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?
7 Sep 2015, 12:55 PM
FOI REQUEST REVEALS TRUE COST OF BADGER CULLS IS EVEN HIGHER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT AT £6,775 PER BADGER
DEFRA has finally been forced to reveal the true cost of their disastrous badger cull policy in a Freedom of Information request brought by the Badger Trust. The final bill for the taxpayer (including policing costs) is just under £16.8 million, which works out at £6,775 per badger killed.
The Badger Trust has pursued the government relentlessly over the actual costs of the badger cull policy but DEFRA fought hard not to reveal them. So in November 2014, the Trust went public with its own estimate of £6,100 per badger for the first two years of the culls, a figure derided as ‘inaccurate and alarmist’ by pro-cull politicians and the farming lobby, who also accused the Trust of inflating the costs to ‘fuel public opposition’ to the policy.
Reacting to the latest figures released by DEFRA, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said, “Despite the best efforts of the government and the farming lobby to discredit us, our cost estimates were, if anything, too low.
“Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer. When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.
“If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”
Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin added, “It’s time the government stopped pandering to the irrational sentiments of the farming lobby by playing the badger blame game. We live in a world of science and facts, and DEFRA’s own data show that even in TB hotspot areas 85% of badgers will not even have the disease and 98% are no risk whatsoever to cattle. Killing badgers that don’t have TB cannot possibly help the situation for farmers or for cows. This indiscriminate slaughter is not only irrational but hugely wasteful of public money at a time when key services are being axed, including 40% cuts at DEFRA.
“The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.
“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”
Notes for Editors:
2012 Cull Cost Postponed: (Section 4.2 p13)
2013 Cull Cost Year 1 FOI:
2014 Cull Costs Year 2 FOI:
Total Number of Badgers Killed 2013 & 2014:
921 Gloucestershire Year 1 274 Gloucestershire Year 2 940 Somerset Year 1 341 Somerset Year 2
Lawyers acting for the Save Me Trust today sent a letter before action to Natural England requiring them to revoke the licences to kill badgers held by the cull operators in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.
Badgers are a protected species. Unless an exception applies, killing a badger is a criminal offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. One exception is when the badger is killed for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease, and the killer has a licence issued by Natural England.
The Government has not sought to repeal or amend the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, so Natural England has to comply with it. It justifies issuing the licences on the grounds that the cull is for the purpose of preventing the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle.
The scientific consensus is that a badger cull can lead to a slight reduction in the incidence of bovine TB, but only if the cull is carried out professionally and thoroughly, using experienced field staff to trap the badgers in cages before shooting them. Anything less cannot be relied on to reduce the spread of bovine TB, and may well increase it, because the badgers that survive move around more and so have a greater opportunity to catch bovine TB or to pass it on.
Natural England has licenced contactors to shoot badgers in the field. In Gloucestershire and Somerset the contractors have entirely failed to carry out the kind of cull that could be expected to slightly reduce bovine TB, and there is a significant chance that their efforts have caused infections in farmers' herds, not prevented them. There is no reason to believe that their performance will improve this year, nor that the contractor in Dorset, who has just been issued with a licence, will fare any better. This means that the annual cull planned to begin in a matter of days cannot in any rational sense be said to be serving the purpose of preventing the spread of disease. It is therefore unlawful.
Natural England has thus far done the Government's bidding when it comes to issuing licences. The letter from the Save Me Trust sets out the reasons why the cull as it has licenced it cannot with any confidence be said to prevent disease. It also sets out ways in which Natural England has failed in its duty to consult the public before issuing licences.
The Save Me Trust calls on Natural England to do its duty under the legislation and revoke these unlawful licences to kill. This will stop a cull that has so far killed thousands of badgers for no good reason. If Natural England does not revoke the licences, then the Save Me Trust will take legal action to require Natural England to act within the law.
30 Aug 2015, 3:56 PM
According to the Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mystery-moneybags-steps-offer-farmers-6341556#ICID=sharebar_twitter) animal rights campaigners have announced they may have found a way to stop the controversial badger cull after a mystery benefactor stepped in to offer farmers a cash incentive.
The badger cull licence demands that at least 70% of land in any cull zone is signed up for culling, and if that take-up drops below that figure, then Natural England will cancel the licence.
Documents released by Defra show that the Gloucestershire cull zone has exactly 70% sign up, so the tiniest of smallholders pulling out would end culling permanently.
It is currently costing over £5,000 per badger killed - taking into account the police costs. Much of this is funded by the taxpayer
30 Aug 2015, 2:16 PM
DEFRA's most recent proposals are out for consultation. They relate to guidance to Natural England on licences to control the risk of bovine tuberculosis from badgers. We believe that there is minimal risk from badgers regarding bovine TB - why waste money on publicly unpopular and difficult policies that do not work?
Basically they want to allow badger culling over smaller areas with reduced % participation without time limit ie totally ignore RBCT advice!
BADGER TRUST CONDEMNS CONTINUED CULLING AS “COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL’
UK’s leading naturalists and broadcasters Chris Packham and Steve Backshall agree.
The Badger Trust has condemned the government’s decision to continue with the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset as ‘completely irrational’.
“These culls were sold to the public as an experiment to see if free-shooting badgers was humane and effective,” says the Badger Trust’s CEO, Dominic Dyer, “and on both counts they have comprehensively failed.”
The government's Independent Expert Panel (IEP) and now the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have condemned free shooting as 'inhumane' . There was a failure to achieve the minimum number of badgers killed in either annual cull in Gloucestershire and in Somerset the second year of culling achieved a much reduced target figure.
