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?
19 Jan 2016, 10:20 AM
The Badger Army is a growing group of volunteers from all over the UK that have come together in protest against the Conservative Government’s badger cull. Over the past two years the campaigners have organised 31 protest marches, surveyed for 100s of badger setts in the cull zones, searched for wounded badgers during the culls and patrolled the cull zones at night with the aim of saving as many badger lives as possible.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Badger Army will be busy over the coming years.
One positive bit stood out - from Dr Ian Givvon, we hope it proves to be factual:
I do not think that the development of a vaccine is years away; we may yet get a shock and find that comes about within six to 18 months. People are working 33WH extremely hard to develop that vaccine and with the new developments in the production of vaccines—including peptide technologies—emanating from the molecular biology in which we are pre-eminent in this country, who knows what will happen? We should be much more positive about that area.
5 Jan 2016, 10:11 AM
Environment Secretary Liz Truss told Parliament last month that England's badger cull is 'working', and needs to be extended into new areas, writes Oliver Tickell. Yet she and the NFU have refused to release the evidence to back up her claims. Now MPs and NGOs are joining the cry: 'publish or be damned!'
Here's what we do know. In the two counties where the cull has been taking place for three years, Gloucestershire saw no change in new TB infections between 2014 and 2015. In Somerset the level of new TB incidents in cattle jumped from 297 to 320 - a 7.75% increase.
Members of the EFRA parliamentary select committee that has oversight of Defra matters are getting a bit antsy (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmenvfru/443/44307.htm?dm_i=1NFN,3X6C6,9LWJGT,E4WTD,1). Here's what they recently stated:
"Opinions differ strongly over how best to manage threats from diseases such as bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Defra must establish a thorough evidence base for underpinning policy formulation and communicate it in a fully transparent manner to set out clearly the reasons for the policy decisions it takes.
"Defra must publish full data on bTB incidence in areas where badgers have been culled.
"Tackling diseases such as bTB require a holistic approach and we recommend that the Government rolls out at the earliest opportunity all aspects of its strategy which are underpinned by a strong evidence base.
"We further recommend that Defra takes into account approaches by devolved administrations and the evidence as to the effectiveness or otherwise of the different nations' approaches to managing bTB."
But that adds up to, all expressed in the most parliamentary of language, is this: "Do the science, and give us the evidence!"
See full article at: http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2986711/so_badger_culls_are_working_liz_truss_produce_your_evidence.html?dm_i=1NFN,3XNO1,906L7E,E6T5P,1
21 Dec 2015, 5:12 PM
A Freedom of Information request has apparently revealed that Cornwall Buckinghamshire , Devon, East Sussex, Herefordshire, Leicestershire , Staffordshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire have asked to be included in the next round of badger culling.
According to the Guardian the government is to relax the restrictions on its controversial badger culls as it rolls them out to new areas in 2016. However, a leading scientist has warned that the move makes it even less likely that culling will achieve its aim of reducing tuberculosis in cattle and could even make it worse.
Following manipulation of target levels the badger culls in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset met their kill targets in 2015, environment secretary Liz Truss announced last week, although scientists had warned in October that the low targets set were unlikely to be effective.
As predicted the Government has simply ignored the consultation. It sets out the summary of responses to the consultation which are overwhelming opposed to making culling arrangements 'more flexible', and the (reasonable basis these objections - as provided by the majority of responses. And then simply ignores them.
Summary of responses to the consultation on Guidance to Natural England on licences to control the risk of bovine tuberculosis from badgers
Earlier this year Defra invited comments on proposed licence changes, which would provide more flexibility in the control of badger populations in areas were bovine TB is a problem, and which would increase the potential to achieve disease control benefits. The consultation ran from 28 August to 25 September 2015 and we are grateful for the responses we received.
Ministers are being warned that the way they are using marksmen to shoot the wild animals may not be humane. The influential British Veterinary Association has supported the Government¹s cull strategy that has seen hundreds of badgers shot over the past two years across the West Country.
Recent figures reveal that 279 badgers were culled in Somerset, 432 in Gloucestershire and 756 in Dorset earlier this year, the BVA expressed strong reservations about the way the badgers are being killed. As a new round of culling was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the BVA raised its concerns about badgers being shot as they move around in the countryside rather than at point blank range in a trap.
Animal welfare campaigners say since the culls began no research has ever been carried out to determine how many, if any, of the dead badgers actually carried bTB.
The UK Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Philip Mansbridge, said: "Of course the Government is claiming success because the minimum number of badger deaths has been achieved that's simply because they moved the goalposts and drastically reduced the targets. "However, it is not a success by any other measure, and leading experts, scientists and vets repeatedly condemn the badger cull as ineffective and inhumane.
"The Government is naturally shouting much less about the latest figures that show that new TB incidences have actually gone up by 7.75 per cent in Somerset, despite badger culling having taken place in that region since the cull began.
"If badgers do have a role in the spread of bovine TB they are only a small piece of the puzzle. Badger vaccination is massively cheaper than the ludicrous price tag of more than £7,000 per badger killed last year. It is ludicrous for the Government to be using these reduced targets to justify a roll out of the cull.
