Friday, December 23, 2005

Defra's Christmas Recipes

Written in October, published on the Defra website to be consumed over Christmas, can be viewed here

Editor's warning: Some descriptions in this file may be found offensive.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bradshaw and the Berne Convention

Described in our post below - or linked courtesy of the Link Fairy - are 3 options for the control of badgers by Defra, or farmers, or farmers and Defra. All are subject to a high profile 'consultation' excercise taking 3 months. But how legal would it be?

Our mole Matthew has been digging into the can do's and cannot do's of Bern, and as far as we can see, the Minister's options are not possible under this convention.
However as always, we stand corrected if wrong. Hey, we're only farmers for goodness sake!

Britain signed up to the convention in 1982. It was amended in 2002.

Appendix 111 / Annex 111 gives a listing of Protected status species, updated 2002, in which meles meles - our friendly neighbourhood stripey badger- is listed, in the section Carnivora.

But since 1st March 2002, in 'Prohibited means and methods of killing, capture and other forms of exploitation', Bern lists an extensive - if not inventive - array which cannot be applied to said protected species, listed in Annex 111.

Appendix IV / Annexe IV :
Live animal decoys,
Tape recorders (do they think we would strangle the target with the tape?)
Electrical devices, Artificial light souces (night sights?)
Mirrors and other dazzling devices (Bradshaw?)
Devices for illuminating targets (If you mean a torch, why not say so?)
Sighting devices for night shooting
Explosives (except for whales)
Nets and Traps (if applied to large scale or non selective capture or killing)
Poisoned or anaesthetic bait
Gassing or smoking out
Semi automatic or automatic weapons capable of holding more than two rounds of ammunition, Aircraft (???!!)
Motor vehicles - in motion.

So what options does that leave?

We cannot use aircraft, so that leaves motor vehicles but only if they're stationary. Lamping with night sights is a no no, particularly if the shotgun or rifle has more than 2 rounds in the chamber, so no machine guns. No snares (did Ireland sign up to this?) No gassing or even trapping as part of a non selctive cull.

Well I guess we could ask them (politely) to leave, or creep up behind them and garotte, with the tape recorder's tape. Or we could just say 'boo' and pretend they've gone.......

So exactly what is our Minister of Fisheries' " Consultation" all about?

As we said, he intends to take the quid, but under Bern could he even think about delivering the pro quo ?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Defra takes the 'Quid'...

... but shows no sign of delivering the 'pro quo'.

'Quid pro quo' : something given or taken as equivalent to another.

In the Industry Strategy on bTb worked out representatives of veterinary groups, SVS and cattle farmers, the proposals came as a package of measures, all of which were to be instigated concurrently and parallel. The cattle industry reluctantly accepting the high profile (but of little disease control) pre movement testing - which even our Ben accepts would miss 60 percent of cases of bTb. And believing that providing the wildlife source was tackled in a meaningful way and numbers of cattle slaughtered fell dramatically, then the proposed flat rate valuation could and should be enhanced once again by farmer's own insurance in quite a short space of time. That to go hand in hand, or quid pro quo with decisive actions on wildlife sources of the disease - and all at the same time. Concurrent.

So what has our Minister of Fisheries and Conservation announced?

February sees both cattle measures introduced. Pre-movement testing on the 20th. and tabular valuation on the 1st. And the wildlife? A consultation with options designed to scare the badger groups witless and further polarise opinions - and options.

One may say the Minister proposes to take the quid, and has not delivered the pro quo. Neither we suspect has he any intention of so doing.

Granted his appearance on the media was designed to appease the farmers. He was pressing - as they say - all the right buttons. But the bottom line is that the cattle industry faces costly and restrictive practices while the reservoir in wildlife flourishes unchecked.

We have pointed out before on this site that cattle farmers in areas of high tb incidence are unable to get insurance cover for the disease. The proposed tabular valuation is based only on 'market value', which means exactly that. Draft sales, specialist sales, breed sales and private pedigree sales are not included. So is just £500 / head a good enough incentive for farmers to do Defra's work for them? We hear that the wildlife teams are being stood down, and this week CSL (Central Science Laboratory) are advertising for applicants 'with 5 GCSE's' (sociology, media studies and IT?) to count badger setts. Oh and just to really stuff the job, Defra have no intention of using PCR technology to identify infected badger setts - even though they could - if they wanted to.

John Bourne has scrambled an interim report together, which delivers exactly as predicted - not a lot. Well what did you expect using cage traps, 57 percent of which were 'interfered with' and 12 percent 'disappeared'? That combined with an arbitary line as an 'edge' to the RBCT zone which moved in the duration, including different farms halfway through the 'trial', and thus excluding others, and encouraged the chaos of perturbation at its 'soft' and fluid perimeter. All this they knew at the start - and were reminded in spades. You really couldn't make it up. And they call this 'science'?

More on:

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Talking the Talk

Yesterday in Parliament, Geoffrey Cox MP secured a debate on bovine tb.

MP's of all persuasions questioned Ben Bradshaw on 'policy', and pointed out that his promised 'Autumn' statement was - well, a bit late for this year anyway. But then we've been used to prevarication for several years now. Do leopards change their spots? The Minister indicated that once again he was going to delay any announcement until John Bourne's interim report on the RBCT was published. He told the House that it was at present being peer reviewed, and that when the results were made public "the reason for his delaying would be made clear".

While not wishing to prejudge any momentous ministerial announcement, likely to be made on the last minute of this parliamentary session before Mr. Bradshaw goes off on his Christmas jollies, we can sense a problem here.

