Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Raw meat and feeding pets.

Pasteurization was brought in for milk, as one of the very few processes which will zap that tough bacteria, m.bovis and cooking offal and other parts of meat animals gives the same protection.

But we hear from the Sunday Times (paywall) that vets are reporting infection in indoor cats -[link] which have been fed a 'fad' diet of raw meat / meat products.

A letter has gone to veterinary publications to make vets aware of the risk to their  client's pets.

This warning was issued by a lady we have heard from before, Danielle Gunn-Moore from Edinburgh.

It was this lady who with tech firm Bio-Best, developed a blood test - [link] for zTB in cats. At a cost of £200 per moggie.

 Ms. Gunn-Moore was requesting more research back in 2013 which we reported here - [link] And we mentioned - [link] cases of cat to owner transmission in 2014.

 The meat and offal from cattle sold into the food chain as 'reactors' to the skin test - some 43,000 last year - is perfectly safe when cooked. But apparently, some pet owners are being persuaded to go au naturelle with their pets' feeding habits, and offered a commercial raw cat food diet.

The cats involved thus far have all been fed this product.

The Times described this method of feeding as a 'fashionable diet' based on the concept that uncooked meat and bones was natural and thus healthier.

We would aver that offering raw meat and offal of unknown provenance was playing Russian Roulette with any mammal's health.

The Pet Food Manufacturers' Association say that evidence linking the TB oubreaks in cats to raw food, is so far, only circumstantial. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cash snatch - follow up.

A quick follow up to the posting below regarding Defra's compensation cash snatch - [link]

This concerns ownership of the reactor animal, as presented to an abattoir as a TB reactor and the intention of Defra to swipe farmer compensation if the animal is presented in what is described as 'an unclean' state..

We are all aware of harrowing tales of herd restrictions meaning overcrowding, inadequate housing and lack of income,  leading to animals being in less than pristine condition for slaughter for human consumption, should that need arise.

But after a reactor is identified, it is Defra (or APHA) who organise slaughter, arrange transport and then present the animal for slaughter. And it is Defra who receive monies from the abattoir for the carcase. This is known as 'salvage'. In due course, the farmer is then paid the derisory tabular compensation he is owed for the animal he has in effect 'sold' to the Ministry.

 So, at the time of presentation of the reactor for slaughter, is not responsibility for its cleanliness that of the present owner? ie. Defra?

And when does that 'ownership' begin?

Is it, for example, when the green DNA Reactor tag is applied? Thus several days or in some cases, weeks before it leaves the farm?

Conversely, it may be when it boards its  Ministry arranged transport, complete with passport, for its final journey?

 But either way, on arrival at the abattoir, the reactor animal does not belong to the farmer, it is Defra's. And thus it could be argued that its condition as 'fit to slaughter' is Defra's responsibility too.

Just a thought....

The alternative of course, is on farm slaughter, in which case, no salvage monies would be payable to Defra at all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New compensation rules.

Whenever Defra have a 'consultation' paper, it is to rubber stamp what they've already decided to inflict on the agricultural community. And so it appears with the latest one on tabular compensation for zTB reactors, following a public 'consulation' last year.

 Published last week, the Briefing note outlines new rules to be enacted on November 1st.

 To inform Official Veterinarians that from the 1st November 2018 there will be changes to The Cattle Compensation (England) Order 2012 .

 * Reduction in compensation of 50% for animals which arrive at the slaughterhouse too dirty to process.

 * Reduction in compensation of 50% for animals brought in to a herd during a TB breakdown which are subsequently removed as reactors or direct contacts (DCs) prior to the herd regaining official TB free (OTF) status.

 * Compensation to be paid for privately slaughtered reactors if they are found to be totally condemned for reasons of TB only.

Now, we would point out, with the greatest of respect of course, that many animals destined for Defra's funeral pyre, are not farmed as meat animals and thus maybe not be as pristine clean as they would be for planned slaughter, at the time of TB testing. We would also point out that abattoirs provide a clipping service for such eventualities, and charge between £10 and £15  per animal to clip it safely. And that is not half the animal's value.

