Saturday, July 31, 2004

'The Farmer's Defence' - Licenses

Under the Badger Protection Act 1992, it is an offence to kill a badger or to interfere with its ancestral home, except under certain circumstances.

But PQ 148663 Jan 20 2004 (archived) describes exemptions to the Act, under which badgers may be lawfully killed. We quote the Minister's answer in full:

Section 6 - General exeptions.

Where a seriously ill badger is killed as 'an act of mercy'
Where a badger is unavoidably killed or injured as an incidental result of a lawful action.
Experimental procedures under license, to advance biological / behavioural knowledge etc.

Section 7 - the Farmer's defence .

A person is not guilty of an offence by reason of killing a badger if the action was necessary for the
purpose of preventing serious damage to land, crops, poultry or any other form of property.

This defence cannot be relied upon if it was apparant before that time that action would prove
necessary and a licence had not been applied for as soon as reasonably practicable, or where
application for such licence had been determined.

Section 10 - Licences
Licences may be granted to permit badgers to be killed for the following purposes:

Scientific or educational purposes or the conservation of badgers.
Preventing the spread of disease.
Preventing serious damage to land, crops, poultry or any other form of property.

The Act is available online at: 19920051 en 1.htm.

The Minister's Answer - Licences.

Under the Badger Protection Act 1992, (see next post) farmers may apply for a licence to kill badgers or to interfere with a badger sett, under Section 10 (2) (a) for the purposes of preventing the spread of disease.

Owen Paterson MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture received the following answer from Bradshaw to a PQ which asked how many such licences had been issued. (158605 -18 March 2004)

It is current policy NOT to issue any licences under Section 10 (2) (a) to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, except for animals held in captivity.

So there's been a change in the law ?
An amendment to the Badger Protection Act 1992?
A statute proposed and discussed by Parliament?
A democratic, properly proposed and robustly argued change then?

No actually. Mr. Bradshaw decided all on his own - or rather 'somebody' did.

The result is despite the Act having several sections which should have enabled the control of disease (and that includes leptospira and salmonella and well as tuberculosis) within a wildlife reservoir, 'somebody' decided that this law should be changed.

Can this happen in what we fondly describe as a 'democracy'?
Ask Mr. Bradshaw.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Tories call for badger culls to fight bovine TB

In today's Daily Telegraph, a story by George Jones, Political Editor, which we reproduce in full:

The Conservatives yesterday called for farmers whose cattle herds are hit by tuberculosis to be allowed to destroy badgers, which are believed to spread the disease.

John Whittingdale, the Tory agriculture spokesman, accused the Government of allowing TB to run out of control in Britain's herds. Unless action was taken now, half the country's livestock could be wiped out before the results from trial culls were available, he said.

Test culls in 30 randomly chosen areas, designed to decide whether badgers are responsible for the spread of bovine TB, began in 1999 after the publication of the Krebs Report. They were initially intended to be completed this year.

Because of disruption caused by the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, results are not now expected until 2006.

At a press conference to announce Tory plans to eliminate waste from the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Farming, Mr Whittingdale called on the Government to issue licences for localised badger culls while awaiting the completion of the tests.

At present, Defra is attempting to control the spread of bovine TB by a policy of slaughter and movement restrictions on affected herds.

Mr Whittingdale accused the Government of "doing nothing" while waiting for the results of the Krebs trials.

Bovine TB currently affects around 3,500 farms, with about four per cent of the country's 94,000 herds infected. Incidence of the disease is increasing by 18 per cent a year.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Cattle to Cattle - The Irish Way.

Northern Ireland has carried out 2 major trials to substantiate cattle to cattle transmission of bovine tb.

Dr. Louis O'Reilly carried out the first in 1988, to try and validate lateral spread.
Fifteen naturally infected cattle were housed with two in contact cattle each, for seven months.
What happened? Nothing. Not a thing.
 "At the end of the period the infected cattle failed to transmit Tb to the in-contact pair of animals".

Ten years later, one of the researchers who worked with Dr. O'Reilly has had a second bite at the cherry. Eamon Costello repeated the experiment with ten groups, but housed them for twelve months.
Although the cattle were in close confinement for a year, the in-contact cattle in six of the groups failed to become infected. Tb was transmitted in only four of the ten housed groups.

"The results of the experiment suggest that some tuberculous cattle do not readily infect other cattle"

The Tb investigation unit in Northern Ireland, have suggested that infected badgers may be the primary source for new outbreaks.
This report first appeared in the "Irish Farmers' Journal"

More on Defra's 'drop' in Tb - March 2004, the highest number of new breakdowns ever recorded.

Readers on this site will have seen the reality behind Ben Bradshaw's announcement of a 14 percent drop in bovine TB, (see TB or not TB) but a couple more points have been forwarded to us.

The National Beef Association has pointed out that Defra's own statistics unit at York confirm  the March 2004 figure for 'new herd incidents'  is  438. That is the highest monthly figure on record. Diplomatically,  NBA chief executive Robert Forster is reported as describing the Minister's announcement as ' astonishingly premature'.
Farmers with cattle herds within that group of 438, could no doubt find other adjectives. 

It has been suggested that more herds were tested and therefore more breakdowns found. But the  figures used to support the "14 percent drop"' announced by our Minister of Conservation and Fisheries,  was achieved on 2036 less herds than the previous year (2003 -the year which still had backlogged tests, and which he warned everyone else not to use!), and on 105,161 less cattle.

This in itself would suggest a backlog of cattle testing that is not being cleared.