"Ultimately though, we need to stop this cruel and pointless badger cull and focus on the long-term solution of a vaccine for cattle."
BADGER TRUST BACKS MP’S CALL FOR PROOF THAT CULLS ARE WORKING AS TB RATES RISE IN CULL ZONES
The Badger Trust has backed calls from Parliament’s Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee for the government to provide clear evidence that the badger culls are working as the latest figures show TB in cattle is rising in and around the cull zones.
The move follows the release of new data from DEFRA for Somerset which shows that in the 12 months to September 2014 the level of new TB incidents in cattle was 297 but in the 12 months to September 2015, this jumped to 320 a 7.75% increase, despite badger culling having now taken place in Somerset for the last 3 years.
This is in stark contrast to claims made by NFU President Meurig Raymond in his speech at their annual conference in Birmingham in February that cattle TB incidents in the Somerset cull zone had decreased from 34% to 11% between 2013 and 2015, which he claimed could only be due to the culling of badgers.
Responding to the EFRA Select Committee and the latest DEFRA bovine TB data Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said,
“The government is attempting to bury bad news by releasing the 2015 badger cull figures on the day of the Christmas Recess in Westminster. Despite claiming all the cull contractors have met their targets for 2015, there is no evidence the killing of badgers is reducing the level of bovine TB in cattle
I am pleased to see that the EFRA Select Committee has called on DEFRA to establish a thorough evidence base for underpinning policy formulation on bovine TB and for this to be communicated in a fully transparent manner. They are also right to call for an urgent release of data on the level of bovine TB in the badger cull zones.
The claims by the NFU and pro-cull politicians that badger culling is delivering a significant reduction in bovine TB are looking increasingly bogus and the exact opposite of the truth. £20 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent killing thousands of badgers and yet cattle TB in Somerset is on the rise. To put this in context, TB rates in cattle outside of the cull zones have been dropping consistently for five years due to improved testing, bio-security and movement controls.
Chairman of the Badger Trust Peter Martin added,
“The government’s own risk assessments stated before the culls began that there was a high probability that cattle TB rates would rise following the badger culls and this was backed up by the country’s top scientists in the field. In practice the culls have been condemned by independent scientists and vets as inhumane and the sub-optimal way they are being conducted means they have mostly failed to achieve even their basic targets.
The EFRA Select Committee is absolutely right to call on DEFRA to take greater account of the alternative TB reduction strategies of the devolved administrations. The Welsh Government's approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bovine TB in cattle are now down by 28% in Wales with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This now leaves 94% of the Welsh heard TB free, without killing any badgers.
Unless the government can prove the culling of badgers is working in terms of lowering TB in cattle, this cruel, ineffective and hugely costly policy must be stopped immediately."
DEFRA's Select Committee Recommendations can be found: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmenvfru/443/44307.htm?dm_i=1NFN,3X6C6,J7O91H,E4WTD,1
DEFRA's quarterly publication of national statistics on the incidence and prevalence of tuberculosis in cattle in Great Britain can be found at: http://i.emlfiles1.com/cmpdoc/7/2/0/7/7/files/340919_bovinetb-statsnotice-09dec15.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,3X6C6,J7O91H,E4WTE,1
7 Dec 2015, 9:33 AM
Thousands more badgers could be culled after the badger vaccination programme was suspended in Wales (currently no badgers are being culled in Wales). A worldwide shortage of vaccines has meant supplies are being prioritised for humans.
Ministers in England are apparently considering abandoning similar scheme programmes in England (where badger culling is still taking place) - inevitable if there is no vaccine available.
Typically, some farmers are calling fo morer badger culling.
9 Nov 2015, 6:15 PM
An MP in New Zealand says he has figures which disprove the perception that possums and wild pigs are responsible for spreading bovine tuberculosis. It seems these creatures are being used, as the badger is in the UK, as scapegoats.
NZ First's Richard Prosser says more than 124,000 possums were autopsied over the last 10 years and only 54 had bovine TB - a rate of 0.04%. And over the last eight years, only 18 wild pigs tested positive out of a total of more than 7700 examined - less than one quarter of one per cent. "Wild pigs are no more responsible for spreading bovine TB than possums," Mr Prosser said.
"These numbers, supplied in response to questions to the Ministry for Primary Industries, are unequivocal and turn long-held perceptions about bovine TB on their heads."
Mr Prosser says there's been a 40 percent reduction in the number of infected cattle since movement control was introduced in 2012. "Coupled with the wild animal figures that we have from the government's records, this strongly suggests that effective movement control has been the real answer to TB in cattle all along," he said. "The single biggest reservoir and vector for bovine tuberculosis is cattle. It always has been cattle."
GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO REVEAL COST JUSTIFICATION FOR NEW BADGER CULLS
A Freedom of Information Request (FoI) has revealed that the Government’s promised financial reappraisal of its badger cull policy will not be made public.
In 2011 the Government stated in a policy paper  see here, that it would revise its cost benefit analysis with data from the pilot badger culls undertaken in Somerset and Gloucestershire, before making any decision on rolling out the policy to new areas of the country.