“However, the real scandal is that the vast majority of culled badgers will not have had Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB),” continues Dominic Dyer. “The government has insisted that none of them are tested for the disease either before or after they are killed. This means the culling method is not only ‘blind’ but also that there is no way of ever knowing if it has worked.
“Defra’s own data suggest that while 15% of badgers may test positive for bTB, just 1.6% of them are capable of passing on the disease. This means 98.4% pose no risk whatsoever to cattle and 85% are likely to be completely bTB free. Trying to control bTB in cattle by culling badgers that don’t have bTB doesn’t make any sense.”
Two of the UK’s leading naturalists and broadcasters Chris Packham and Steve Backshall have joined with the Badger Trust to condemn the government’s decision. “Ignoring science and going back to the dark ages culling badgers to keep certain lobbies happy, is a terrible idea,” says Steve Backshall, whilst Chris Packham has said, “There are plenty of reasons to oppose the culling of badgers but underpinning them all is the fact that the science says, indeed all the scientists say, that it’s the wrong thing to do”.
“The government and the farming lobby are continuing to play the badger blame game in order to mask their failure to properly control this disease,” says Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin, “the Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers”.
The Badger Trust is urging the government to adopt the same approach in England and also to consider the economics of the cull. “Two years of badger culling have cost the tax payer in the region of £15 million,” continues Peter Martin, “it’s the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. And to what effect? Culling badgers costs ten times more than vaccinating them”.
“To cap it all,” concludes Dominic Dyer, “Defra’s latest figures  show TB incidents in and around the cull zones are actually increasing. This was predicted not just by the scientists but was also highlighted as a serious concern in the government’s own risk assessments. Taking all these factors into consideration, their decision to carry on culling badgers is completely irrational”.
"DEFRA’s December 2011 policy on badger culling confirmed that it will be necessary to undertake a further cost/benefit analysis before rolling out culling beyond the two pilot areas (paragraph 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.’
“As far as we are aware, no such cost/benefit analysis has yet been undertaken, and it is not clear how it could be undertaken until the conclusion of the pilot culls.
“The decision to extend the badger cull to Dorset in particular has no scientific justification as the County has seen one of the largest declines in bTB rates in England with a 37.25% drop between 2012 to 2014 without killing any badgers.”
Dorset's Defra Stats clearly show show that cattle measures are working, so surely there is no need for an unpopular and expensive badger cull?.
Between January 2012 and December 2014: - New incidents of bTB have dropped by 12% - Herds under restriction have dropped by 13% - The number of bTB-infected cattle slaughtered dropped by 37.25%t, and - Of the 31,733 infected cattle slaughtered last year, Dorset accounted for a tiny 2.3%.
19 Aug 2015, 9:50 AM
Farmers have been warned that damaging badger setts does not reduce the risk of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle and could make the problem worse. The warning is from a recent report from researchers at Queen's University, Belfast, who carried out the first study into the effects of illegal badger persecution.
About 5% of setts in Northern Ireland had recent signs of illegal damage. The study found that this practice "contributed significantly to new bovine TB breakdowns in nearby cattle".
Herd-level bovine tuberculosis risk factors: assessing the role of low-level badger population disturbance (in Ireland) Received: 25 November 2014 Accepted: 13 July 2015
Bovine TB (bTB) is endemic in Irish cattle and has eluded eradication despite considerable expenditure, amid debate over the relative roles of badgers and cattle in disease transmission. Using a comprehensive dataset from Northern Ireland (>10,000 km2; 29,513 cattle herds), we investigated interactions between host populations in one of the first large-scale risk factor analyses for new herd breakdowns to combine data on both species. Cattle risk factors (movements, international imports, bTB history, neighbours with bTB) were more strongly associated with herd risk than area-level measures of badger social group density, habitat suitability or persecution (sett disturbance). Highest risks were in areas of high badger social group density and high rates of persecution, potentially representing both responsive persecution of badgers in high cattle risk areas and effects of persecution on cattle bTB risk through badger social group disruption. Average badger persecution was associated with reduced cattle bTB risk (compared with high persecution areas), so persecution may contribute towards sustaining bTB hotspots; findings with important implications for existing and planned disease control programmes.
Despite all the evidence against culling and all the expenses involved the government is set to continue with its misleading information and support for this very unpopular policy. There was a very high turn out for this peaceful protest in Somerset recently.
There are many in the current government that believe the current badger culling policy is not cost effective or humane as this latest press release from Blue Badger confirms. So, will the government heed their call to halt future culling? We will see.
Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and Founder of Blue Badger urge the Government to abandon the badger culls
The news that the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset look set to continue this year was condemned by the Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and the Founder of Blue Badger.
Suzy Gale, Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and Lorraine Platt of Blue Badger said: “It is very disappointing that the culls look set to continue despite Natural England's own Scientific Advisor branding the badger culls ' an epic failure'. The Government's own Independent Expert Panel showed that the pilot culls were both ineffective and inhumane.”
Lorraine Platt added: “The Government is so desperate to be seen to be doing something to control bovine TB but it should not ignore the science and facts against the badger cull. We call for England to follow Wales’s successful example of tackling bovine TB by focusing on cattle control measures and vaccinating badgers in the high risk TB areas.
Eminent scientists have spoken out against the cull because it will not significantly reduce incidents of bovine TB. The Labour Government culled over 11,000 badgers at a cost of around £50 million pounds over many years, only for the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) report of 2007 to conclude that culling badgers makes no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.
