Saturday, August 28, 2004

Animal Rights

Farmers Guardian reported this week the sad story of a Beef Shorthorn herd struck with bTb.

This breed is a designated 'Rare Breed' and is native to this country. But the loss to that breed from this small closed herd raises the question "Do we have the right to award one animal higher 'rights' than another?".

The owner of this small herd had just 30 cows, which graze 180 acres together with 150 head of sheep.
Both units are self contained and effectively 'closed' to outside diseases and contacts. The herd lost 7 cattle.

The Beef Shorthorn breed lost 7 individuals from its dwindling genetic base.

The owner has explained in a letter to Mr. Bradshaw that "to fence the farm would involve 6 miles of fencing which would have to accomodate public footpaths and roads, and even if this were possible, as a member of the local badger protection group, it is not what she wanted for 'her' badgers". Restricted food and water supplies would effectively starve the members of 4 setts which surround her farm.

So she has asked Mr. Bradshaw for his advice.

The authors of this site offer no comment on that course of action, other than to commend her optimism.
But we would point out that as the Minister's answers to PQ's have shown, he knows exactly what the problem is, and how to solve it. We have reminded readers of Ben's answers on numerous occasions, and will continue to do so.

He knows that the Clean Ring strategy worked.
He told us "no other contemporous change was identified" other than a thorough clearance of infected badgers at Thornbury, which kept the cattle clear for over 10 years.
He confirmed the infectivety of badger's urine at 300,000 units of tb bacteria in just 1ml. And he told us just how little was needed to infect a cow - even a rare breed Beef Shorthorn. Just 70 units or 0.03ml. or a sniff from an inqusitive cow.

Our Ben confirmed how long the bacteria can survive in setts, on grassland and in cattle sheds - some of this excellent work being done by the lovely Elaine King.
And although he is still awaiting (hiding behind?) the 'science' of Bourne's Krebs' trial, he confirmed that the traps used in the trial only accounted for 80 per cent of their target group, and often as little as 30 percent.
But although Ben seems happy to cough up taxpayers' money mending the 57 percent of traps that have been damaged and replacing the 1827 that have gone AWOL, he's a little less eager to compensate farmers - even for rare breed genetics - when their cattle encounter m.bovis in badger pee. He's pegged the compulsory purchase budget for the next 2 years, despite expecting 20 percent per annum increases in dead cattle. (It's up 25 percent actually, but our Ben insists it's down 14 percent).

His accepts that his policies have rendered cattle farmers uninsurable.
He tells us that bTb is endemic in badgers - even those moved around the countryside under a code of practise that "Defra neither drew up nor approve of", from 'sanctuaries' , the location of which he neither knows. (nor cares?)
He confirms that the live badger test is rubbish with low sensitivity on a negative result.
And finally he tells us that yes, we have an epidemic of Tb raging through our cattle herds.

Is anyone surprised?

So having answered 538 Parliamentary Questions on bTb, (archived on this site) the Minister for Conservation and Fisheries knows exactly what to do to sort out the problem. And having lost a quarter of her small herd of rare breed Beef Shorthorns to bTb, even as a member of her local badger group, so does their owner.

Farmers - including the owner of this small herd - value a balanced ecology, which includes healthy badgers. But the badger has been awarded so many 'rights' there are not enough left for the rest of that ecology - in this case rare breed Beef Shorthorns - so will our Ben, answer the lady's question, and offer his 'advice'?

Don't hold your breath.


dominic said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason said...


jason mulgrew
internet quasi-celebrity

dominic said...

as a farmer and a founder member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, I well remember speaking at a NFU meeting at Melton Mowbray about 20 years ago and was ask at the close "why try to save these breeds, if they have declined is it not because other better breeds have come along" I ask the questioner what breed he kept and he told me, very proudly, British Fresian, I suggested that within 20yrs this could be on the RBST list, to which he said very strongly that it would never be so as it was the best duel purpose breed ever (I wish I had his name and phone number now) if anyone knows I would be very interested in knowing just how many pure British Fresians there are still alive.
It is an interesting point that the Dexter, one of the very rare breeds in the 1950's is now one of the most commercial, we can get the same carcas price for our 28month old Dexter steers, who have never had any concentrates only mothers milk, grass and silage as our neighbour can for his Charolais steers who have had concentrates.
anyone remember the Falklands war? well when that was over they sent various breeds over to restock the island, many of which were rare breeds and they did very well even though some of the more 'modern' breeds suffered.
whats my point? 1)can we afford to lose ANY breed, let alone one that is already very low numerically, all breeds have a different genetic makeup and have had a reason to excist and who knows when we will need their attributes again, 2)how long can we expect the tax payer to continue to pay for the privelidge of keeping infected badgers, please don't think that I'm against badgers, I would not wish to see these animals become exstinct but they have no natural preditor and if we allow badgers with tb to go unchecked then they will become exstinct as will all our breeds of cattle, surley it is better to protect all species not just the infected as well as the healthy badgers, 3)why is it that whilst the ministry is only too willing to rid our island of its cattle they will not do anything about the reduction of other bovine tb carriers, not only do badgers carry tb but also deer, but nothing is done about them either, they are not even tested.
whilst on the subject of testing, we have a lamma treaking centre not far from us who take their lammas from area to area and the owner trying to be reponsible ask the ministry if they would test his animals (apparently they too can carry bovine tb)the ministry refused even to consider it.
we are still using the same out dated system to test our cattle that we were using over half a century ago, yet I'm told that if the government were to invest just 1% of what they pay out in conpensation, then a better more reliable test could be found, is there a chance that they do not want to do this because that would not reduce the cattle population of Britain as fast as they are doing now.

Anonymous said...

Good points Dominic.
The whole point of this post seems to be to question whether we have the right to put one animal, above all others, and in particular the endangered breeds of cattle.

I do not think we do.

I'm told that if bTb were to hit the Britsh White Park cattle in Derbyshire, then 20 percent of the whole genetic pool of that breed is at risk.

With regard to camelids, llamas and deer, it is our understanding that Defra will test them - BUT the owner pays.