The culls were extended to Dorset this year despite the county having one of the best TB reduction results in the whole South West but no information on whether the extension was justified has ever been published.
Reacting to this decision to withhold key information on the cost benefit analysis of the badger culls, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust said:
“The badger culls have proven a disastrous failure on scientific and humaneness grounds but a key factor which is likely to bring the policy to an end is the huge cost burden on the tax payer. We learned from Risk Registers published in February 2015, after a 3 year legal battle between DEFRA and the Badger Trust, that Ministers were advised that the cull policy could lead to huge financial loss or budgetary over run.
“With DEFRA confirming the culls in 2013 and 2014 cost the tax payer £16.8 million or £6,775 per badger killed, these fears have proved well grounded.
“We now learn that the Government are hiding their cost benefit analysis for the pilot badger culls, despite confirming this would play a key part in any final decision on rolling out the policy, as they have now done in Dorset.
“The Government’s reluctance to release this information, proves what we have known all along, the badger cull is a hugely expensive, scientifically flawed and inhumane policy which is unlikely to make a significant contribution to lowering the level of bovine TB in cattle.
“The Badger Trust calls on the Environment Secretary Liz Truss to immediately release the cost benefit analysis of the 2013 and 2014 pilot culls into the public domain.”
Peter Martin, Chair of the Badger Trust said:
“This policy is now becoming something of a national scandal. The levels of secrecy surrounding its implementation indicate that the Government has something serious to hide from us.
“The public and MPs should have been given full access to the cost benefit analysis on the pilot badger culls before any decision was taken to roll out the policy to new areas of the country. People’s trust and confidence in the Government is being tested to its limit as all the indications from DEFRA’s published figures suggest this policy is not only ruinously expensive but also failing on every measured indicator.
“This was supposed to be a farmer led and farmer paid for initiative, but as the taxpayer is picking up the bill the very least the Government should do is tell the truth about whether this money is being properly spent. One has to assume that if it was they would be more than happy to tell us, so I suggest we can draw our own conclusions on this.
"What is really worrying is that the Government constantly reiterates the culls will be extended round the country but if they cannot justify the expenditure then they should cancel the policy now. They should stop playing the badger blame game and focus on a programme of improved cattle control measures, biosecurity and TB testing systems, similar to those which have delivered a 48% drop in the level of new bovine TB cases in cattle in Wales over the last 5 years, without any badger culling. English farmers simply cannot wait any longer for the Government to get its act together on this and DEFRA should stop wasting their time and our taxes on this failed cull policy.”
 In particular see paragraphs 4.17/4.18 on page 16.
4.17. The cost assumptions used in the Impact Assessment are for the pilot areas, and it is likely that the Government costs would be lower for areas licensed subsequently as the monitoring costs in particular would be lower. The farming industry is also confident that it can deliver culling at a lower cost than estimated in the Impact Assessment. There are however plainly some uncertainties around the estimated costs and benefits. This provides an additional reason for the decision to proceed cautiously with a pilot in two areas initially before considering whether to proceed with a wider roll-out. (That cautious approach is in any event justified by the desirability of conducting a pilot to test our expectations in relation to the efficacy, safety and humaneness of culling by means of controlled shooting.)
4.18. Culling in two pilot areas will enable us to test our and the farming industry’s cost assumptions for elements of the policy where there is currently uncertainty. Alongside the outcome of the evaluation of culling in the pilot areas (see paragraph 6.1), this will also inform our decision on wider roll-out of the policy.
Press release from Badger Trust
2 Nov 2015, 9:45 AM
Professor Lord Krebs, the well respected, leading scientist, in a BBC interview says how he believes figures showing a fall in bovine TB cases in areas where the current cull have taken place are not enough to claim it is a success. He has accused the National Farmers Union of giving farmers false hope about the impact of badger culling on bovine tuberculosis
Lord Krebs is the author of the report which led to the 10 year Randomised Badger Culling Trials from 1998- 2008.
2 Nov 2015, 9:27 AM
The Tory Government is refusing to reveal a key report which will reveal whether the controversial badger cull is effective and good value for money. Last year each badger culled cost more than £7,500.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has blocked publication of the major analysis, despite a freedom of information requests.
We ask - does the secret document throw into doubt claims the cull is worthwhile and economically viable?
Many already believe the badger cull is a hugely expensive, scientifically flawed and inhumane policy which is likely to make no significant contribution to lowering the level of bovine TB in cattle.
Defra refused to release the documents, saying: “We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosure of information concerning the badgerculls in order to enable the public to assess the quality of policy formulation, advice and guidance, to enhance transparency of decision making and increase Government accountability.
“However, Defra has concluded that the public interest in withholding the information sought outweighs the public interest in its disclosure.
“The assessment of value for money is still in draft form. Defra took a measured approach by extending culling to one additional area this year (Dorset) in order to test lessons learned in a new area and to expand the evidence base that will be used to inform analysis of badger cull cost assumptions and value for money.
“Information from this year’s culls will be used to refine Defra’s cost assumptions in the coming months and releasing an interim assessment before it has been finalised could mislead the public, distract from the discussion of effective disease control and impinge on the safe space officials require to develop the policy.”