The present Government does not need to futilely repeat badger culling and should learn from the ISG scientific Report conclusion that the rising incidence of TB disease can be reversed and geographical spread contained by the rigid application of cattle control measures alone.
The badger cull has been a disaster and has cost millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money which amounts to thousands of pounds per dead badger. Nearly all the killed badgers will not have bovine TB and the government has refused to test any of the badgers killed in the pilot zones for the last two years.
Twenty Conservative MP's signed Anne Main’s letter to former Minister Owen Paterson in 2013 of their concern of the considerable anxiety within the party about the pilot badger culls in England. The letter stated:
‘There is a need to keep Parliament informed of the results once the trial period has finished and before any decision is made on future culls.’ The letter called for any wider cull to be subject to a vote.
Sadly, for our Farmers, cattle and wildlife, the scientific advice has still not been heeded by Ministers and once again a pointless unnecessary cull looks likely to continue. We all have a vested interest in the correct and long term control of bovine TB. Culling badgers is not the solution. The solution lies in if the government will finally listen to sound science and focus on cattle based measures instead of badger culling as scientists have advised for many years. This disastrous policy has to end.”
12 Aug 2015, 6:38 PM
A few days ago the NFU announced it had formally requested Natural England for licences to cull badgers in Dorset. This is supposedly to control bovine TB. But are Natural England, Defra, the media and Dorset’s pro-culling farmers taking any notice of the figures that demonstrate how unnecessary a cull would be? No.
Let’s be clear, bovine TB is a problem, and for various reasons has increased in our herds since it was almost eradicated in the 1960s. But it infects maybe 0.4 percent of cattle in the United Kingdom. Many more cattle are needlessly slaughtered because of lameness, mastitis and other problems, a result of the demands we make on the animals.
The NFU has long been a champion of culling badgers. Though they state that ‘dealing with the problem in wildlife’ is just one of the many ‘tools in the box’ being used to control bTB, they don’t seem too keen on using those controls. As we shall see.
In 2012 Dorset farmer Paul Gould became chair of the Dorset branch of the NFU. He immediately called for a badger cull, since when there has been a constant stream of ‘news’ releases from him in the local media. This became manic when his own herd fell victim to bTB in April 2014. The NFU Chair Meurig Raymond visited his farm and between them they sold the story that only the badgers must have been the source of the disease.
But were badgers the source? Jay Tiernan and Stop the Cull did some research. They found that: • Gould’s herd had tested free 6 months later • That a neighbouring farm had had a bTB breakdown a few months before • That the neighbour’s cattle used fields adjacent to Gould’s fields. Both herds could have had nose-to-nose contact. • Both farms are now clear of bTB without culling badgers.
Naturally, none of this was mentioned by the NFU. Equally naturally, Mr Gould will be in charge of any badger cull that takes place.
Gould’s successor at Dorset NFU, Trevor Cligg, is just as keen for a cull, and has carried on the disinformation campaign to persuade Dorset how necessary a badger cull is. Considering how easy it is to disprove what he says, it is remarkable that he has been allowed to get away with such outrageous statements. For example:
In May this year, at an Environment & Wildlife general election hustings, he claimed that bovine TB was ‘rife’ in Dorset. In July on Radio Solent he said that “there are significant levels of TB in Dorset’s badgers.” No studies have been done that support this. Dorset’s badger vaccinators confirm they have never seen any diseased badgers, and that countrywide there has only been one incident of vaccinators calling out a vet – for a badger with a broken leg,
In August he claimed that “cases of TB have increased more in Dorset than any other part of the country in the last three years.” When challenged on this he said he was “using Animal and Plant Health Agency statistics”. But these are the figures which form Defra's bTB statistics, updated every month. And what do they say?
In 2014 a total of 31,733 TB-infected cattle were slaughtered in the UK. Dorset contributed all of 744 to that number, a tiny 2.3 percent. The total slaughtered in the Western Region was 17,017. Dorset’s share was 4.37 percent. How ‘rife’ is that?
Compared to this, the slaughter rates for Somerset were 1,576; for Gloucester 1,153; for Devon 5,861; and Cornwall 2,875.
As annual testing is now the norm for the Western region, the number of bTB tests on Dorset cattle has almost doubled since 2008. Between January 2012 and December 2014, this has resulted in: • new incidents of bTB having dropped by 12 percent • herds under restriction having dropped by 13 percent • and the number of TB-infected cattle slaughtered dropped by 37.25 percent
All of this has been achieved without culling badgers. One should also point out that for almost all the Western Region counties, the slaughter rate has dropped over the same period, although in Somerset there are sight signs of an increase because of perturbation of the badger population, due to – badger culling!
These figures are totally at odds with what Trevor Cligg and the NFU have been claiming, and they prove that there is no justification for a badger cull in Dorset (or, I would add, anywhere else).
And what of all the other measures that can reduce bTB, like annual testing, strict bio-security on farms and markets, and strict cattle movement controls? How good are Paul Gould and Trevor Cligg at implementing the bio-security measures as advised by Defra? These would include fencing off badger setts, preventing wildlife access to farm buildings, and double-fencing fields to prevent physical contact between cattle.
Sarah King from Badger Guardians pointed to standards of bio-security on Paul Gould’s farm. “Mr Gould said on TV he’d done everything possible to keep badgers away from his cows. But this isn’t correct. Some of his cattle sheds are open to any wildlife which wants to wander in and badger setts on his farm haven’t been fenced off. He’s ignoring Defra’s key recommendations for minimising contact between badgers and cattle.”
