Friday, December 17, 2004

WMD Badgers

Farmers are used to dealing with damage from badger excavations, in fact Defra put a figure in excess of £25 million for the last year they asked anyone. And having awarded the badger sett Grade 1 Listed status, it is very difficult to deal with. Tunnels run out into fields leaving 'tank traps' for tractors and overturning trailers. Buildings are undermined and we have been told of a sett built under a slurry tank, which collapsed on a Sunday afternoon running its contents down the hill to the sea.

This year, the scourge of tunnels and holes was visited on 3 (at least) non farm locations and all these have made the news. Saltdean, we have described on this site where badgers excavated the back gardens of 4 domestic properties. That situation was offered a novel solution by the then minister Eliot Morley. After using all available expertise and failing miserably to exclude them Mr. Morley used taxpayers' money as part of the Tb budget, to build them an artificial sett. We are still unable to tell if you if it worked - or not.

This summer the Telegraph reported desecration on a large scale, of burial mounds on Salisbury Plain caused by - badgers. These sites were SSI's of the highest rated historical interest and should have had the full protection of the law. If any person had dared to heave out piles of bones with a spade then no doubt the proverbial book would have been quite rightly thrown. But badgers? Hey that's different, and arms and legs, ribs and skulls were churned out into the daylight.

Reported in the Telegraph this week, a further £500,000 damage. This time the little poppets drained a canal.
"Engineers said that the animals digging in the canal banks had caused an estimated £500,000 of damage to the Llangollen Canal in north Wales. They had caused a 10 million gallon leak which swamped fields and stranded narrow boats near Bettisfield, a village on the border with England"

One may enquire whether these were Welsh badgers trying to escape a possible 'go it alone' Tb strategy, or English badgers trying to get in. Has Mr. Bradshaw finally bitten the bullet? Doubtful before an election.

Either way the canal - now presumably without water, "will remain closed until Easter while repairs are carried out".

If the gardens of Saltdean are anything to go by, don't hold your breath that any such 'repairs' will have any longterm effect whatsover. This time it may be Mr. Bradshaw who has to construct 'artificial setts' under the guise of research and employ the badger equivalent of Pickfords.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Invent a product - Create a need?

A package from our New Zealand correspondant inspired this post.

'Possomdown' is a product containing 40 percent fur of the brush tailed possom, the wildlife vector of bovine Tb in NZ. It is marketed with the purchaser then cosily identified as an ecological 'saviour' of forests, and native birds.

The sales literature reads:

"About 80 million of these nocturnal marsupials cause enormous ecological damage to our forests and native birds, including the national icon, the Kiwi. Possumdown knitware is the first ever commercial blend of possum fur and superfine merino wool. It is the said to be the first new blend of natural fibres in the world for oever 100 years and is unique to New Zealand"

"By purchasing this product, you are helping to save our forests from devastation"

How can this help our problems with meles meles - the badger?.

The badger is a nocturnal mammal, causing enormous ecological damage to the balance of the ecology where its numbers have reached saturation point. No hedgehogs, slow worms, ground nesting birds, bees or wild wasps. It causes damage to ancient monuments and domestic properties, farm buildings and forests. And it is a reservoir of m.bovis - tuberculosis which is not confined to badgers and cattle (the tested sentinels of the amount of disease around) but spills over into many other species - including human beings.

Unfortunately (for the badger) it has acquired 'cult' status, and its ancestral home a grade 1 listing.

Our correspondant suggests a sales pitch along NZ lines, to save the badger from a horrible debilitating death from Tb (which it will have spread around) and keep it healthy and useful. He points out that in his part of the UK, the healthiest badger he's seen in years is on the collecting box of the local Wildlife Trust. Ones he's found dead or nearly dead on his land, are in a dire state.

Sporrans made from British badger fur. (Fashion accessory for a safer wallet??)
Artists brushes made from British badger fur. (not Russian)
Shaving brushes made from British badger fur. (not Russian)

Why is it OK to import and use 'foreign' badger material, but not use home grown?
That's hypocrisy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Cause and Effect?

Two stories this week.

Firstly a report from the Mammal Society which has been recording the expansion / decline of British mammal populations for the last 10 years.

Otters are up, dormice down, rabbits rampant and Badger numbers almost doubled.

The society produced its first report a decade ago, and has repeated the excercise using the information from 'professional conservationists' and 'amateur enthusiasts'. Mammal society chairman Michael Woods, gave the reason for the spectacular rise in population of species including the polecat which has enjoyed a spectacular renaisssance, to the lack of control by gamekeepers. "The number of gamekeepers has declined dramatically, and (some mammals) have responded by expanding their range" he told BBC News teams.

That should be music to the ears of the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, who are calling for just such control of dominant species, (badgers, foxes etc) for the benefit of ecology as a whole and the health and welfare of their own populations and others affected by their endemic diseases as well.
For more see

Farmlife magazine (November issue) told a very sad story of rare breed White Park cattle which had reacted to the Tb test and gone for slaughter.

Andrew Biggs is a Devon vet, with many cattle herds on his books. He is vice chairman of the BCVA (British Cattle Veterinary Association)

"Twenty years ago it was a rare event for a farm to have a Tb reactor and the farms were on a 3 year testing regime. Today if a farm has a clear test, it is a rare event and farms are on annual, and 60 day testing."

Mr. Biggs describes the frustration of farmers and the economic effect on their businesses, particularly a small farm dependent on selling younger stock for further finishing, which is then unable to do so. (Also farms which are dependent on selling breeding stock)

He continues: "Vaccination for cattle is still many years in the future. Unfortunately vaccination doesn't prevent animals excreting the bacteria and there are technical issues yet to be solved. It is likely that a vaccine for badgers could be available more quickly, but there are real problems with delivery and timing. Cubs are infected while still underground. So a key question is, whether badger vaccination would significantly reduce Tb in cattle".

"There are only 700 White Park cattle in the world. We look after a farm with 10 per cent of the breeding females . These animals are as bio secure as farm animals can be and are managed with great care. It is a huge disappointment that this herd contracted Tb and that rare animals have been slaughtered".

A"huge disappointment" . That's putting it mildly. We would say a disgrace. And a totally avoidable disgrace at that, and a reflection on all those who say they care, say they are horrified at the waste of good cattle and actually do - very little to alter the situation by using the knowledge they have in a more pro active way.

SW regional director of the NFU Anthony Gibson, was reported in the Western Morning News recently to be very enthusiastic about correspondance he'd received on soil minerals as a Tb cureall.

Nice try. When the Director of the Communicable Disease section of Public Health offers a Tb 'at risk' patient an (organic) carrot plus 2 selenium tablets and a muliti vit injection, we'll believe it.

Get a grip. Get real. Tb is a nasty infectious disease of many species. It is endemic in badgers and their increasing numbers means that it is spilling over into cattle (which we finding because they are tested for it), deer and domestic moggies (see The cat's out of the Bag).
Ultimately human beings are very much at risk.

Anyone for a multivit?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Changes to Defra's 'disease control'.

Farmers with herds under Tb restriction will notice several changes to Defra's procedure this autumn.

We've mentioned the new 'valuation' form - BT 1 (Rev. 7/04) which requires a signature from the owner of cattle to be Compulsorily Purchased BEFORE valuation. When the valuer (whom he cannot now nominate) has pronounced sentence, having signed the form, the owner has no right of appeal.

Even this cursory type of valuation we suspect will be 'culled' after Christmas as Defra's new Banding system comes into force, after the usual cursory 'Consultation' excercise. SVS field staff say that they do not expect to implement the new system on farm - which leaves a YTS on minimum wage to tick the appropriate boxes.

This is what he / she will have to work with:
(Only a proposal at present - comments by Christmas Eve)

Male or Female. (That shouldn't give too much trouble - or will it??)

Beef or Dairy. (Could be tricky on dual purpose breeds)

Pedigree or Non Pedigree.
(We have been told that Breed Societies are not accepting new member's cattle for registration if those animals are already under Tb restriction. New herds can only be accepted and registered when clear. The new form BT 1 excludes grading up animals from 'pedigree' prices . They will be classed as 'non pedigree'. So Defra have cottoned on to animals for the 'chop' becoming ' pedigree' in an afternoon, using unclassified data)

Age. Under 2 months.
2 - 10 months or 2 - 12 months.
10 - 18 months or 12 - 24 months.
over 18 months or over 24 months.

Pregnant or non pregnant aged 18 months / 24 months or over.

Calved, with or without calf at foot.

This age banding appears too wide to be accurate.

In further cost cutting measures, Defra are relying totally on BCMS (British Cattle Movement Service) identities and not attaching their own uniquely numbered 'Reactor Tags' to animals once identified, inspected and valued. (We reserve comment on this one.)

The Cleansing and Disinfecting notice normally handed out at the same time as notice of intended slaughter, is now 'discretionary', depending on Post mortem findings. Only if open lesions which SVS consider capable of onward transmission are found, will a form be issued.

It has been wryly pointed out to the editors that given the amount of m.bovis bacteria being plastered across cattle grazing areas, feeding troughs and buildings by infected badgers, should farmers take the C&D notice literally, they would fall foul of the Environment Agency for polluting the whole area with highly toxic chemicals!

A most extraordinary response to a highly infectious zoonosis.

Kill as many cattle as you like Mrs. Beckett, but that bacteria is still there - and it's coming to a farm near you.

The Return of the Hedgehog.