As Shadow minister, Owen Paterson MP pointed out, previous parliamentary questions (archived on this site) have extracted from the minister the efficiency - or not of Krebbs attempts to cull badgers.

Despite John Bourne's explanations to participating farmers that in both Reactive and Proactive areas the RBCT would: "Cull all badgers", the reality was that 57 percent of the traps were 'interfered with' and 12 percent disappeared. We have explored the maths of this before. But briefly from a target of 100 percent of badgers, in some cases the RBCT managed as little as 31 percent, which is confirmed by PQ's. At best cage trapping without badger activist intefernce only accounts for 80 percent of target.

However dear reader, it is for this (peer reviewed) 'work' that the minister is delaying his announcement. And it is on the basis of the RBCT 'results' that any decision to cull tb infected badgers will be made.

'Work' it has created for some. But the cost to the taxpayer, wildlife in general and badgers in particular, cattle and our country's reputation and disease status is - incalculable.
And 'science' it is not.

The minister has for long enough 'talked the talk', will he now 'walk the walk'? Not if his decision is based on the RBCT he won't.

The debate can be seen here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Animal behaviour = Tb transmission opportunity?

We have explained cattle behaviour before on this site (Curious Cows) and described a badger's 'fright & flight' reaction to being startled. (Our contributer had his wellies sprayed when a short sighted badger mistook his boot for a cow-pat)
We hear that New Zealand veterinarians are also interested in methods of transmission of tuberculosis between species, and have done some work using a sedated possum.

While he was groggy and behaving 'atypically' i.e as if he had advanced tuberculosis, the NZ vets put him in 3 different situations and video taped the results. (Sorry, no link. verbal info only)

First with a group of cattle, where he was surrounded, sniffed, licked, nudged and generally thoroughly investigated for a considerable time. Had tb. infection been present in the possum, these actions of curious, maternal cows would certainly have encouraged transmission of Btb, the vets felt.

Then he was introduced to NZ's very own woolly jumpers - sheep. Their reaction was "eeer yes ?" and they continued to graze the grass! No reaction at all. The dopey possum was ignored, which could explain the lower rates of tb found in sheep grazing the same areas with infected wildlife.

But when placed with red deer, the reaction totally amazed the vets. The possum was butted, then thrown in the air and generally mauled. In fact, for his own protection the possum was removed. Contact was made by mouth. The deer grabbed the possum in their teeth, and threw him about.

Given badger group's (Avon Wildlife Trust -'Badgers without Bias') and farmer's experiences already quoted on this site, that when startled or surrounded a badger will 'spit and spray urine', this exercise into the behavioural differences between species of animals exposed to
a bacterial blast from a common wildlife reservoir of Btb is very useful. And anyone who still says "but we don't know how it's transmitted", really needs to get out more.

Defra Excels

Latest Tb statistics figures posted on the Defra website show a 9 per cent increase in herds under restriction in GB. But cattle slaughtered (John Bourne is still guarding the badger results) show a 35 percent - yes you did read that correctly - 35 percent rise in the 9 months to September30th. in Great Britain.

In the same period 2004, Defra disposed of 16,986 animals as either Reactors to the skin test, Inconclusive Reactors or Direct Contacts (usually calves from reactor suckler cows) .
But this year in the nine months to September they excelled themselves, killing almost as many as in 12 months just a year ago.

To Sept. 2005, 22,941 cattle were slaughtered. An increase of almost 6000 head.

More on the somewhat inappropriately named weblink 'Animal Health'.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Bending with Bradshaw

Lead story in the Farmers Guardian today, is the astounding figure of 80 percent of Tb cases are down to spread from cattle to cattle.

This figure was provided to members of the House of Commons a week ago, in response to a Parliamentary question on how the Minister intended to rid the wildlife population of BTb.
It led to an angry response from opposition Agriculture spokesman Owen Paterson MP, who said:

"This demonstrates Mr. Bradshaw's loose grasp of the details of how Tb is spread and his tendency to 'bend' the facts to support his, and the Government's prejudiced view of the problem".

NFU vice chairman, Meurig Raymond also refuted Bradshaw's figures, and asked for clarification of their source. Particularly as official Defra figures from the minister's own department show exactly the opposite.

Only 2 months ago, the Central Science Laboratory published a data which accepts that wildlife (badger) reservoirs can account for up to 85 per cent of bTb spread.

"Preliminary assessment of cattle movement data suggest that between 26 per cent and 85 per cent of cattle herd breakdowns were not caused by cattle moving into the index herd, and thus, this percentage could [only] have been caused by wildlife."

Coming only a few days before Government is due to make a statement on future policy for cattle controls which are expected to include pre movement testing and a flat rate valuation, this stance is not helpful to cattle, badgers or the wider victims of Btb spillover, domestic cats and dogs and of course, human beings.

Industry stakeholder meetings have repeatedly called for a 'package' of measures in the round. Both vets and farmers have stressed to Defra officials that they would only accept the cattle controls if they went simultaneously with action on reservoirs of disease in wildlife. Politically expedient cherry picking was not on the agenda. However, for an upwardly mobile political animal like our Ben, it appears that even evidence from his own department can be 'bent'. And we fully expect his announcement next week will have cattle nailed securely to the floor, with a top compulsory purchase rate of £600 for reactors - sacrificial lambs on the altar of Ben's career expectations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Beef Farmer blocks Cull

BBC reports that a farmer who has beef cattle with a positive reaction to the intradermal skin will not allow Defra to slaughter them.

