Sunday, October 19, 2014

New link added.

We are pleased to add a link to Gloucestershire farmer David Barton's - [link] poignant blog which tells the story of his herd, his continual testing, his cattle deaths and his frustration.

This young cow one of his latest casualties.

Meanwhile timely advice from the SW TB Advisory service - [link] to secure your buildings.

 There is a video on the link showing these vermin wonderful creatures exploring your yards, milking parlours and feed stores while you sleep.

And AHVLA, now recycled with 'Plants' added and many Veterinary Laboratories decommissioned, are known as APHA; and they  have updated their advice on gaps which badgers can slither through or under.

This is now reduced from 10cm to 7.5cm. In old money, that's from 4" down to just under 3".

 Did we say we'd need hermetically sealed boxes for TB free cattle? You bet we did. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Yes you can, no you can't?

This week, the farming industry is awaiting yet another High Court decision - [link] on whether (or not) to cull badgers to control the spread of zTuberculosis.

After winning a case in August (with no right of appeal) the Badger Trust won the right to appeal the judgement in September and the case was heard last week. No, we couldn't work that one out either.

Farmers Guardian reported it thus:
A key legal judgment that could have profound implications for the roll out of the badger cull policy in England is likely to be delivered soon.
The arguments seem to hinge on Independent assessments of the humaneness - or otherwise - of shooting this animal. And not a little input has been heard from members of last years' 'independent' panel, trying to comply with the protocol - [link] dreamed up by NE and this year overseen by them and APHA.

 To make sense of that alphabet soup, NE are Natural England, who hold the competence for licensing any badger culls and APHA are the newly formed Animal and Plant Health Agency.

So we are happy to remind readers of  a badger cull which occurs annually in Germany and which we briefly mentioned here - [link].  The screen grab below is part of a larger pdf which details the numbers of badgers shot in Germany over the last decade. 

 Between August and October, badgers may be shot in Germany if they cause damage to land, buildings property or persons.

And last year, 66, 579 were shot, without causing offence  (or employment?) to anyone at all.

pdf file shown courtesy of BovineTb Information.-[link] and the full version can be viewed here - [link]

Friday, October 03, 2014

'Honouring the lie' (2)

Edit: New link added to Labour party debate. At the moment, the new Tory Secretary of State says that she wants to continue the badger culls initiated by her predecessor. But that was this week. And by next May she may have changed her mind.

But listening to the tide of emotional claptrap - [link] coming from speakers at the recent Labour Party conference debate on zoonotic tuberculosis, one could be forgiven for thinking that the problem was farmers demanding game shooting for entertainment and not control of a Grade 3 zoonotic pathogen, only one level below the dreaded ebola.

Dairy farmer, Phil Latham and vet, Den Leonard gave facts and were heckled. (Click on right hand side tool bar of the above video stream link to hear that) But what really grates, is the absolute faith lodged by the three speakers who opposed culling badgers - for any reason whatsoever - in what they all referred to as 'the science'.

For those of you who have not listened to or read what the arch magician of this recent £50m charade known as a 'culling trial', please refresh your collective memories on what Professor John Bourne actually told the Efra Committee on June 18th 2007 about the basis of the RBCT.

We covered it in this post - [link] at the time, but will repeat again the corrupt basis of 'the science' which the three people opposing the motion,  support: This of course is the 'political' science, bought and paid for, steered by the then Labour government, with the help of a few computer models and corrupt scientists in 1997.

Listen to what the arch magician, Prof. John Bourne, told the EFRA committee on June 18th. 2007 and weep:
"Let us go back to 1999 when we started our work. It was made very clear to us by ministers of the day - and they have not refuted it since - that elimination of badgers over large tracts of countryside was not an option for future policy"
A horrified Geoffrey Cox, MP intervened "Is it not the function of science...
"It was on that basis that we designed the trial. We also had to take into account welfare considerations with respect to culling used, and limitations on culling with respect that cubs were not killed or died underground [ ] Those were clear political limitations that we operated under; I have no reason to believe that those political limitations have changed".
Geoffrey Cox, MP then asked Bourne to clarify the report's findings and its conclusions in the light of his statement describing a political steer in what should have been a scientific exercise. Professor Bourne replied thus:
"We repeatedly say 'culling, as conducted in the trial.' It is important [that] we do say that. Those limitations were not imposed by ourselves. They were imposed by politicians."
And it those same politicians, following their very own brand of 'science' who may be in charge again in 8 months time. So what's in store this time? Certainly not culling this 'iconic animal', so beloved by 'the public', many of whom Dominic Dyer confirmed have never seen a badger, but who are fired up on a wave of his misplaced and dangerous emotion to somehow 'save it'. Try telling that to the disease now endemic in it.