And when is a registered "cattle holding" not a cattle holding?

When there are no cattle! When they've gone.  All sold and sheep, horseyculture or thistles and docks take their place. So another query into Defra's so-called "drop" in bovine TB, concerns  "herds under restriction", which is calculated as a percentage of total registered cattle herds on Defra's 'Vetnet' database. 

Defra's  database doesn't talk to BCMS (British Cattle movement Service) which registers births, marriages and deaths of all bovines in Great Britain. And although the total BCMS registered cattle holdings is roughly the same,  herds with active cattle movements are substantially less. 

Are you following our train of thought?

Herds under restriction at some time during 2003 on Defra's database were 5393 out of about 97,000 which is just under five percent, supported by PQ's archived on this site.

But on BCMS's database, the number of active cattle holdings -  that is those which recorded a movement or 'event' in 2003  was only 81,097. And as a proportion of that figure, herds under restriction are 6.65 percent. 

That '14 percent' is some drop. Does the "Emperor" need new clothes - or maybe just a new calculator?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Dear, Dear, Deer .. now it's Bambi to blame.

It is said that the best form of defence is attack, and this week both DEFRA and  Elaine King's NFBG  are on the trail of  'Blaming Someone Else '. 
And they've hit on Bambi.

Never let facts get in the way of a good story:

Defra have turned up positive Tb in just 4 per cent of the deer cultures sampled compared with an average 30 per cent in badgers (80 percent in some areas), and in PQ's deer were considered a 'spill over' host.
Spilled over from what, may one ask?  

The ability to be a successful maintenance host to m.bovis depends on three criteria:
1. The individual should survive  long periods in both infected and infectious states.
2. Infected adults must be able to bear viable young, and rear them.
3. The disease should not significantly affect population densities.
Detailed studies of infected populations indicate that these  criteria are met by the BADGER.
In posing such a substantial risk to cattle, the presence of m.bovis within the environment is obviously a risk to any other susceptible animal who encounters it - deer included.

The question we should be asking is what (if any) risk, do deer with tb pose to cattle?

Can they climb gates?
Can they squeeze under 4 inch gaps into cattle feed areas?
Will they invade cattle yards and pee on the feed, before sharing it?
Where in their bodies are the site of the most common tb lesions?
If, like cattle these are mainly in the lungs and lymph nodes, then unless housed in close proximity with cattle or other deer, aerosol effect into the open air is unlikely to be as infectious to any other species as the 300,000 units of m.bovis suspended in 1ml of badger pee.
How infectious are ruminant lesions compared with the infectivity of badger pee / pus or sputum?
Can deer fulfill the criteria for being a successful maintenance host of m.bovis?
We have a duty of care to all creatures in the environment, including Bambi, and Tb infected carcasses of any species pose a threat to scavengers, including badgers and foxes.

But  (at the moment) we can shoot Bambi, and even mount his head on a plaque for the wall.

Anyone for venison?

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Keep Focused

The latest beneficiary in the 'beneficial crisis' created by MAFF / DEFRA's non-handling of bovine tb (see archive  on this site) is Prof. John Woolliams, who is co - ordinating research carried out by the Roslin Institute, Scottish Agricultural college and VLA (Veterinary Laboratories Agency). Commissioned by another quango, the Milk Development Council ( MDC) through data supplied by National Milk Records means that every dairy farmer in the UK is funding research into the 'Genetic Susceptibility of Dairy Cattle to Bovine tb'.

NMR describe this as ' vital research'. Well they would wouldn't they?
I'm just the cash cow, but if my grandmother has cross eyes, my grandfather had diabetes and my aunt suffers ingrowing toe nails and a heart 'problem', then sure as God made little green apples, these genetic traits will be passed down to me, (hopefully missing a lethal combination of all 4) and to my offspring.

Of course there is a genetic susceptibilty. There is to any disease. And yes, it may take a smaller dose to provoke that skin reaction.  But keep focused readers - this godamn bug, mycobacterium bovis, should NOT be spread like raspberry jam all over our grassland, for either 'genetically susceptible' cattle or any other cattle to come into contact with,  should it?

A few years ago, a co contributor was thought to be BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea) but when herds who had vaccinated for several years had reactors,  that theory was abandoned. And at varying intervals the great and the good have offered many cure alls for bovine tb.  Most with little substance beyond 'hope'.

Farmers were advised to keep  'closed' herds', i.e one which is home bred with no bought in cattle.
But no, that doesn't work.  Members of the old Badger panel found that over half the breakdowns they were asked to investigate were in 'closed herds', and m.bovis didn't fly in from the man in the moon to infect home bred cows.

Then there was the 'organic' option, but badgers can't read and will trundle over organic grassland, disposing of  their lethal cargo just as easily as on conventional pasture.   (Parliamentary Answers - Badgers leave urine strips 3 feet long, indiscriminately trailed across what is quaintly referred to as 'badger forages' - cattle grassland - and carrying 300,000 units of m.bovis in just 1ml. So a single pee can leave 30ml, and that's a whole lot of bugs )

And dare I mention 'selenium'? The answer to all things for some, it will cure BSE, prevent FMD and certainly prevent bovine tb!
Except that it won't. But flag up the suggestion and sure enough, a cash strapped bovinetb parasite will pick it up, and do a 'trial' for his / her university.

A couple of enterprising farmer's wives think they may have tracked reactions to a skin test to 'hormone changes' within the animal concerned. Newly calved, newly dried off or newly weaned. Stress maybe plays a part too in flagging up exposure to m.bovis. It doesn't matter.