Margaret Booton of Lower Snead Farm, near Worcester said that she would not cooperate with Defra. She criticised the skin test, pointing out that two years ago, 4 heavily pregnant cows slaughtered in similar circumstances had turned out 'to be healthy'.

We have said many times on this blog, that the skin test is the best we have.

It is used all over the world, recognised as the 'gold standard' by the OIE (Office of International Epizootics) and gives no problem to any other country - except the UK, where a maintenance reservoir in wildlife is giving a constant drip feed of exposure.

It does not show clinical tuberculosis.

It flags up exposure to mycobacterium bovis, as an immune response from an animal that has had contact with it.

Eight cattle out the herd of 100 are affected this time, and the farm would have been issued with a 'standstill' order. A Defra TB 2 form, 'Prohibiting the Movement of Bovine Animals', except for direct slaughter.

Mrs. Booton said " We have to be sure that these animals have got Tb before we would consider letting them go and I'm certainly not convinced". Another owner of some of these Reactor cattle on the same farm has asked the courts to inform her of any application that is made to remove her cows for slaughter.

A Defra spokesman commented that when used as a herd screening test the intradermal skin test is "designed to maximise identification of unifected animals at an accuracy of 99.9 percent. whilst retaining good identification of infected animals at an accuracy of 77 percent (individual animal) to 95 percent (herd screen)".

Worcester's SVS said it was " Unable to discuss individual cases, but that if animals were found to have a reaction to the skin test they needed to be removed from the farm. Papers are sent out and a valuation arranged."

The statement ended "There are legal steps that can be taken to ensure removal of animals".

One might also wish that 'Legal steps were taken' to prevent bTb infection reaching those cattle in the first place. But from our post below you will see that CVO Debbie Reynolds has the situation in hand, with pre movement test and a flat rate valuation. Would it be churlish to point out, - with the greatest respect of course - that Margaret Booton's concern is not for the size of the Defra cheque, but the premature slaughter of her animals?

Report: see here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Don't Underestimate Tb Strategy..."

...CVO Debbie Reynolds told members of the BCVA (British Cattle Veterinary Association) when she addressed their Congress recently, in Torquay .

Reported on the front page of the Veterinary Times 14th. November, (sorry - no link) Dr. Reynolds reiterated current policies ( Policy? define policy ??????????) and promised new ones would be announced soon.

"I know that this (bTB) is the area of greatest frustration to everybody in the room - and I include myself in that - because we do have a particularly difficult animal health problem that our profession is facing at the moment".

We would of course point out that the disease itself is a minor part of the 'problem', described by the good doctor. The politics surrounding the eradication of it from the wildlife reservoir in which it is now endemic, is her problem and one thus far we see no indication that she is willing to grasp.

The speech continued at length with the usual scattering of spin and fog. 'Strategic frameworks' were mentioned, as were 'partnerships' and the need to 'maintain public and animal health' not least beacuse bTb is a 'zoonotic disease'.

Peering into the far distance, through her (rose tinted?) spectacles, Dr. Reynolds outlined government intention to regionalise cattle areas, and introduce pre movement testing. This she said, 'to keep clean areas clean'. The fact that even Rear Admiral Bradshaw has admitted that this will miss 60 percent of target animals seems to have escaped his CVO, but it sounds good. And more importantly, it appears that government are actually doing 'something'.

It has been tried before as we have reported, both in Ireland and Cornwall in the SW of England, with absolutely no effect. Unless the wildlife reservoir is tackled, pre movement testing of cattle is of minimal value as disease control.

Dr. Reynolds also highlighted a strong commitment to the introduction of a new system of cattle compulsory purchase compensations, based on table valuation of animals. That'll sort it then.

Regarding the issue of bTb and wildlife, Dr. Reynolds appeared enthusiastic about the publication of the 4 area trial in Ireland, describing it as 'the most significant development last year'. It probably was, but it also follows a long line of 'trials' from Thornbury onwards, all of which turned in the same result. Sort out the infected badgers and cattle tb - just disappears.
And it obviously slipped her mind that her department (Defra) has constantly and on the grounds of 'sound science', defended the £100 million of taxpayer's money spent on the UK's latest effort - the as yet unfinished Krebs trials.

She continued, 'Since then, (the published results of the Irish 4 county trial which saw an up to 96 percent drop in cattle reactors where infected badgers were taken out) we have been working on the cost benefit analysis of a variety of options which recognise the badger as a maintenance host of bTB. We need to get the balance right between cattle and badger management'.

It may seem churlish to point out after that gem of wisdom, that as we've seen when that 'balance' tilts away from that management of disease in badgers, there will not be too many cattle left. And that costs the taxpayer a lot of money. Far more, we would estimate than government gains in copious donations from so-called 'animal welfare ' charities..

Dr. Reynolds concluded by telling her audience that the package containing all these points was with Ministers at present and that she hoped to make a detailed announcement later.

We await the announcement with interest, if not baited breath.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Notifiable Zoonotic Diseases - and a name Defra dare not speak...

Defra has just published its 2004 report into Zoonotic Diseases.

mycobacterium bovis, or Bovine Tb is mentioned and it is on the increase.

Described as being present in cattle ' and wildlife' in some regions of the UK, the greatest proportion of confirmed human infection is in England and Wales.

The report points out that pasteurisation of milk in the early 1950's "significantly reduced human infection with this organism from levels recorded prior ".

It describes current data:

"In England and Wales in 2004, there were 15 (provisional data) laboratory reports of tuberculosis due to m.bovis, an increase on the total (13 revised) from the previous year.

