Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wales - the stamp of Approval.

This week's news of an OBE for the architect of cattle carnage in Wales, Christianne Glossop, comes as no surprise. But in 2011, the lady was the farmers' hero, when she announced the following, in a video message:
'We have a big TB problem here in Wales. And it's quite clear that if we're going to succeed in eradicating this epidemic we absolutely have to tackle all sources of infection. We have infected cattle and we are testing and slaughtering those infected cattle on a regular basis. But alongside that we must deal with infection in other species. One of the biggest problems is our wildlife reservoir of infection particularly in the badger population. Killing the Badgers will make a big difference to the level of infection in the countryside and we know from scientific studies carried out in England that it can also have a direct impact on the incidence of infection in cattle.
OK so far? And in 2011 Ms Glossop continues with her vision:
A long term study that took place in England a number of years ago now showed us that culling badgers can directly reduce the incidence of infection in our cattle herds. And that's what we are preparing to do here in Wales. The long term study that took place in England - The Randomised badger culling trial, set out to ask the question - Can culling badgers have an impact on incidence of infection in our cattle population? And what that study showed was that, in fact, it can reduce the incidence of infection in cattle and that that benefit can last over a significant period of time.
She expands on that statement too:
The areas that were culled have been studied in the 3 - 4 years following the end of badger culling and the benefits continue to be shown and so the great news, great new evidence that was published just two weeks ago now, showed us that the benefits of badger culling can be seen up to 3 - 4 years following the end of culling.
And finishes with the following:
It's really important to remember though that if we are going to be successful in our TB eradication programme here in Wales we must tackle infection in all species. And so alongside our plan to cull badgers we are also bearing down hard on infection in the cattle population. We're carrying out more testing we're removing cattle from the herds and slaughtering them as rapidly as possible and we're also working with farmers across Wales to raise standards of bio-security to reduce the risk of introducing infection into our farms”.
We think that Ms Glossop makes it clear in her video, which can be seen on this site with the transcript above, that culling badgers is an essential part of curtailing the rise in bovine TB. It is. And in 2010 she was given a roadmap of how to do that. Sadly, that was a worse shamble than the English RBCT. She had been royally shafted. But this lady was for turning. And while slaughtering just shy of 90,000 cattle in the Principality during her tenure (2010 - 2019 ) barely a single tuberculous badger was culled. A few were vaccinated at vast expense. Farmers Weekly report the huge increase in cattle slaughterings recorded for 2019. The highest on record. So in Ms. Glossop's case, OBE has to be an acronym not for Order of the British Empire, but for Obscene Bovine Extermination.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

50 years. A tale of Ministerial failure - in pictures.


 We first published this posting in 2012, but as 2021 looms, it will be 50 years since a tuberculous badger was found and post mortemed in a Glos. on a farm where repeated tests and slaughter were failing to clear the cattle herd of zoonotic Tuberculosis.

 Using their own maps, we will track the disgraceful decline of this country's so-called TB eradication programme.

After the Attested herds scheme of the 1950s and 60s, we were so nearly TB free. But a couple of 'hotspots' remained, which finally responded to parallel action on badgers after the mid 1970s.

Farmers controlled badger numbers.

The Protection of Badgers Act (1972) meant that any population control, for any reason, was by license only. MAFF controlled badgers " to prevent the spread of disease".

 And in 1986,  where at least one confirmed TB reactor had triggered annual tests for the parish,  the maps looked like this.

513 reactor cattle were slaughtered in 1986.

After 1986, the real decline began, as gassing of a complete group of badgers implicated in cattle breakdowns by MAFF, was replaced with cage traps and shooting - of those that hadn't been released or moved.

But the big change was the land allocated to the Ministry wildlife teams. This was reduced during the Interim Strategy  operating 1988 - 97 from 7km down to just 1km and then only on land cattle had grazed.
All arable, woodland or neighbouring land was out of bounds to the wildlife teams - if not badgers..

Over the same period badger numbers were estimated to have increased by 77 per cent per decade.

 The 1996 map tells its own story of expanding hotspots.

3,881 cattle were slaughtered in 1996.

In 1997, the then Labour government accepted a £1m bung from the Political Animal Lobby (PAL), and a moratorium was introduced overnight on Section 10 (2) of the Protection of Badgers Act.

No licenses were issued to "prevent the spread of disease".
Two years later, the number of cattle slaughtered had doubled.

The moratorium is still in place.

 The 2006 map shows hotspots expanding like Topsy.

 MAFF was now been re invented as DEFRA.

22,282 cattle were slaughtered in 2006.