I repeat, stay focused. This bug should not be there. It has no business to be there, and any co contributer to a positive Reactive skin test in cattle, whether it's genetic, stress or hormone change would have no effect whatsoever if it was NOT there. 

But that would mean a lot of  'scientists' out of a job...................... 

As a post script, we  would say that the scientists who have done so much to further our understanding of bovinetb also deserve a mention.
Prof. Harris on optimum size of population groups, and much more on badgers and m.bovis.
Prof. Tim Roper who filmed badgers eating happily in cattle troughs sited much higher than DEFRA's biosecurity recommendations, and inside farm buildings as a mix of several 'groups'. Badger Mac Donalds?
Dr. Clifton-Hadley, who was involved with previous 'trials'. Thornbury in particular. And last but not least, Dr. King. Yup, the lovely Elaine has done sterling work on the risk to cattle from m.bovis suspended in - badger pee. And also the effect of our climate on its survival therein!

Taxpayers have funded all this.
Badgers, cattle and anything else in contact with m.bovis have gained - not a thing, except another 'trial' or another research project.


If you go down in our woods today...


All gone. Dug up and smashed to bits - together with their occupants.

We had four nests along the side of the river in old tree roots. One was home to bumblebees, two housed wild bees and the last one, tiny little wood wasps. They'd been there several years, and the bumblebee one was fascinating to watch. These huge bodied insects which defy scientific logic in flying at all,  homing into  their huge, old nest.

Now they are gone. Badgers have rooted out the nests and smashed them to get at the honeycombs.
All four of them.
This overgrown rat has aquired so many 'rights' that there are none left for anything else - especially my bumblebees. Anything that chooses to live at +/- ground level is fair game for omnivourous badgers. 

Our delightful Minister of Conservation and Fisheries, Mr. Bradshaw recommends farmers protect their farms from  badgers with electric fencing. Wishful thinking when they can chomp their way through occupied and active bees' nests. 

Is there a society to protect bumblebees?
I may start one.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"Tuberculosis and the .................?"

Below extracts from a leaflet which fluttered across my desk, a PR exercise for farmers and the public from another Ministry of Agriculture  in another country. Same problem, different solution.  They have a headstart though, as they still have a Minister of Agriculture.  Our chap, the delightful Ben, has quaintly retitled his role as only concerning 'Fisheries and Conservation. '
Guess the country. Guess the wildlife source.  (No prizes!)
What is TB?
  • An infection caused by a bacterium
  • TB may infect your cattle
  • TB is also found in feral ...........s,  deer, ferrets and wild cats.       

Why is TB important?

  • TB can cause a loss of farm income
  • The freedom to move cattle when a herd is placed under restriction
  • Infection can cause production losses
  • TB threatens exports
  • TB is a threat to your health

What's the big deal about .............s?

  • .............s are the main source of TB in ..   .., they act as a reservoir of the disease
  • .............s are hard to control because they live in a wide variety of areas and are nocturnal
  • Young ........s migrate and carry the disease with them
  • Not all .........s have TB, but they are very susceptible to infection

How do .........s become infected?

  • From other infected ...........s
  • Contact with other infected species, farmed or feral

How can I identify a .......... with TB? 

  • They are nocturnal, but if sick may wander around in the day
  • Unusual swellings or open sores
  • Look thin and sick

How can my cattle get TB from infected ..........s?

  • Stock are curious and will sniff TB infected ..........s
  • Tb infected ...........s will sleep in hay barns and spread the disease from open sores

How do you get rid of Tb in the wild ...........s?

  • By eradicating known TB infected  ......... populations
  • By keeping ............. numbers down    
  • Control must be intensive and kept up for a number of years

What is being done to control the disease in ..........s?

  • Large scale control programmes are being undertaken in areas where farming is threatened by Tb infected ..........s

Who is responsible for Tb ............ control?

  • You are. On farm control is important
  • Also the Animal Health Board
  • And Department of Conservation

What do I do if I suspect Tb in a ...........?

  • Kill it immediately and contact a veterinary officer
  • If this is not possible, burn or bury the carcass.


So for UK farming it's very good news that our DEFRA has formed a 'partnership' to exchange information on bovine Tb with for example New Zealand, who have a similar problem with the Bush Possum.

When an area in NZ is found to have a Tb problem as defined by the cattle skin test ( yup the same one we all use), the area is immediately 'zoned'.  Now we've heard  John Bourne talk of zoning, but the difference here is that while our 'partners' test all the cattle in the area, and then drop 10.80 poison pellets from light aircraft to sort out their wildlife reservoir (napalm in a forest in Northern Oz I'm told) , Bourne just wants to nail our cow's hooves to the floor - and leave the badgers to re infect them.

The area to be targeted does a big PR promotion to explain the aircraft, what they're doing and why. Farmers are warned to lock up dogs, cats, kids and grannies, and the leaflet stresses that NZ only use 'qualified pilots' - so that's alright.  The roads have  warning signs and ribbons flutter in the trees to designate the edge of the 'drop zone' .  All they need is a bar-be-que.  Anyone for baked possum?

While our boffins are considering  sharing  resources, should we become a Republic? No, not that sort of republic. Just one without a 'King'. Or to be precise Dr. Elaine of the  National Federation of Badger Groups.

Could we export her undoubted energy to form a 'Possum Protection Society' down under?  That would even things up a bit.





Saturday, July 17, 2004

Consistant in their Inconsistancies.