But points out that:

"None of the cases in 2004 had a known current link with the disease in cattle, although one case had previous occupational exposures in agriculture".

The report also explains that potential causes of cross infection to human beings from m.bovis include:

"the effect of a reservoir of the disease in wild species (including the badger)"

And we thought the name of that black and white wildlife reservoir, was a name Defra dare not speak. The complete report can be viewed at:


(This report is a very large file)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dear Ben...

"We are disappointed that you have been unable to find time to speak to us. We note that you found time in your busy schedule to visit Cornwall to take part in an episode of the BBC's Any Questions programme. We also note that your participation in a light- weight radio programme appears to take a higher priority than the present epidemic of bovine tuberculosis and its effect on the British cattle industry"

So opens a letter to Ben Bradshaw, from exasperated farmers Stephen and Margaret Miles down on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall, a copy of which has been forwarded to your editors.

We have covered the Miles' problems in earlier posts, but will recap - as did Mrs. Miles - lest our Minister of Fisheries and Conservation forget.

She writes:

" Last October we suffered the first case of bovine TB in our dairy herd in forty years of farming. We run a closed herd with no cows purchased since 1966. In that time we have bought in 3 bulls, all from clean farms (and all regularly tested in the herd - ed) the most recent of which was purchased ten years ago. Since last October we have seen over half our milking herd slaughtered as TB reactors, some 51 cows and 1 bull over 6 separate sixty day tests. The consequences of this outbreak are as follows:

* From October 2004, we have been unable to sell any stock (except for direct slaughter- ed) Large numbers of beef cattle, normally sold as 'stores' , now fill the fields. We have the prospect of welfare problems this coming winter as we become overstocked.

* Our milking herd is no longer viable. Our milk sales have more than halved yet many of our overheads remain the same. We are now running the business at a loss.

* Defra compensation for slaughtered cows has been less than our losses in milk sales, and is now seeping away on running costs.

In view of our closed herd policy, and our strict adherence to biosecurity measures we have discounted cattle movement as the source of infection. We, the local SVS (State Veterinary Service) and our own vets consider that infection has come from wildlife. Various reports as far back as the 1960's and 70's put the badger at the top of the list of likely reservoirs of the disease in wildlife. "

Mrs. Miles points out to the minister that they have received little or no help from Defra in attempts to identify the source of this devastating outbreak.
(They know, but dare not speak its name Margaret....)

The letter asks many questions of our Ben, including where, how, by whom and why badgers are translocated. And what are the safeguards for this activity?
(We will watch with interest his answer to that one - and compare to PQ's " No knowledge or registration of 'sanctuaries', and using a protocol and test not approved by Defra" ... the man said then.)

Several dead badgers were found on the Miles' farm prior to this breakdown. None were tested, although SVS were asked.
(Now this is classic 'Don't look - won't find' political skew. Road casualties are tested - or at least there is provision for so doing. But if a badger expires off-road so to speak then the cost of the postmortem is born by the finder. And it is £117 per carcass. One might suggest that this is a pretty good incentive for using a shovel - or the Miles' can play the Minister's game, move the carcass - with all care and wearing the appropriate protective masks and disposable overalls accorded to Class B / 1 infectious zoonosis - and phone the Ministry from a layby on the side of the A30)

In the Minister's 1 in 7 RTA survey release, Mrs. Miles has noted dates and locations of the few carcasses that were collected. None were collected in the Roseland area in 2004 when the survey was done, thus no TB in badgers was reported in the area. This means that unless private testing was carried out, at £117 per corpse, there was no testing of the numerous carcasses seen both in fields and on local roads in the area.
(We did say: Don't look - won't find, but we'll say it again)

The Miles have approached Defra for a License to cull badgers on their land, under the Protection of Badgers Act. They were told to 'Wait until after the Election". Which election wasn't made clear. We expected Bourne's RBCT to steer this administration through two, but perhaps the Minister is banking on three or even four.

Mrs. Miles concludes;

"We are now in an impossible situation. We have a business in crisis without the legal means to eradicate the cause of the problem. Our options are very limited. We can continue farming at a loss or we can have the remainder of our herd slaughtered, receiving only a fraction of their value. Either way, we stand to lose a great deal of money and are left with a diseased farm, with reduced agricultural value."


Saturday, October 08, 2005

BVA calls for the closing of the circle.

In a letter and policy document to the Minister, the BVA (British Veterinary Association) is the latest organisation to produce a 'strategy' for DEFRA which involves closing the loop of infection fuelling bovineTb.

They urge the minister to consider a humane cull of badgers ahead of the end of the Krebs RBCT - whenever that might be - before the situation in the cattle herds becomes any worse.

BBC Environment correspondents comment that this is the first time the BVA has come down 'off the fence' in this debate.

Well it had to happen sometime. No cattle = no vets, which tends to concentrate the mind somewhat - or perhaps they'd seen Defra's answer to bovineTb (see mechanical cow picture - below)

But if this 'strategy' is one iota different from all the others ....

Links as follows:

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Keeping them out of mischief...

We have mentioned many times on this blog, the sneaky - and we have to say very successful -ways government has prevaricated over the issue of bovine Tb.

The prime aim has been to massage individual industry egos, and then send them off to 'help' the minister to come to a decision. And they've done it. The NBA (National Beef Association), the TFA (Tenant Farmers Association) and now the CLA (Country Landowners Association) have all spent hours producing Tb strategies for our Ben. The NFU (National Farmers Union) had started to herd the cats together, under an 'Industry' banner, but like cats do - they scattered when the NFU logo took precedence over any other ego (sorry, title) .