After the end of the Badger Dispersal Trial  RBCT in 2006, Defra cracked down hard on cattle movements and ramped up testing.

 Pre movement testing was introduced in a valiant attempt to find this hidden reservoir of Tuberculosis in cattle.

The 2011 map showed the annual testing area as solid red, increased by several miles from Defra's original 2010 model. As far as badger could walk?

34,617 cattle were slaughtered in 2011.

Fast forward to the 2012 announcement of several new annual testing areas.

Please excuse the home made map - but as you can see, many buffer counties and those with sporadic and expanding problems now require annual tests and preMT of their cattle.

No action on badgers.

In 2012, there were 4919 new herd incidents and Defra slaughtered 37,734 animals.


We think the new format of Defra's maps looks a tad truncated. In fact, very odd. We prefer the old GB format.

Wales has devolved completely - as have its figures in most of the press reports. And Scotland's head is removed.

Nevertheless the GB map, minus its top and left side, we print here - straight from Defra's new 2013 pdf file,
which explains their new cattle measures.

Still nothing on badgers at all. And the cattle killing goes on with much enthusiasm.

Thus a sobering fact is that almost 50 years ago when that first TB infected badger was formally identified in 1971, the incidence of cattle reactors in Britain was 0.045%, with 1,834 cattle slaughtered under TB orders.

This was before badgers were made a protected species and any action had been taken to control them due to zTB.

In Great Britain, during the 12 months to April 2020 Defra slaughtered 40,487 cattle under TB orders associated with 3,972 new outbreaks. 

In fact this country (GB) has been slaughtering around 30,000 to 40,000 cattle each year for the last 10 years associated with 4,000 to 5,000 new TB outbreaks annually. 

 So, by giving infected badgers the ultimate cult status, and their ancestral home a grade 1 listing, it is readily apparent that we are now in a far worse situation than we were more than 50 years ago. And it would be naive to assume that badgers with advanced tuberculous did not suffer from this disease.

More on this from a group of veterinary surgeons, veterinary pathologists and others who worked on this disease during the 1970s and 1980s - and almost had it beaten - can be read in the Veterinary Record.

Meanwhile, our graph, prepared a few years ago now, shows the numbers of cattle slaughtered in relation to the dumbing down, and finally abandonment, of any semblance of badger control in response to outbreaks of zTB in cattle herds in Great Britain.



Saturday, September 19, 2020

Vets could do it better? Really?


 In the  Veterinary Record    well known political vet, Dick Sibley, a pal of arch badgerist, Dr. Brian May, writes of government's handling of the current Covid 19 pandemic : 

If this was an animal disease outbreak, with similar infectivity, economic connotations and variable clinical outcomes, vets would apply the four pillars of disease control to manage it: biosecurity, biocontainment, surveillance and resilience.


The key to managing Covid-19, if it were a disease in a veterinary context, would be to apply the key four pillars of control concurrently.


Livestock vets have experience of successfully managing national disease outbreaks. They understand the confounding factors that are important when determining strategies for delivering disease prevention and control on a major scale, including health, welfare, economics and political palatability: issues that are perplexing current policymakers.

Really? And he can say that with a straight face? 

Political vets like Sibley, hand in hand with political scientists such as Bourne and co., have presided in our lifetimes over the most horrendous slaughter of animals and poultry, in the attempt to stop various zoonotic and non zoonotic diseases. From salmonella in hens, through BSE, the unforgivable carnage-by-computer during FMD and of course, all the while rumbling in the background was that veterinary opportunity - zoonotic tuberculosis.



Defra stats show that from 2001 - 2019, with the quiet compliance of Sibley and many other livestock vets, GB slaughtered 612,150 cattle. The annual cull of reactors and 2x inconclusives, gamma positives etc. now regularly overtaking our graph of 2008, and totalling over 44,000 per year in Great Britain. 

So how do Sibley's pillars of disease control stack up with leaving a wildlife reservoir hooching with infection to run freely across our farms, while testing and shooting anything that has the misfortune to fall over the detritis it leaves behind? Shoot the big black and white animal but leave the small one, because the public (and Brian May) love it?

From   a paper published earlier this year, the contrast between our tested sentinel cattle and infected badgers is quantified thus:

 In the UK, at any one time, there are 29,871 cattle infected with TB compared with 91,643 TB infected badgers. Three times as many badgers with TB as cattle, in other words.
This is of course exacerbated by our having the largest badger numbers per sq km in Europe. The median European badger density is 0.29 - 0.55 per sq km. In the British Isles, it is 4.3 - 5.4 although in some areas it is over 30 per sq km.