28 Oct 2015, 6:45 PM
Exmoor farmer calls for rethink on badger culling
A WEST Somerset farmer has called on the government to rethink its “failed” policy to tackle Bovine TB.
Michael Reed, a fifth generation Exmoor farmer, slammed the current “slaughter and culling” programme and urged the government to fast track a cattle vaccine.
Mr Reed, who runs Higher Ranscombe farm, spoke of the distress he and other farmers faced having to watch their herds being decimated.
“It is heart-breaking to see cows being carted away especially when they have young calves,” he said.
“What makes it worse is very often the TB test results are inconclusive but the cows are taken away anyway. I ask for a re-test but the officials aren’t interested.”
Mr Reed, whose family has been farming on Exmoor for over 200 years, added: “All that’s happening just now is culling badgers and slaughtering cattle.
It’s a failed policy but the government is just carrying on with it.” Mr Reed said his 200 acre farm had been clear of BTB for three years. However, in March two cows tested positive while four others had inconclusive tests but were still slaughtered.
Is the tide turning against badger cull politically and scientifically?
Meurig Raymond and Minette Batters of the NFU are making statements about the effectiveness of the badger cull on bringing down bTB rates that they cannot possibly substantiate.
Lord Krebs, the scientist who led the Randomised Badger Culling Trials for ten years from 1998 to 2008 publicly rubbished the claims of the NFU leader that culling had brought down bTB rates in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Lord Krebs said the only evidence, from a Defra report from 2014, showed TB rates in herds in the two counties had actually gone up rather than down after the first year of culling. The NFU insisted their anecdotal evidence of a fall in TB was based on the first two years of culling. “We have always been clear that the figures we have pointed to, which clearly show a reduction in TB incidence, are anecdotal and are based on reports from farmers on the ground and vets, and, crucially, take account of two years of culling,” said Andy Robertson, NFU Director General.
Dominick Dyer of the Badger Trust Mr Dyer insisted the row had crystallised for many people – including, he alleged, some Conservative MPs and scientists – that the cull wasn’t working. “People are now saying: ‘this isn’t a particularly good policy’. It never looked too good on humanness grounds – but Conservatives may not have been too bothered about that – but it is also not effective and is very expensive for taxpayers,” he said. He added that in his view any idea that Liz Truss, Secretary of State at Defra, would now be rolling the cull out more widely had been dealt a major blow. “I don’t think we are anywhere near a wider roll-out of the cull across the country,” he said.
Are Farmers Being Deliberately Misled About Badger Culls?, asks the Huffington Post.
As this year's licensed badger culls come to an end, a row is emerging over whether farmers are being misled about the impacts on cattle tuberculosis within the cull zones.
This year was the third year of culling in licensed zones in Somerset and Gloucestershire, the two original 'pilot zones', and the first in a new zone in Dorset. During the first two years of shooting in Somerset and Gloucestershire, a total of nearly 2,500 badgers were reported to have been killed. If this year's license targets have been met, between 935 and 2038 additional animals will have lost their lives across the three zones.
Statutory measures designed to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle led to the premature slaughter of around 33,000 cattle last year across Britain, at a cost to the taxpayer of close to £100 million.
Proponents of badger culling claim that widespread killing of supposedly protected wild animals will significantly reduce these impacts and costs.
The basis for this claim comes from the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), the largest trial ever conducted in order to determine the impact of a wildlife intervention on a disease of livestock. The RBCT, which took almost 10 years, costing the taxpayer some £50 million and 11,000 badgers their lives, showed that if you conduct an intensive, simultaneous cull over a large area, removing a large proportion of the population in the first year and maintaining it at the reduced level for at least 4 years, you might achieve a reduction of new TB cases in cattle of just 12-16 percent nine years after culling commenced. The scientists who oversaw the trial concluded that 'badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.'
The current culls have not been intensive or simultaneous. Instead they have been haphazard, patchy, and carried out over extended periods of up to 11 weeks. They have also failed to reduce badger populations in the cull zones by the proportion suggested by the RBCT, advised by experts and required by their license, and failed to meet humaneness criteria set by a government-appointed Independent Expert Panel. These facts alone invalidate any attempt to use the results of the RBCT to predict the outcome of the current policy. Indeed the perturbing effect the culls will be having on the surviving badgers in the cull zones makes it very likely that the prevalence of TB among badgers will have increased, potentially increasing the risk to cattle.
In spite of this, senior politicians, farming leaders and some vets have already been claiming that there have been massive reductions in cattle TB in the cull zones, and that this shows that the culls are working and should be rolled out to more areas of the country.
A former Environment Secretary, who oversaw the start of the pilot culls, has been widely reported as saying the culls are working and should be extended.
In his speech to the National Farmers Union Annual Conference in February, its president stated: "I want to stress that in the two pilot areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire we are already seeing that TB incidence on farms has declined. Not just by a small amount either - in the Somerset pilot area TB incidence on farm has decreased from 34% to 11% compared with two years ago. In Gloucestershire, vets are also reporting a reduction in TB in cattle too."
