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.

Bradshaw Treads Water - New Strategy Group

In a press release 14 / 09 / 04 Defra announced its latest weapon in the fight against bovine Tb.

A new Committee.

This new stakeholder group (they explain) will be entitled the Tb Strategy Core Stakeholder Group. That's so we don't get confused with the (bigger and older) Stakeholder Group or the Tb Forum - or are they the same people?

The group will meet for the first time on the 2oth September and will 'help' officials give appropriate weight and balance to "Preparing for a New GB strategy on bovine Tb".

With the help of this new group, Defra say they hope to have the new strategy in place by early 2005.
(When is the next election?)

While this 'new' group attempt to find a way to control bovine tb in cattle, without controlling the disease in badgers, several new measures will be introduced to nail the cattle even tighter to the floor.

* There will be a recalculation of routine testing intervals to 'ensure Tb testing complies with Commission legislation'.
Does that mean that at the moment, it does not?
"Seek and ye shall find". Defra only have the cattle tests as 'sentinels' of the amount and location of Tb hotpots. They do not know how many herds in places which are as yet untested, may have had the benefit of a translocated Tb takeaway. (see Relocation, Relocation - archived on this site)

* Livestock movement restrictions will be imposed immedaitely a herd test becomes overdue.
The authors have no problem with that.

* A more rigourous and systematic approach to identifying and dealing with potential new hotspots.
Well that's an open statement isn't it?.
Drawing a 'Clean ring' around an outbreak and testing neighbouring herds quickly is sensible. But if 'Expert SVS opinion' indicates a wildlife reservoir as the source , capable of giving continuing exposure and fuelling the outbreak - what then?

* The introduction of rigourous testing schedules for new and reformed herds.
"Reformed" what does Defra mean?
Reform, to make better, to improve? or Re-form, fluid, to make different? Do Defra mean 'flying herds' of dairy cattle, beef herds who buy in store animals for finishing or cattle dealers and bull hire agents?
We suspect the term is loosely labelled to mean - anything Defra want it to mean.
However, the authors have no problem with more regular testing on herds who have a high throughput of purchased cattle, provided of course that it goes hand in hand with action on the maintenance reservoir in the badgers.

But readers should be aware that snuck in at the bottom of the press release, is the birth announcement of yet another committee. Readers will remember the the Pre Movement testing post on this site. This small, sub, sub group will be entitled the Pre-Movement Testing Sub-Group.

The proposal to be developed is that farmers will pay for pre-movement testing.

But in the absence of a wildlife reservoir.......

More Questions than Answers - Saltdean

A trawl through the Defra website, has come up with something that had escaped our attention.

Saltdean. This small community on the south coast has generated reams of papers concerning damage from badgers to houses and gardens, and the attempts to solve the problems which began in 1988!

We quote from the various papers, snippets which may be of interest to our readers:

"The sett is a large main sett in the grounds of four gardens which has caused significant problems for a considerable time. A thorough attempt was made at exclusion of badgers from the sett concerned in 1988; despite considerable efforts of the experienced staff involved over a three month period, this was not successful. The sett was surrounded with electric fencing, and one way gates to let badgers out of the sett but not back in. Despite the efforts of all those involved, including a 'badger consultant' the badgers could not be excluded from the sett."
And our Ben says farmers can fence badgers out? Using electric fences? When his "experienced staff " failed utterly in a virtual cabbage patch? We'll remember that little gem.

"Defra specialists visited the site again in summer 2002, after a request for a Section 10 license by four householders in October 2001 . After considering all other options, including the initial (failed) attempts at exclusion, a license for humane dispatch of the badgers was granted 7 October 2002"
"Both badgers which were taken under this license had lesions which may be indicative of Tb"
Well, well, well. Didn't our Ben tell parliament that "It is currently government policy NOT to issue licenses under Section 10 of the Protection of Badgers Act?"
And he refused Tony Yewdall one, despite 89 dead cattle. If cattle don't matter, maybe farmers should apply on the grounds of damage to a few cabbages instead.

"Work was suspended on 14 October (after 1 week) so that the local residents and 'interest groups' could have a further opportunity to come to a suitable agreement"
Do we assume from this, that after catching 2 " with lesions indicative of Tb ", the trapping was 'interupted?
Did the lovely Elaine of the voracious NFBG throw the teddies out of the pram?