Launched at the Dairy Event September 21st, the CLA document is comprehensive and detailed. We confidently expect the minister's minions to be combing through it with a fine tooth comb, to find the gaps between this and the others, thus ensuring that Mr. Bradshaw proceeds in his 'non-policy' with all the speed of an arthritic slug.

From Mark Hudson, Chairman of the CLA:

" Let us not forget that this is a battle against disease, not a vendetta against a single species. Control and eventual elimination of bovine Tb is essential for animal and human health. Our strategy is not an a la carte menu where preferable items can be chosen and the less palatable ones ignored ......"

We wouldn't bet on it.....

The paper can be viewed on

Monday, September 26, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Never underestimate...

Defra's ability to spend YOUR money.

In a pilot study published September 7th.2005, Defra describe a 'Cost Benefit Analysis of badger Control".

The 'project' ran for just 10 weeks, 16th August - 31st October 2004, and aimed to estimate the overall effect on bovine tb in cattle of two different control strategies. Trapping followed by shooting or gassing.

*The cost of this little jaunt was £41,700.00 and Defra explain that:

* "Important assumptions remain untested, and further data is available but has not been used in this project".

* The pilot was a short (understatement!) preliminary study involving significant levels of uncertainty.

*The results of the study are not robust enough to provide evidence to support or reject methods of culling badgers.

* Defra has funded an additional 2 year project, which seek to build on the findings of the original study, to refine the assumptions used and to validate the findings with independent models and existing data.

One might interpret the 2 year project as "validating significant uncertainties"and at a projected cost - based on the 'pilot study' which has given such un-robust results - of £443,000.

I think we get the picture.

S t r i n g i n g it out, not grasping the nettle, hiding behind the RBCT until another election?

One tiny comment snuck into Defra's abstract and guaranteed to be missed by most of the mainstream media recycling press releases, we shall reprint in full:

"An early assessment suggested that between 26 and 85% of the cattle herd breakdowns (CHBs) were not linked with new cattle being moved onto farms and thus might be associated with other reasons. e.g. badgers."


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"You'll find a 'welcome' in the hillsides.....

......when you come home again to Wales."

On the other hand, you may find something else lurking. Tuberculosis.

Over the past four years, the valleys of the Rhondda, and now Powys in South Wales have seen an 'amplifying situation' regarding Tb in human beings. That's 'expert-speak' for getting worse. Much worse, and in groups of people who are not usually associated with the disease but who nevertheless are vulnerable. Primary school children and teenagers.

We make no comment on this story, but offer the following comments and quotes with sources where appropriate.

* GPs are being asked to be vigilant after 40 cases of tuberculosis were found in the Rhondda and Taff-Ely areas of south Wales in just over a year.

* An oubreak control team has been set up after this alarming rise.

* To put it in perspective, experts say they would have expected about a dozen cases in this time.

* Doctors say they have at present no explanation for the dramatic increase in these specific areas, particularly as there has not been a corresponding rise neighbouring areas with similar social conditions etc.

(BBC News - Wales July 2000)

* The growing problem of tuberculosis in young people has been highlighted by a south Wales health authority, which has detected 50 cases.

* Three people have died, including one child.

* Most of the cases in south Wales have developed in clusters and are among children who have never left the UK.

* One problem has been ensuring that diagnosed Tb sufferers took the full 6 month course of the various antibiotics to cure them. Without the full course, at least one-third of people with TB will die from the disease, and another third remain chronically ill.

* Another problem has been the development of resistance [of the Tb bacteria] to antibiotics.

BBC News Wales - March 2001.

* In April 1100 pupils at Duffryn High school in Newport, S Wales were tested for TB following positive test results in eight pupils.

* Two cases found in a school at Porth, Rhondda.

* A Cardiff scool child is 'no longer infectious' after prolonged antibiotic treatment.

BBC News Wales -May 2001

From the area, various 'interested parties' including the FUW, health officials, vets and local people have updated us on this very serious situation.

* Two schools in Powys the latest to report problems amongst their pupils. They are small primary schools at Kerry and nearby Dolfor.

* The lesions in children from these schools are typical of m. bovis, i.e in the neck glands.

* Such lesions may be operable, but any postmortem material is usually dunked in formalin prior to basic slide examination. DNA for strain typing is then more difficult (expensive?) to extract. Some lesions may involve the pituitary gland. Treatment is with an antibiotic or cocktail of antibiotics, one of which has particularly nasty side effects.

* The strain or spoligotype of this particular tuberculosis is of 'non human origin'.

*The strain may be a mutation between an ethnic (non UK) m. tuberculosis bacteria, which is now hosted by badgers.

* It's original source could have been from raw or partially treated infected human sewage, to which badgers gained access.

* Many dead badgers have been seen in the area.

* Although there are no setts on the school playing fields, badgers have latrines there which are accessible to the children.

* Local councils fear exposure of the problems would lead to the closure of the schools, one of which has around 40 pupils.

As we said, we have deliberately not made any comments on this story, except to say short term sticking plaster politics is not going to protect the children or the badgers of S. Wales from what is a nasty, virulent and potentially fatal disease.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Badgers 10 : Hedgehogs 0

The Farmers union of Wales has warned that the over protection of badgers could lead to hedgehogs becoming as rare as red squirrels.