And her colleague Andy Hamilton confirmed cattle belonging to Gould’s neighbour were still using fields next to Gould’s, and that no double fencing had been installed. He added that he had walked past Trevor Cligg’s farm just over a month ago. "No attempt had been made to prevent wildlife entering calf pens, clearly visible from the public road. Since neither past nor present Dorset NFU Chairmen has adopted Defra’s simplest recommendations it suggests they don’t believe badgers spread TB.”
Steve Backshall speaks out to oppose further culling
Stop ignoring science and killing badgers to keep certain lobbies happy says naturalist and broadcaster Steve Backshall
As the government prepares to make a decision on the continuation and possible extension of its highly controversial badger culling policy, leading naturalist and broadcaster Steve Backshall has given his support to the Badger Trust in opposing any more killing of badgers.
In a film exclusively produced for the Badger Trust Steve Backshall said:
"Ignoring science and going back to the dark ages culling badgers to keep certain lobbies happy, is a terrible idea.
Science is how the modern world works , it’s how our cars drive and how our smart phones work. Relying on the scientific method is what makes our world go round.
“The way the government is doing things at the moment, small scale badly organised badger culls, is making the problem of bovine TB worse, this has been proven by science.
“The only way you can really effectively contain bovine TB is not through badger culling, but by improved animal husbandry and through the development of a cattle vaccine."
Responding to the film the CEO of the Badger Trust said:
"We are hugely grateful to Steve Backshall for using his expertise and influence to support our campaign to stop the badger cull, which has been a disastrous failure on scientific, economic and humaneness grounds.
“Two years of badger culling have cost the tax payer in the region of £15 million, the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. However, the real scandal is that nearly all the badgers killed will not have had TB. Defra’s own data suggests just 1.6% are capable of passing on the disease whilst 85% are likely to have been completely TB free*. The government’s continued refusal to test the badgers for TB not only makes this a ‘blind’ cull but also means we will never be able to say whether it has worked.
“The pilot culls were set up to test the efficiency and humaneness of free shooting of badgers at night by trained marksmen. On this basis they have also been a failure, as free shooting has proved highly ineffective and has been found to be inhumane by both the government's own Independent Expert Panel and more recently the British Veterinary Association.
“The only way to beat bovine TB is to stop playing the badger blame game and to follow the Welsh Government approach, by focusing on disease control in cattle.
“The Chief Vet in Wales recently announced that new incidents of TB in cattle in Wales had fallen by 28% resulting in a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered for TB. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of TB, without the culling of any badgers.”
The Steve Backshall film can be viewed on the following YouTube link
* Note for editors: Figures from RBCT data found that while15% of badgers reacted positive to a TB test only 1.6% were excreting the disease sufficiently to pass it on. The government has refused to test badgers for TB either before or after culling rendering it impossible to assess whether the cull has been successful or not.
1 Aug 2015, 11:00 AM
Here we go again ... in a very biased BBC Radio Solent report broadcast 29/7/15 we were told Dorset NFU have applied for a cull license. Radio Solent apparently contacted DBVP and DBBW requesting an interview. This was then confirmed by Trevor Cligg, Dorset NFU Chair during the broadcast.
Sue from the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project was given a short interview. Karin from DBBW had also been interviewed and was on standby to speak but she wasn't given any air time.
On the other hand Trevor Cligg, Dorset NFU Chair was given a lot of time to make unsubstantiated claims about 'increases' in TB in Dorset and that there are 'significant levels of TB in Dorset's badger population.'
Complaints have been made about this 'unbalanced' report as follows:
Re: NFU application for a badger cull in Dorset.
1. Trevor Cligg said that there are significant levels of TB in Dorset’s badgers. Where does he get this information? – there have been no studies of the level of TB in Dorset’s badgers. Scientific studies have shown that 95% of bovine TB is spread cattle to cattle – only about 5% is due to other factors. There is no evidence that badgers spread TB to cattle, in fact studies have shown that badgers avoid going near cattle.
2. He also said that the rate of increase of TB in Dorset is worse than anywhere else in the country. – Defra’s own statistics show that over the last 2 years the number of cattle slaughtered in Dorset due to TB has decreased by 37.25%. This has been achieved by annual cattle testing, using more accurate tests, and stricter cattle movement controls. There has been no badger culling in Dorset. It is possible that Trevor Cligg is quoting the number of new herd incidences in Dorset – the reason that this has increased is because of the more frequent and accurate tests – they are detecting cattle with TB that were previously missed.
94% of Welsh cattle are free from bovine TB, says chief vet of Wales - and no badgers have ben culled!
Various measures against the spread of TB in cattle are starting to show results, according to the chief veterinary officer for Wales but it is apparently too early to determine the impact of the badger vaccination programmes in Pembrokeshire. The five-year badger vaccination programme has one year remaining, with results not expected for another two years.
The Chief Vet said that the cost of badger vaccination could be reduced by providing grants to farmers and landowners to carry out some of the labour work themselves.
She said: "TB is expensive. This year we're spending £25m in Wales on cattle testing, on compensation to farmers, on breakdown management, on a new programme we're rolling out to get private vets more involved in supporting their clients.
"So against that backdrop the notion that vaccinating badgers is expensive, it's just one piece of the whole programme."
The most expensive part of vaccinating badgers was labour - walking fields, finding the badgers and catching them.
"If the farmer could put in some of the labour, or the landowner, then actually some of that cost gets chopped away," she said.
But, if badgers can be vaccinated, why can't cattle? The existing excuses just don't ring true!