"If Defra receives an application (for a Section 10 license) it is against the law to refuse it without good reason. The Protection of Badgers Act approved by Parliament explicitly provides that preventing serious damage to property provides grounds for issuing a license to kill badgers. In considering license applications, we are obliged to operate within the law which Parliament has made. This includes not witholding licenses unreasonably"

"There is currently a policy of no culling in relation to bovine Tb except for purposes of scientific research.....This will remain the case until the results of the trial in 2005 are published"
Keep treading that water Ben, this is contradictory.

"Animal Welfare Minister, Elliot Morley considered carefully the options of translocating the badgers in respect of which this license was issued. The overriding problem associated with translocation is the possible risk of spreading disease - in this case bovine Tb both to cattle and other badgers"
Yup - we agree. So why not stop translocation ?

"There is sufficient evidence to indicate that Tb is endemic in the local badger population. The entire group of badgers would have to be caught, held and accomodated while testing was carried out - a difficult and onerous undertaking, which causes stress on the animals. In the event. the triple Tb test used to determine whether badgers had Tb or not, would still result in 17 percent false negatives. The disease status of the badgers in question could not be reliablty ascertained."
Our Ben loves the live test. Somebody tell him that all this is on his website - please.

The Solution
"Defra arranged a forum, chaired by Derek Langslow on 27th. November 2002 to discuss alternative proposals for a way farward. Taking part were the NFBG, Brighton City Council and Defra".
Elliot Morley commented " I am disappointed however that despite requests for financial contributions to fund this solution, none have been forthcoming from either the council ofr the Badger groups"
What did Prof. Zuchermann say?
"The groups most hostile to the Ministry, costs the opposition little or nothing. Any price that is paid is exacted in time by officials, in pounds and pence by farmers (and in this case householders) and taxpayers and in health by the badger".
No prizes for guessing who footed the bill for this little lot.

"It is important for the work to proceed. However it is clear that the organisations involved in developing this solution are reluctant to meet the costs of carrying out the work"
All those collecting boxes with 'Old Stripey's' face on, and not a single penny? Where does the money go?

8th. August 2003 Saltdean Badgers - Work begins on Artificial setts.
"Defra will make a payment towards the work as part of a 'research project' to collect data and learn more about the implications of translocating badgers to artificial setts."
Yes, you did read that correctly. Defra (that's the taxpayer) will make a payment and call it 'research' (that's from Agriculture's Tb budget) to build an artificial 'ancestral home' for Tb infected badgers who've been digging up cabbages in Saltdean for the last 20 years.

"Trapping and eviction of badgers will be completed by the end of November 2003."
"Work on the sett is being undertaken by contractors suggested by the NFBG (low on cash, but high on ideas = rights without responsibility) Sett construction is being funded by Defra (taxpayers actually) as it provides an opportunity to monitor the potential of this technique to help solve future badger problems".
Farmers suffered£25.7 million worth of 'problems' to farm crops and buildings in 1997 - all applications for artificial setts / badger removals to Defra.

"Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, (change of hat - it's our Ben now) was delighted that a mutually agreeable approach had been found to a unique and difficlt problem".
Well he would say that wouldn't he. How many £thousands did all this cost? And it's not a 'unique' problem.

We titled this piece More Questions than Answers and from Mattthew 1 a list of his questions given the Minister's comments.

1. Why are we continuing with Krebs when Morley admits that (translocated) badgers transmit Tb to cattle and other badgers?
2. Why is Defra concentrating 'blame' on farmers for poor bio security when their own experienced team failed to keep a badger sett in a back garden secure?
3. If Defra can issue a Section 10 license to protect a garden, and comment that it is against the law for them to refuse it if grounds are reasonable, why have they refused Tony Yewdall? And why have they decided "it is currently not government policy to issue licenses under this section". Who decided that? Why?
4.Trapping at saltdean only took place for 1 week, and then was ' suspended'. Only 2 badgers were caught. Both had lesions. Were traps stolen? Were the rest of these badgers translocated? If so, where to? Have there been any outbreaks of bovine Tb around the area since 14th October 2002.
5. Was the 'translocation' to an artificial sett successful, or did the badgers return to their old sett?

Anyone from the Saltdean area reading this site - we'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Matthew 'Comes Out' 1 & 2

Where has he been?

Under Tb restriction. (Sorry Ben - did that title grab your attention? It was meant to.)

This site is managed by half a dozen farmers from Cornwall to Carlisle. Most have had their cattle herds under restriction - 2 are still in that position, and 2 reckon they soon will be. We're genuine carrot crunchers - not an 'ology amongst us - that's Richard's department!