2004.  Dr. Chris Cheeseman,  to the EFRA Committee " farmers could do more for bio security...". 
Dr. Cheeseman talking to Cheshire farmers at the start of Krebs trials.
Question from Farmer in the audience:  "What can I do to keep badgers away from my cows?"
Dr. C (to gasps from horrified assembly) :  "You can't. You get rid of your cows".
Professor Bourne to farmers at start of Krebs trial.  " We'll catch all the badgers in the zone"
Peasant :   "How, with cage traps that only account for 50 - 80 per cent of target?"
Bourne :    "Well of course we aren't going to catch ALL the badgers . There is no intention of catching ALL the badgers. "      (Bet the farmers didn't expect as little as 30% though  - from PQ's archived on this site - Ed)
Elaine King, NFBG  to EFRA committee . "There are 300,000 badgers in the UK"
Answer to PQ 30 Jan 2004.   No recent surveys.  But from survey published 1997, (data earlier)  - 250,000.   
Dr.s  King and Woodruffe to meetings re  the 'success' of the 1998 / 99/ 00 breeding seasons.
"There have been record numbers of badger cubs born this spring" .
On private farm visit, Bourne  :  "I think there could be over 1,000,000 now".
Professor. Bourne to all EFRA committees.  "We must act on the science to prove the link " - (meanwhile assume it's cattle to cattle, and blame the farmers.?)
Professor Bourne to EFRA Committee Feb 2003 ,
Questioned on a comment by HRH the Princess Royal, who said   "Anyone who thinks badgers are not involved  (in her royal TB breakdown in Glos.) - see me outside".  
Committee:  "What happens if HRH is right??" 
Prof. Bourne:  "Well of course she's right..........but what the hell do you do about it?"

Friday, July 16, 2004


For want of doing anything constructive about the epidemic of Bovine TB in this country, the egregious Ben Bradshaw has fallen in love with the idea of biosecurity - when he can spare the time from gazing at his own lovely form in the mirror.
And so convinced is he of his own private thesis that biosecurity is the answer - the only answer - to the TB scourge that he offered his "expert" evidence to the EFRA committee, whose gormless MPs not only copied it down but dutifully reproduced it in the current (thirteenth - shurely unlucky?) report on Bovine TB.
Thus, in all their glory, we see the profound words of the "Minister", naked for all the world to see - and what an ugly sight they are:
Some farmers do take biosecurity very seriously ... [But] some of the farms I have visited that have had TB breakdowns have absolutely no biosecurity at whatsoever.  they have gaps between the walls of the cattle feeding areas and the floors, they have modern dairies that are completely open to the elements.  Nothing is being done on a lot of these farms as far as biosecurity that I can see.

"Some of the farms" that our Ben has visited, amount to half a dozen at most, and of one where we know he applied his undoubted expertise, it appears he managed to do his highly skilled "biosecurity inspection" as he scuttled from the ministry car through the farmyard on his way to the kitchen for a mid-morning cup of coffee and a cosy chat.
Surprisingly enough for the time of day, doors were open, silage clamps were uncovered and drain sluices were clear.  But, such is the expertise of Ben the bodger, that he could deduce all manner of things about not only this farm, but hundreds of others as well.
And as to his "modern dairies that are completely open to the elements", does he not know that his own dairies inspectorate actually carry out licensing visits to these premises - at some cost to the farmers - to approve them, and that one of the licensing requirements is proofing against vermin?  Either his inspectorate is falling down on the job - in which case I think we should be told - or little Ben ain't quite got the expertise he thinks he has.
However, the essential point, which our Ben don't get, is what he thinks would happen to badgers if the biosecurity he so much loves was as perfect as his own visage.  Consider all those little Brocks who have come out to play without their packed lunches, and who stop off for a quick bite of cattle-block-to-go, only to find that the Stalag Luft Defra has got there first and the take-away trade had been shut down.
The Brocks may gaze in awe at the barbed wire, machine gun posts, and anti-tank traps surrounding what were once innocent fields, but they will go home hungry... and stay hungry.  Dead badger pie may then beome a common staple of ye olde cuntry volk, az they pick up the corpses of starved badgers, the badgers who had previously been silly enough to rely on the farmers for their nosh.
But inspector Ben will no doubt be very happy man indeed.  He and his biogarbage will have won the day.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Cause & effec t - A farmer forum.

"There are 2 sorts of cattle farms. Those with Tb and those who are going to get it". NFU Wales.

"Where you are farming cattle, you are esentially farming badgers"
Dr. Chris Cheeseman, Woodchester Park.

Several farmers who have experienced Tb in their herds have contacted the authors to support Bryan Hill's observations of changes in badger behaviour, which they noticed prior to a herd breakdown.  All have been supported by a badger ecologist, who also pointed out that they are signs of a population at saturation point.  Below is a summary:

1. Badgers dead on the roads.
These will often have been 'marking territories' and will leave territory open to adjacent groups. Several dead in one area, would be an indication of lack of 'alertness' and / or weakness in these victims of RTA kills.

2. Badgers dead in fields.
Really bad news. Only a very sick animal will choose to die in the open, away from shelter and seclusion.

3. Long scratch marks on crossing places.
This indicates overgrown claws. Badgers need short, sharp claws to dig. When the claws are long, hooked and overgrown they can't dig and will seek food elsewhere - often in cattle buildings.

4. Single, often shallow holes, away from main sets.
Although this can be the home of a young lone male, turfed out by the alpha female of a group as his testosterone level rises, it may be the last refuge of a single 'disperser'. These are excuded from the main social group, and often in the later stages of Tb. And if claws are overgrown, the hole will be shallow - just enough to hide.

