It is said that evidence of stupidity, madness or psychosis is repeating an activity but expecting a different outcome. Why would there be if the action or activity is the same as one which had spectacularly failed, not once, but many times in the past?
Yesterday, 26th June, Defra collected replies to yet another Consultation on whether or not to vaccinate badgers. We did not fill this one in, but could be heard muttering, 'please refer to the answers to your previous ten consultations' preferring to take these missives as a Defra intention rather than a genuine attempt to glean information from those at the sharp end of their policies.
And so it turned out. On June 24th, two days before the latest Consultation ended, an answer to a Parliamentary Question posed by Lord Greaves - [link] on government strategy for controlling TB in badgers over the next 5 years, drew the following response from Lord Gardiner of Kimble, who explained:
"We will provide funding to accelerate the research and trial work necessary to authorise the BCG vaccine for use in cattle alongside a test that can differentiate between vaccinated cattle and those with the disease. Our aim is to have a deployable cattle vaccine within the next five years. Vaccination will never provide full protection but could significantly reduce the spread of the disease both between cattle and between cattle herds and wildlife. The UK can harness its world-leading science in developing solutions such as vaccination that would also be valuable to other countries".And after describing yet another 'world leading' effort at chasing and squashing bacteria (or viruses?), Lord Gardiner continued:
"Secondly, we will also begin an exit strategy from intensive badger culling, while ensuring that wildlife control remains an option where the epidemiological evidence supports it (i.e. areas where badgers pose a significant source of TB infection). We intend to pilot government-funded badger vaccination in at least one area where the four-year cull cycle has concluded, with simultaneous surveillance of disease. We envisage that any remaining areas would join the current cull programme in the next few years and that the badger cull phase of the strategy would then wind down by the mid to late 2020s."Their noble Lordships have access to the most far reaching and comprehensive piles of research in the country. So it would be advantageous if they sometimes used it. If they had, they could have referred to Lord Zuchermans' report - [link] of 1980, which described cattle vaccination trials carried out in the UK and France thus:
105. BCG vaccination of cattle has been tried in several countries, including the UK and France, but it has been found neither practical nor effective.
In this country MAFF conducted two vaccination trials during the 1940s and 1950s, the results of which have not been widely published. The first trial ran for eleven years and involved four herds of cattle which were known to have naturally-occurring bovine TB. Forty-seven tuberculin-test-negative calves were vaccinated at six-monthly intervals with BCG made from the bovine tubercle bacillus. At the end of the trial period 25 per cent of the vaccinated animals, and 50 per cent of their 'contacts', were found to have tuberculous lesions.
106. The second trial involved considerably more cattle, but did not last as long as the first, owing to the start of the area-eradication programme. Some 5,000 cattle in 73 herds were involved, and at the end of the trial, post-mortem examinations revealed that 30 per cent of the vaccinated animals, and 50 per cent of the non-vaccinated, had TB lesions.* See Ref 24 for the Zucherman report - indirect link via Bovine TB information, with thanks..
More recently, our own Weybridge scientists tried again, and as we pointed out in this posting, [link] results were far from encouraging - [link] Vaccinating cattle didn't work.
Add to that Defra's various trips to parts of Africa to
So we're back to indiscriminately vaccinating those over populated stripey pests, that the members of the Conservation Animal Welfare foundation - [link] seem to love so much - from a discreet and safe distance of course.
Please see wish No 22 in their manifesto (above) and then read the research into previous trials of vaccinating these creatures.
In four major trials, carried out in two countries since 2010, no effect on the incidence of cattle TB has been found whatsoever. None.
But please don't forget that martyred badger known to us all as D313. He was healthy before being vaccinated with BCG in the Lesellier trial, but when exposed to m.bovis, he developed TB in every organ. Poor little chap. We remember him well. He was 11 per cent of that piece of research.
So we return to our question, posed at the beginning of this posting. Why? Why repeat at great expense, research which has been carried out many times before, failed so spectacularly, and yet expect a different result? Heads in the sand? Populist votes?
If we don't learn from this extensive history, we are condemned to repeating its expensive errors.