'Matthew' 1 moved a herd from Cornwall to the Midlands, sucklers and dairy. It was both pre and post movement tested, and was clear at the routine test a couple of years later. This nucleus was then moved back to Cornwall in September 1992, and joined by a small dairy herd from Derbyshire, which was 'closed' and had had no problems with Tb since accredition in the 1950's. A post movement test in Cornwall was all clear, but 4 neighbours were under restriction.

At the annual test in late 1993, this herd had 2 Reactors and a dozen or more Inconclusives.

The farm had no cattle to cattle contact with neighbours, being in a triangle with woods and a main road as boundaries. There were a few deer, and several 'shared' badger setts with much field damage to crops.

Over the next 18 months the herd had tests every 60 days which revealed a 'drip feed' of Inconclusives with a few being taken as 3x IR. During this time a BRO (Badger Removal Operation) was applied for by MAFF, and although granted, animal activists caused problems for the wildlife operatives and it took a long time to complete. Cages were trashed or removed, and Matthew 1 was shown (by the wildlife team) where a cage had had a badger in it, and been moved to a field gateway, put down, and then removed towards tyre tracks of a 'vehicle' which was not in the ownership of either the team or Matthew. Did we say Tb takeaways? Five farms were under restriction here, and the badgers were moved on. Where did they end up? Your place or mine?

After the BRO was finally completed, all 5 farms went clear within 2 or 3 tests. The farmers tried to keep the infected setts clear for at least 12 months, then slowly allowed badgers to restock, keeping a close eye on their cattle herd tests.

Currently the area is rumbling again, and Matthew 1 has had IR's at the last test. Something is stirring in the woods - and it's not bambi.


Matthew 2 had a herd of British Friesians which was accredited in 1952, and remained clear for the next 45 years. The area had something 'nasty in the woods' and remained on annual testing for some time after the rest of the county was loosened up to a 2/3 year regime. The only cattle bought in were 4 Angus bulls who ran with heifers. The farm sold beef x stores and surplus breeding stock.

At a routine test in the late 1990's the herd had one Reactor - a yearling heifer - and several IR's.

Over the winter the herd tested clear while housed, but went down again after turn out, and spent a second 'term of imprisonment' under restriction. A couple of mangy, thin, smelly and very dead badgers were found in the straw stack, and not only were these buried, but the surrounding bales were burnt.

Again the herd went clear during the winter housing, but SVS vets told Matthew 2 that the chances of keeping clear after turn out were nil. "You are bound to go down again and we can't touch your badgers - there's a moratorium on culling them." While this herd was under Tb restriction, its milk was collected separately from 'clean' farms, as were all the herds under restriction in the area.

What did Dr. Chris Cheeseman say to Cheshire farmers about farming with infected badgers? "You can't' - you get rid of your cattle".

Matthew 2 sold up.

Matthew 'Comes Out' 3 & 4

Matthew 3 has a homebred herd of dairy cattle, with nothing bought in since 1997. The herd was accredited in 1952, and survived a 300 mile hike and one bought in reactor in 1985. Other than that single bought- in cow, had been clear of bovine Tb for 49 years. It isn't now.

In 2001 at the annual routine test, a home bred 8 th calver was a Reactor.
Since then the herd has had a drip feed of Reactors and Inconclusives at each of almost 20 consecutive 60 day tests. Constant re infection from a maintenance reservoir of infected badgers.

Why badgers?

The farm is surrounded by woods and roads - no cattle to cattle contact at all.
Bambi can't dig motorways under sheep netting fences, criss crossing the farm.
And it doesn't find ways into farm buildings with sheeted gates almost to the floor, and 'share' cattle feed.
Despite all attempts to exclude them, badgers have caused the death of 38 home bred cattle (and their 35 unborn calves) and led to the death of 120 bull calves shot at birth on Matthew 3's farm.

This farm was in a designated Reactive area of the Krebs' trial. What a barrel of laughs that turned out to be. While they were waiting for the wildlife teams, Matthew and his neighbours lost over 300 cattle. Almost 3 years to 'React' - and then Bradshaw announced that he was abandoning that zone, as it was leading to "an increase in cattle tb".
Well it would wouldn't it, if the 007 squad didn't turn up?

Some of Matthew 3's cattle had never been out to graze. Tb came IN to them, and during the spring of 2003, he lost 17 pedigree incalf holsteins all from one group. His heifers could see their mothers, and grandmothers but they could also see, and hear 'foreign' cattle across the valley. Matthew is waiting for another cash strapped ' scientist' to offer Bradshaw another 'trial'.
"Can bTb be transmitted through the ears" by listening to bulls--t.