APHA licenses to purchase cattle as replacements during the course of a zTB restriction, have always been at veterinary discretion, and were there to make sure that the business itself, and its throughput of milk or beef, could continue. That will no longer be the case. 
Thus farmers who buy in with an APHA license while under TB restriction in order to continue their businesses, are being effectively put out of business - or forced to break the law in dealing with an external source of infection that Defra refuse to touch with a ten foot pole.

The full text of the document can be found here - [link]

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Serviette sir, madame?

Perhaps the most bizarre report to come out in the press recently was a BVA press release -[link] expressing concern about badgers trapped in cages during a heatwave.

Now we are not sure whether any members of the British Veterinary Association are aware that the badger cull starts in the autumn, the heatwave was experienced months ago, and has long since dissipated into default drizzle in most areas of the South West. But we digress. Some worthy individuals may be hell bent on vaccinating them.

But we suspect neither the BVA members, nor those proposing vaccination have seen the effect of a cage trap on this animal, who is likely to fill the whole area with soil and bury itself before curling up and going to sleep. Where one wonders where would this BVA water source be placed? And would said badger like a serviette to protect his peanuts from exposure to soil? Or even water?

It really is the silly season.

 Meanwhile, on Twitter - [link]  Badgergate believe that we - just love that all encompassing phrase - should celebrate an over population of infectious omnivores in these islands as a success. They say:
We wonder why people aren't happy that England is the heartland of the European badger? We wonder why some only value something that's endangered. We wonder why on an island, impoverished in wildlife terms, why people don't celebrate badgers as a success?
If badgers weren't riddled with zoonotic tuberculosis, and spreading that bacterium far and wide while hoovering up every other small mammal, ground nesting bird or invertebrate in their path, perhaps those impoverished populations would stand half and chance, and 'we' would value their chosen species more.
Below a pic of hedgehog skins, left by badgers who peeled them like a large Jaffa orange, leaving just the prickles.

 And finally dear old Rosie, supporting the above tweet of course, but with a selectively defective memory of her past work, tweeted - [link] this:
Indeed. When I suggested that if the UK was to encourage African farmers to coexist with elephants it should also encourage its own farmers to coexist with badgers, I got some of the worst trolling I've experienced.
That Rosie, would possibly be because some of us heard your former boss, the diminutive John Bourne, echo Chris Cheeseman's comments when addressing cattle farmers who had enquired, quite politely, after hearing of the gross infectivity of these over abundant, over protected creatures, how they could protect their cattle from the infection they carried.

The answer was unequivocal. "You can't. You get rid of your cattle".

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Another high profile casualty

Last week, the national press carried the story of a black alpaca called Geronimo, who had failed a blood test for zTB. In our opinion, his owner is fighting the order to slaughter, on some very spurious grounds, not least questioning the validity of the priming skin test.

New owner of this imported animal, Helen Macdonald is quoted as saying that she:
... " voluntarily agreed for Geronimo to have a blood test for TB shortly after he was imported last August. She believes the test came back with a false positive because he had been injected with tuberculin as part of skin tests conducted just before he left New Zealand and also nine months earlier. "
So this alpaca, imported a year ago, was tested in New Zealand, prior to export and previous to that, nine months earlier? No details are available as to exactly what test was used, but if it was just a skin test, then forget it. The Sensitivity of that on alpacas is notoriously bad.

What is also strange about this case, is that the blood test used by Miss. Macdonald on this animal, was our friend, Enferplex -[link] together with a priming skin test. And it was repeated, giving the same result. Positive.

 Now as we explained in that posting, Enferplex with a priming skin test, has a specificity of 97 - 99 per cent. So false positives are very rare. It does however have a low sensitivity (the ability to identify disease) Thus a positive result from Enferplex should be treated with respect.

Geronimo originated in New Zealand, at the Nevalea stud - [link] home to over 700 alpacas, and situated in the Taumarunui region of NZ's North Island. This area is on the edge of a TB hotspot - [link] - Whangamarino - one of the few remaining in New Zealand after years of wildlife control.

