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.

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