Matthew's neighbour found a dead badger behind his farm buildings in February, but Defra refused to collect it. Constructive ignorance? 3 farms bordering that carcass have now lost a further 20 animals. All three farms are under restriction.

Matthew 3 is seriously pissed off .


Matthew 4 has 400 head of pedigree high genetic holsteins, which are again under restriction.
His herd is predominantly homebred, with an occasional new bloodline introduced. The farm is on annual testing, and for over 40 years had no problems. Tb hit four years ago and has been rumbling ever since.

He is facing the winter grossly overstocked, as the only stock he can sell are for direct slaughter.
He used to sell newly calved heifers and older cows, and breeding bulls.
He used to show his cattle of which he was very proud, as a window for customers to view his stock.

He is wondering whether to buy extra feed, housing, quota - or all three.
He has tried to forward budget for selling good cows onto the OTM scheme at £300 / head, so that he has room for pedigree heifers which he should have sold at over £1000. He reckons that little excercise will cost him £28,000.
He suggests we add that to the list of 'advantages' farmers face from being under restriction.

Three families are supported by this herd.

Matthew 4 is a worried man.

Matthew 'Comes Out' 5 & 6

Matthew 5 farms 80 acres in the Peak District which could be described as 'cattle heaven'.
Sensitively and organically managed, just 19 Angus suckler cows and their new calves, last years' calves and nearly fat beef cattle from 2 years ago, graze herb rich pastures. Or did until Tb struck in 1999.

The farm is a family concern and since the area was accredited in the 1950's had experienced no problems.

But in recent years, such was the explosion of bTb in the area that Matthew 5's neighbour had a whole herd taken 2 years ago. His own farm has lost 9 of these lovely cattle, all in calf and 2 had suckled calves at foot which were also slaughtered, in a breakdown which lasted 4 years. (1999 - 2003)

Matthew's farm is in a Reactive zone of Krebs, but because the holding was already under
restriction when the 'trial' started, did not qualify for a badger removal.(We 've heard of several little mini hotspots within Krebs like this. Who dreams up these rules? ) Only if Matthew's herd went clear, and then under restriction again would the wildlife team move in.The neighbouring farm which lost the whole herd was in a Proactive triplet, and action was taken there to clear the setts.
In spite of having 2 clear tests in 2003, Matthew 5's herd was kept under restriction, because the neighbouring farms were having such horrendous problems. As one neighbour is under restriction again, Matthew is under a '6 month testing' regime. He expects to have reactors at his autumn test.
Matthew has received detailed and specific instructions for the use of protective clothing and gloves while mending his stone walls. As the stiles are 'rambled over' by not only the general
public, but hundreds of badgers, who also use them as latrine marking places, Matthew is worried as to the long term health of his (two legged) visitors.

A large estate near to Matthew 5 also have organic Aberdeen Angus cattle.
They do not have a problem with Tb.

They employ 5 gamekeepers.


Matthew 6 is our research mole. Farming in the Midlands with a passionate belief in ecology and native rare breeds - one in particular - Matthew 6 is the only one of the group not to have first hand knowledge of bovine tb restriction - yet.


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Bradshaw Treads Water - Pre Movement testing

As Parliament re-assembles after its hols, and our Ben rolls up his shorts and puts away his bucket and spade, that elusive 'something' has reared its head again.
Pre movement intradermal testing is we're told, on top of Defra's agenda.
Its value in disease control limited, its application horrendously difficult but politically, our man can stand up and be seen to be 'in control' by doing - 'something'.

During the spring consultation period for Defra's 'New Tb Strategy' (when ordinary people were elevated to the rank of 'stakeholder', and made to feel important - so that Defra could do 'something' and then say they had 'consulted' on it), the idea of pre movement cattle tests received a mixed reception. The NFBG supported it, farmers said 'not a chance until Defra act on those little black and white Tb takeaways' (see Relocation, Relocation on this site) and vets and SVS staff pointed out its flaws as follows:

1. The latency of the test will not show exposure to Tb 30 - 50 days before testing, so that period + the 8 week window originally proposed for selling gave almost 4 months of potential exposure which would not be covered. They described it as a 'placebo with little value in disease control' which would give buyers a 'dangerously misplaced sense of security'.

2. The skin test is designed as a herd test, and as such is very accurate. It is less accurate on a single animal, unless that animal is tested several times, when sensitivity reaches 100 percent. And we are of course, most grateful to Ben for the answers to that point from Parliamentary questions (archived on this site).

