 and 2005 to measure the impact of culling badgers in 10 different parts of the UK, saw only 11,000 animals killed over a sevenyear period. In the cull areas, bovine TB incidence declined by about 16%, a benefit described as marginal by Lord Krebs, the scientist who oversaw the research.
Very recently, Defra's own scientists conceded that the spread of bovine TB may also be linked to the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak when all TB testing was halted. After it was over, tens of thousands of animals were moved into and around the UK as farmers replaced slaughtered herds.
Lord Krebs, now master of Jesus College, Oxford, described the imminent culls as "crazy" and suggested they were motivated by politics rather than science: "The main thing here is transparency. So if politicians are trying to say that the science supports what they are doing when it doesn't, then that is unacceptable."
31 May 2013, 1:11 PM
A family friendly march is being planned for tomorrow 1st June 12pm against the proposed badger cull.
The Government E Petition (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257?dm_i=1NFN,1IOJN,906C6K,56AAB,1) against the proposed badger cull currently has around 230,000 signatures. It is currently attracting the highest numbers of signatures and we understand it is the second highest ever government petition - yet the government continue to ignore public opinion and science.
31 May 2013, 1:03 PM
'Humaneness of badger cull to be judged on noise of dying animals' is the heading of the Guardian's article (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/30/humaneness-badger-cull-judged-noise) reporting on the government document (oddly marked 'protect'?)that reveals measures being used to assess the humaneness of the so called 'trial' badger culls that will begin shortly in England.
The noises made by shot badgers and comparisons with harpooned whales will be among the measures used to assess the humaneness of badger culls in England, a government document seen by the Guardian reveals.
The paper also acknowledges that none of the shooters will have experience of killing free-running badgers and that the requirement to target the heart and lungs is untested.
"With such large-scale killing in our countryside, it is simply unacceptable that the government is continuing to be so evasive about how suffering will be measured during the pilot culls," said Mark Jones, executive director of the Humane Society International UK, which obtained the document through the Freedom of Information Act.
He is particularly concerned that no information has been made public about how wounded animals that retreat underground to die can be included in the humaneness assessment or the proportion of badger carcasses that will be collected for postmortems.
In a previous 10-year trial of badger culling, the animals were trapped in cages before being shot. This method is relatively expensive so in the pilots ministers have allowed marksmen to shoot free-running animals, although this introduces the risk of wounding. Among the factors influencing the accuracy of the shooting, the document notes: "No shooter will have prior experience of shooting badgers." It also notes previous research on free shooting of wild animals all targeted the brain, rather than the chest area.
The document presents four possible outcomes of the shooting, including "death caused directly by the shooting due to severe trauma to vital organs" and "death caused indirectly by the shooting due to non-lethal wounding associated with secondary infections and starvation due to reduced mobility". Missed shots and non-fatal wounding are the other possibilities.
The "time to death" (TTD) is cited as a key factor in assessing pain and distress and the document states: "A similar approach as to that which is used to determine TTD in whales is proposed for the current study." It adds: "Observation of a shot animal's behaviour and vocalisations is the only method available to determine the degree of pain that may be experienced during the dying process."
"I am stunned at the ludicrous and unfounded assumptions that Defra appears to make about the relevance of killing methods for entirely different species such as whales," said Jones. "No credible scientist would have confidence in the way that the government intends to assess the suffering of badgers, and yet Defra appears to be doing all it can to avoid independent scrutiny of its methodology."
A scientist familiar with the cull policy said: "You need to set a threshold – which is subjective – above which it is not considered humane and the cull is stopped. My view is that the threshold has to be pretty damn high. It is not really acceptable for any animal to go off injured." The document states that daily data on the cull will be sent to Defra once the shooting begins "so ministers are aware of any welfare issues and if deemed necessary could halt the cull".
28 May 2013, 6:00 PM
Badger pilot cull support 'not representative' says a number of vets in an open letter published in the Veterinary Times on 27 May 2013.
Dear editor, The BVA’s position of support for the forthcoming pilot culls of badgers in the west of England is, we believe, not representative of majority cientific or veterinary opinion.
As members of the veterinary profession, we are deeply concerned the shooting of free-roaming badgers at night with shotguns and rifles is very likely to have detrimental welfare impacts on a large number of individual badgers that may be shot, maimed and severely injured, but not killed outright. The natural behaviour of those injured badgers will be to retreat underground where they will probably suffer a slow and very unpleasant death.