More on just how well Defra / APHA and Mr Sibley's cohorts have managed the disease we call 'zoonotic tuberculosis' can be found in this link 

And in our opinion, none come out smelling very sweetly, let alone criticising government - their paymaster - for its handling of Covid 19. 

There is an old saying concerning a hole and a shovel, and when, with numbers of tested dead cattle rocketing to over 44,000 per year, perhaps it's time to throw away the shovel. 


Sunday, August 23, 2020

A pertinent letter, re cattle vaccines.

Published in this week's Farmers Guardian 21/08/2020  (sorry - no link) is a letter from veterinary surgeon, David Denny, B.Vet.Med. We print it in full, below. With thanks.

Replying to an article describing the plans to begin (new) cattle vaccine trials, Mr. Denny comments:
“BTB cattle vaccine trials to start” (News Olivia Midgley 24 July 2020) is a ‘kite flying’ exercise, resulting it yet more of our money and time being squandered.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) which issued the license for BCG in badgers, stated “Any decisions as to whether the vaccine is suitable for use in any particular situation are outside the scope of the VMD’s statutory role in assessing the quality, safety and efficacy of veterinary products and are the responsibility of the end user”.
Thus vaccine efficacy didn't come into the licencing at all. Just that the BCG vaccine 'did no harm'. Mr. Denny doesn't mince his words, describing the VMD as " no more than a ‘rubber stamping’ quango."

He continues:
"Those who consider vaccination should even be an option, are on another planet living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’. No vaccine exists, or ever will, which will prevent bTB infection in any mammal two legged or four. BCG is no longer routinely used in humans. It was hypothetically claimed that it was between 7 and 70% efficient at preventing the primary lesions in the lungs from spreading to the brain. It is now used on those with impaired immunity- HIV and on steroids; those who are incapable of responding!"
And as a cattle veterinarian practising in a serious TB hotspot, Mr. Denny quite rightly, rounds on the latest politician to jump aboard this particular gravy train.
"Defra secretary George Eustice states “no none wants to continue to the cull of a protective species indefinitely”.

He should get his priorities right. No one wants to devastate herds, demoralising families by slaughtering cattle indefinitely."
Comparing the eradication of zoonotic Tuberculosis with one of the army's ‘principles of war’,  Mr Denny points out that there must be "selection and maintenance of aim. "
"And the aim must be eliminate the bTB infection from the badger populations."
He concludes:
"The CVO claimed “A multipronged approach is needed”. NO. Only a targeted cull of the infected badgers, together with a modicum of common sense, will be of significant effect. All the components for a cull exist, but there is a devious, corrupt and orchestrated opposition to one, by those- professors and cronies- together with the animal rights with their dubious agendas".

In our two previous postings,  here   and    here we gave examples and references for previous trials of cattle vaccines. From the 1940s onwards, none were successful, and piggy backing a DIVA test of dubious provenance on to that, is a recipe for disaster. And trade bans.

 It has also been pointed out many times that the enormous challange faced by our cattle, from infected and infectious badgers, would be overwhelming. But we'll mention it again, anyway.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

UK- Stockyard to Graveyard?

As the re-wilders - or whatever they're calling themselves this week - gush about beavers and badgers, bison and wild boar, or even lynx, bears and other extinct - or not so extinct - furry critters, we ponder over the news grabbing headlines for livestock farmers.

Vaccination for zoonotic tuberculosis? That'll do it.

We've explored this path many times before, not least in  our last posting. So why do our primary Farming Union, our new Chief Veterinary Officer, veterinary organisations and even some farmers support yet another money wasting effort to repeat the errors of the past?

As the Zuckerman report pointed out in 1980, four long decades ago, vaccinating cattle on a wide scale in the 40s and 50s did not work. See below:
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.
And bang up to date, the  OIE  (Office des Internationale Epizootics)  has similar reservations, with the vaccination of cattle advised to be limited to countries where test / slaughter are either not affordable or socially  acceptable (P.22 in the above OIE document) :
 Bovine tuberculosis is an intractable problem where ‘test-and-cull’ policies are not affordable or socially acceptable, or where Mycobacterium bovis infection is sustained by wildlife reservoirs.
More trials are planned in third world countries, as described  in this paper. 

Our newly minted CVO, Dr. Christine Middlemass is also on the crusade, waxing lyrical in Farmers Guardian about a new tool in the box.

No. BCG vaccination is a very old tool. And from the 1940s onwards, when used on cattle, it hasn't worked. So now a development of a DIVA test is to be trialled, to identify the 'reactor' cattle that actually are not reactors at all. We are not a third world country.Yet. But for our beleaguered cattle farmers, it may feel like that.