And on the basis of their own brand of 'political science', described above, Labour's politicians would scrap any notions of a cull of infectious badgers, and instigate more crack downs on cattle movements, and vaccination forays.

Cattle crackdowns - [link] have been tried before with predictably ignominious results - [link] but politicians of all hues are following Bourne's computer generated 'success' rate which relied on an assumed data input of 2 parts cattle to one part badger.

And the ad hoc vaccination of badgers, now in its 4th year, appears to be giving results the opposite of that which was expected, as this link - [link] shows.

So we will finish by adding a little mischief to this toxic mix of politics, political science and emotion by putting our own spin of some real science.

When Lesellier, Chambers and their pals postmortemed a few badgers in a previous vaccine trial to to see the effect of vaccine + TB - [link] these animals, the process gave one animal (D313) such a hammering that he developed tuberculosis in every labelled organ, and few which were not.

He was one of nine given the high dose vaccine now being used indiscriminately  the field. Further investigations of his miserable carcase could find no reason for his violent and lethal reaction. Thus in percentage terms, D313 becomes 11 per cent of previously clean and pathologically healthy badgers, given a 10x strength BCG jab and rendered 'super excreters' during the process of vaccination and exposure to m.bovis. And he is airbrushed. Forgotten. Dead.

And that really is honouring the lie.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October 1st: 'If it Moves, Test it.'

Today saw more of the promised restrictions come in for cattle, camelids and deer.

Alistair Driver in the Farmers Guardian - [link] has the details.

With a tad less clarity of language than the FG explanation, the full details are on this link - [link] and for the first time, camelids are mentioned - [link].

Although not covered by statute until zTuberculosis is suspected or confirmed, this is a move in the right direction to bring these susceptible 'other species' under the TB eradication umbrella.

Another step would be to adhere to the promise of quarterly updates to these tables, described here - [link] but apparently stuck in a bureaucratic log jam since September 2013.

Friday, September 26, 2014

More on Killerton

Almost a year ago, we told the tale of the National Trust badger vaccination programme on its Killerton Estate - [link] in the Exe valley.

This area was a hot spot for cattle TB anyway, and the Trust decided to spend copious amounts of funds, and gain not a few brownie points by vaccinating some of its resident badgers. How many out of the total residing in Killerton's woods, it has no idea. And for results on cattle TB incidence, we have had to rely on farmers in the area, Defra flatly refusing to release stand alone figures for these latest playgrounds.

But this weeks, Farmers Weekly reports a pedigree beef herd - [link] on the estate, as going under herd restriction. From the notice on his gate, the farmer is less than happy.

And tonight, BBC local television network interviewed a very unhappy dairy farmer in a similar position. In fact we hear of several new herd breakdowns on the estate after 4 years of playing in the woods, with infectious badgers.

But the reason for vaccinating badgers, Defra tells us,  has nothing to do with the incidence of TB in cattle. Thus to collate and publish cattle test results in those areas, would they say 'be quite wrong'.

In 2011, they produced a paper with this little gem (and have repeated the doctrine many times since):
a): Bovine tuberculosis Animal species: Badger vaccination: Description of the used vaccination, therapeutic or other scheme Badger BCG licensed in March 2010 has been used as part of the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project to build farmer confidence in vaccines as a key tool in an eradication programme.
To build farmer confidence? Not with the farmers on the Killerton Estate, that's for sure.

And as we have said before, what an extraordinary reason for promoting a vaccine which doesn't work, for a zoonotic disease which kills.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sometimes we wonder....

If you're as thick as two short planks, (or a May Queen badgerist) possibly you could be forgiven for getting things hopelessly wrong, but this site - [link] is said, quite proudly, to be 'managed by Defra', so in theory, anything it publishes should be correct.

So why is their September 5th post, flagging up Channel 4's "First Time Farmer's" problems with the disease whose full title is 'mycobacterium bovis' calling it a goddamn virus?
(Impolite note to Defra's apparatchiks - the clue is in that title.)

They describe the programme thus:
"The deadly Bovine TB hits the young farmers’ herds with a vengeance, and first to feel the full force of the disease is 24-year-old Charlie. The brutal virus is wrecking his investment in cattle, and now that the entire herd is quarantined, his livelihood is under threat. Robbie’s herd is smaller but just as vulnerable and is also quarantined. Robbie’s built-up a side-line in farm-reared pork, and turns to selling piglets to keep the cash flowing, but will it be enough?
No wonder this country is in such a mess with this disease.

On the other hand, this 'mistake' follows so many, that we really are not surprised at all.