New Zealand farmers are keen not to take a foot off that particular pedal, and let incidence of TB rise again. However  Miss Macdonald describes Defra's attitude as 'bullying and intimidation".
In a letter received by Miss Macdonald last Tuesday, Defra’s lawyers gave her seven days to confirm she will have Geronimo put down or they would apply for a warrant to kill the animal. Miss Macdonald last night called for Defra to carry out further tests. She said: ‘If they are sure he has got the disease, it will not hurt them. I have volunteered to pay for it. The problem is they are not listening to anyone because they are arrogant.
This is not the first time alpacas from Gloucestershire have tested positive for zoonotic Tuberculosis. We covered the story of Balthazar - [link] in this 2009 posting. Since then several hundred animals have been slaughtered in the UK and more sensitive tests trialled. Not least the privately funded qPCR test - [link] which screened dead alpacas with great success.

So although we have sympathy for Miss Macdonald, she is on a hiding to nowhere with this fight. As previous owners of alpacas and cattle have discovered.

 More about the alpaca herd and the animal in question, here - [link]


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Water badgers.

A short post to comment on today's news from the South West.

Parts of Exeter near the estuary have flooded badly in the last few years, so a £32m scheme is being undertaken to protect the city, homes and railway links.

A badger sett was / is in the way, so a new ancestral home was built at great expense, but these Newcastle supporters don't approve of the decor and have returned to their old stomping grounds, which from one report, just happens to be the new flood embankment.

Local BBC news - [link] has the story.

But this isn't the first time badgers have destroyed waterway infrastructure. We reported in 2004, how the Llangollen Canal in North Wales was was drained - [link] flooding nearby farmland and stranding narrow boats. The cost of repairs then, not to mention the the disruption, was said to be £500,000.

Fourteen years on, and the cost of Exeter's new flood defences are put at £32 million. They may or may not survive a watery onslaught, but will they survive the tunneling associated with badger house building?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Another High Court challenge

Yesterday saw another High Court challenge to culling badgers launched. The Independent - [link] headlined the story  and it was picked up by other media - [link] later in the day.
From the Independent:
"Cull opponents will accuse government ministers and officials of “incompetence, negligence and deceit” in drawing up their plans and extending the “growing series of brutal, bloody countryside purges”.
The challenge is headed by Badger Trust member and ecologist Tom Langton, who believes officials acted unlawfully. He challenges two aspects of the cull policy.
The first is over the way in which Natural England, the government body in charge of protecting wildlife, did its homework before issuing licences to shoot badgers. Mr Langton and the trust claim its habitats regulations assessments, including judging the effect on protected species such as hen harriers, were flawed.

The second challenge is over a consultation in 2016-17 and the decision last summer by Department of Environment officials to grant more culling licences in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset for a further five years. The cull opponents say the officials wrongly interpreted the conclusions of randomised culling trials.
Presumably publication of the latest more targeted culling permissions - [link] in the original pilot cull areas, and published on July 6th. is what has provoked this latest whine.

So even with the outrageous -[link] and proud boasts of former un-civil servant, Andrew Wood, in charge of Natural England at the time of both the badger dispersal trial RBCT and pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset, this miserable cavalcade moves on.

In fact now this duplicitous man is involved with both the Badger Trust and The League Against Cruel Sports, he may still be pulling the strings of his former employees.

 It does seem a tad of a co incidence that Wood should publish his outbursts and Langton launch a High Court challenge to a lawful mop up of disease (abandoned by Defra) which has been paid for and operated under license by farmers for six years, all in the same week.

While the articles airing this story are populated by photographs of healthy badgers, shiny and fat, the Badger Trust supporters do not see what cattle farmers see around their fields, farms and lanes which is very different. These often appear as harbingers of a cattle breakdown.

 Excluded by their peer groups, emaciated, showing suppurating bite wounds and often starving to death, sharing the bacteria they carry with any mammal unfortunate enough to sniff it or consume it, below are some examples of the Badger Trust's successes.

They should be proud of themselves.