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?