In a letter to the Veterinary Record , Gerald. C. Coles from the Department of Clinical Science, University of Bristol has pointed out :

"A balance needs to be struck between badgers - omnivores with no natural enemies - and the hedgehog. It will require reducing badger numbers if hedgehogs are to return to rural gardens and countryside"

We agree.

Farmers within the cull areas of the Krebbs trial, have noticed that where a reduction in badger numbers has been achieved (and that is not always the case, given the appalling inefficiency of cage traps) a few hedgehogs are returning. Some have remarked that they hadn't seen hedgehogs around the countryside in years.

Not so lucky are the bumble bees and wood wasps whose nests were summarily destroyed in July / August (see If you go Down in our Woods Today - archived) .

Totally dependant on spring pollen collection for building the nests in which they should have spent winter, after the destruction by badgers of this habitat in mid summer, the raw material used for building is short on the ground - or in this case in the flowers. Our wild bees, bumble bees and wood wasps didn't make it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Throwing her Teddies?

The Veterinary Record (Nov. 6th) carried an extremely long letter from Elaine King CEO of the NFBG, castigating veterinary practitioners and scientists who had dared to question the role of the badger in the spread of bovine Tb. Well she would, wouldn't she? It would hardly be conducive to her continued employment if she told her sponsers the truth.

We quote a few gems:

"Cattle movements after FMD are spreading Tb around the country at an alarming rate".
A few maybe, and we have no problem with a post movement test for breeding stock. But farmers whose herds were culled out with FMD noticed a significant change in their wildlife. The badgers moved on. They packed up and trundled off to find the nearest (live) cattle, being 'parasitic' on cattle 'habitat richness' for their survival. But that territory was already occupied, and farmers observed the very 'pertabation' that is blamed for spreading Tb among badgers. They scrapped and fought for space and territory, and when the farmers restocked, the badgers who moved back were a very sorry sight. And they brought with them - Tb.

"Sensitivety of the skin test is relatively low; many herds probably permanently infected"
That is the same skin test approved by OIE (Office of International Epizootics) and used all over the world? We haven't suddenly abandoned that and dreamed up another one? No, we haven't and as Mr. Bradshaw said in his answers to Parliamentary Questions (archived on this site) "In the absence of a wildlife reservoir (of Tb) the skin test is all that is necessary as a diagnostic tool . Its sensitivety is 96 - 99 percent".
What do they say about bad workmen and tools?

Matthew 3's herd has been under restriction for 4 years now, and has had a drip feed of infection from that wildlife reservoir so vehemently defended by the lovely Elaine - badgers. Tb has only been confirmed in 3 cases out of 40 animals slaughtered, as the intradermal skin test every 60 days is picking up exposure to m.bovis prior to lesions developing. The skin test is good as a herd test but not so sensitive on a single animal - unless as Mr. Bradshaw kindly told us, the animal is tested several times, in which case the sensitivety rises to 100 percent. So no problem there Elaine.

"Killing badgers is unlikely to be part of government policy to deal with bovine Tb. It would have to be proven - scientifically - that they were a significant cause of Tb outbreaks.
The 'Reactive' killing of badgers does not reduce the outbreaks in cattle. The cause of this is unclear. "
"I will say this clearly and only once." says Matthew 3 (who is a tad upset at losing 40 homebred cattle)
"Our herd had bought in NO cattle since 1997. That animal was post movement tested, and the herd annually. Badgers got into our cattle buildings, under 4 inch gaps below sheeted gates or through cattle cubicles and then infected feed in a central trough which we had thought secure and vermin proof.
Badgers have caused the deaths of 40 of my cattle and their unborn calves.
The reason that 'Reactive' culling did not work on this farm is:
1) Single-species activists smashed traps, removed traps + their occupants (57 percent of Krebbs traps were interfered with) and trapshy badgers. Only 30 - 80 percent of the target group caught is a pretty poor target but that is the best traps will do.
2) 3 years to ' react' is not what we signed up to the Krebbs charade for. Between June 2000 and May 2003 not a single operative arrived to 'React to the valley's farms which were all under restriction and losing cattle by the lorry load.
3) When they did come, 2 badgers caught on this farm were in appalling condition. One was thoroughly emaciated and the other had a huge abcessed bite wound in her back - dripping pus.
M. bovis did not fly in with the man-in-the-moon. It was badgers who infected my home bred cattle, not deer, foxes or other cattle. Other cattle they can see a mile away, and they can hear them. (Perhaps a 'trial' on whether m.bovis can be transmitted through the ears through listening to bulls--t?)"
Matthew 3 is very angry.

"The ISG has re-analysed data from previous government badger culling operations and found no evidence that badger culling had any impact on Tb in cattle"

We answer this with a quote from Parliamentary Questions:
Q. What effect did the clearance of badgers at Thornbury have on cattle TB?
A. No reactors were found in the cattle for more than 10 years after the clearance, by which time badger numbers had recovered.

Q.What other factors could have influenced the result?
A. No other contemporous change was identified.
Just a thorough clearance of the maintenance reservoir in the badgers. Result? Healthy cattle (tested with the intradermal skin test) and healthy badgers (as shown by sentinel testing of cattle)

"Proactive badger culling would be relatively costly (Not as costly as 30,000 dead cattle and a predicted budget of £2 billion over 10 years NOT clearing Tb) Policies involving zoning and vaccination appear to provide benefit at low cost"
Progressive non-policies have created a beneficial crisis, and given much needed work to many.
'Clean ring' culling of badgers around Tb outbreaks resulted in just 638 dead cattle per year 15 years ago. Would that have spawned such an industry? We think not.
Drawing a line on a map, i.e 'Zoning' is a heroic gesture, but badgers can't read and as the red zones of infected parishes now spread from Cornwall to Carlisle isn't it a little late? The idea was tried with bees and the verroa virus. Unfortunately the bees flew over the line and it had to be moved - and moved - and moved.
The Holy Grail of vaccination is still years away, is unlikely to protect against a multi strain bacteria (30 in badgers , 16 in cattle) and with the potency of a super excreter badger would not protect at all.
He is the original WMD.

"Pre-movement testing, cattle movement controls and gamma interferon would revolutionise the detection of Tb in cattle"
Detecting Tb isn't the problem. Dealing with the cause apparently is.
And the NFBG are arguably the biggest block to this country having healthy cattle and healthy badgers.

"The Treasury will refuse on cost / benefit grounds to invest further resources in controlling the problem"
With that we would agree. The dead hand of the Treasury will cull the cattle valuers about Christmas time and many farmers are uninsurable. From Jan 2005, Russia and the EU have drawn up a bi-lateral veterinary certificate which could isolate this country's produce and EU food Hygiene regulations will ban the milk from Reactor cattle from January 2006 - even if it heat treated.

We note that the references which Elaine uses in her letter are restricted to the magic circle of the ISG or its members, the EFRA committee - which takes evidence from the ISG or Defra - which is hiding behind the ISG and Krebs. The Krebs trial - devised and run by the ISG - had cost the taxpayer £30.5 million to Jan.2004.

And Elaine's thesis - which gained her the doctorate - which would have been helpful in gaining her present employment?
"Factors Influencing the Risk to Cattle of infection with Bovine tuberculosis (mybacterium bovis) from Badgers (meles meles)"

From her letter in the Veterinary Record , one would assume that they posed no risk whatsover.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

More Questions than Answers - EU / Russia

See Post - 'Don't forget your Toothbrush', for list of questions that our man took to Brussels.
He has returned, with some answers and other questions have been shafted to the Tb ( non) Policy team.

We list the answers so far:

1. Define milk 'products'. (and animal products). How far does the cascade go down? e.g Milk Protein concentrate, lactose, whey powder, gelatin etc.?
"To help exporters, Defra is already seeking clarification to this point from the Commission. Once we have the answer, exporters will be made aware of the definition".

2. 4600 farms have been under restriction this year, with a 20 percent year on year increase forcast under current 'policies'. Will that lead to a two tier market in trade? Separate collections of milk? What are the consequences for those under restriction?
"Reply to be provided by Tb policy division".

3. When a farm is placed under restriction following a positive Tb test, what happens to milk / beef already in the chain of supply to EU orRussia?
" To export to Russia, a farm must have been free of Tb at the time of milk collection for the previous 12 months. As soon as Tb is confirmed, an Official Veterinarian cannot sign the Russian certificate"

4. We export a lot of animal products into the EU. do you condiser it would be risky for those importing our products to continue to do so if they wish to trade with Russia?
" Intra community trade will continue as normal, but trade with other Member States for onward shipment to Russia, will have to accompanied by 'pre-export certification' meeting the Russian conditions. (described above)

5. Commission press release (IP/04/1060 dated 2/9/04) describes 'regionalisation' so that a disease problem in any Member state can be 'isolated', so as not to affect the trade of the whole EU. Is there a danger because of our Tb status we may be so 'isolated'.
"Intra community trade will continue as normal.' Regionalisation' deals manily with 'List A' animal disease - not bovine Tb. Further information see OIE site.

6. How can we certify herds free of Paratuberculosis (Johnnes) as we do not test for it?
"A test is available, but the Russian federation only requires absence of clinical signs"

7. What happens to products already in the supply chain?
"Retrospective certification of a manufactured product is not envisaged. Pre-planning will be necessary".

8. What is being done to inform those most affected; dairy companies, exporters and farmers?
" Defra is in contact with Trade Associations and information is available on the Defra web site."