Referring to figures released by the Mammals Trust, which suggest that hedgehog numbers have fallen by more than 20 percent in the last four years, they say that ongoing research funded by Defra, and carried out by Richard Young also points to a massive rise in badger numbers as the source of the problem.

Mr. Young has suggested that high numbers of badgers would have "serious consequences for the persistance of hedgehogs in rural areas of the UK". He continued, "Surveys predict that badgers can achieve sufficiently high densities to exclude hedgehogs from rural habitats altogether".

Previous studies in the early nineties showed that badger predation may be influential in shaping hedghog populations, but the present study aims to investigate the effect of badgers on hedgehog abundance and distribution on a larger scale. Using 5 of the RBCT areas the study will examine in depth, the response to manipulation of the badger population density over a 3 year period.

The abstract can be viewed at :

The Effect of Badgers on Hedgehog Abundance and Distribution. Richard Young.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Talking Shop

The 4th International Conference to discuss mycobacterium bovis was held at Dublin Castle, Dublin 22 - 26th August.

Delegates from all over the world met to attend lectures and workshops. From the UK, our own Debbie Reynolds would have been able to tell attendees how Defra was not tackling the problem in the wildlife, and could remind them of the exponential growth of bTB problems they could expect, should other countries decide on such a one sided policy of only cattle slaughter.

VLA was represented, as was the State Veterinary Service. But conspicuous by their absence ( so we are told) were any members of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG). From their lofty perch as Tb supremos, shields and arch protectors of the Minister of Fisheries and Conservation - and having decided cattle are the problem, the whole problem and the only problem - one may assume they felt the whole debate was beneath them.

No papers have been published from this conference yet, but workshop details and lecturers involved can be viewed at:

Friday, August 19, 2005

1 down, 56 percent to go...

In our Parliamentary questions on the 'efficiency' or otherwise of cage trapping, Minister Ben Bradshaw gave the astonishing answer that of traps used in the RBCT, a staggering 57 percent had been 'interfered with', and 12 per cent were 'missing'.

So nearly 70 percent of the target traps had not caught anything.

Before the 'trial' started farmers and other scientists (notably Prof. Stephen Harris) warned of the effect of the RBCT's high profile, and suggested the predictable result would be 'polarised opinions' and violence.

Western Morning News reported today the outcome of one such confrontation. The farmer had pulled out from the RBCT after suffering damage, intimidation and trespass on a 500 acre area and had erected signs to that effect. The ability to read the notice obviously had little effect on animal activists, who cut wire fences and allowed 30 cattle to stray from the farm.

One such individual, having been convicted last year of similar criminal damage to badger traps, failed to appear in court at Liskeard to face charges related to this farm.

That's 1 percent of the criminal damage incurred to traps in this farce of a 'trial'. What about the cost of the other 56 percent?

Full story at:Western Morning News

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bradshaw's 'Leg Restraints'.

It's August so a nautical flavour to go with our Minister for Fisheries' bucket and spade in the post below. Bouyed up with the Irish badger trials results which cleared cattle Tb by up to 96 percent, our Ben is casting his net for a reliable culling method for old stripey. Cy-mag is OK he says for moles, rats and rabbits, but for badgers 'it's cruel'. Why he doesn't explain.
Obviously John Bourne's cage traps are disaster, 57 percent having suffered 'interference' and 12 percent went AWOL. Not exactly a clearance then was it John? So a boat-trip to Ireland for our Ben had him enthusing about what he euphemistically calls 'leg restraints'.

This is a slick and skewed description of what used to be called a 'snare'. The only thing in its favour is that any animal caught in one is unlikely to be removed easily when alive. With a trap, a badger becomes a Tb takeaway. It's trussed up, can't bite and can be translocated (rescued?) and released any where. But on every other count 'leg restraints' or snares are vile.
And imagine a photograph of a badger so 'restrained' on the front page of a tabloid.

Ireland may like them - we do not. What with an RTA survey which was distinguished more by its omissions than its content, (see post below) and now our Ben's unbounded enthusiasm for snares, one could be forgiven for thinking that he deliberately wants farmers and badger groups polarised. Surely not?

Anyway, on this tack and trying to gently steer the Minister to use the following wind of Treasury pressure, the NFU on Radio 4's Farming Today programme, (Friday 12th. and Saturday 13th. August) while explaining that culling badgers was illegal, said that the tools for the job and the expertise to use them had not yet been lost to the countryside. They told how badger social groups tend to heave out sick or old individuals, who then roam and excavate single hole sets, away from the main group. This was confirmed by the Minister in parliamentary questions (archived) for which, as ever we are most grateful.

It was into those sets ( in past times) farmers would control population densities by gassing from a tractor exhaust, or stationary engine. As with deer management, undertaken by our nautically challenged Minister last autumn, the national badger population was kept under control and more importantly - healthy. The speakers insisted that any control method considered, should be totally under Defra's control.

They also reminded listeners that tuberculosis spill over from infected badgers, had already been recorded in domestic cats (19 in one county) and a dog (report will be written up in Vet. Record this month).

The programmes can be listened to on the following link:

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Throwing Crumbs

With MP's safely out of earshot on the longest recess in parliamentary history, our Minister for Conservation and Fisheries announced (at the eleventh hour) that only 1 in 7 badgers picked up in RTA's have Tb."Even in those parts of the country worst affected by Bovine Tb, most badgers test negative for the disease. They also show no clear correlation between levels of Tb in cattle and badgers". And then our Minister, Rear Admiral Bradshaw, packed his bucket and spade and disappeared.