5. Sets in unusual places, where territorial pressure has pushed a group to build on - for example flood plains. When the water comes in, they will have to swim out and find space elsewhere, provoking the fighting for territory associated with Tb. Flood water also drowns earthworms, the main preferred food source of badgers.

6. Prolonged dry weather.
Will drive worms deeper, and more difficult to dig, especially for those with overgrown claws. Weaker members of the group will often go hungry and enter farm buildings to search for food.

7. A single badger curled up in corner of any building.

8. An active 'run' which suddenly stops.

9. A set where rats, carcasses, or the unmistakable stench of death is coming out.

10. Overpopulation. Too many sets.
Sets encroaching into grassland, rather than in the quiet of woods. Sets under farm buildings and into silos, where there is regular 'people activity'. Dustbins being raided.
The birth of the 'urban badger'?

You shouldn't be aware of badgers. Badgers in the daylight, or an increased 'awareness' that they are around are bad news. All these signs, although they can be associated with the ingress of Tb infected badgers, are also a sign of a grossly overpopulated species.
Any change of cattle farming practise will affect its resident population of badgers whether that is crops grown or cattle numbers.
And the more densely populated the badgers, the bigger the effect.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Michael Jack - "There's no Silver Bullet"

Devon farmer Bryan Hill - "Yes there is"

Efra committee chairman Michael Jack, this week urged government to make use of all the tools available to them to combat the scourge of bovine Tb. If current policy remains unchanged, this is forecast to cost the treasury £300 million annually by 2012. Athough he mentioned vaccines (10 years away?), bio security (passing the buck) and BCG for badgers, he said there was no 'Silver bullet' to solve the problem of a predicted 20 percent annual increase in cattle Tb.

Enter Devon farmer Bryan Hill, with just such a tool.It's called population management.

Over the last few years Mr. Hill watched as his badger population exploded. At its peak he estimated there were over 1000 surrounding his farm - 10 times as many as the land could cope with.
He and his heighbours watched in horror as Tb crept towards them. First 15 miles away, then 8 and then 3. Mr. Hill knew his badger population was at territorial saturation point, and after 40 years clear of Tb, should the disease hit them, the consequences for the cattle farms where they lived and bred so successfully, would be catastrophic.

He warned Defra. Their solution was to suggest Mr. Hill applied to them for a license to close down some sets. Move the badgers on.

Horrified, Mr. Hill refused the offer. Defra's one way gates at about £25 each, would have cost him £1000 - the set he was concerned about had 52 entrances! But his main concern was the effect on the badgers and his neighbours. To move the badgers on as Defra suggested, would encourage the fighting for territory which is known to spread Tb, and to further saturate an already overpopulated area. Reckless and short sighted under the circumstances.
The only license Mr. Hill has applied for (and obtained) has been to close an empty set off. This to prevent incoming badgers being re infected.

In 1998/99, only a few months after the first dead badgers were found in the fields, one after the other the farms started to go under Tb restriction., Many cattle were slaughtered, and at its height, 19 farms formed a major hotspot outbreak of bovine Tb.

The great and the good came to inspect. John Bourne and Rosie Woodruffe of the ISG were taken around the farm to see the problems. Bourne remarked that it had the highest population of badgers he had seen. He also confirmed that Defra, having been cajoled into collecting and post morteming just one of the many dead badgers found there, would exercise 'contructive ignorance' and not see fit a to allow Mr. Hill sight of the result. On another educational visit, Debbie Reynolds who is now dealing with Tb from Defra's Page St. headquarters, suggested fencing off the farm. It has over 10 miles of boundary fence in 6 blocks. And 1000 badgers would starve.

All these highly qualified professionals were reminded by Mr. Hill of cause and effect. "When the South West and beyond becomes a huge area of bovine Tb, don't say you weren't warned - and don't pass the buck, and blame the farmers", he told them. Do they remember that?

Mr. Hill filmed dead badgers, emaciated and starved with overgrown claws and abscessed bodies. A compassionate countryman who cares deeply for his animals, both farmed and wild and the land under his tenure, he examined the Badger Protection Act in detail and found that there was scope in it for him to alleviate the suffering of these sick and dying badgers, on welfare grounds.

He filmed some to record their miserable state, and then shot them. And he has continued to do that. Any individual turfed out by the main resident social groups, is targeted in single hole sets left for the purpose. 'Hotel' sets. "If the badgers don't want it, then it's sick and I don't want it either" says Mr. Hill.

His silver bullets have slowly cleared not only his, but most of his neighbours' farms of Tb and they have remained clear.

Today there are several sets of badgers on Bryan Hill's farm and those of his neighbours, but they are a world apart from the ones he filmed 5 years ago. These are healthy and vibrant, a valued part of area's ecology and a part of which he is quite rightly, very proud.

The BBC showed Mr. Hill's films of sick and dead badgers, after Michael Jack's announcement. Although invited to comment on Mr. Hill's badger management strategy, the reporter said that the National Federation of Badger Groups had declined the BBC's offer.

And the result of his strategy?
His own herd, and 90 percent of his neighbours are clear of Tb.

Stress on the 19 herds of cattle of 60 day tests? None.
Cost to neighbours of moving diseased badgers on to them? None.
Effect on badger health and welfare? Huge improvement.

Cost to the taxpayer? Nothing. Not a penny.
Mr. Hill's Silver bullet of management of a population, would appear to have hit its target.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Krebs - There was another way.

In 1998, Professor Stephen Harris of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol offered an alternative to Krebs, which the then Minister of State, Jack Cunningham MP, ignored.