9. Do the Russian dairies, recently cleared to export into the EU meet the same requirements with regard to Tb and other diseases as we have to if we are to export into Russia?
" The EU has model import conditions that all Third Countries have to comply with to import into the community. If the 3 Russian dairies meet these conditions they with be allowed to export to the EU"

10. Do the requirements of the certificate also cover cattle semen exports?
"Not yet".

So there you have it. The two big questions fudged or shafted. On 'cascade' products of both milk and beef, the question is passed back to the Commission. And that usually means - anything they want it to mean.
The two tier market (if indeed there is to be any market for Tb resticted herds?) passed back to the Tb (non) Policy Division, who it might be argued, have got us into this mess in the first place.

For onward export via a third EU country, the ethos of EU inter-community trading is broken, in that the new bi-lateral veterinary certificate accompanies the product from source, and product identity cannot be hidden behind 'added provenance' in another Member state. And 'regionalisation' was specifically referred to in the context of Tb by the Europa press releases, notwithstanding the answer decribing OIE site and 'A' category diseases.

When we receive further information, we will post it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Back to the Drawing Board - 2

Hard on the heels of Defra's August 4th. revamp of Compulsory Purchase arrangements for Reactor cattle comes yet another change.

Announced on the Defra website 31/10/04 under 'What's New' section is the draft of a Statutory Instrument which will revoke all previous SI's dealing with cattle compensatipon for Tb, brucellosis and EBL, and BSE.

Defra's explanantion notes are predictable:
"The trend is + 18 percent per year"
(But our Ben has told Parliament it was down 14 percent???)

"The Tb budget was £89 million in 2003 / 04"
(It didn't need to be, see Beneficial Crisis etc. on this site)

"Government is determined to tackle the problem..."

So our Dan - Mr. Hackett the Compensation Accountant has come up with a cunning plan, now outlined on the Defra site and in the new draft SI.

Bog standard market value for ALL cattle + a few brownie points for 'enhancement banding'.

And that's it.

The site explains that a Reading University report has found that 23 percent of dairy farms and 35 percent of beef farms actually made a net profit from being under restriction. How they arrived at that little gem is not explained, and the state of farm accounts for the other 70 - 80 percent of farms in their survey, is not explored either. We've listed some of the 'benefits of restriction' on this site but obviously Reading did not take those into account.

As far as we (and the valuers) can see at the moment - and we will stand corrected should we be proved wrong - the new system will take Compulsory purcahse back to the days of the 1980's when this system operated and the farmer was expected to add insurance if he felt that his herd warranted 'enhancement'. No valuers.

The difference now of course is that our Minister for Doing Nothing, has made cattle farmers uninsurable - for Tb at least. "Exposure to risk is too great" as the man from the Pru said.

So bog standard market value it is folks. The average of cattle of that age, sold through local markets in the previous month. A few points (££'s) for pedigree, more for age and state of pregnancy and extra for milk/beef recording schemes. And no valuers for high genetic merit pedigree stock.

And some seriously undervalued cattle.

Back to the Drawing Board - 1

Defra's new bovine Tb automated post system clanked into action last week, with the first run of 'instructions' for herds which fall into its various defined sections.

It is our understanding that this amazing bit of machinery is like an automated vending machine. Put a coin in and press the button for your choice of drink, only in this case press for category of 'official letter' to be dispatched about a herd's Tb status.

Farmers have contacted this site, puzzled and angry to have received a letter threatening a herd close down.
The button had been pressed on Defra's wondermachine, for a 42 day window when the farmer had to arrange for a whole herd TT test, and if he failed to do this he would have an immediate whole herd movement restriction imposed!

What should have been sent, was a letter indicating that a recent TT test had revealed an inconclusive reactor (IR), and in those circumstances that animal (or animals) should be isolated and would be re tested in 60 days!

A really good start then?

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bradshaw Treads Water - A Minister for 'Doing Nothing'?

Defra sent all registered cattle farms a booklet on bovine Tb this week.

One such' cattle' farm has had no cattle since 1999, but we digress.
Inside the package was a shiny booklet 'Tb in cattle', and a glossy coloured map of Great Britain. Compare and contrast with the same map in 1986, 1996 and currently, and you will see why we have entitled this post 'A Minister for Doing Nothing'.

"New measures" (the booklet informs us) "were first outlined during public consultation meetings in February 2004 and regional Stakeholder meetings were held to discuss".

We've 'discussed' stakeholder meetings, forums and quangos several times on this blog, and the Tb excercise has proved to be no different. Defra tell us what they want to do, hold a few meetings to ensure we've been 'consulted', and then - do it.

At those meetings Defra were 'informed' (politely of course) that a one sided policy leaving infected wildlife was a gross waste of time and taxpayers money, and any tighter restrictions on cattle had to go hand in hand with wildlife reservoir control. Did they listen? No.

But Bradshaw employed our Dan, 'Mr. Hack-it', the Compensation Accountant to make sure that the taxpayer paid less for his pound of (cow) flesh. And now he's nailed the cattle more firmly to the floor, by a series of Tb testing changes.
But will it halt the spread of bovineTb? No.

The measures are:
* A 'zero tolerance' policy for overdue tests.
* National review of testing intervals country wide.
* Spacing of tests more evenly within testing intervals.
* A new approach(!!) in England and Wales to prevent the development of hotspots. (We love this one)
* Amended testing schedule for new / reformed herds.

And the wildlife maintenance reservoir?
Nothing. Not a sausage, in fact the only mention of it is in the forward to the booklet.

"Bovine Tb is a serious cattle disease which can also affect humans, pets and some wildlife".

With that we would agree, in fact we'd go much further.
We would say 'will affect, has affected and will continue to spread due to endemic reservoirs of disease unchecked by Defra in some wildlife. The most successful host of the disease in GB's wildlife is the badger".

So in practise what will these 'new' measures achieve?

Zero tolerance on overdue tests, we would not argue with, but farmers will still trade stock right up to the day that test is due, and those stock will travel. A further gem from the leaflet explains that Defra will test areas where disease is established more regularly, and those without disease ' less often'.

So is what they are saying here "If we don't test your cattle for Tb, you haven't got it " ??

We thought this non-strategy was to prevent cattle establishing Tb in Defra's (assumed) 'clean' areas. But if the monitoring (Testing) is to be less frequent in those areas, the potential for an explosion when it is discovered is much greater. Remember the Furness Peninsula?

A National review is historic.
No disease situation can be assessed correctly unless all areas are tested within a short space of time to confirm disease status.

We would not argue with more frequent testing on new, or reformed herds.

Prevention of hotspots.
This one we love. Excatly how a 'hotspot' can be prevented without action on the wildlife reservoir feeding it is not explained. We would agree with throwing a 'clean ring' cordon around surrounding farms and testing cattle to establish the cause of the breakdown. That is what used to happen.

But for those of us who have been nailed to floor by movement restrictions for several years, testing cattle every 60 days, and slaughtering reactors as they showed exposure to m.bovis, this booklet is a hollow sham. The exposure from badgers which our Minister for Doing Nothing, repeatedly warns us against touching or controlling, while his henchmen steadfastly refuse to collect dead ones for postmortem from farmland, is not even mentioned.

As readers will have read on this site, UK is now the pole position for incidence of Tb in cattle on the world stage. Top of the heap, the worst. And our trading status is once again at risk, with our EU 'partners' having given themselves the opportunity to protect Community trade with an OIE veterinary certificate which gives them the power to isolate any member state or region, that is causing problems.(see Russia - on this site)

Scotland has reproduced Defra's map in glorious technicolour, and advised farmers not to purchase stock from South West England or Wales. That map is a disgrace to everyone involved in Tb. It should be engraved on Bradshaw's heart - if he had one.

This non-strategy is classic spin of a Minister pretending to be 'pro-active' while doing - absolutely nothing.
At best it could be described as misleading - but we have heard the word 'lies'.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dan's 'Hacking' it - Defra's Compulsory Purchase in practise..

In one of his many appearances before the EFRA committee, this spring Ben Bradshaw gave his assurance that farmer Compulsory Purchase compensation for cattle slaughtered after reacting to exposure to Tb, would be pegged for at least 2 years at the amount paid in 2003. This despite his own prediction of an increase in cattle slaughtered of 20 percent per year.

We described how the Minister planned to do this in an earlier post, (New Kid on Defra's Block) and the appropriately named Dan Hackett, Defra's new Compensation Acountant has been so successful that we hear he has requested an assistant.

Under the 1978 Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Compensation Act, the Tuberculosis (England and Wales) Order 1984 and any subsequent amendments, farmers received 75 per cent of 'market value' for an animal which Defra wished to kill, and they insured their herds for any top ups that the value of their stock warranted.
This later changed to 100 per cent of 'market value' (as defined by prices achieved in the local markets, but excluding dispersal and specialist breed sales) with valuers being appointed to assess pedigree animals.

This continued until early August 2004 when the old BT1A (revised1995) form, was replaced by a very different animal, the BT 1 (Revised July 2004)

Under the previous scheme the animal was valued and a price agreed by both the owner and the valuer, (acting on behalf of Defra) and only then was the form signed by both parties.

With the new form, a signature is required first.
So what is the owner of the animal actually signing ?