The crude and wholly unsatisfactory 'survey', which again left out much more than it contained can be viewed at:

Going back 25 years the percentage of badger carcasses found to be positive for TB after a badger removal operation rose steadily, from 15 percent in 1977, dropping briefly during the Clean Ring strategy 1980 / 81 to 9 percent, before rising steadily to a staggering 27.9 percent of carcasses examined and cultered, in 1997.

So how may one ask, does our Minister arrive at 1 in 7 today? Well, he ignored all badgers picked up in the RBCT areas for starters. John Bourne is still guarding those results - his pension depends upon it. And the few that were collected over 4 years, were subjected to 'imprecise diagnostic tests'. Well that's pretty smart - don't seek and you won't find?
But our Minister has also overidden the Freedom of Information Act, invoking the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, as a reason for not disclosing postmortem results to farmers who report RTA badgers found near their land.

A Defra spokesman says "These Environmental Information Regulations cover a wide range of environmental information, as well as any measures or activities that may affect what is defined as environmental information."
Errr yes. I think we understand that.

He continues, explaining that badger postmortem results "Clearly fall within the scope of the definition, and so the request must be dealt with under EIS 2004, and following careful consideration, I regret to inform you that we have decided not to disclose the information".
This to a farmer who found a dead badger and reported it for collection. At least it was collected, many are not.

More about this elusive and convenient antidote to the Freedom of Information Act can be found at:

That was Defra's answer at the end of May, and in June they still pointedly refused to release any information on RTA results, citing 'illegal culling' for the delay. In fact most of the main stream media reported Defra officials as saying "They feared the results would encourage farmers to take the law into their own hands and illegally clear out badgers". The implication a month ago was that the full results of the seven county study, when RBCT areas were included, when badgers dead on farm land and in buildings were included and when comprehensive spoligotyping and cultures were undertaken - showed a whole lot more than '1 in 7', that our Minister for Conservation announced this week.

The actual 'report' ( if that is what it can be called) does state that the 'survey' is not comprehensive and "it is better to interpret the prevalence estimates relatively, rather than absolutely". This is because the survey used "imprecise diagnostic tests and a limited number of badgers collected".

This report could be described as 'throwing crumbs' to the peasants. "You wanted an RTA survey - here it is." RTA information, if undertaken comprehensively and used carefully is vital in getting ahead of pockets of disease, but this...?

One could ask why this exercise in futility was ever undertaken at all when the full results, nutured by the chosen few of the ISG, were available all the time. Or are they destined to remain concealed behind the veil of 'Environmental Information Regulations 2004'.?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lay testing moves a step nearer...

In a press release issued 25/07/2005 Defra announced the start of a pilot scheme to assess 'lay testers' carrrying out cattle skin tuberculin tests.

State Veterinary Service Animal Health Officers, under direct veterinary supervision will take part in two pilot schemes to begin next month. The tests are expected to involve up to 11,000 cattle and will be subject to veterinary inspection of both innoculation procedure and interpretation of results. This pilot scheme follows the 'consultation' excercise carried out in 2003.

Defra are not expecting a drop in demand any time soon then.....

More on:

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Industry Strategy - update.

Last week representatives from all the main farming and veterinary organisations met in Exeter to discuss the draft NFU Strategy paper, presented to Mr. Bradshaw and launched at the Royal Show in July.

Commenting on the proposals, which contained a 'complete toolkit' of options - some of which were snuck in by Defra (see our post Kite Flying or Stitch-up) - the group agreed on a few amendments. These were outlined by Anthony Gibson, SW Regional Director of the NFU:

The group endorses the NFU's proposals to Defra on badger control, but with the suggestions that the strategy should be applied to infected badger social groups rather than to wider areas, for maximum public and political acceptibility and cost effectiveness. And that culling operations should only be carried out by fully trained farmers organised and supervised by Defra.

The aim of the meeting was to agree common ground between all the organisations involved and to: Encourage their representatives to sign up to a single common strategy and action plan.

It was also proposed that as a separate excercise, a further badger population survey was undertaken covering densities as well as numbers, to inform a wider debate about badger management.

It was suggested that PCR technology may now be used to target infected populations, a point vehemently and continually denied by Mr. Bradshaw and government scientists, on the basis that 'no such test exists'. As Michigan have been using PCR for 5 years, what they probably mean by that is 'we haven't got ours sorted out yet'.
But Shadow Minister, Owen Paterson MP has been on a fact finding mission to Warwick University where Professor Elizabeth Wellington has refined PCR to a degree that it will identify Johnnes (m.avium paratuberculosis) in cattle slurry. And as we pointed out in our posting Left Hand and Right Hand, (below) Defra are funding the study.

Mr. Paterson told reporters from Farmers Guardian that during his visit, where he was accompanied by some eminent veterinary professors and bTb experts, Professor Wellington advised the group that the test could probably be applied to diagnose bovine tb in live cattle and in badgers and their environment. She had refined the technology and with her colleagues, developed a 'simple, robust and rapid system for detection of M. Bovis bacterium in infected farm areas, with high sensitivety.'

"Not only is the test fast, with two operators being able to process some 100 setts per week, it is inexpensive and can be used to provide quantitative estimates of infection. Professor Wellington estimates that a mobile laboratory could be equipped for as little as £10,000", Mr. Paterson said.

He has written to the Minister for Fisheries and Conservation, Mr. Bradshaw, urging him to commission a field trial to establish the effectiveness of PCR in the environment around badger setts, and also suggests a parallel trial into diagnosis of Tb in nose and throat swabs from cattle sharing the same habitat should also be set in motion. Mr. Paterson concluded "This technology could provide incontrovertible evidence upon which to base a programme of selective culling of positively identified infected badgers".