24 Jul 2015, 2:41 PM
Defra's free Bovine TB advice offered to 233 farmers in the cull zones has been taken up by only 10 farmers - is Bovine TB such a big issue then? Are farmers really interested in controlling Bovine TB or has it become just an excuse to kill badgers?
An announcement giving the go-ahead for bovine TB culling in England is expected shortly – with Prime Minister David Cameron adamant that culling badgers ‘is absolutely the right thing to do’.
Questioned on a visit to the Royal Welsh Show today (Thursday, July 23), he said that evidence from around the world showed that if you wanted to have a real strategy to get rid of TB then culling had a part to play.
“Cattle movements and vaccination can all play their part but at the heart of a strategy you do need to have culling – and we are going to be making an announcement soon about taking pilot culls forward,” he said.
“But the key thing is to make sure they are carried out properly on a multi-year basis. I am sure they will demonstrate clearly that culling has its part to play in eradicating bovine TB.
“It is a matter for the Welsh Government what it does but I think politicians need to be bold on this issue. What we want are healthy cattle and healthy badgers.
“Do not forget either that TB is a miserable disease for badgers, too. Vaccination can play a part but does not cure an infected badger.
“We are looking at rolling out culling in other areas of England and will be making an announcement shortly.”
Info from: www.fginsight.com/news/culling-badgers-is-the-right-thing-to-do-prime-minister-says-4993
Typical with Conservatives now holding balance of power, so much for science and the mass of public opposition against culling.
We weren’t expecting any detailed year one data and we understand and accept DARD’s reasons for this. Apart from the rigour of the scientific process, there is a risk that prematurely releasing data into the public domain may result in some aspects of the project being subjected to bias which may affect the integrity of the outcome.
This report accurately reflects our understanding of the TVR process. We are very satisfied that best practice has been implemented at all stages of the TVR, crucially with respect to badger handling and welfare. A member of our group has observed the TVR in action and was impressed by the competence and diligence of the DARD team.
From this year (year two) of the project, confirmed TB positive badgers will be humanely euthanased. This is entirely in line with the original terms of the TVR and does not signal any change in direction or emphasis. We understand that the blood test used, the Dual Path Platform (DPP) VetTB test*, is most sensitive to higher levels of infection – i.e. those individuals most likely to be infectious will test positive. Given the specificity of this blood test, ‘false positives’ are highly unlikely.
(* the planned Stat Pak test was withdrawn by the manufacturer for commercial reasons)
As I’m sure you have noticed, some sections of the media continue, unhelpfully, to spin the TVR project as a pilot cull. DARD has clarified that it is, and will continue to be, a vaccination-led research project. We can’t predict the number of TB-positive badgers likely to be removed but we do anticipate that the actual number will be small, based on the blood test performance, TVR modelling outcomes and context of likely levels of badger infection in the project zone. In that respect, we also believe it has been very beneficial that all badgers caught in year one were vaccinated (none was removed).
You can find links to all aspects of the TVR project, including completed reports and studies, here:
Finally I would add that, to its credit, DARD has been as transparent and as forthcoming with information as the requirements of the TVR project have allowed. We believe that DEFRA in GB and the DAFM in the Irish Republic could learn from this example – and then some!
Info from NOGB email 18/7/15
8 Jul 2015, 5:38 PM
From Nigel Gibbens Chief Veterinary Officer and Director General
Dear Mr Herring,
Open letter on badger cull in Gloucestershire
I refer to your letter dated 23rd June 2015.
Following my advice on the outcome of the second year of the badger culls, to which you refer, there is ongoing dialogue between Natural England and the cull company about measures that the latter is putting in place to ensure that culling in subsequent years is carried out more effectively in terms of numbers of badgers removed.
Improvements introduced by the cull company will be reflected in their 2015 operations plans, which Natural England will consider once submitted, with advice from me as Chief Veterinary Officer.
Planning the 2015 operation is an iterative process and I will of course not be in a position to comment on the extent of any improvements in the cull company’s plans until the point of final submission. As outlined in my earlier advice, areas where I will be expecting to see evidence of lessons learned will include training and assessment, operational planning, monitoring and delivery.
An authorisation letter for a 2015 cull in Gloucestershire will be issued only if Natural England is satisfied that the cull company’s operations plans demonstrate that it has taken on board lessons from its culling experience in 2014, and is in a position to deliver a more effective cull in terms of numbers of badgers removed.
If on reviewing the plans I am not satisfied that this is the case, my advice to Natural England will be not to authorise a cull in Gloucestershire in 2015.
I trust that this will reassure your organisation.
NIGEL GIBBENS CHIEF VETERINARY OFFICER AND DIRECTOR GENERAL
6 Jul 2015, 8:48 PM
Northern Ireland Badger Group Press Release
Issued 5th July 2015
Badger conservation group affirms support for 5 year test & vaccination project and rejects claims of a Northern Ireland ‘pilot badger cull’
The Northern Ireland Badger Group is the lead badger protection and conservation body in Northern Ireland. Since it was formed in 2006, its volunteers have worked to protect these iconic animals from a range of threats including persecution, sett disturbance and destruction, and human ignorance.
The threat level remains high, fuelled by those who scapegoat badgers for the problem of TB in cattle. We recognise that bovine TB is a serious disease that brings hardship to the industry and farming families. However, the available evidence indicates that badgers do not play a significant role, if any, in herd breakdowns. Indeed current research in Ireland has failed to demonstrate any significant contact between badgers and cattle. It is a matter of record that not one actual herd breakdown has ever been conclusively proven to have been caused by badgers anywhere in these islands.