And a well-known Gloucestershire vet is reported to have told a local veterinary meeting in Exeter in February 2015 that the culls in Gloucestershire had resulted in a huge decrease in cattle TB, and that the killing of "small black and white animals" had actually saved the lives of huge numbers of "large black and white animals".
However, closer examination of the government's own data reveals a very different picture.
Badger culls haven't been taking place in isolation. Over the past few years the government has been introducing a range of cattle-focussed measures aimed at reducing the spread of TB between cattle. These measures include increased cattle testing frequencies and the use of multiple tests to help overcome the fact that the standard test typically misses a third or more of infected cattle. Stricter controls over cattle movements have also been implemented, alongside improved biosecurity measures to help reduce the chances of cattle coming into contact with infective materials. These measures are having a big impact, as would be expected given that bovine TB is primarily a disease of cattle, and by far the most likely way it spreads is from cow to cow.
So to make any judgement about the impacts of badger culling, changes in cattle TB rates within cull zones need to be compared to similar areas which have been subjected to the same cattle measures but where no badger culling has taken place.
The government has commissioned some work on this, comparing the rates of bovine TB within and outside cull zones for the first year of culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
In Somerset, the figures show that the number of cattle slaughtered because of positive TB tests within the cull zone fell from 246 to 208 in the 12 months before and after the cull, a fall of 20%. However, a similar fall was seen in a 'comparison zone' where no culling took place. In Gloucestershire, the numbers of cattle slaughtered actually rose within the cull zone after the first year of badger culls, whereas in the 'comparison zone' numbers fell. The numbers of cattle herds affected within the cull zones rose after the first year of culls in both Somerset and Gloucestershire.
We should remember that the current culls were never designed to establish whether badger culling will reduce TB in cattle. The RBCT is the only study specifically designed to do this, and the scientists who conducted it stated in their final report: 'It is unfortunate that agricultural and veterinary leaders continue to believe, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, that the main approach to cattle TB control must involve some form of badger population control'. As Lord Krebs, who is widely credited with initiating the RBCT, made clear in a recent interview on Radio 4's Farming Today programme, farmers are being given false hope by the National Farmers Union and other cull proponents. It's interesting to note that the National Farmers Union declined to take part in that programme.
Claims that the current haphazard, poorly conducted and inhumane badger culls are somehow responsible for big reductions in cattle TB rates are unsubstantiated and irresponsible, particularly given the additional cattle measures that are being put in place, and it's highly unlikely that it will ever be possible to know for sure what impact badger culling might have, regardless of how widely and for how long the policy is implemented.
Politicians, farmers leaders, and particularly veterinarians, should know better.
Badger Trust Accuses Government of Moving the Goalposts on Cull Licences
As the 2015 badger culls come to an end, the Badger Trust has accused the government of attempting to move the goalposts on its failing badger cull policy. DEFRA has just finished the public consultation on proposals to change the cull licence authorisation process, to allow the cull zones to be shrunk whilst allowing private contractors even more time to kill badgers. They also want to tamper with the theoretical area of land available for culling to include land that does not have owner’s consent for killing badgers.
“The benefit of culling badgers has always been very marginal,” says Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust. “In order to see any reduction at all in cattle TB a strict methodology must be applied or the culls will either not work or actually make the TB situation in cattle worse. The size and shape of the cull zone, and the speed with which culling takes place are all critical to any chance of lowering TB in cattle. To do it properly requires enormous expenditure of money, equipment and personnel.”
“The current licencing conditions are already a dangerous compromise,” continues Dominic Dyer. “To be effective the cull must take place simultaneously over the whole area in less than two weeks, but DEFRA extended this to six weeks at the request of the cull contractors. Despite this they have still failed to achieve their basic targets in both years of culling, even with an extension in the first year.”
“The government has completely misunderstood the scientific complexity of culling,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin. “Their new proposals are designed purely to make life easier for the culling companies and have reduced the culls to a crude numbers-based exercise in killing badgers. DEFRA has lost any right to claim these culls are in any way scientific and is now just making things up as it goes along. We shouldn’t forget that the vast majority of badgers do not even have TB.”
“Any failure to deliver a reduction in cattle TB is not only a waste of taxpayer’s money but also unlawful under the Protection of Badgers Act,” continues Peter Martin. “Under the current licence conditions the culls have conspicuously failed to deliver that objective so any further weakening of them is just a cynical attempt to ‘move the goal posts’ to allow that failure to continue.”
“Instead of caving in to their demands, it’s high time the government recognised that the farming industry is incapable of delivering a properly organised and scientifically effective cull,” concludes Peter Martin. “DEFRA and the government are in full possession of the facts so it is completely irrational for them to continue with culling operations as they are. However, to further weaken the licence conditions is utterly irresponsible and will just lead to more badgers dying and no improvement in cattle TB levels.”
16 Oct 2015, 7:30 PM
Badgers and bovine TB in England
The culling of badgers is not taking place on National Trust land.
