In an answer to a Parliamentary Question concerning bovine tb in deer, Mr. Bradshaw - or whoever answered those 538 questions - replied that "they were considered a spill over" and not a primary host. Now if badgers can 'spill' tb over into cattle and deer, what else is at risk?
Amongst other things, cats.
At first it was thought that only Siamese and Burmese were 'at risk', but then the penny dropped. The owners of anything less valuable would bury the evidence rather than pay VLA the considerable sums needed to postmortem one very dead moggy.
But cats are susceptible. Postmortems have been done and results logged, from which we quote below.
Breakdowns on farm cats were well documented in USA in 1972, and also in New Zealand, but our story is one which involves badgers as a primary host, several dead cats and no cattle.
In March 1998, a dead badger found on a smallholding was submitted to VLA for postmortem.
It was described as 'generally emaciated', and subsequent post mortem revealed both lung and kidney lesions which were submitted for culture. (We're repeatedly told that badgers don't suffer when they have Tb. This one did, to starve to death in a garden.)
Three months later the carcass of an adult cat from the same smallholding was also submitted for postmortem, and the owner was worried because over the past month 4 other cats on her holding had died.
VLA did an exhumation of the 4 buried cats, and postmortemed the lot.
We won't go into the gory details but, the report describes: " Respiratory distress, weight loss, swelling on the neck glands which proved to be necrotic and oedematous. The lungs were filling with 'grape like lesions' , and the kidneys were affected too. One of the exhumed cats had a cervical swelling which was discharging thick yellow pus, another had had respiratory difficulties prior to death. All showed lung and/or kidney damage".
(But they 'didn't suffer'. Remember that little gem.)
Pooled tissue from the badger and each of 4 cats (the 5th carcass was too badly decomposed to use) was collected separately and tested for mycobacterium bovis. It was also spoligotyped for identification of the strain responsible.
All samples proved to be the same strain - GB spoligotype 20.
The smallholding on which the dead badger was found, and on which the cats died had been home to only horses and ponies for 10 years. There were no cattle. But the area had seen a significant increase in m-bovis infected badgers over the past few years, and the holding is in the centre of a square where recently 22 out of 119 badgers were confirmed with tb. Of those, a third had extensive infection including two individuals who were considered to have died from tb - including the one on the smallholding.
The author of the report, which was published in the Veterinary Record (April 2000 ) concluded :
"M bovis infection in cats, may pose a real zoonotic threat to their keepers".
We agree. As the countryside is plastered with more and more bacteria from an maintenance host who has acquired 'cult status', everything that is susceptible is also at risk. Cattle are only found because we test them. Other species at risk from Bradshaw's quaintly described 'spill over' are deer, camelids, cats and of course, human beings.
So why is mycbacterium bovis being allowed to thrive in the badger? £1 million received (with thanks) from the Political Animal Lobby for a start.
Keep focussed readers.