So, what needs to be done? We need to increase our understanding of the dynamics of this disease in our environment. The link between badgers and cattle is uncertain. Both species get the same TB but the direction and route of transmission remain unknown. Indeed, Professor Sir John Bourne, Chair of the group that analysed the data from the most robust and most expensive culling trial in history holds the view that “Badger infections are following, not leading, TB infections in cattle”.
Significantly, the same Independent Scientific Group that reported on the British Randomised Badger Culling Trial concluded that “culling badgers can make no meaningful contribution to the control of TB in cattle in Britain".
This is why the Northern Ireland Badger Group opposes, and will continue to oppose, badger culling as part of any bovine TB strategy anywhere in these islands. There is no credible evidence that the badger culling programmes in England or the Republic of Ireland have reduced TB in cattle. Both Northern Ireland and Wales have halved TB using cattle measures alone. TB continues to fall in Northern Ireland without the need to slaughter badgers.
A range of measures will ensure healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. We, along with the other major conservation groups and industry stakeholders, give qualified support to the Northern Ireland TVR project. Although this may involve a very small number of confirmed TB-positive badgers being humanely euthanased, TVR remains primarily a vaccination-led project. All 280 badgers trapped in year one (last year) were vaccinated and any ‘new’ badgers in year 2 and beyond will also be vaccinated.
Our record on culling is clear. To date, with the support of the Badger Trust, we have successfully foiled previous attempts to cull badgers in Northern Ireland. The Badger Group has long advocated an evidence-led bovine TB strategy in Ireland. We expect the TVR project to greatly inform our understanding of the dynamics of the disease and we have been transparent about our support for this initiative.
Ultimately, bovine TB is a bovine disease requiring a bovine solution. There is broad agreement that cattle vaccination is the key to eradicating TB from our herds. Badger vaccination, which is already being realised by the TVR project, is a stepping stone to achieving this.
This release is a direct response to a recent article on the BBC Northern Ireland website. A remark made by Badger Group spokesman Peter Clarke that the ‘TVR project was proportionate and had buy in from everyone’ was carelessly and incompletely quoted in a way that wrongly suggested that we support a pilot cull. This has since been corrected by the BBC.
The Northern Ireland Badger Group is the lead badger protection and conservation body in Northern Ireland and works to protect these iconic animals from a range of threats including persecution, sett disturbance and destruction, and human ignorance
It is an independent voluntary group and receives no funding from any government, corporate or commercial source
NIBG is affiliated to the Badger Trust and plays an active role in the Team Badger and Team Broc campaigns against badger culling in GB and Ireland respectively
NIBG contributes to the Department of Agriculture’s TB Stakeholders’ Group where it champions an evidence-led bovine TB strategy.
The Badger Group also supports and promotes the DARD road kill badger study.
1 Jul 2015, 6:20 PM
The Northern Ireland TB Strategic Partnership Group today launched its Interim Report. The Northern Ireland Badger Group made a submission to the initial consultation and also had a face-to-face meeting with the Strategic Partnership Group members.
Stand up for badgers in Ross on Wye on the 4th July
Badger cull protest comes to Ross on Wye as culling is set to continue in Gloucestershire and Somerset this summer.
A peaceful, family friendly protest against the government's unpopular badger cull policy will come to Ross on Wye on Saturday 4th July.
Organised by the Badger Trust and the Gloucestershire Badger Conservation Group this will be the 30th March against the badger cull policy held in towns and cities across England over the last 2 years. Speakers will include leading anti-cull spokesperson Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, Tosca Cabello from Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting and wildlife protection campaigner Lynn Sawyer.
Dominic Dyer said "I've worked in the agriculture and food industry for most of my career, and this is the worst agricultural policy I've seen in 30 years. I'm sympathetic to farmers, but culling badgers simply won't work. Ordinary people from around the country have come out to protest against this barbaric cull, and we're looking forward to seeing many of them come to Ross on Wye on Saturday.
“The badger cull has been a complete disaster on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds. To date two years of badger culling in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire has resulted in the death of 2,476 badgers at a cost of £15 million pounds to the tax payer or £6,600 per badger, the most expensive wildlife cull of its kind on record. None of the badgers killed were tested for TB by the government, but based on test data from previous badger cull research projects, 85% are likely to have been completely free of the disease.
“The pilot badger culls were set up to test the efficiency and humaneness of free shooting at night by trained marksmen, nothing more. On this basis they have been a disastrous failure as free shooting has proved highly ineffective as a killing method and has been found to be inhumane by both the government’s Independent Expert Panel and more recently the British Veterinary Association.
“To continue this summer with such a costly, deeply flawed and unpopular badger culling policy in Gloucestershire and Somerset, when vaccinating badgers is cheaper and more humane is a national disgrace."
The protest starts at 12.30 on Saturday 4th July at the Bandstand, Wye Street in Ross on Wye.
26 Jun 2015, 12:40 PM
National Trust blocks badger cull on its land A roll-out of the badger cull in the fight against bovine TB could be sunk by the National Trust's refusal to allow cullers onto its land, campaigners claim.
The Trust has confirmed that it will not consider the use of its land until it can assess the results of the four-year pilot culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire. Each cull has two more years to run. The Trust owns 35,000 hectares of land in the West Country, on which there are around 300 tenanted farms. As prime dairy country, the West has a high incidence of bovine TB (bTB), which costs farmers nationally, and the taxpayer, many millions of pounds a year.
