The Veterinary Record (Nov. 6th) carried an extremely long letter from Elaine King CEO of the NFBG, castigating veterinary practitioners and scientists who had dared to question the role of the badger in the spread of bovine Tb. Well she would, wouldn't she? It would hardly be conducive to her continued employment if she told her sponsers the truth.
We quote a few gems:
"Cattle movements after FMD are spreading Tb around the country at an alarming rate".
A few maybe, and we have no problem with a post movement test for breeding stock. But farmers whose herds were culled out with FMD noticed a significant change in their wildlife. The badgers moved on. They packed up and trundled off to find the nearest (live) cattle, being 'parasitic' on cattle 'habitat richness' for their survival. But that territory was already occupied, and farmers observed the very 'pertabation' that is blamed for spreading Tb among badgers. They scrapped and fought for space and territory, and when the farmers restocked, the badgers who moved back were a very sorry sight. And they brought with them - Tb.
"Sensitivety of the skin test is relatively low; many herds probably permanently infected"
That is the same skin test approved by OIE (Office of International Epizootics) and used all over the world? We haven't suddenly abandoned that and dreamed up another one? No, we haven't and as Mr. Bradshaw said in his answers to Parliamentary Questions (archived on this site) "In the absence of a wildlife reservoir (of Tb) the skin test is all that is necessary as a diagnostic tool . Its sensitivety is 96 - 99 percent".
What do they say about bad workmen and tools?
Matthew 3's herd has been under restriction for 4 years now, and has had a drip feed of infection from that wildlife reservoir so vehemently defended by the lovely Elaine - badgers. Tb has only been confirmed in 3 cases out of 40 animals slaughtered, as the intradermal skin test every 60 days is picking up exposure to m.bovis prior to lesions developing. The skin test is good as a herd test but not so sensitive on a single animal - unless as Mr. Bradshaw kindly told us, the animal is tested several times, in which case the sensitivety rises to 100 percent. So no problem there Elaine.
"Killing badgers is unlikely to be part of government policy to deal with bovine Tb. It would have to be proven - scientifically - that they were a significant cause of Tb outbreaks.
The 'Reactive' killing of badgers does not reduce the outbreaks in cattle. The cause of this is unclear. "
"I will say this clearly and only once." says Matthew 3 (who is a tad upset at losing 40 homebred cattle)
"Our herd had bought in NO cattle since 1997. That animal was post movement tested, and the herd annually. Badgers got into our cattle buildings, under 4 inch gaps below sheeted gates or through cattle cubicles and then infected feed in a central trough which we had thought secure and vermin proof.
Badgers have caused the deaths of 40 of my cattle and their unborn calves.
The reason that 'Reactive' culling did not work on this farm is:
1) Single-species activists smashed traps, removed traps + their occupants (57 percent of Krebbs traps were interfered with) and trapshy badgers. Only 30 - 80 percent of the target group caught is a pretty poor target but that is the best traps will do.
2) 3 years to ' react' is not what we signed up to the Krebbs charade for. Between June 2000 and May 2003 not a single operative arrived to 'React to the valley's farms which were all under restriction and losing cattle by the lorry load.
3) When they did come, 2 badgers caught on this farm were in appalling condition. One was thoroughly emaciated and the other had a huge abcessed bite wound in her back - dripping pus.
M. bovis did not fly in with the man-in-the-moon. It was badgers who infected my home bred cattle, not deer, foxes or other cattle. Other cattle they can see a mile away, and they can hear them. (Perhaps a 'trial' on whether m.bovis can be transmitted through the ears through listening to bulls--t?)"
Matthew 3 is very angry.
"The ISG has re-analysed data from previous government badger culling operations and found no evidence that badger culling had any impact on Tb in cattle"
We answer this with a quote from Parliamentary Questions:
Q. What effect did the clearance of badgers at Thornbury have on cattle TB?
A. No reactors were found in the cattle for more than 10 years after the clearance, by which time badger numbers had recovered.
Q.What other factors could have influenced the result?
A. No other contemporous change was identified.
Just a thorough clearance of the maintenance reservoir in the badgers. Result? Healthy cattle (tested with the intradermal skin test) and healthy badgers (as shown by sentinel testing of cattle)
"Proactive badger culling would be relatively costly (Not as costly as 30,000 dead cattle and a predicted budget of £2 billion over 10 years NOT clearing Tb) Policies involving zoning and vaccination appear to provide benefit at low cost"
Progressive non-policies have created a beneficial crisis, and given much needed work to many.
'Clean ring' culling of badgers around Tb outbreaks resulted in just 638 dead cattle per year 15 years ago. Would that have spawned such an industry? We think not.
Drawing a line on a map, i.e 'Zoning' is a heroic gesture, but badgers can't read and as the red zones of infected parishes now spread from Cornwall to Carlisle isn't it a little late? The idea was tried with bees and the verroa virus. Unfortunately the bees flew over the line and it had to be moved - and moved - and moved.
The Holy Grail of vaccination is still years away, is unlikely to protect against a multi strain bacteria (30 in badgers , 16 in cattle) and with the potency of a super excreter badger would not protect at all.
He is the original WMD.
"Pre-movement testing, cattle movement controls and gamma interferon would revolutionise the detection of Tb in cattle"
Detecting Tb isn't the problem. Dealing with the cause apparently is.
And the NFBG are arguably the biggest block to this country having healthy cattle and healthy badgers.
"The Treasury will refuse on cost / benefit grounds to invest further resources in controlling the problem"
With that we would agree. The dead hand of the Treasury will cull the cattle valuers about Christmas time and many farmers are uninsurable. From Jan 2005, Russia and the EU have drawn up a bi-lateral veterinary certificate which could isolate this country's produce and EU food Hygiene regulations will ban the milk from Reactor cattle from January 2006 - even if it heat treated.
We note that the references which Elaine uses in her letter are restricted to the magic circle of the ISG or its members, the EFRA committee - which takes evidence from the ISG or Defra - which is hiding behind the ISG and Krebs. The Krebs trial - devised and run by the ISG - had cost the taxpayer £30.5 million to Jan.2004.
And Elaine's thesis - which gained her the doctorate - which would have been helpful in gaining her present employment?
"Factors Influencing the Risk to Cattle of infection with Bovine tuberculosis (mybacterium bovis) from Badgers (meles meles)"
From her letter in the Veterinary Record , one would assume that they posed no risk whatsover.