Defra's form indicates that it verifies the method of valuation. That is, the valuation will be carried out by a 'valuer appointed by the department'- who is not necessarily one which the owner would have chosen. We've mentioned before the cases of 'valuers' who auction chickens, sheep and granny's dresser, but never deep pedigree beef or dairy cattle. Nevertheless, the new form MUST be signed BEFORE any valuation commences, and to make sure that this is understood, Defra have printed the note in Black BLOCK Capitals.

Several farmers have contacted the editors about Dan's new Hack-it job on cattle values and many are uncomfortable with this 'signature required' part prior to a valuation not yet received. One asked what would happen if no signature was given and the stark answer was "no signature - no valuation" .

Some SVS staff are under the impression that the signature merely confirms the method of valuation, and that is all. But a further note on the new form we quote below:

Note :"Valuations arising from any of the above methods are final and not subject to appeal"

Trading Standards are constantly telling us not to sign anything, until we have the goods in hand.
Doorstep selling is equally loaded with 'consumer protection'. But with this new form, farmers are instructed to sign a form agreeing to a value they do not yet know, made by a person who may not have the experience to do the job in which he claims to be competant. If they refuse to sign, there can be no valuation, and if they do then there is 'no appeal' if it all goes pear shaped.

Meanwhile courtesy of our Ben, who is prepared to spend £2 billion of taxpayer's money in the next 10 years NOT eradicating Tb, farmers are unable to protect their stock with insurance for TB. Such is the haemorrhage of the farm insurance budget through Tb claims, that those lucky enough to still have insurance will find their cover has halved and the premium increased ten fold. If there has been a claim, re-insurance is 'unlikely'. And for those who thought Tb insurance would be a good idea, forget it. The companies are not taking on new customers. "Exposure to risk is too great".

So what has our Minister of Fisheries and Conservation achieved?

2003 farmer compensation for a heap of dead cattle pegged at £31 million.
20 percent increase in that heap in 2004 forecast by our Ben.
Another 20 percent increase in 2005 forecast by our Ben .
Compounded, that is a 44 per cent increase in 2 years for which Ben promised the EFRA committee, he would be paying the same money. And it's Dan Hackett's job to make sure the promise is carried out.

Hack - To slash. To chop. To cut. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tb Spill Over - The Cat's out of the Bag

In an answer to a Parliamentary Question concerning bovine tb in deer, Mr. Bradshaw - or whoever answered those 538 questions - replied that "they were considered a spill over" and not a primary host. Now if badgers can 'spill' tb over into cattle and deer, what else is at risk?

Amongst other things, cats.

At first it was thought that only Siamese and Burmese were 'at risk', but then the penny dropped. The owners of anything less valuable would bury the evidence rather than pay VLA the considerable sums needed to postmortem one very dead moggy.

But cats are susceptible. Postmortems have been done and results logged, from which we quote below.

Breakdowns on farm cats were well documented in USA in 1972, and also in New Zealand, but our story is one which involves badgers as a primary host, several dead cats and no cattle.

In March 1998, a dead badger found on a smallholding was submitted to VLA for postmortem.
It was described as 'generally emaciated', and subsequent post mortem revealed both lung and kidney lesions which were submitted for culture. (We're repeatedly told that badgers don't suffer when they have Tb. This one did, to starve to death in a garden.)

Three months later the carcass of an adult cat from the same smallholding was also submitted for postmortem, and the owner was worried because over the past month 4 other cats on her holding had died.

VLA did an exhumation of the 4 buried cats, and postmortemed the lot.

We won't go into the gory details but, the report describes: " Respiratory distress, weight loss, swelling on the neck glands which proved to be necrotic and oedematous. The lungs were filling with 'grape like lesions' , and the kidneys were affected too. One of the exhumed cats had a cervical swelling which was discharging thick yellow pus, another had had respiratory difficulties prior to death. All showed lung and/or kidney damage".
(But they 'didn't suffer'. Remember that little gem.)

Pooled tissue from the badger and each of 4 cats (the 5th carcass was too badly decomposed to use) was collected separately and tested for mycobacterium bovis. It was also spoligotyped for identification of the strain responsible.

All samples proved to be the same strain - GB spoligotype 20.

The smallholding on which the dead badger was found, and on which the cats died had been home to only horses and ponies for 10 years. There were no cattle. But the area had seen a significant increase in m-bovis infected badgers over the past few years, and the holding is in the centre of a square where recently 22 out of 119 badgers were confirmed with tb. Of those, a third had extensive infection including two individuals who were considered to have died from tb - including the one on the smallholding.

The author of the report, which was published in the Veterinary Record (April 2000 ) concluded :

"M bovis infection in cats, may pose a real zoonotic threat to their keepers".

We agree. As the countryside is plastered with more and more bacteria from an maintenance host who has acquired 'cult status', everything that is susceptible is also at risk. Cattle are only found because we test them. Other species at risk from Bradshaw's quaintly described 'spill over' are deer, camelids, cats and of course, human beings.
So why is mycbacterium bovis being allowed to thrive in the badger? £1 million received (with thanks) from the Political Animal Lobby for a start.
Keep focussed readers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bio Security and the SFP

Farmers visiting this site have asked the editors to point out that by adhering to one set of advice from Mr. Bradshaw, our Minister for Conservation and Fisheries, on badger bio security, they may be in breach of an EU directive being rigorously enforced by another Defra department.

Fences, electric variety. Or to be more precise their maintenance.

Our Ben thinks that farmers should keep badgers out of cattle farms with electric fences. The editors are curious about this assertion, given a complete Ministerial failure in the gardens of Saltdean over a period of 3 months. The great and the good with the help of badger 'experts' tried to secure 4 back gardens (see Saltdean Badgers - on this site) but in a Colditz operation, the badgers in question dug, tunnelled, parachuted, jumped on each others' shoulders and got back in. But farmers are confidently expected to succeed (in starving their badgers?) where these 'experts' failed.

But back to electric fences.

Farmers could put fences around their fields and / or farms but to remain effective any vegetation growing underneath has to be kept clear of the live wire - constantly. This to prevent the wire earthing and losing power.
But in either spraying vegetation under the fence, or strimming the briers, grass and nettles for miles of his boundary, the farmer in question would be in breach of the 2m set aside rule for Single Farm Payment which says: "Thou shalt not spray, neither shall thou mow said 2m strip".

And if he moves his 'badger' fence to the edge of the original 2m strip, he may have created a 'new' boundary which would also need a 2m margin.

Oh dear Ben, what a muddle.

Curious Cows

The method of transmission of tuberculosis bacteria between badgers and cattle seems to be giving many 'scientists' indigestion. How does it happen?

Farmers have contacted the editors of this site with their experiences and we are again able to quote from the book written in 1981, by Robert W. Howard of the Avon Wildlife Trust, "Badgers Without Bias", who observed:

"The suggestion is that cattle at grass react to the presence of a badger in the same way as they commonly react to a dog, or people who enter pasture fields. They group around the intruder in an enquiring and excited manner to which the badger reacts by voiding urine in an uncontrolled spray, forming an aerosol. A badger cub has been seen to spit, rather like a cat, when confronted by cattle."

Mr. Howard described this as a "fright reaction".
There are up to 300,000 units of m.bovis in just 1ml of urine from a badger with kidney lesions in that aerosol spray, a point we are most grateful to Mr. Bradshaw for confirming.

This behaviour was witnessed by a Devon farmer, very early in the morning while checking cattle. He saw several badgers trundling about as his cows began to graze at dawn. As a mouthful of grass was torn up by the cow, the badger dived into the void she'd left to grab beetles and worms near the surface of the newly shorn pasture. And for a few seconds the two shared the same airspace.

The farmer stood very still, trying to photograph the encounter and a badger came right up to his boots.
He moved his foot and it jumped backwards about a yard, making just such a 'fright reaction' .
He describes this as a coughing, barking grunt of exhaled air - and spit.

His wellies were covered in an aerosol of badger spit.

A case of curiosity killing the cow?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Herding Cats

Forgive the exasperation in this post.

Herding cats would be easy compared with trying to get politicians to work together - even those (supposedly) of the same political persuasion.

Last November, Owen Paterson MP, a member of the Conservative Shadow Agriculture team, in the face of an exponential rise in cattle tb, set himself a fact finding mission concerning all aspects of bovine tb, the results of which are archived on this site. He has asked 538 Parliamentary questions which delve into cattle, badgers and other hosts: vaccination, skin tests and gamma interferon: Krebs and other trials and the effect of tb on badgers' health and welfare. Mr. Bradshaw's answers, for which we are most grateful, are archived as well.

But now is the run up to general election, and MP's - particularly heavyweights - are being wheeled out to constituencies for a vote catching exercise. Anywhere from Cumbria to Cornwall, they will encounter rural concern about bovine tb, and on this site which has s its base the 538 PQs and answers, they have the opportunity to research and obtain solid information about the problem.

Do they look? No.
Have they consulted the author of the 538 PQ's? No.
Will they jump in with wild statements and make a bad situatiuon worse? Absolutely.

Shadow Minister Jim Paice was reported in the Western Morning News last week, with banner headlines;

"Shadow Minister's Call for Badger Cull".

Well done Jim. This site is calling for 'wildlife management' on all bovine tb vectors, because by now the problem has spilled from the endemically infected badgers (Ben's words in PQ's - not mine) to deer, foxes, domestic cats and even to human beings.(see comment archived on this site). Our aim is a sustainable, balanced ecology with healthy badgers and healthy cattle. It's Tb we want to 'eradicate' not any particular species. (Politicians? - now there's a thought.)