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director of the National Trust has written to campaign group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting to state: "It remains our position following the first IEP (Independent Expert Panel) assessment that we cannot support the roll out of further badger culls on our land … we accept that the current culls should run their proposed four-year course. Only then can a proper assessment take place."
Alex Reader, National Trust natural environment expert said: "The majority of our land in the West Country is used for livestock farming rather than arable and the majority of animals would be cattle so it is extremely unlikely that it would not be affecting in some way where potential culls go forward, but we just don't know."
Latest Commons briefing on badger cu (http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06837)
Badger Culling: Controlled Shooting Pilots Published 23 June 2015 Controlled shooting of badgers has been trialed in Gloucestershire and Somerset. The aim was to determine if it is a humane and effective culling method.
Jump to full report >> In contrast to the previous Labour Government’s policy on bovine TB, the coalition Government proposed the use of badger culling as part of their bovine TB control strategy. The decision to carry out pilot badger culls was announced in December 2011, and culls took place in two areas in 2013 and 2014.
In January 2012, two pilot badger culling areas were announced: West Gloucestershire and West Somerset. Under Government proposals, farmers in each area would be licensed to control badgers by shooting and would bear the costs of any culls. The Government would bear the costs of licensing and monitoring the culls.
An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was appointed to monitor the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting. The cull was not intended to make any assessment of the effectiveness of shooting to control TB. Licenses for the pilot areas were initially granted by Natural England in the autumn of 2012, but, following concerns from the NFU, the start of the cull was postponed until 2013.
The culls commenced on 27 August 2013, initially for 6 weeks. After failing to meet the culling targets of 70% of the badger population, the culls were extended in both areas. Despite the extended cull period, both cull targets were missed. An estimated 65% of the badger population was culled in Somerset and less than 40% was culled in Gloucestershire.
The IEP raised concerns about the humaneness of shooting as a culling method in their report in April 2014, highlighting that standards of humaneness needed to be improved if culling was to continue in the pilot areas. The Government announced that the culls would continue, with amendments to improve effectiveness in the proportion of badgers killed and time taken for shot badgers to die.
The second year of the cull took place in autumn 2014. Minimum targets for the number of badgers to be culled to meet licence conditions was met in Somerset, but not in Gloucestershire.
The cost of badger control in the first year of the culls was £6.3 million, with an additional £3.5 million spent on policing. The third year of the four year culls are due to start in autumn 2015, although there are no dates yet available
Commons Briefing papers SN06837 Author: Elena Ares Topics: Agriculture and environment, Animals, Agriculture, Animal welfare, Wildlife, Countryside, Animal diseases, Farmers
9 Jun 2015, 8:54 AM
Badger Shooting to Continue in Spite of Veterinary Concerns
The culling of badgers, as part of the Government's strategy for controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle, has proved extremely controversial and divisive, not least because of concerns over the humaneness of 'controlled shooting' (the shooting by marksmen of free-roaming badgers attracted to bait points at night).
In order to try to offset these concerns, the Government stated in its 2011 policy document that "If monitoring of the humaneness, effectiveness and safety indicates that controlled shooting is an acceptable culling technique, then and only then would this policy be rolled out more widely". It then licensed the 'pilot culls' that have been ongoing in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset over the past 2 years, in order to test whether these criteria could be met.
Following the first year of the pilot culls, the Independent Expert Panel commissioned by the Government to analyse the results concluded that the culls had failed on both effectiveness and humaneness. The panel concluded: "It is extremely likely that between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers that were shot at were still alive after 5 min, and therefore at risk of experiencing marked pain. We are concerned at the potential for suffering that these figures imply".
The Independent Panel was disbanded before the second year of culling. In spite of this, the culls continued to receive the support of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), on the basis that recommendations made by the Independent Panel would be implemented. However, following last autumn's culls the BVA concluded that the results from the pilot culls "have not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely", and that it could "no longer support the continued use of controlled shooting as part of the badger control policy".
The Government's response has been to dismiss the BVA's concerns. Farming Minister George Eustice was recently quoted as saying that controlled shooting "is also used as a method of controlling all sorts of wildlife, such as foxes and deer... I am not persuaded on what they [the BVA] had to say on controlled shooting". In a response received on 2nd June to a Freedom of Information request by the Born Free Foundation, DEFRA has confirmed that "controlled shooting will continue to be authorised as a [culling] methodology".
The policy of culling badgers has consistently been shown to be unscientific, ineffective, inhumane and unnecessary. In spite of this it seems the Government is set to press on with its policy of licensing a killing method which has failed to satisfy either the Independent Expert Panel or the BVA, in terms of its humaneness.
A more progressive approach to controlling TB in cattle using cattle-based measures is badly needed, as is greater protection of our wildlife from cruel and unnecessary government-backed persecution.
Info from www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mark-jones/badger-cull_b_7503494.html
Follow Mark Jones on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fishvetmj
5 Jun 2015, 5:32 PM
The following letter from a well qualified group of vets was published in the May edition of Veterinary Practicice.
Ref: Evidence-based measures needed to control spread of bovine TB The February and April editions of Veterinary Practice have featured articles by Roger Blowey and others relating to the control of bovine tuberculosis. In these articles the authors make or reference various claims relating to the efficacy of badger culling, which we would like to address.
The latter article emphasises the need for ‘evidence-based measures’ and describes the Bovine TB Forum discussions which took place at the VetSouth 2015 meeting earlier this year. It goes on to focus almost entirely on the role of badgers in the epidemiology of bovine TB, and claims that evidence provided by Blowey et al in the February article ‘has demonstrated the benefits of the 2013-14 badger cull in reducing the numbers of local cattle failing the tuberculin test’.