As a major landowner with many farming tenants, the NT understands how devastating an outbreak of bovine TB can be. They have found a practical solution. They ran a successful four year project at Killerton in Devon to see how badger vaccination could be deployed over a large area. They are now working with the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency to make Killerton a national training school for the vaccination of badgers.
The NT says; 'Vaccination needs to be part of the mix of measures needed to tackle bovine TB. We’d like to see the Government working with partners to carry out further testing to show its effectiveness as part of a multi-pronged approach to tackling the disease based on the best available scientific evidence, which includes better testing and surveillance of cattle and stricter biosecurity (i.e. keeping badgers and cattle apart)'.
'We’ve had concerns about how the two pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are being run but their success or failure will only become clear when the four years of the cull are completed. Our concerns mean that we don’t support rolling out culls to other areas which may affect our properties, including the cull in Dorset which began in September 2015, and we aren’t allowing culling on our land. This includes not allowing it on National Trust land that is leased to tenants.'
With regards to badgers and bovine TB in Wales and Northern Ireland theTrust says; 'Culling is only taking place in England. The policy of the Welsh government focuses on more rigorous and frequent testing, the closer control of cattle movements and vaccination of badgers and we’ve been strongly supportive of this approach.'
'In Northern Ireland, we’ve been broadly supportive of the Test, Vaccinate Remove trial and we’re very interested in the outcomes of the five year programme which is designed to provide locally relevant scientific evidence to inform decision making.'
Info from: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356398760842/
9 Oct 2015, 11:06 AM
The NFU and former Defra Secretary Owen Paterson are claiming the reduction in bTB outbreaks in Somerset and Gloucester, the two culling areas are the result of badger culling. However, these claims are in direct opposition to the science and research of the 10 year RBCT Trial, widely regarded around the world as the leading scientific study in relation to culling badgers.
Professor Lord Krebs who oversaw the RBCT as Chief Scientific advisor to the government said "It’s simply not true that the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have resulted in a decline in TB. The NFU should be more honest with the public and its members.”
Culling badgers is extremely expensive, inhuman and unpopular with the public.
5 Oct 2015, 6:39 PM
Vaccination Buffer Zone maintained in Somerset Cull zone
Penelope Phillips and Vanessa Mason, with the support of the Badger Trust, have successfully overturned Natural England’s decision to remove the culling buffer zone around their properties in Somerset.
Mrs Phillips and Ms Mason have been vaccinating badgers on their properties since 2012, having decided not to participate in the pilot badger culls based on the evidence that such culls would not reduce bovine TB and were inhumane and ineffective. Given their intention to vaccinate, they requested, and Natural England implemented, a 200-metre buffer zone around their property in order to avoid the unnecessary killing of vaccinated badgers and also to reduce the risk of perturbation of unvaccinated badgers on to their property.
However, in the first half of 2015, and without any consultation, Natural England informed Mrs Phillips and Ms Mason that it intended to remove the buffer zone for the third year of the pilot culls. This put the herd immunity almost certainly achieved on the Phillips/Mason land at serious risk and also meant badgers vaccinated at significant expense were at increased risk of being killed while foraging at night.
Natural England maintained its position following formal pre-action correspondence. However, after proceedings were filed, Natural England agreed just days before the commencement of the culls that the buffer zone would be reinstated and maintained for the duration of the culls.
Ms Mason responded to Natural England’s reversal of its decision:
“While I welcome Natural England’s recognition of the importance of the buffer zone around our properties, I was shocked that Natural England would seek to take a decision to remove the buffer zone without properly consulting with affected landowners who (alongside many volunteers) have expended significant time, effort and money on vaccination. It seems that there was one rule for the cull companies and another for those who had chosen not to participate in the cull. However, now that the buffer zone is back in place, I look forward to re-building a constructive relationship with Natural England in the future.”
Jeff Hayden, the Trust’s Lead on Judicial Challenge, who supported Mrs Phillips and Ms Mason in the legal action, commented:
“While clearly we consider there should be no culling at all given the evidence of failure across the cull zones on all pertinent measures including effectiveness and humaneness, we are pleased that, at the very least, Natural England have recognised the importance of protecting vaccinated badgers from unnecessary death. We would urge all landowners undertaking vaccination projects within the cull zones to seek a buffer zone. While we cannot guarantee Natural England will agree to implement a buffer zone, they have accepted they will consider such applications in accordance with their current policy.”
2 Oct 2015, 6:51 PM
Somerset County Gazette spends a night out with the Somerset badger cull patrol
The badger cull has to be one of the most divisive issues affecting West Somerset today, and with conflicting information being given by each side of the argument it can be difficult to know what to believe. To try and find out more about the workings of the cull, our reporter Steven Salter went on a night time watch with Somerset Badger Patrol on Sunday, September 27.
I agreed to meet former BBC wildlife documentary maker Amanda Barrett, who will act as my guide for the evening, along with the rest of the monitors at Williton County Council car park at 7.30pm.
The volunteers, clad in high visibility jackets and walking gear, are friendly and clearly very passionate and dedicated toward the cause.
Some were local to West Somerset while others had travelled in from further away, with one couple even coming over from Majorca.