Defra claims the “humaneness” of this killing method will be assessed. However, without a detailed protocol it is impossible to judge whether the pilot culls are likely to generate scientifically robust data that can be used to form an objective opinion on humaneness. Indeed, it is our concern the badger carcases being assessed will be unrepresentative because wounded animals experiencing the greatest and most prolonged distress are highly unlikely to be retrieved for examination, and there will be little or no consideration of the distress caused to surviving badgers whose communities have been disrupted.
In such circumstances, it cannot be right for the BVA to declare support for the badger cull.
Formulation of BVA policy rarely involves the canvassing of its full membership, but rather is achieved through consultation with appropriate specialist divisions. However, policy affecting the welfare of large numbers of badgers that will be subject to controversial control methods should not be confined to those vets who have a vested interest in the dairy or beef industries affected by bTB. The public and the Government look to the veterinary profession to provide guidance and leadership on issues concerning animal welfare and the BVA, rightly or wrongly, is regarded by many members of the public and by government as the voice of the veterinary profession. Given the level of public and esteemed scientific concern generated by this issue, it is surely incumbent on the BVA to ensure its policy reflects the uncertainties surrounding the impacts of culling, particularly in respect to the welfare of affected badgers and their communities. Until more is known about the protocol for assessing “humaneness”, the BVA should withdraw its support for the Government’s policy forthwith, and, at the very least, canvass its full membership before reconsidering its position.
MARK JONES*, BVSc, MSc(Stir), MSc(UL), MRCVS, c/o Humane Society International/UK, 5 Underwood Street, London N1 7LY. MARC ABRAHAM, BVM&S, MRCVS, Grove Lodge Veterinary Group, Southwick Street, Southwick, Brighton BN42 4AD. CAROLINE ALLEN, MA, VetMB, CertSAM, MRCVS, Essex Road, Islington, London N1 3AP. HEATHER BACON, BSc(Hons), BVSc, CertZooMed, MRCVS, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edin- burgh, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG. FIONA DALZELL, BVSc, BA, MRCVS, Littlewood Cottages, School Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR8 6EP. RICHARD EDWARDS, MSc, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, Fontwell, West Sussex BN18 0SN. PHILL ELLIOTT, BVM&S, MSc, MRCVS, Hunt Rd, Earls Colne, Essex CO6 2NX. BRUCE FOGLE, MBE, DVM, MRCVS, York St, London W1H 1QS. JOE INGLIS, BVSc, MRCVS, c/o June Ford-Crush, PO Box 57948, London W4 2UJ. ANDREW KNIGHT, BSc (VetBiol), BVMS, CertAW, DipE- CAWBM (WSEL), PhD, FOCAE, MRCVS, Sheepcote St, Birmingham B16 8JZ. JOANNE LEWIS, BSc, BVMS(Hons), MRCVS, Chobham Road, Sunningdale, Ascot, Berks SL5 0HU. IAIN MCGILL, BSc(Hons), BVetMed, MRCVS, Stanmer Park Road, Brighton BN1 7JL. ALASTAIR MACMILLAN, BVSc, MSc, PhD, MRCVS, former RSPCA chief scientific officer, West Chiltington Rd, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 2EE. ANDRE MENACHE, BSc(Hons), BVSc, MRCVS, Granville Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1HB. PETER SOUTHGATE, BVetMed, MSc, MRCVS, c/o Fish Vet Group, Carsegate Road, Inverness IV3 8EX. PAUL TORGERSON, PhD, DECVPH, VetMB, MRCVS, Profes- sor of Veterinary Epidemiology, University of Zurich. Section of Epidemiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Winterthurestrasse, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland. *Correspondent
28 May 2013, 5:53 PM
DEFRA MINISTER TURNS HISTORY ON ITS HEAD says Badger Trust in its latest press release. See below.
In attempting to justify his shameful suggestion that farmers should be given the right to shoot badgers freely, Secretary of State Owen Paterson has turned historical fact on its head, says the Badger Trust. "Even worse, in doing so, he has ignored science and pinned his faith and reputation to precisely the wrong way to control or eradicate bovine TB".
It has been known for a decade that this would seriously risk making the situation worse. This was a fundamental finding from the £50 million Randomised Badger Culling Trial , acknowledged as the only sufficiently rigorous scientific field trial. It said any culling must be in carefully controlled conditions and carried out in a coordinated manner over a large area at the same time. The Minister ignores the crucial importance of the badger’s strongly territorial instinct and the disturbance and stress caused, thereby increasing the risk of bTB in badgers.
In an interview with the May 26th Sunday Times Mr Paterson said it would take 20-25 years of hard culling to reduce the number of herds with bTB to 0.2 per cent a year.