Data from DEFRA certainly suggests that TB rates in cattle have been falling, which is to be welcomed. However, attempts to attribute these declines to the recent pilot badger culls do not reflect an ‘evidence-based’ approach.
The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) remains the only source of credible scientific data on the impact of culling badgers on TB in cattle in the United Kingdom (ISG 2007). Data generated from the RBCT suggests it is extremely unlikely any substantial reductions in TB in cattle would have resulted from the pilot culls following two years of culling. Even had the pilot culls been carried out according to the proactive culling protocols employed during the RBCT (which they were not), the Meeting of Scientific Experts convened by Defra in April 2011 concluded that the average net benefit of culling over 9 years would likely be in the region of 12.4-16%, and would be relatively small (if any) in earlier years (DEFRA 2011).
However, substantial reductions in the incidence of TB in cattle are being achieved across large areas of the country in the absence of badger culls. Wales has reduced the numbers of cattle slaughtered per annum by nearly 50% since 2009 following the introduction of compulsory annual cattle testing and other measures across the principality. More recently, according to DEFRA’s figures, the numbers of cattle slaughtered in Gloucestershire, Hereford, Worcester and Dorset have reduced by approximately 40% over the last two years, reflecting an ongoing decline across the region in response to the introduction of stricter cattle testing and movement controls.
That strict controls over cattle testing and movement should result in substantial declines in cattle TB incidence should not come as any great surprise – the Area Eradication Strategy adopted in the late 1950s and 1960s achieved a greater than 90% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered nationally over a 10 year period using just such controls, a decade before the first TB-infected badger was identified. The pilot culls have to date been conducted over limited areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset, reportedly representing approximately 4% and 7% of the land areas of those counties respectively. To claim the culls have had a substantial impact on TB in cattle, without providing any control data from outside the cull zones, is clearly highly misleading. Even DEFRA’s Chief Veterinary Officer, who has been supportive of the government’s badger culling policy, has been quoted as saying that it is too soon to attribute a fall in TB rates in either the cull zones or the Welsh badger vaccination area to anything other than tighter cattle control measures.
Rather worryingly, Mr Blowey also references discussions which took place at the VetSouth 2015 meeting on what veterinary surgeons should do when faced with evidence of farmers using illegal methods to control the numbers of badgers on their land, methods which allegedly include introducing food materials laced with paracetamol into badger setts. Apparently, some veterinary surgeons expressed discomfort with the idea of warning clients against using such illegal activities, because of the impact it might have on their relationship with the client. The welfare impacts of badger culling methodologies are rightly the subject of significant public concern, and should be at the forefront of veterinary considerations. For veterinary surgeons to contemplate ‘turning a blind eye’ to badger persecution by their clients, when those clients are suspected of using methods which are not only illegal, but would also clearly have a devastating impact on the welfare of affected animals, is extremely concerning, and risks undermining public confidence in the veterinary profession’s claimed primary concern for animal welfare.
Badgers and their setts are protected by law and Defra has stated unequivocally: ‘Any illegal activity should be reported to the police.’ We welcome the call for an evidence-based approach to the complex issue of TB control in cattle. However, the evidence clearly does not support the government’s current policy of badger control. The exponential rise in cattle TB during this century reflects the relaxation of cattle measures in previous years, particularly the replacement of annual testing by 3 to 4 year testing in the 1980s, and the abandonment of testing during restocking following the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001. Control of this disease can and is being achieved through tightened controls on cattle testing and movement, which will hopefully be augmented by the future availability of effective vaccines for both cattle and badgers.
If we aspire to a future where human activities can coexist with nature, is vital we move away from a default position of blaming and persecuting wildlife for problems we create, and instead look for more effective and sympathetic methods of meeting our societal needs. Sincerely, Marc Abraham BVM&S MRCVS CEVA Special Recognition Award for Animal Welfare 2012. Brighton. Caroline Allen MA VetMB CertSAM MRCVS. London. Heather Bacon BSc (Hons) BVSc CertZooMed MRCVS. Edinburgh. Fiona Dalzell BVSc BA (Hons) MRCVS. Christchurch, New Zealand. Bronwen Eastwood BSc (hons) BVetMed CertGP (SAP) MRCVS. Hove. Richard Edwards MSc, MA, VetMB, MRCVS. Fontwell. Phill Elliott BVM&S MSc MRCVS. Essex. Geoffrey Hale BVSc MA MSB CBiol MRCVS. Manchester. Geraldine Hale BVM&S PhD CertPM MRCVS. Manchester. Mark Jones BVSc MSc (Stir) MSc (UL) MRCVS. c/o Born Free Foundation, Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham RH12 4QP * Andrew Knight BSc (Vet Biol) BVMS Cert AW DipECAWBM (AWSEL) PhD MRCVS FOCAE. Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, University of Winchester. Jo Lewis BSc BVMS (hons) MRCVS. Berkshire. Iain McGill BSc (hons) BVetMed MRCVS. Brighton. Andre Menache BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS. Kent. Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS CertZooMed DZooMed (Mammalian) CBiol MSB. Bristol. Peter Southgate BVetMed MSc MRCVS. Suffolk. *Correspondent References: DEFRA (2011) Bovine TB - Key conclusions from the meeting of scientific experts. Held at Defra on 4th April 2011. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110911090544/http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf ISG (2007) Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence. A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle. An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis. Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20081107201922/http://defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/isg/pdf/final_report.pdf