3, Most farms who are able to 'trade' stock do so on a weekly basis, from calves (which may be exempt) through store stock, breeding stock and milking cattle of all ages and animals for slaughter.
Even excluding calves and slaughter stock, that adds up to a whole load of tests in a year. Can the system cope? Vets and Trading Standards officers at the meetings said they could not, while Auctioneers described it as their 'worst nightmare'.

But in the interest of assuring his master that he is doing 'something', our Ben looks set to introduce it.

So what would be valuable?
This site will always give credit where credit is due, and the lovely Elaine of the Battersea Bunny Huggers (NFBG) has suggested that farmers get assistance to create dedicated isolation facilities for Tb testing of individual cattle.

That's better than getting a degree on researching "The Risk to Cattle from Exposure to mycobacterium bovis in Badger urine" and then spending the next 20 years making a living denying there is any risk, but we digress.. Yup Tb isolation units, good idea. We like.

Farms already have isolation facilities as part of the rules of supermarket fan clubs - sorry Farm Assurance schemes, so maybe an (NFBG approved) upgrade would do, bearing in mind that if a bought in animal was not confined to dedicated isolation facilities, then its positive test could bring the whole herd under restriction.

We understand that post movement tests would need a new statute for Defra to enforce it, while pre movement can be done under existing legislation. But why that should be a problem we cannot see.
The sweeping powers of the new Animal Death Bill, plus Part 2, Section 21 of the Civil Contingencies Bill which proposes 'regional co ordinators' with extraordinarily loosely defined powers to do - exactly as they like, regardless of parliamentary statute and any pretence of 'democracy' could elevate the State Veterinary Service to 'Heil Defra'. Problem solved.

But as our Ben treads water by pretending to do 'something', while doing absolutely nothing of value "In the absence of a wildlfe reservoir ....." all of it is of course, totally unecessary. Keep focused readers.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

"Some animals are more equal than others"

Following our story of the effect of bovine tb on rare and endangered cattle breeds, (and comments) this site has received a letter from a member of the RBST (Rare Breeds Survival Trust), which we reproduce in full.

"I have been involved with the RBST for some 15 years. My father- in- law was given the task in the early 70's , by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) of chairing the committee which was set up to move forward the whole idea of preserving endangered species of native farmed animals. The result was the RBST, and from that foundation I suppose you could say that the family has had, and still has a great interest in the fortunes of our native breeds of cattle.

During the time the Trust has been operating, there have been various threats to the surival of our 'Living National Treasures' which are looked after by the organisation's members. We have had BSE, the steady decline of small local abattoirs, and the horrific FMD epidemic in 2001. But remarkable though it may seem, all these pale into insignificance when compared to the ongoing situation which now faces our national cattle herd and their keepers, through the insidious, stealthy march of bovine tb, and the resultant loss of tens of thousands of cattle each year.

It is a disease which, until a very few years ago had almost been consigned to the history books, through the sterling work done in the 50's, 60's and 70's to eradicate it. At present action is being taken against bovine tb - but on only one side of the playing field, leaving the path wide open for continuous reinfection. A re run if you like of King Canute, with beleaguered cattle farmers only able to watch as bovine tb maintains its relentless march.

The disease in infected wildlife is being left unchecked (all but for a few token 'experiments') by a Government that prefers to turn a blind eye to the horrific consequences of its intransigence, in order to pander to a small but vociferous minority of misguided and misinformed people. The same people who have created an Industry out of preserving a single species of wildlife, which was misguidedly afforded 'protected' status and which H.M. Government now admits is endemic with a highly infectious (zoonotic) disease.

This is a clear case of some animals being more equal than others.
If there is a disease problem, no matter what the species, then it needs to be addressed.

But Ben Bradshaw blithely tells the Efra committee that he expects the number of cattle slaughtered due to bovine tb to rise 20 percent year on year. We must (he tells us ) wait until the flawed Krebs trials come to their conclusion in maybe 2006 - 2007 - if we're lucky. This regardless of the solid facts already acquired by previous government scientists both here and abroad.

I am afraid that we as keepers of rare and minority cattle breeds do not have the luxory of time, if we want future generations to have the pleasure of and carry on the responsibility for, the wide genetic base which we presently boast in this country. Just one outbreak of bovine tb on one single holding could, I have been told, wipe out 20 percent of the White Park cattle in this country, and the particular herd in question resides within a very vulnerable county.

Other breeds have already lost invaluable family lines, and animals of great quality and potential, turning all their breeder's hard work and dedication over many years of preservation and perseverance to - nothing. These people are left feeling disillusioned and dispirited.

How can this insanity be allowed to carry on?"