That headline was a cheap soundbite - but it gets worse.

"We need" says Jim, " to bring forward the use of the Gamma Interferon test for Tb in cattle. It is more accurate than the current (skin) test and would reduce the number of cattle slaughtered".

The hell it would.
Cattle in Wales and the West have had so much exposure to m.bovis in their environment from badgers, that almost 70 percent would show positive antibodies say VLA - and that's without the avian and skin tb that the test will also flag up.
But Jim Paice MP, the new Shadow Minister is questioning the intradermal skin test, and proposing to kill less cattle with gamma interferon? In your dreams Jim.
Your 'soundbite solution' has already been covered in PQ's from your colleague Mr. Paterson, answers to which are confirmed by Mr. Bradshaw, and which we quote in full below;

8 Dec 2003 Col 218W (141968)
Mr. Paterson. To ask how long the current Tb skin test has been in use?
Mr. Bradshaw. The tuberculin skin test has been compulsory since 1950. This is the test prescribed by the OIE (Office of International Epizootics) for international trade, as well as under EU directive 64/432/EEC.

30th Jan 2004 Col 540W (150492)
Mr. Paterson. How many countries use the current skin test and how many have reported problems with it?
Mr. Bradshaw. All countries that have either eradicated or have programmes to control bovine tb use one or more forms of the current skin test.

8th December 2003 Col 218W (141969)
Mr. Paterson. Has the Secretary of State any plans to replace the current Tb skin test with a more accurate and sensitive test?
Mr. Bradshaw. The gamma interferon test was officially recognised by the EU in July 2002, but only as a supplement to the SICCT (skin test). The (gamma interferon) test is considered more sensitive but is less specific, meaning that it results in a higher probability of FALSE POSITIVES.

23rd March 2004. col 697 W (158363)
Mr. Paterson. What assessment has been made of why the gamma interferon test achieves sensitivity of 60 -65 percent in UK trials, compared with Australia?
Mr.Bradshaw. The gamma interferon pilot currently running, has not been designed to assess the sensitivity of the test, and no comparisons can be be drawn with trials run in other countries.

25th March 2004 col 989W ( 159061)
Mr. Paterson. What assessment has been made of the need for a) vaccination of i) cattle and ii) badgers and b) other measures to control the incidence of Tb in cattle herds?
Mr. Bradshaw. Evidence from other countries shows that in the absence of a significant wildlife reservoir, cattle controls based on regular testing and slaughter, inspection at slaughterhouses and movement restrictions can be effective at controlling bovine tb without vaccination (or gamma interferon? )

Owen Paterson has teased all these points out of reluctant Minister, only to have his colleague in the Shadow Agriculture team stumble through the lot, on a vote catching excercise for a new Tory-Boy in North Cornwall.

Did I say herding cats? That's simple compared with getting politicians to talk to each other.
Cheap sound bites are so much easier than solid research. But long term they are destructive, demoralising and of little value to those of us trying to block the rat holes down which our current Minister of Conservation and Fisheries would like to keep scuttling. Well done Jim - and welcome to the team.

Missing the point

The Russian saga continues to baffle most of the trade and civil servants charged with the operation of the new bi-lateral veterinary certificate.

The editors of this site have received conflicting accounts of its impact.

From a senior civil servant. "Your fears are unfounded"

From a representative of the dairy trade. " All ingredients used in products destined for the Russian market would be certified in the processing country, and I see no reason why this would prevent our products being exported to the EU for onward processing"

From an investigative journalist, when he'd talked to the EU Commission. "You're absolutely right"

This new veterinary certificate as described in the Europa press release (on this site) breaks the principle of EU community trade in a very important respect. It allows the Commission to 'isolate any Member State or region within a Member State", whose products - (in this instance Animals and Animal Products) - put at risk Community trade as a whole. We cannot hide behind onward processing, because this veterinary certificate will follow products from source, and they will only be taken if exporters can certify that the product in question has come from herds free of tuberculosis, para-tuberculosis (Johnnes disease) and brucellosis for a minimum of 12 months.

This certificate has nothing at all to do with bovine Tb or pasteurisation. It has everything to do with market management by Russia of its own industries - and good luck to them, at least they are still able to do that.
It is all about the protection by the EU Commission of a 1 billion euro community export market with Russia, which the Commission is not going to jeopardise because we will not control the wildlife maintenance vector of bovine tb.

We are unlikely to hear much more for a week or two, as the UK is hosting a Russian trade fair and woe betide anyone who rocks that particular boat.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Don't Forget your Toothbrush.

An update on the EU / Russian trade agreement.

The chap manning the telephone advice hotline in the cyberspace between Defra and the DTI, appeared unaware of the potential 'cascade' implications that any trade ban instituted by the EU, to protect their 1 billion euro export trade with Russia, may have on UK exports covered by the our (predictable, appalling and avoidable) bovine Tb status.
For almost 2 years the Russians have been rumbling, but we've imported their shaving brushes (are they Tb free?) , ratted on about pasteurisation and ignored their concerns.

When asked to give details of the range of 'animal products' covered by the new (as yet unavailable) veterinary certificates which came into being Oct 1st., and were described by the EU press release as an 'export opportunity', our man went to get advice from his superior.

Would any ban (if implemented) apply just to cheese, butter, skim etc.?
As we only exported 50 tonnes of butter to Russia in 2003, no big deal he said.
But the new agreement follows the chain of goods through other Member States, so what effect would that have ?

He didn't know.

Like the Beef Ban, (from which we are still suffering) which ended up banning not just a sirloin of beef, but wine gums and soap, blood products and cosmetics, would this vague term 'animal products' cascade downwards through caseine, lactose and whey powder, involving food manufacturers and medicines?

He didn't know, but was beginning to get the picture......

It is our understanding that our man went and had a talk with the Tb strategy team at Defra.
And a telephone call was made to the Commission, who declined to give specific answers to these points - over the telephone!

A representative 'spokes-person' was invited to discuss the implications of this 'EU export opportunity' where "there will be winners" (and by definition therefore, losers?) - face to face.


We hope he had time to pack his toothbrush.

Please note below in Comments some questions he took with him to (belatedly) ask the Commission.

To be continued........
(When we have the answers!)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

From Russia - 3 new Milkshakes

Europa - press release 22 September 2004.

EU clears the way for Russian Dairy Exports to EU.

The Standing Committee on food chain and animal health approved a European Commission proposal to add 3 Russian dairies to the list of establishments authorised to export milk and milk products into the EU.

This is the first time Russian dairy producers have been authorised to export to the EU.

Approval 1PM - 77/2 PJSC Llanozovo Dairy - Moscow
Approval 1PM - 22/1 Altayholod Ltd. - Altayskiy Territory
Approval 1PM - 48/3 PJSC Lipetskiy - Lipetskiy Territory


RUSSIA / Bovine tuberculosis status. (OIE website)

1996 :712 outbreaks 53,800 slaughtered
2000 : 145 0utbreaks 25,500 slaughtered
2002 : 71 outbreaks 10,000 slaughtered
2003 : 87 outbreaks - - - none slaughtered /14,900 VACCINATED


So the Russians vaccinate for TB instead of slaughter, AND export into the EU?
Tell us more.

Russia - EU trade

A Press Release from Europa re Russia - EU trade relations:

A major loss of trade in animal products to Russia has been avoided by the introduction of uniform veterinary trade certificates, allowing EU exports of live animals and animal products to continue from October 1st 2004 without disruption.

The new certificates will be applicable from October 1st, whilst existing ones will phase out until the end of the year.

Particular attention has been paid to certifying products originating in one Member state and processed in another. The certificates will be reviewed annually, taking into account the development of animal disease situation in the EU.

In addition Russia has accepted the principle of 'regionalisation' so that an animal disease outbreak in a part of a Member State will not block exports from the whole of that country, nor from the rest of the EU. Trade 'blockages' can be limited to the affected regions within the EU. This acceptance is on the basis that the EU has also agreed to set up a system involving a chain of official pre-export certification for products which pass through more than one Member State.

There will be winners, where markets have been opened or certification requirements have been made less onerous. There will also be cases where national authorities have to institute systems to meet the access requirements of the Russian market.


The editors are unsure as to how this will impact on UK trade.
Russia originally blocked EU trade on the back of our Tb status.
The EU has protected Community trade by negotiating a 'regionalisation' of the problem.
Major UK dairy exporters appear unaware of any of these agreements and negotiations.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Tb testing - Kiwi style

Following "UK way behind NZ on tb control, and "Tuberculosis and the ......" (archived on this site), our correspondent in NZ has sent us a his work sheet for last week.

John is a lay tester, an idea Defra have been floating here. This task is vehemently defended by some vets - Mr. Sibley for example. But is there much job satisfaction in sticking needles in a cow's neck, then following it up with a 007 license to a devastated farmer?

Last week, John tells us, he and 10 other testers moved into an infected herd which wanted to move 700 (yes - you did read that right! Seven Hundred) cattle to 'kinder' pastures for fattening. The cattle had been skin tested with just one jab in the caudal fold (no avian tb in NZ, so no comparison avian jab is needed) and the lay testers were taking bloods to make sure there were no 'sleepers'. These are cattle which have had exposure to tb infection in the 30 -50 days prior to their skin test, and which that current skin test may not show. If the bloods are clear then the cattle will be tagged with AHB ( Animal Health Board) tags to show they had come from an infected herd and moved.