Vaccination is not a panacea - for any disease. And in the case of our cattle,  when exposure to wildlife residues of bacteria are so 'challenging' ( that means high. ) it is unlikely to have much effect.

Immunity relies on either a natural response or an  'acquired' response to exposure. Acquired response is by vaccination, but immunity is very dependent on what epidemiologits call 'dose response'. In other words, if a single dose is very high, or the candidate is exposed to multiple small doses, the challenge is too great and disease is the result. 

The excretions from TB infected cattle have been found to be miniscule - and of course, if a reaction is seen to the TB test, they are shot. Whereas infected badgers contaminate our grassland, water courses and everything they come into contact with and which our cattle share. Even their milliary lesions ( microscopically tiny) are hooching with cfus - colony forming units - of bacteria. 
For the level of that infectivety, see answers to our Parliamentary Questions.

 And after ruminating on those 300,000 cfu's in 1ml of urine, squittered across grazing land in 30ml incontinent dribbles, we asked how many cfus did it take to infect a cow? The answer was just 70 cfu

We are fast approaching the situation in this country, where our once proud cattle industry is relegated to the status of the third world. Unable to trade: unable to export.

Dr. Middlemass ended her FG piece with this paragraph:
"Vaccination is potentially an effective tool to reduce infection in cattle, but ultimately we do not want to have the pathogen out there which can infect cattle.”

And that last sentence is probably the only bit worth mentioning in this whole sorry affair.
From stockyard of the world, to our livestock industry's graveyard - in three generations.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

History repeats itself

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 play with vaccinate native cattle, and you get the picture. And it's not pretty.

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.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

A plague on their houses.

Farmers Guardian this week had a harrowing front page - [link] and an insightful op-ed on the state of play in the UK's battle with zoonotic Tuberculosis.

 Following on from our previous posting where the timing of the birth of a new sprog in the Johnson household, indicates a degree of celebration from the Prime Minister's latest bed mate, comes the awful news that her alleged intervention in the Derbyshire cull area start date, has led in part, to four farmers taking their own lives.
"Derbyshire-based vet Sarah Tomlinson, who is also a member of the Defra funded TB Advisory Service (TBAS), said some farmers had ‘pinned everything’ on the badger cull going ahead last autumn.

We have had four suicides in Derbyshire since the direction was pulled, one was the weekend after it happened,” said Ms Tomlinson. I do not think people realise the stress and utter devastation something like this brings. It is the guilt of seeing herd genetics from generations of work wiped out, families losing their heritage, their livelihoods."
The article by Olivia Midgley, which has attracted over 12,000 viewings, explains that after a doubling of cattle slaughterings in 2019, :
"The Derbyshire cull was pulled at the 11th hour by the then Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers, who admitted there had been ‘involvement from Number 10’, giving credence to claims the Prime Minister’s partner and animal rights campaigner Carrie Symonds had waded in at the last minute. A recent High Court legal challenge, brought by the NFU, heard the decision was ‘unlawful’.

The High Court is expected to publish its ruling shortly."(See edit **)
Meanwhile testing and slaughtering cattle continues apace.

 In the same issue, the Leader column examines the human cost of zTB, with editor Ben Briggs remarking that 'those in positions of power, should hang their heads in shame'.

 He continues: "
"It is a damning indictment of the fact that zTB is a disease which not only has huge consequences for infected cattle and badgers, but is one that piles unspeakable emotional hardship, not to mention financial [stress] on farmers whose livestock are devastated by it."
Ben then goes on to question the logic of Secretary of State George Eustice, whose anouncement in March rang alarm bells through the thinking part of our industry that he wanted government to move toweards a vaccination strategy in the longer term. And in cull areas after four years.

Why on earth would the man say this, when previous trials of vaccination - [link] over the last ten years in two countries, have had zero effect on cattle tuberculosis?

In fact in Wales, they appear to have had the opposite effect, with the number of cattle slaughtered in the Principality, the highest - [link] on record.

 So as the UK grapples with the cost of its human lock down, and SARS-Cov-2 stalks the land, remember that in the countryside, the plague of zoonotic Tuberculosis, carried by badgers, is doing exactly the same.

(The illustration is of plague 'doctor' - Doctor Schnabel (i.e., Dr. Beak), a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome, circa 1656 . These people,were employed to 'treat' victims of bubonic plague, collate information and do wills and autopsies - amongst other things. They travelled widely. 
The costume's beak was thought to protect them against disease. )

EDIT. The High Court has upheld the judgement, of the cancelling of the Derbyshire badger cull. 13/05/20

Tuberculosis wins again, and the grim reaper stalks our green and pleasant land.