Professor Harris is an expert on badgers, a past member of the Badger Panel and is refered to in many answers to Parliamentary Questions archived on this site. He has given the authors his permission to quote from this written submission and his criticism of the Krebs 'trial'.

"The experiment serves no useful function. 20 years ago it may have served a useful purpose. Now there is little dispute that badgers pass Tb to cattle. The key questions that need to be answered are not "does transmission occur", but a) how does it occur, b) why is the problem more serious some years than others, and c) what can be done to minimise the risks of transmission."

"Calculations of badger numbers are flawed. Densities in problem areas appear to be significantly higher than 'average' figures in my national badger survey. Krebs is using 'average' figures."

"We have to accept that Tb in badgers appears to be on the increase, and the problem in cattle could get a lot worse. This is a potential welfare issue for both species. Tb only appears to persist in badgers if the social group is 8 or more. As the badger population has increased, foci of infection in the West Midlands has become more pronounced. This area has seen the greatest increase in badger numbers over the last decade."

"Should the badger population continue to increase elsewhere in Britain, it is probable new foci will appear elsewhere as well. This may well be happening, as shown by herd breakdowns in Cheshire, Staffordshire etc."

"Tb positive badgers have been found in most English counties, and as far north as Edinburgh. Tb is widely scattered through the badger population, and new foci could appear with increasing badger numbers"

"The Krebs experiment is not practical, and could not be achieved even with a substantial increase in manpower. I do not see how MAFF (Defra) could complete the experiment outlined by Krebs. If this grandiose experiment is started, but collapses because MAFF cannot keep up with targets, this will cause great embarrassment to the government."

"Finally this issue cannot be addressed objectively by the Expert Group. It consists largely of people who were either on the Review group, and have a vested interest in implementing their own recommendations, and/or people who are not ecologists or experts on badgers."
The Solution

"All data from Thornbury, Offaly and elsewhere has shown that pro-active culling of badgers can be highly successful in reducing Tb in both badgers and cattle, and the reduction in herd breakdowns is both dramatic and potentially long lived"

"TB in badgers is (in 1998) confined to small pockets in the SW.
If these pockets are removed in a one-off operation, the badgers left in the surrounding area will be predominantly healthy and can be allowed to re-colonise the cleared areas. The reduction or elimination of Tb in badgers would lead to a dramatic decline in the number of cattle herd breakdowns."

"Krebs selects arbitary areas on a map. Diseased badgers will remain outside the selected zones. My proposal works on epidemiological units, and clears foci of infection. Few if any infected badgers will remain. There will be significant long-term gains in disease control"

"Rather than decide where to go in 5 years, MAFF/DEFRA could be celebrating a successful impact on herd breakdowns. This could be achieved without killing significally more badgers than in recent years, and with little extra commitment of expenditure."

"Whilst this scheme will not be acceptable to everyone, a good proportion of protagonists from all sides will see its merits.
The Krebs experiment will gain no support from either side."
July 2004. Professor Harris confirmed that in retrospect, he would change nothing in this proposal, and that he took no pleasure in seeing the carnage of cattle slaughtered, as badger populations grew and their infectious load spilled over.
Six years ago he warned it would happen.

Defra's 'scientific' paper shield. The Krebs trial.

1. The Plan
30 areas of 100 grouped into 10 'triplets'. Each triplet would be divided into 3 circles, mapped and one of 3 'treatments' allocated. The first was a 'control' and if cattle Tb was found no action on badgers was taken. The second ( Reactive) would remove 'all' badgers if Tb was found, and the third (Proactive) would remove 'all' badgers anyway. After 5 years, comparisons between the 'treatments' would indicate which strategy worked and which did not. Culling would be with the use of cage traps and snares, and have no closed season.

2. The Trial.
Professor Krebs' trial protocol was changed and only cage trapping, was used, with a 'closed season' February - May.
Farms already under restriction with Tb, did not 'qualify' for clearance in the Reactive areas, leaving hot spots which could not be cleared. Landowners were free to deny entrance to the Proactive areas, with similar results.
In reality the 'scientific control' was no such thing, with cattle, feedstuffs, wildlife moving freely in and out of the designated zone.
The 10 triplets did not begin simultaneously, but trickled into operation over 5 years.
All Reactive badger culling was suspended October 2003.

3. The Reality.
The least amount of badgers caught with trapping was 30 percent of target and the best 80 percent. Not the 'all' which was what farmers had been led to believe. Operatives came once annually and in the winter or bad weather, cage traps + 'interference' meant 7 out of every 10 badgers targeted were not caught. When Defra left, many farmers reported more badger activity than before. Farms suffered damage and trespass, and farmers intimidation and abuse.
Over half the traps set, suffered 'interference'. Many disappeared.
Wildlife staff spent an average of 3 hours/per day each, travelling.
All work ceased during 2001 (FMD) Many farms in the triplet zones drastically altered either stock or farming practise during this.
Farms culled out, saw badgers disappear as the fields became overgrown and they had no cattle dung pats etc. to predate on.
If farmers restocked with cattle, they noted badgers which returned were scarred and battered with fighting. Tb soon followed.

Many areas both Reactive and Proactive had no clearance of any kind. Despite 'qualifying', Defra did not come at all for up to 3 years.
Areas had boundaries changed after the beginning of the 'trial'.
The so called ecological survey, was one person, standing on a pre determined spot, annually at the same time of day / night for 4 minutes. The spot was often in the middle of up to 500 acres.