It took the 11 lay testers just 4 hours to take bloods from the 700 cattle, using 3 races.
Two of the races took 10 animals at a time, and the third 16, with three groups of 3 testers working on each and 2 people recording ear numbers.

At the end of October, John is testing cattle on a dairy farm, which under OIE trading rules needs 2 clear skin tests to be released from movement restriction. He has told us that he can test up to 2000 cattle per day.

That's a lot of cattle folks.

New tb Strategy - Defra's Missing Link

The editors of this site are most grateful to our man in NZ for the following link:

John has described to us the 'New strategy' that NZ is following with regard to attaining OIE tb free status, and this web link povides their aims, and how they plan to go about it.

The majority of proposals are mirrored in the GB 'New strategy' document, so rather than clocking up 'airmiles' going to have a look, perhaps Defra top brass could have saved a bit of taxpayers' money and downloaded the NZ version. When we say 'majority' of proposals, we mean the bits of strategy applicable to cattle of course. And on some of these we are ahead of NZ, for example cattle identification and tracing. But a glaring ommission from the GB 'strategy' is what the Kiwi's refer to as 'Vector control', and what Defra barely mention. Defra's missing link.

The title page states:
'Our mission to eradicate Tb from New Zealand.'
Good - they have an aim.
At the GB Tb strategy meetings in the spring, farmers and vets said much the same, but we have a minister who is alleged to have told a leading cattle vet that "he didn't intend to be in the hot seat when that decision had to made".

NZ has a target time scale ranging from 2 - 5 years in which it aims to bring the bulk of the country into the designated OIE tb free trading status - 0.2% of cattle tested.
This is acheived by intradermal skin testing, with blood tests as back up.
(see Gamma Interferon on this site - NZ has no m.avium (avian tb) and no skin tb so the gamma interferon test is much more specific to m.bovis)
In answers to PQ's (archived) our Ben SAID that he would like tb free trading staus, and that he saw no advantage in NOT having it, but that under present 'strategies' we would not achieve it. Our level in GB is 4.33 percent of the herds registered on VetNet, higher if BCMS registered holdings are used. Under current strategies which are specific to cattle, while ignoring wildlife vectors, Ben forecast a 20 percent annual increase in cattle slaughterings. That was an underestimate, he actually achieved 25 percent 2000 - 2004.

The words 'Vector Control' appear in every section of the NZ document.
It's technology, monitoring and a list of its targets. Possums are the main wildlife reservoir, but from them the spill is into wild and farmed deer, which although not particularly infectious in themselves could provide carcass transmission to other species if tb is allowed to flourish. Wild and free range pigs are other species particularly at risk, as are feral ferrets. In NZ, all are subject to 'vector control' measures, including a a new rule 'prohibiting the release into the wild' of any of these species.
Ben's answers to PQ's on our 'wildlife vectors', concerning release and translocation is that he has no idea where wildlife 'sanctuaries' are, they are unlicensed (and will remain so?) and there are no restrictions on the translocation of wildlife from them, or from anywhere else.
Some badgers are translocated under a 'code of practise, neither drawn up nor approved by Defra', he said.
(see Translocation, Translocation archived on this site)

And that's it. Half a story isn't it?

Ben said that he could see 'no trading advantages' in our (disgraceful) level of bTb. Well the Russians have - and they're the first to use them against us. (see From Russia with Love).

This 'non-strategy' is walking the UK livestock industry blindfolded into oblivion.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

You Couldn't Make it Up!

Dear Ben,
Well, this is another fine mess you've got us into.

Didn't you learn a thing from BSE / FMD ? ( except how to decimate an industry)

With BSE you (not you personally Ben, but the faceless mandarins who run Ministries) allowed the UK to be ring fenced into a unique disease situation to protect the EU beef market. Meanwhile, mainland Europe did precisely nothing to prevent it ripping through their herds - except not report it. There wasn't enough cash in the pot for EU wide compensation you see, so it was 'don't seek and you won't find'.

Then there was FMD. Did you really need to kill 11 million animals in a 'carnage by computer' that the late Fred Brown's 'Smart Cycler' could have prevented? Was it because he'd developed it for the Yanks, and your 'egos' wanted to make and patent their own? Too late now to bleat 'we should have used it' . Yes, you should.

This trade clash with Russia (see From Russia with Love on this site) using our disgraceful and rising levels of bTb was predictable and totally avoidable. Its 'cascade' effect on other countries may not be. Old scores will need to be settled and deals will be done. Will we import Russian milk ?
But will you sort the problem in the wildlife that is the cause and maintenance of tb in the cattle?
You've been paid well enough not to. That £1 million from the Political Animal Lobby was not value, when it's led to a tb budget of £74 million per year - forecast to increase x 20 percent. But Mr. Hackett, the compensation accountant (see New Kid on Defra's Block) was imported to sort that out - at least the farmer Compulsory Purchase bit of it. Will he reduce the other £43 million that does not go to farmers Ben?

So what will you do now?
If I were in your shoes, I'd say bugger the 4,600 herds down with Tb. There are 80,00 herds who are OK, so just dump the diseased ones. Problem solved. Or is it?

You know as well as we do, that with a grossly infected wildlife reservoir in the over populated badgers, it is only until the next test on neighbours, that this will work. Short term fix. But hey - why test and look for it?
You have to Ben, it's an OIE prerequisite of trading. It isn't a case of 'don't look - won't find' with Tb.

And bear in mind what happened during your carnage with FMD. Badgers are totally dependant and parasitic on the 'habitat richness' created by ..... cattle! And when you (not you personally Ben, but your trigger happy employees) shot the cattle, that habitat disappeared. And so did Old Stripey'. Yup, he packed his bags and moved on. Badgers love short grass, dung pats, placentas and stillborn lambs, calves. (In fact, if mother isn't pretty sharp, they'll have a go at a new born live one )
So they moved on Ben, to where the cattle herds that had escaped your 007 squads were.
But these cattle herds already had a resident clan of badgers. In fact everywhere the travellers looked there were badgers, so they had to fight for territory. They were bitten, mauled and stressed out. And when 'their' territory was restocked a year or so later, and they (or some badgers) returned, what a battered, scarred sight they were - and full of Tb, leading to some of biggest and worst breakdowns farmers can remember.

So that will not work Ben, as 'badger set aside' did not.

To go forward Ben, you have to look back. To where your own people have directed you. To Thornbury and all the other 'trials', even Bourne's Pro active areas of Krebs will have results after 7 years. Look at what your vets are saying, not your mandarins.

Control and manage this saturated population of endemically infected badgers (your words Ben) - and you don't have to do anything else at all. In 2 x 60 day tests most farms would be clear - it could take up to 7 months to clear the worst affected. You kindly told us that in PQ's (archived on this site) and for that we are most grateful. The knock on effect of course would be vibrant, healthy badgers too.

But you are a clever politician Ben, and as you said to Mr. Sibley (as I believe did Elliot Morley) you hoped not to be in the hot seat when this decision had to be made. Well you are.

So what are you going to do? Short term fix, or long term solution?

We would remind you, (with the greatest respect of course) of the late Fred Brown's words about politicians, political scientists and disease control.
"As time goes on, scientists know more and more about less and less, but politicians know less and less about bugger all" .

We await the decision you now do have to make, with interest Ben.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

From Russia with love

This is a simulataneous posting, which also appears on our sister site EU Referendum. Intended for a more general audience, it nevertheless rehearses the issues raised by the two previous postings on this site, and speculates on possible consequences of current developments.

A situation is developing in the Russia with the potential to trigger another BSE-type export ban on British farm produce – only this time the problem is Bovine TB.

The first intimation of this impending disaster came on 30 July when an unannounced "customer information note" was posted on the DEFRA website.

This advised that, with effect from 30 September, the Russian Federation had decided to rescind the current agreement bilateral agreement with the EU on mutual recognition of export health certificates. Instead, Russia was to impose its own specific health requirements, with the crucial difference that it would no longer accept milk and milk products from herd unless they were certified as TB-free.

And, as the DEFRA notice blandly announced, "Exports from EU Member States will stop if Russia and the EU cannot agree certification by then".

Despite this information being posted on the DEFRA site, however, it seems not to have been noticed. Nor was a subsequent posting, this one on 6 September, which reaffirmed Russia’s position is that it no longer wished to allow imports of animals and animal products from individual EU member states using bilaterally agreed export health certificates.

The situation, as it stood, was that the Federation would discuss new certification only with the EU Commission, although it did agree to extend the deadline to 1 January 2005.

Only within the last few days, however, did the British diary industry begin to realise the implications of this hitherto obscure new. Is problem is that, owing to the extraordinary neglect of the current Labour administration, Bovine TB has been allowed to rip through the British dairy herd – largely because of a refusal to control the increasingly infected badger population.

Under current bilateral animal health agreements, however, milk from restricted herds is acceptable as long as it has been pasteurised, but this will no longer be the case once the new arrangements come into force. And, because this milk is bulked with other supplies, it will not be possible to certify that either milk or milk products from British farms are sourced from TB free herds, the UK is looking to have its products banned from Russia.

That, however, is the least of our problems. Owing to the wonders of the Single Market, where our products can be exported freely to EU member states, these is a distinct possibility that, because any dairy products from any EU member states might contain British milk, Russia may well ban all EU dairy products unless there is a guarantee that this milk is excluded.