Within minutes it was easy to tell this was a serious and organised operation with high-tech equipment including thermal imaging camera and a night vision device worth thousands of pounds.
Our patrol heads out to Sampford Brett where I am introduced to Alex, one of the monitors who is an expert in the badger persecution cases.
"The monitors are finding an increasing number of snares, and have also seen badger sets being blocked up, both of which are against the terms of the license and breaks the badger protection act," Alex said.
"We come out every night for all six weeks of the cull. It requires a huge amount of work beforehand in terms of preparation, finding the sets, understanding the lie of the land, equipment, etc. It takes a huge toll out of everybody's lives, relationships, jobs.
"The perception of monitors is unfair, we are essentially people from Middle England but the media have painted a different picture."
Our next stop is to meet a couple who own a small farm in West Somerset where the husband has worked in the dairy farming industry for more than 30 years both as a farmer and a consultant.
"I am amazed so many farmers believe it will make a big difference to reducing bovine tuberculosis," he said.
"We have had cattle affected by TB but never thought about going and wiping the badgers out because there were other measures that should be taken first including restriction of movement, more frequent testing and simply better farming practice. Movement restrictions, more frequent testing, better farming practice.
"If they thought there was scientific evidence to justify the cull they would test the badgers before shooting them."
Throughout the night many of themes recur with the patrollers I speak to, regarding the cruelty, cost and inefficiency of the cull and protestors are adamant that the science backs them up.
On the way back my guide Amanda sums up her view: "The government is dismissing scientific evidence which comes and it is disgraceful. Research shows that culling does not significantly reduce outbreaks of the disease in cattle and can even make the situation worse.
"The cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire was meant to be a pilot on the shooting of free ranging badgers overseen by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in 2013. The IEP findings were that the cull is inhumane, inefficient and ineffective. Despite this, the culls continue and it is a travesty."
Interestingly , to try and get both sides of the story The Gazette has offered to go out with the contractors but it seems highly unlikely they will agree to have a reporter join them for a night of culling.
ENGLAND COULD ERADICATE BOVINE TB WITHOUT KILLING BADGERS!
Bovine TB control tactics currently employed by the Welsh and Scottish authorities - which don’t involve badger culling - are leading the way in bTB disease reduction, whilst those employed by England are not, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London. Using publicly available data researchers at Biological and Chemical Sciences were able to determine the effectiveness of current Bovine TB management strategies; the study found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB free herds in Scotland and Wales. Should their current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England. Not only did more testing lead to effective control of the disease but further proof of its importance was shown by spikes in infections and infected herds when there were interruptions to testing after the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in the UK.
www.farminguk.com/News/England-could-eradicate-Bovine-TB-without-culling-new-research-shows_36997.html The team noted that the Scottish programme of risk-based testing had led to the reduction in the number of tests there meaning that testing not only works but is cost-effective. However, the most rapid decline in infections was recorded in Wales since annual or even more frequent testing was applied.
The researchers also found increases in new incidents in the winter months when cattle are more likely to be housed closer together. This will be partly due to the higher number of tests carried out in the winter but it is in line with other evidence showing increases in human TB infections in winter which are attributed to crowding and lower vitamin D levels. Dr Aristides Moustakas, said: “It is clear that the Welsh policy of frequent testing up to every six months and the Scottish policy of risk-based surveillance are producing reductions in the both the incidence and prevalence of TB in cattle.
Professor Matthew Evans, said: “It is clear that testing cattle frequently is the most effective way of reducing Bovine TB. Farmers and policymakers should not ignore this evidence which is based on the government’s data.” Humane Society International/UK’s Professor Alastair Macmillan welcomed new research. Macmillan was formerly at DEFRA (2003-2007) where he led the team which provided scientific advice to government and policy makers on animal health and welfare (and particularly on bovine TB), as well as managed the Bovine TB, Animal Welfare and Endemic Diseases Research Programmes.
Professor Alastair Macmillan, veterinary advisor, Humane Society International/UK, said: "This new paper provides extremely strong evidence of what many experts in veterinary disease control have known for many years - that it is crucial to test cattle as frequently as possible in order to control bovine TB. The Queen Mary researchers have shown without doubt that killing badgers will have little effect, whilst employing the policies of Wales and Scotland, where badgers are not culled, will continue to have a dramatic impact on reducing TB in cattle. "Frequent cattle testing is particularly important as the sensitivity of currently available diagnostic tests is not very high, meaning that cattle incubating TB are not detected and are allowed to remain in the herd to infect others over the following months. These cattle are by far the most common reason why cattle herds suffer repeated TB breakdowns, not badgers. The government must heed this evidence and stop wasting time and resources on killing badgers to no effect. All efforts must instead be focused on far more frequent cattle testing and strict cattle movement control. How much more research and scientific evidence does this government need before it listens to the rational facts?"
The team at QMUL used publicly available data to determine the effectiveness of current Bovine TB management strategies; the study found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB free herds in Scotland and Wales. Should their current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England.
10 Sep 2015, 10:01 AM
LESS than half the farms taking part in the badger cull in Gloucestershire have cattle, Natural England has admitted.