This remark also defies history. The Government's own Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Ian Boyd, and Mr Nigel Gibbens, Defra Chief Veterinary Officer, presented journalists with a chart last week that showed how bTB had been all but conquered by the late ‘60s without killing any badgers. The graph shows that the level then remained steady for 20 years.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust said: “Mr Paterson’s reported remarks distort history, ignore science and, as the article makes clear, any ‘enormous increase’ in the badger population is only hearsay. The Minister presides over his own department's failures in taking so long to toughen up cattle controls, and the disgraceful mistakes his advisers made over population estimates. These destroy any confidence that he and his department could be taken seriously”.
The Minister refers to a reservoir of the disease in wildlife, but it is hard to see how massive reductions in the past could have been achieved if such a reservoir had any significant effect. This theory has been recently questioned by Prof Peter Atkins, of Durham University's Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience .
These low levels were reached nationally five years before badgers were protected in 1973.
Mr Paterson imagines that the legal protection of badgers in 1973 led to a rise in infected cattle, but there was no change. A similar reduction emerged slightly later in the south west, also before protection. Subsequent intermittent culling had no discernible effect and bTB began to rise - in spite of it - from 1990. Mr Paterson seems to have completely misread the history in his reported claim that the last government stopped culling badgers and “TB took off like a helium balloon”. According to his graph bovine TB had already begun to “take off” by 1992 during culling, which was not suspended until the start of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial in 1998. The rise accelerated after the BSE and foot and mouth epidemics during the 2000s, when restocking with untested cattle took place.
Mr Paterson is also quoted as saying that there had been “an enormous increase in the badger population”, but as the Sunday Times article said, the last estimate was in 1997. His own department’s recent gross errors in estimating badger populations in the Somerset and Gloucestershire pilot areas demonstrate the difficulties – and the hazards – of making such a sweeping statement.
 RBCT http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/isg/report/final_report.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,1IP36,906LDO,56CO9,1 See page 85
 Durham University News : http://www.dur.ac.uk/news/newsitem/?itemno=16831&dm_i=1NFN,1IP36,906LDO,56COA,1
28 May 2013, 4:30 PM
Today's Guardian article also referred to John Bourne, the vet who led the government's 10-year, £50m trial of badger culling which reported in 2008 that it could "make no meaningful contribution" to curbing bovine TB.
Borune said; "The cattle controls in operation at the moment are totally ineffective," he says, because the tuberculin test used is not very accurate, meaning herds can often test negative even while still harbouring the disease.
"It's an absolute nonsense that farmers can move cattle willy-nilly after only two tests. Why won't politicians implement proper cattle movement controls? Because they don't want to upset farmers."
Bourne acknowledges that cattle can get TB from badgers, but says the true problem is the other way around: "Badger infections are following, not leading, TB infections in cattle."
Bourne oversaw the culling of 11,000 badgers in the trial and says it is very hard to cull quickly and effectively, even without interruptions from protesters. "You just chase the badgers around, which makes TB worse," he says. "We don't know what the outcome of the cull pilots will be but the likelihood is it's going to make things worse."Many cull opponents cite vaccination of badgers, or in future of cattle, as a better alternative.
28 May 2013, 4:27 PM
Interesting article in the Guardian today (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/27/badger-cull-bovine-tuberculosis) with more information concluding the porposed badger cull trials are not the way forward ...
In order to comply with various legislation re the protection status of badgers (ensuring that too many are not killed) and to help prevent perturbation (killing too few badgers) a reasonably accurate population assessment needs to be made in each of the trial cull areas. Badger expert, Professor Rosy Woodroffe has been trapping badgers for research and science for the past fifteen years so she should know what she is talking about. "It's very hard to count an animal that lives underground and only comes out at night," says Prof Rosie Woodroffe. She is seriously worried about the controversial badger culls due to start after 1 June.
The problem, says Woodroffe, is the real number of badgers is hard to establish. Initial estimates were made by counting badger setts.
"This is a stupid way to count badgers," says Woodroffe. "A single sett is not meaningful for a badger because they live in social groups and use more than one sett, possibly four or five."
Initial sett-based estimates from farmers were rejected by the government, which then did its own sett survey, which came up with much higher numbers and derailed the start of the cull in October. The new government data, partly based on DNA testing of badger hair samples, lowered the numbers again.
The uncertainties are so great, says Woodroffe, that it is "perfectly plausible" that every badger in a cull zone could be killed while at the same time too few badgers were killed to meet the minimum number set by the cull licence.
Prof Tim Coulson, a zoologist at Oxford University and a member of the independent expert group advising ministers on the cull, said: "For most wild species, trying to count the number of animals in a population, if they spent a lot of time underground or roaming over large distances, is extremely difficult."