To protect its trade with Russia – which is extremely important to countries like Poland and Germany - therefore, the EU may well be forced into a position of banning the export of any milk or milk products from the UK, unless guarantees can be given that it is source from TB-free herds – a guarantee, under current conditions, that would be difficult if not impossible to give.

At the very least, the growing number of dairy farmers, whose herds are under TB restriction, might find their milk excluded from the wider market, with the risk of a two-tier pricing structure, where they are paid less for their milk.

But, with this product going only to the domestic market, it is only a matter of time before one or other newspaper gets hold of the story and starts asking why, if milk from TB restricted hers is not acceptable to our EU neighbours, why British consumers are "forced" to drink it.

While the Bovine TB saga has, therefore, been a domestic issue, it is now creeping up the international agenda and now has the potential to precipitate yet another crisis between Britain and the rest of the EU – all courtesy of the Russian Federation and, of course, our own useless government.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Update - Russia and TB

Defra, UK - Animal health and welfare - International trade - CIN - AE/APE 2004/113

Exports Strategy Branch: Customer information note - AE/APE 2004/113

To: Interested organisations and Divisional Veterinary Managers

6 September 2004

Dear Sir/Madam


Purpose of CIN

1. This Customer Information Note is to update you on the latest developments concerning the negotiations between the EU and the Russian veterinary authority. The meetings have been held to negotiate EU-wide export health certificates with the Russian Federation.


2. The background to this issue is set out in CIN number APE/04/54 & subsequent CINs see: this link

3. An agreement between the EU and the Russia Federation was signed in Moscow on 2 September. The agreement (or "memorandum" as it is called) covers veterinary certification of animals and animal products to be exported from the EU to Russia.

4. Russia's position is that it no longer wishes to allow imports of animals and animal products from individual EU Member States using bilaterally agreed export health certificates and will discuss new certification only with the EU Commission. Russia extended its deadline to 30 September 2004 beyond which it stated that it would not accept bilateral certification. Exports from EU Member States would therefore stop if Russia and the EU could not agree certification by then.

5. Further meetings of EU veterinary technical experts were held in August and the result is a set of model export health certificates (14 in all)that are to be used by all Member States.

6. The 14 certificates cover:

deboned beef
day-old chicks, turkey, poults, ducklings, goslings and
hatching eggs of these species
feed and feed additives of animal
live fish, sea-products and products of their processing subject
to heat treatment
fodder fishmeal
finished food products containing
raw material of animal origin
breeding, usage and sport horses
temporary admission of sport horses
breeding and production
tinned meat, salamis and other ready for consumption meat
milk and milk products derived from bovine, ovine or caprine
poultry meat
slaughter swine
7. In order to give Member States time to adjust the EU has negotiated a transitional period of until 1 January 2005. During this period the current bilaterally agreed veterinary certificates for exports of live animals and animal products from Member States to Russia may continue to be used. Existing bilaterally agreed certificates will continue to be used for animal and animal products not included among the 14 model certificates.

8. Also this transitional period provides an opportunity for Member States to discuss some technical issues relating to the model certificates.

Further Enquiries

9. If you have any further enquiries concerning this Customer Information Note, please contact Exports Strategy Branch on 020 7904 6404 or fax 020 7904 6428.

Website link: click here


We have recently obtained the following memo from DEFRA, which indicates that Russia is no longer prepared to take our milk products because of our TB status. How long is it before the rest of the EU shuts down on us, in order to allow other member states to export to Russia, on the basis that, as long as the UK is allowed unrestricted access to the EU Single Market, produce can flow through to Russian unchecked?

Not so much chickens as Badgers coming home to roost... if that's what they do.

Imports Policy Branch: Customer information note - AE/APE/04/104

To: Interested organisations and Divisional Veterinary Managers

30 July 2004

Dear Sir/Madam


Purpose of CIN

1. This Customer Information Note is to update exporters on the latest developments concerning the negotiations between the EU and the Russian veterinary authority. The meetings have been held to negotiate EU-wide export health certificates with the Russian Federation.


2. The background to this issue is set out in CIN number APE/04/54 & subsequent CINs.

3. A draft veterinary agreement between the EU and Russia is being negotiated covering health certification for trade in animals and animal products and increased co-operation between veterinary services.

4. Russia’s position is that it no longer wishes to allow imports of animals and animal products from EU Member States using bilaterally agreed export health certificates and will discuss new certification only with the EU Commission. Russia has extended its deadline to 30 September 2004 beyond which it states that it will not accept bilateral certification. Exports from EU Member States will stop if Russia and the EU cannot agree certification by then.

Stage of negotiations

5. Several technical meetings have taken place this year between the EU and Russia and a further one is due to take place on 2 August. Progress has so far been difficult and slow. EU Chief Veterinary Officers also met in July to review progress.

6. The EU and Russia are currently concentrating on five export health certificates:

a) Pork;
b) Breeding cattle;
c) Beef;
d) Milk & dairy products; and
e) Poultry meat.
The Russians have shown little or no preparedness to negotiate over their import requirements. For example, in relation to dairy products, the Russians are insisting on herd freedom from bovine tuberculosis and have rejected pasteurisation as an acceptable alternative. Unless the Russians move
from this position, this will mean all milk or cream from which the dairy product is derived must be certified as having come from TB free herds.

7. The UK will continue to make its concerns about the proposed Russian import requirements to the Council Secretariat and the Commission. We have argued that the conditions in the certificates must be unmistakeably clear so that all Member States view and interpret them in the same way. British companies should be aware that, unless the Russian negotiating position changes, the result of the EU/Russian discussions might be certification which UK companies will find difficult to meet.

Further Enquiries

8. If you have any further enquiries concerning this Customer Information Note, please contact Exports Strategy Branch on 020 7904 6404 or fax 020 7904 6428.

Web site link - click here

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Wildlife Management - 2000

This site has learned that the newly created Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (see Badgers and Bovine tb), has as members, 570 mainly practising vets, and also includes 5 veterinary professors and 6 fellows of the Royal College of Pathologists - so far. Their site can be accessed at:

A paper on wildlife management was published by members of the group in April 2000, in the Veterinary Record. The paper questioned why if the ISG (Independent Scientifiic Group) actually was an 'independent scientific ' group, it had already dismissed from its options for tb control, one of the most obvious solutions, namely the culling of badgers.

They describe the ISG approach to bovine tb as 'politically controlled which will have done little to comfort farmers and veterinarians contending now with bovine tb in the field. For many of them 'long term' is already full term. Time is what they have not got."

They describe the disease in other species, all postmortemed over the last 30 years, "Without a doubt the only significant reservoir of mycobacterium bovis in the UK is in the badger population. Extensive nationwide surveys surveys published durings the 70's and 80's , failed to isolate m.bovis from any other species of wildlife, which included 797 free-living wild deer (fallow, red, roe and sika) 285 brown hares, and 5 hedgehogs. Apart from those examined by culture, hundreds more of various species including grey squirrels, rabbits, rats, foxes, stoats and weasels were examined postmortem for signs of tuberculosis with negative results".

The authors point out that most recent data quoted in Krebbs 1997, cite a small number of isolates of m.bovis made nationwide in each of 2 moles, 11 foxes and 19 deer, and comment "It is likely that most of the isolates in deer were in farmed deer, into which it is suspected that infection was introduced from imported stock in the 1970's. These infections in other species of wildlife are at present, trivial and irrelevant in comparison with the overwhelming burden of infection in the badger population - up to 28 percent infected in affected areas. It is to be expected that infection will turn up in other species as this burden of infection rises in the environment."

As long ago as 1975, one of the group spoke at an International Wildlife Conference in Munich, of the dangers of allowing endemic tb to flourish in badgers. He warned against Ministerial intransigence as MAFF (and now DEFRA) "Sat on its hands and allowed itself to be deflected by unsubstantiated 'hares' from the so-called pro-badger lobby, that there may be other animal reservoirs of infection"

The 2000 paper continues: "The compelling 'circumstantial' evidence that badgers are the major, if not the only wildlife reservoir for bovine tb, must be acted upon now in order to control the disease both in cattle, badgers and other in-contact wildlife such as wild deer. To dismiss the culling of badgers as not an option for 'political' reasons is an abdication of responsibility both to the farming community and the badger population. "

The group propose that for the stability and health of the badger population, legislation is brought into line with exsisting deer legislation which they point out, "has been so successful in giving wild deer a fair deal, and at the same time been a vital factor in managing their numbers".

They conclude "Tb is a disease of overcrowding, stressed conditions and nutrition and the current status of the badger as a protected species is now creating exactly that situation for them. Failure to act now, will not only see the disease spreading in both cattle and badgers, but progressive environmental contamination will see it establish in other domestic stock for example free range pigs and (domestic) cats. It will produce more cases of human Tb, particularly in the rural population. (or those roaming the countryside?) The long term 'holistic' approach advocated by the ISG is entirely reasonable if time could be made to stand still but the problem is out of hand now, and will inevitably worsen in the years to come that the group and government take to formulate their 'solution'.

We couldn't have put it better.

But until the whole industry speaks with one voice and distances itself from the parasites who are currently 'enjoying' the benefits of this bTb epidemic, government has convenient rat holes down which to slither, and using Bourne / Krebs / vaccination / more trials as a shield - do absolutely nothing.

Trials - and tribulations

At the Dairy Event, former president of the BCVA (British Cattle Veterinary Association) Richard Sibley told his audience that he had asked our Ben, the Minister for Conservation and Fisheries, what would be his goal for bovine Tb?