A Freedom of Information request (FoI) to the organisation showed that only 43 per cent of farms in West Gloucestershire taking part in the cull actually contained any cows.
In West Somerset, only 60 per cent of the participating farms have cattle, while in Dorset, it is 70 per cent.
The badger cull in Gloucestershire has been extended to December 18, after the original six-week period only saw 30 per cent of the badger population culled.
The cull was extended to allow the private cull companies to hit their 70 per cent target in the bovine TB (bTB) hotspot.
Protesters against the badger cull have campaigned on the basis that the cull is unscientific, and killing badgers will not bring about a reduction in the disease.
Teams have been out in the cull zone for the last two months, including group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS), which organises wounded badger patrols in parts of the county.
They questioned why improvements in testing of the disease in cattle was not prioritised over the culling of badgers.
Jeanne Berry, spokeswoman for GABS, said: “This latest information highlights the waste in this cull.
“It is a waste of wildlife and the waste of taxpayers money in implementing it.
“Nearly all badgers killed in this cull will be healthy, and this information shows that for the minority that may have had the disease, most were not on a farm where they were a threat to cattle anyway.”
A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the cull in Gloucestershire was crucial for controlling the disease.
Statistics from Defra last week showed more than 200 herds in Gloucestershire have been under TB restrictions at the end of August this year.
He added: “West Gloucestershire was chosen as one of the two pilots for a number of reasons, including the severity of the disease in the area.
“The importance of this situation for cattle farmers, their families and their communities cannot be overstated.”
As temperatures are expected to drop closer to freezing this week, the Badger Trust has renewed calls for badgers not to be cage trapped and left to die in the cold.
A Defra spokesman told the Citizen the animals would not be caged from December 1 to avoid exposing them to the harsh weather conditions.
Marksmen will be left to assess if traps should be set from now until December.
She added that guidelines are in place to ensure the suspension of trapping where there is a “risk of extreme exposure”.
Three senior scientists who collectively produced two decades of government research on controlling badgers to reduce bovine TB are among a group of eminent experts to call for an immediate halt to the badger cull. The intervention comes as figures reveal the government has spent nearly £7,000 killing each badger so far.
Professor Lord Krebs, Professor John Bourne and Professor Ranald Munro write of their disappointment that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has extended the controversial cull to Dorset and called on it to immediately reconsider its decision to continue culling badgers.
It is the first time that Munro has publicly criticised the government after he was employed by Defra in 2013 to chair its independent expert panel on the badger cull. The panel concluded that the first year of the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire failed to meet Defra’s own criteria for effectiveness or humaneness. Badger cull is flawed and must now stop Letters: The government-appointed independent expert panel (IEP) charged with assessing free shooting in the first year of pilot culls concluded that the method failed to meet criteria for effectiveness or humaneness Read more
Defra ignored these findings, scrapped the panel and continued the badger cull last year and this year. As the experts’ letter states: “No improvements to humaneness were reported following the second year of culling, leading to the withdrawal of the British Veterinary Association’s support for the method.”
Lord Krebs of Oxford University was originally commissioned by the government to investigate links between badgers and the spread of bovine TB in cattle and his influential report in 1997 led to an eight-year £50m government-funded field trial, in which the impact of culling 10,979 badgers was scientifically monitored in the countryside.
That trial, led by Bourne, concluded in 2007 that culling badgers could “make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”. The experiment showed how culling could make bovine TB worse if it caused the “perturbation effect” whereby killing badgers caused survivors to roam more widely, spreading the disease into new areas. Advertisement
Despite this, pilot culls were launched by the government in areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire using “controlled shooting” – a method of killing badgers not tested by the rigorous scientific trial, which trapped badgers in cages before shooting them, to minimise suffering and perturbation.
In the letter, the experts stress the “considerable” evidence demonstrating “the central importance of cattle-to-cattle transmission” in the spread of bovine TB.
They write: “Control strategies require wider recognition of other factors, including the limitations of the tuberculin test [which determines whether cattle have bovine TB], more rigid cattle movement controls and heightened on-farm biosecurity. These measures are far more effective at reducing tuberculosis in cattle. Vaccination of both cattle and badgers may also have a role to play.”
In further criticism of the government, Bourne accused Defra of continuing “to either ignore, cherry pick or purposefully misinterpret the science” on badger culling.
He said that while cattle control measures had been strengthened they were still inadequate. “Defra fail to fully appreciate that this is primarily an infectious disease of cattle and that the tuberculin test is very insensitive. As a consequence large numbers of infected cattle remain undiagnosed and perpetuate the disease in infected herds as well as spreading the disease to other cattle herds and wildlife.”
Another signatory of the letter, Professor Alastair MacMillan, veterinary advisor to Humane Society International, said: “Experts agree and the verdict is in: a cull of up to 2,038 badgers in the coming weeks would be inhumane, ineffective and indefensible. It’s long overdue that the government listens to science and reason and ends the badger cull.”
Separately on Wednesday, the Badger Trust published figures released by Defra under a freedom of information request showing that the government had spent £16.8m on the badger culls since 2012, or £6,775 per badger killed.