The trial was forecast to last 5 years. That was 1997.
It is still forecast to carry on. It is 2004.
The paper shield is still standing.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

When grown men cry, the Minister smiles.

Tony Yewdall from North Devon and his son Jonnie, were filmed yesterday watching a Tb test on his Island Guernsey cattle. This was the fourth consecutive 60 day test for this herd, and will result in the slaughter of 14 more animals, some baby calves just 3 months old.

From being one of the largest Guernsey herds, carefully built over the last 50 years,this predominantly home bred and beautifully kept group look set to become one of the smallest. As they are subject to relentless and continuing infection from the badger setts which not only surround the farm, but have now encroached right into the cattle grazing areas, the Yewdalls have lost nearly 90 to Tb.

Describing his feelings as young calves, and heavily in calf cows were condemned, the vet reading the test results said he felt "like an executioner". Jon Yewdall, clearly very distressed asked for
the cameras to be stopped.

Cut to camera shot of Mr. Bradshaw, Minister of Fisheries and Conservation and MP for Exeter.

After expressing sympathy for the Yewdall family, and hiding behind the ongoing Krebbs trials, (ongoing just long enough to get him to the next election?), Mr. Bradshaw perked up considerably and smiling for the cameras told us that Tb was actually going down. His policies (unspecified) were working as the number of cattle culled was lower than the previous 18 months.
Really? Defra's web site stats tell a different tale.

1. 2001 Very little testing due to FMD. Do not use for comparisons.

2. 2002 Backlog of tests. High risk herds targeted first. Do not use for comparisons.

3. 2003 Defra hope to clear the backlog of tests on high risk herds by May 2003.

Vets are stressed, abattoirs jammed and Reactor cattle left on farm for weeks. Even test results and notices of isolation and/or slaughter are taking 5 weeks to arrive from Defra's offices.
So just what data is Mr. Bradshaw using to support the statement of a drop in bovine Tb, that made him so happy last night?

Data from 2002 and 2003, when testing was targeted at high risk herds and backlogged, and came with a government 'health warning'.
Do not use for comparative purposes, the site said.
And in the spring of 2004 - the period which made Mr. Bradshaw so happy - Defra tested 2036 less herds and 105,000 less cattle.
Then compared this to - 2003!


The increase from 2000, the last year which did not carry a Defra warning, exceeds even Government predictions of a 20 percent increase annually. Cattle slaughtered, (including several lorry loads of Mr. Yewdall's in calf Guernseys) has increased 149 percent, and new herd breakdowns by almost 80 percent. Cattle slaughtered doubled in 3 years, and has increased by 25 percent annually.

And Mr. Bradshaw smiled.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Tests for Tb. Accurate or Rubbish?


"The cattle test is rubbish isn't it?"

"Half the cattle slaughtered haven't got Tb at all"

"Why can't we test the badgers and only cull those with Tb?"

In answers to PQ's all logged in archived on this site, all these points were answered by Mr. Bradshaw.

8th Dec-141968. The turberculin skin test for cattle has been compulsory in Great Britain since 1950. It is used throughout Europe under directive 64/432/EEC and prescribed by the OIE (Office of International Epizootics) for international trade.

"The skin test is rubbish?" Well no actually - although Professor Bourne of the ISG frequently says it is.

"Half the cattle slaughtered haven't got Tb at all" True, but they have met and had contact with that wonderfully robust little bug mycobacterium bovis. The skin test shows exposure to this. The cattle may (or may not) go on to develop the lesions associated with full blown Tb. Exposure in the 30 - 50 days prior to the test will not show up. There is a period of latency which is why, after a herd breakdown, 2 tests 60 days apart are needed to escape restrictions. Exposure to m.bovis can take up to 226 days to show in a skin test. But if it fails the test, the bovine concerned is shot as a Reactor.

Sensitivity on a cattle herd test is 96 - 99 per cent, on a single animal less so, but on a single animal tested several times, sensitivity rises to 100 per cent. No problems there then.

In the absence of a maintenance reservoir in the wildlife, the cattle skin test is absolutely fine, and every country in the world uses it.

"Test the badgers"

First catch your badger! Cage traps are notoriously ineffective, with target rates varying from as low as 3 out of a target 10 caught, to a maximum of 8. The Brock test has been around for several years and was the subject of yet another 'trial' in the early 1990's. This one seemed to fade out of existence after a couple of years, with no published findings - other than what was known about the live badger (Brock) test before it started!

That is, although fairly accurate on a positive result the negative one is of "very low sensitivity" (PQ 6th Feb 150583)

"This affects its ability to indentify diseased animals."

Badgers to be relocated by sanctuaries are therefore (if tested at all) tested 3 times.

"The voluntary protocol was not devised or approved by Defra"

Badger in a cage - Tb takeaway?

Monday, July 05, 2004

It takes no prisoners

exoSET's comment about the child with Tb on the '£35K Badger Proof Fence' blog, is a timely reminder of what this fiasco is all about. Defra are not killing cattle for the hell of it, or badgers either. Tuberculosis whether m.bovis or m.tuberculosis takes no prisoners. It is a killer zoonosis, and one we should have eliminted years ago.

Since 1895, (yes - that is the right date!) we have known that m.bovis, the bacteria with which this blog is concerned, can survive many different situations. It's one tough cookie. Freezing, some acids, salt and water have no effect. Drying is lethal, and drying in layers makes it more virulent. It can resist 'several months of putrefaction' in a carcass, and can survive in damp, humid places (badger setts) for years. Suspended in badger urine, the effect of ultra violet 'may be delayed'. There are up to 300,000 units of the stuff in 1ml of urine from a badger with kidney lesions, and less than 70 colony forming units or 0.03ml will infect a cow. (see PQ 6 Jan 2004 144445) Perhaps Owen Paterson should ask how much is needed to infect a human being.