Bradshaw's slick and slippery reply (Sibley said) was that he hoped "Not to be in the hot seat when a decision had to be made"

Well that's helpful isn't it?

How many 'Trials' does he want? One suspects, as many as it takes to get him the answer he would like.

In the last 20 years, taxpayers have funded several and all showed that if infectious badgers were removed, then surprise, surprise, cattle Tb disappeared. Totally at Thornbury, and by over 90 percent at the others. And don't forget readers, that our Ben (or whoever answered the PQ), confirmed that apart from a thorough clear out of badgers "no other contemporous change was identified". So where has your money been spent?

From 1975 - 1981 in Thornbury, a thorough clearance of badgers gave the cattle a respite until 1992 at least, by which time the badger population had recovered, but could be assumed (by the sentinels of cattle testing) to be relatively uninfected. Thornbury has the advantage of having a reasonably defined boundary in the M5 and M4 motorways and the Severn estuary. Culling in the rest of the country was limited to smaller areas averaging 7sq. km, but after 1986 that area was sanitised to just 1 sq km. The Thornbury report explains that " The removal of badgers from around Thornbury was not conceived as a scientific experiment, but as a means to control the spread of tuberculosis from badgers to cattle". Well it succeeded in that.

Other areas of the country also had a larger badger clearance at around that time, including Hartland in Devon, and Steeple-lees in Dorset, which also gave similar results. We won't bore you with too many figures.

In the Republic of Ireland, the East Offaly 'research' project ran from 1988 - 1995. This one targeted the eastern part of the county of Offaly, had a buffer area around it and used the 5 counties surrounding as 'controls'. During this 'trial' the incidence of cattle Tb dropped from 326 per year in 1988, to just 30 in 1995. A reduction of 90 percent. Not quite as good as Thornbury, but the buffer area was not as secure. When the clearance began in the central clearance zone, a lot of movement was seen as badgers who couldn't read the 'Keep Out' signs moved into the vacant area.

In 1996 following Offaly, further 'trials' began in what was quaintly referred to as Central Removal areas. Sounds like Pickfords doesn't it? These were located in Counties of Cork, Donegal, Kilkenny, and Moneghan, and their interim report in 1999 concluded that "where cattle Tb is endemic, there is no choice but to remove tuberculous badgers". This trial was a Krebs look-alike, in fact Professor Krebs could have saved us all a lot of money by accepting their findings. He went and had a look, then made ours slightly different shape, and christened them 'Krebs'. Although they finished in 2002 and should have reported a year ago, the results have been a tad slow in coming forward. They've been referred to, both by Professor Godfray and now by outgoing Irish Agriculture minister Joe Walsh. Godfray confirmed that he had been briefed on the Four Area trial, and that he " Believed it provided strong support for the presence of bovine tb reservoirs in badgers , that result in cattle infections".

Joe Walsh has said that the extensive Irish badger culling trials prove beyond all doubt that culling badgers reduces the Tb incidence in cattle. Scientists involved in the trial have confirmed (Farmers Guardian) that they have seen a reduction in cattle Tb that mirrored Offaly. Up to 90 percent.

And we have Professor Bourne. And Krebs. Incomplete after 7 years and needing another 3 to finish and report. And a Minister of Conservation and Fisheries who is reported to have said that his aim for bovine Tb is "Not to be in the hot seat when a decision has to be made".

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Badgers and bovine TB

This is the text of a letter in the current edition of The Veterinary Record (18 September). It should be engraved on the heart of Mr Bradshaw, preferably without anaesthetic.

As a members of the newly formed Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, we are dismayed to read the recent (13th) report of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRACom) on bovine TB and DEFRA’s earlier consultation document, and to note an absence of any strategy or intention to address the uncontrolled and expanding badger population and the problem of endemic bovine TB in that species.

The recommendations of the EFRACom, which are wholly centred on control of the disease in cattle, unashamedly ignore the basic problem in badgers. We are particularly dismayed to note that our own association, the BVA, in its submission to DEFRA seems to encourage this politically motivated denial of the problem in badgers by stating that: Badger culling might not be an acceptable option as far as the general public is concerned and a badger management policy might be the preferred option. Culling could only be acceptable if it was proven beyond doubt that there was no alternative action to control TB in cattle.

Such a statement is a recipe for inaction and music to the ears of a paralysed Government which wants more and more consultation and no decision. Furthermore, it is a pity that, as a profession, we appear to speak with two voices, since the RCVS in its brief but cogently argued submission to the EFRACom conclude by hoping “That the select committee will encourage the Government to recognise that its present policy of waiting for the outcome of the culling trial is not sustainable.” So what do we get from the EFRACom? A statement to the effect that a decision about the culling of badgers must await the outcome of the randomised badger culling trials. An outcome which, as the RCVS again cogently argued in its submission, is likely to be inconclusive.

The badger is a species without natural predators. It is a classic example of a population out of control through lack of man-agement. The problem is twofold. First, since the badger was made a protected species in 1973 the population has been expanding until it is now serious agricultural pest in many parts of the country simply from weight of numbers and the damage it does by digging. Secondly a large proportion of badgers, up to 30 percent in some areas in the south west and West Midlands, are endemically infected with bovine TB, with many excreting vast numbcrs of infectious tubercle bacteria into the agricultural environment.

Badgers suffer a painful and pro-tracted death from TB. They also suffer from the adverse effects of overpopulation, namely loss of territory, fighting, wounding, road accidents, lack of food and ultimately starvation. The badger population, therefore, urgently needs to be brought under control for the sake of badgers themselves, cattle and cattle farmers, and other wildlife, for example ground nesting birds, not least because of the hazard from TB to man and other wild and domestic animals. Failure to control TB in badgers has inevitably resulted in spill over into other wildlife.

A nationwide strategy for the control of the badger population per se is therefore necessary. Over four years ago, two of us (L. N. T. and A. M.) advocated modification of the exisiting badger legislation to enable landowners and farmers or their nominees (and only them) to deal with their local problem by culling excessive numbers of badgers. This is not reactive culling to the incidence of bovine TB; it is proactive, ongoing population control. A more radical and comprehensive culling strategy is clearly needed in areas of epidemic bovine TB. But such a scheme as ours should limit spread to currently uninfected areas. Furthermore, it should be attractive to the Government since it requires little or no input from DEFRA and is unlikely to be perturbed by so-called badger protection groups.

Finally, we submit that it is the duty of the veterinary profession to pronounce on possible biological solutions, not to speculate on political realities.

W L Allen. L. H. Thomas.
A. McDiarmid.
Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management
c/o Smiths Cottage
North Heath
Newbury, Berkshire

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

R.I.P Swampy

Yesterday prize winning Hereford bull Hustyns Swampy made headlines for the wrong reasons, at the (premature) end of his illustrious career.

Bred by the Hawke family near Wadebridge in Cornwall, Swampy was 1 tonne of sheer beauty.

He had been judged Breed Champion at 2 consecutive County Shows and television archives showed pictures of him, wearing his rosettes and sashes with pride. The photographs of him yesterday showed a proud, dignified and gentle giant of a bull completely oblivious that his life on Cornwall's lush grass, would be prematurely curtailed and within 24 hours his carcass would confined to a OTM skip, and a meat and bone heap. Why? Because he came into contact with a vicious, nasty little bug which had no business on his dinner plate in the first place. Mycobacterium bovis. Bovine Tb.

After a Tb test in July, 13 animals have been slaughtered from Mr. Hawkes' herd.
Swampy was reported to be an Inconclusive reactor, but as lesions were found in the first animals to be slaughtered, then a more 'severe interpretation' of the intradermal test is enforced by Defra and Inconclusives with a reading higher than +3 are slaughtered as well. And that included the bull.

Mr. Hawke farms an effectively 'closed' herd. He has purchased just 5 animals in the last three years, one bull and four heifers to expand his herd's bloodlines. All have been post movement tested at least 3 times. All are clear. Some of Mr. Hawke's neighbours are also under restriction. But M.bovis didn't fly in with the man in the moon, to infect these cattle. The farm has seen an explosion in badger numbers and badger trails run through 3 farms and back into forestry.

Press headlines emphasised the Compulsory Purchase value put on the bull, of up to £30,000.
That is the wrong target.

Despite having a 'closed' herd with no cattle to cattle contact, Mr. Hawke is about to experience the 'benefits' of being under Tb movement restriction. (see archive)
Swampy's value was as Breed Champion - the best in the West - and a shop window for the Hawke's herd.
The family can sell no stock from his bloodline, or any other. Only cattle for direct slaughter.
They can enter no more shows, to promote their herd.
Mr. Fred Hawke, who has been breeding Herefords for 40 years, said "I'm devastated - this bull is part of the family. I can never replace him."

Mr. Hawke expected to 'shed a tear' when Swampy left the farm for his final journey. Not to glory, rosettes and applause, but to the slaughterhouse. He castigated governement for failing to check the growing badger population which he blames for the outbreak.
"Nobody is doing anything about it (other than kill cattle) it's like they couldn't care less" he said.

The Hawke family have lost one tenth of their herd to Tb, and they expect to lose more at the next test due at the end of the month. "Years ago you didn't worry, but now it gives us sleepless nights. The compensation is not the issue, it is the loss of an irreplacable animal"

South West NFU director Anthony Gibson commented on the bovine Tb situation "This would not be happening if Government would get a grip, and do something effective to tackle it"

They have Anthony - another Committee.