(Actually, reading this through, we have been quite mild in our criticism. The grammar is crap too. The piece tells us that  "24 year old Charlie is the first to feel the full force of the disease"? That's a bit old for a bull isn't it? And we assume  that the First Time Farmer has not succumbed to zoonotic tuberculosis - yet. Sheesh.

But what we really think of these Jack and Jill 'mistakes' could not possibly have a place on a family blog.) 

Saturday, September 06, 2014


It's ten long years since we started this site: mainly as a vehicle for information already collected about zoonotic tuberculosis, its effect on the wild maintenance reservoir in this country - badgers - and the epidemiological facts dragged out of Defra in the 538 Parliamentary questions which form the base.

We are now seeing projects come around again, wearing different clothes, and some extraordinary statements made which mean that current research projects have (in our humble opinions, of course) a very shaky base on which to stand.

Last week, Defra announced the rolling out of  badger vaccination - [link] in the current 'Edge' areas of England. We say 'current', because as a moving feast, what was an 'Edge' last year, could quite easily be included in high incidence this year.

For example, road kill badgers examined in Cheshire are showing a 24 per cent infection rate with farms following suit at an alarming rate.

So wherever Ken Wignall's badgers were heading, may not be an 'Edge' any longer and infection in its badgers is likely to be, as in Cheshire, considerable. Defra's data, as usual, is way behind the curve.
(Grateful thanks for permission to use the cartoon, published in Farmers Guardian 05/09/2014)

Now you know very well our take on badger vaccination - [link] , doled out indiscriminately to an unscreened population, on a very ad hoc basis. And seeing the take up of matched funding, (£20K out of £250K is a figure we've seen quoted) for these projects, maybe Queen May's badgerists know they're on a hiding to nowhere too.

But our first contradiction comes in with Defra's outright refusal to publish results of ongoing vaccination areas - and there a few now - on the cattle who share these contaminated pastures. In fact the answer to that request earlier this year was an unambiguous 'No'. We quote it below:
"You asked that we consider adding data to our monthly bovine TB statistics to separately report on the Badger Vaccination Deployment Project (BVDP) area in Gloucestershire and the Intensive Action Area (IAA) in Wales. We have no plans to do this at present.

The purpose of the BVDP is to learn lessons about the practicalities of deploying an injectable vaccine; provide training for others who may wish to apply for a license to vaccinate badgers; and build farmer confidence in the use of badger vaccination.

So it would be wrong to use TB statistics for the area to assess the benefits of badger vaccination on TB in cattle."
Well pardon us for pointing out the obvious, but if not to 'assess the benefits' on cattle reactors and farm breakdowns, what are you doing this for?
 (Grateful thanks again to Ken Wignall and FG for use of the cartoon)

The second contradiction comes with a text book answer from the delectable Dr. Cheeseman, ex director of Woodchester Park badger heaven, where peanut fed pets continue to employ many of Cheeseman's successors.

'Thornbury' he snorted both on Radio 4 and Countryfile last week, when presented with the 100 per cent success that the badger clearance there had achieved in just 8 months, (not 25 years) was not a research project because it had no 'control' area.
Mmmm. And the IAA in Wales, undergoing everything but badger culling, has?

Not according to their latest report - [link] which describes on p.6 (of 56) how their Control area may not be comparable at all. In the same genre, they criticise SAM too as unable to identify 'different sorts of breakdowns'. They point out:
Limitations of the report and study design.

"In other words, the purposive selection of the IAA and the difficulty in finding a CA with equivalent bTB incidence reduces the soundness of evidence that any observed differences in bTB incidence are due to bTB control strategies, rather than other differences between the areas in the epidemiology of bTB....."
From what we can see in those long awaited (but out of date by a long mile) graphs, apart from Defra's continuing reluctance to see the difference between 'Incidence' of disease (new breakdowns) and 'Prevalence' (those which fail to clear with testing and slaughtering cattle, bio-garbage or anything other than clearing out infected badgers) the IAA has not made any headway at all.

And who's bright idea was it to lump a badger vaccination programme into the same area as intensive cattle measures? Not very sensible, but neither seem to have had the desired effect, in a realistic time scale which Thornbury most certainly did.

There is a more readable description of these IAA cattle measures and more, on this site - [link] And we will once again remind readers that these cattle measures have all been done before - [link] and ended in inevitable, ignominious and expensive failure.

Our final contradiction is the current obsession with shooting badgers, or rather the thorny question apparently irritating Defra,  'is it humane' to shoot badgers? In mainland Europe, no such sensitivities get in the way of dispatching these animals if they are causing damage to land or property, and 66,000 were shot -[link] last year, from August to October in Germany,  seemingly offending nobody at all.

So these contradictions can be dismissed as pure prevarication - a further excuse for doing nothing at all.