Direct bright sunlight (UV) is about the only thing which will destroy the beast.

Cattle tested are only a sentinel of the amount of this bacteria plastering our countryside. The right to roam, combined with communal crossing places used and marked by infected badgers and then accessed by human traffic is a zoonosis waiting to happen.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

You cannot be serious - Read your Answers.

Animal Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw said that he was "still open to wildlife management policies, but not in the absence of scientific evidence to show that they work"........!

All Parliamentary Questions asked by Shadow minister Owen Paterson, and answered by - Mr. Bradshaw - will appear on this site.

See PQ 24 March Col 824W.
Thornbury clearance of badgers over a period of 8 months, led to a total absence of cattle Tb for at least 10 years, after such time badger numbers recovered to their previous levels, but were clean.

The question asked "What were any other possible causes to which that reduction could have been attributed, other than a thorough clearance of infected badgers?".

Mr. Bradshaw answered, or at least SOMEBODY answered for him.

Nothing, Not a sausage. Just clear the infection in the wildlife.
Perhaps the 'Somebody' who answered Mr. Paterson's question should have given Mr. Bradshaw a copy.

The man - he say NO.

Alistair Driver reported in Farmers Guardian July 2nd, that NFU Livestock committee members, led by chairman Richard Haddock had asked the NFU Council to say 'No' to any co operation with Defra on the proposed new Animal Health and Welfare Strategy.

The refusal to support the new bill, was supported by council members from many areas of the country, whose members' businesses were being crippled with the restrictions imposed by a Tb breakdown.

The AHW stratetgy underlines 'partnership' (which usually means money) and as Tb is practically uninsurable now, a levy has been proposed on both beef and milk to underwrite the costs of disease breakdowns. But the council chairman, Mr. Haddock quoting Defra's figures (which also appear on this site), and pointed out that Tb, far from going down was increasing misery for farmers by 25 per cent annually. Enough was enough.

Council members refused to support the 'partnership' required by the AHW bill, unless Defra took firm action on the maintenance reservoir of Tb in the the badgers. The man said No.

Friday, July 02, 2004

You Cannot be Serious - 3 Sticks?

From Owen Paterson's Parliamentary questions (below and archived on this site) the following information has been teased out:

That concentrations of up to 300,000 units of tubercular bacilli per 1ml of badger urine have been found.

That less than 0.03ml is needed to infect a cow.

That this material will survive in the "relatively constant temperature and humidity of a badger sett" and could reinfect 'clean' badgers coming in.

That if a cattle herd is found to have a Reactor cow, movement restrictions are immediately imposed.
No cattle can leave the holding except for direct slaughter. Notification is sent to the Environmental Health Office, and a consultant in Communicable Diseases.
The animal, or animals are served an isolation notice pending slaughter, and after removal, "All premises occupied by the Reactor animal(s) must be cleansed and disinfected with an approved product"

That no action whatsoever is taken on disinfecting or isolating an infected sett, but "3 sticks may be placed across the entrance".

They cannot be serious - but Defra are.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Badger proof field costs taxpayers £35K

The taxpayers of Leek recently forked out £35,000 to enable a local school playing field to be 'badger proofed'.

Leek reporter Diane Sellers, described how Westwood High School had for 3 years explored other solutions, including electric fencing, disinfectants and rodent repellants. Headmaster George Wiskin said he was "Delighted to have found a solution to the problem of badgers fouling the school football, rugby and hockey pitches"

Mr. Wiskin described the fencing as being "Sunk 5 feet underground" and accepted that this was a costly solution. "I believe it is not the end of the badger problems for the Westwood community, but at least our school can use the playing fields again" he said.

Can every cattle farmer apply for a badger fencing grant?
Would they want to?

Fence 'em out - fence 'em in? Bio security in practise.

Defra advise farmers it is their responsibility to keep cattle and badgers apart and any disease compensation may depend on it. But how practical is it and what are the consequences for badgers if it were possible?

Most farm buildings will allow badgers access. They can squeeze under sheeted gates only 4 inches off the ground. Any lower and the gate would foul a concrete slope, or manure and be useless. Their entry to 'secure' feed passages has been filmed, the badgers coming in through cattle yards and cubicles. And the height of cattle feeding troughs - recommended by Defra as 80 cm - is no barrier as they have been filmed at up to 125cm. That's 4 feet 3 inches in old money - and too high for cattle to use. On wood or rough stone they can climb to 16 feet.

Defra tell us that trough design is 'under reveiew', and that farmers should consider suspending them. Defra or the trough? And from what? In a building suspended troughs would be a health and safety hazard to both cattle and handlers, and outside? Skyhooks!

Farmers have found making a cattle building impenetrable to a determined ( and hungry ) badger, impossible. When all entrances were blocked on 2 farms, badgers tunnelled 3 feet under the foundations of a solid concrete wall and came up through the chalk floor - inside.

On Ben Bradshaw's desk top toy-town farm, it may be possible to 'fence 'em out', but practically, on an average cattle holding of hundreds of acres this would involve a Colditz type fence dug several feet underground. And that would drastically reduce the area available to badgers to feed. No earthworms, dung pats, short grass or birthing debris (placentas). Taken literally, cattle farmers are being asked to starve out their resident population of badgers.