£10,000. Not a lot is it? Equivalent to about 7.5 dead cattle. And as Defra have slaughtered 40 percent more cattle in the year to May 2005 than they did in May 2004 and are killing nearly 100 per day - one could say it would be value for money.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck....

....and quacks like a duck then Defra's Animal Health Spokespersons are likely to say" they are unable to confirm its ' identity' ".

In a curious follow up to our post below (Spillover into Pigs) political editor Alistair Driver, this week attempted to delve further into the murk of this case for Farmers' Guardian.

Despite the mischievious headline of last weeks' report, the owner of the pigs, Mr. Appleton confirms our post and says he is 'infuriated', by suggestions that the pigs became infected after they drank milk from a local farm.

"It is in no way linked to milk" he said, " The cattle were tested for Tb before the pigs contracted it and were negative. They were tested afterwards to make sure, and again the result was negative. That shows that the milk cannot have given the pigs Tb".

It might be clear to local vets, and most other people - test sources and eliminate them...but remember the duck.

Mr. Appleton explained that the vet who had examined the pigs in March concluded that the site and severity of lesions in head and neck pointed to its having consumed something with Tb.

"There are 10 badger sets on this small holding [in Professor Harris' methodology that's 80 - 100 badgers] and infection is rife amongst the local population."

Mr. Appleton thinks that a sick badger was turfed out by its social group, made its way to a refuge in his pig barn under gaps in the door, and died. He points at that Tb causes a long drawn out and painful death, a point which "these do-gooders in London" fail to understand.

"If you had a cat infected with such a disease, you wouldn't let it die such a horrible death" he said.

But true to form, the Animal Health spokesperson in Defra was sticking to the party line on this one, reiterating last week's damaging, misleading [and eliminated] headline:

"Cattle on this [and a neighbouring] farm have tested negative for bovine Tb. We are looking at all possible sources of infection including unpasteurised milk and wildlife involvement. We do not yet have a definite origin".

One could be churlish and say that if Mr. Appleton is right, the 'origin' has probably been consumed. And having tested the cattle - twice - milk should have been eliminated 3 months ago.

But never overestimate Defra's ability to recognise a duck.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Nail up the Cat flap...........

Last week both Radio 5 Live, and the Daily Mail carried the story of a Wiltshire badger who 'burgled' the home of a pensioner at 1 o'clock in the morning, and is now 'in custody'.

Now one could be extremely cynical, and comment that having telephoned 999, the pensioner was somewhat more than lucky to get the attention of the police within minutes, to sort out her intruder. But that is another blog, another day.

She was watching television in her Swindon semi, when sounds of footsteps, overturned furniture and scuffles from the first floor led her to dial 999. Two police officers arrived and went straight upstairs, truncheons drawn to apprehend the intruder - and met a badger.

Not equipped with a jemmy to prise open the door, it had apparently gained access through the cat flap, trundled upstairs and attempted to create a nest in the airing cupboard before exploring the pensioner's bedroom. Everything in the airing cupboard had been turned upside down, and the furniture in the bedroom upended as the badger bumbled around, finally attempting escape by hurling itself at the bedroom window, which it broke.

The police officers were at a loss as to what to do with the animal, so called in the 'expertise' from the local animal 'sanctuary'. The badger was captured and is now safely behind bars before being 'released back into the wild'. (Your place or mine?)

Nice story? Many more questions than answers I think.

Radio 5's observations were that the badger was a large adult, with many scars and wounds on his back and sides from fighting and had 'probably been excluded from its social group'. When questioned as to his 'treatment', the reply was that the badger would be 'returned to the wild, when he was recovered enough to defend himself'. The Daily Mail's picture of the animal in the capture cage showed an adult with scars beneath his eye and behind his ears. But more worrying was the 'hedgehog' appearance of his face. Fat, glossy and bushy tailed with a glint in his eye, he was not. His eyes were sunken, and his face narrow and hollow.

To have arrived in a surburban semi in the middle of the night indicates a badger population density which had excluded this animal from its 'natural' habitat. And what is its fate? To be 'mended' and returned to 'the wild', which means fighting his corner - and losing - all over gain.
Where is this vague place - 'the wild'?
Anywhere within 30 miles of the house in which he sort shelter? And straight into a resident established population - of badgers.

This area of Wiltshire is part of a Krebs triplet. bTb is endemic in the badger population.
Has the householder been warned? Has she re laundered all her clothes from that 'upturned airing cupboard' , and her carpets and bedding in the appropriate bio secure way to neutralise any m.bovis from a thoroughly stressed out scarred, thin, disorientated badger?

And has she nailed up that cat flap?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Tb Spillover - Pigs

After our posts on the spill over of bTB into deer and cats (see archives) BBC News has reported that bTb has been found in a batches of Cornish pigs consigned to a small abattoir near Bodmin, in mid Cornwall.

Two pigs and some piglets from a farm near Bodmin, were sent for slaughter but were found to have lesions in head glands, but one had generalised infection in the carcass, said the owner.

Defra is 'monitoring' the farm, but said that it had no record of when it was last informed of bovine tb in pigs as it was not a notifiable disease in that species.

The owner of the pig farm Martin Appleton, told reporters for the BBC that he was sure infected badgers surrounding his farm were to blame. He has 10 setts on his smallholding.

"Badger proofing is impossible. We've got open sheds either side, it [a badger] will climb or tunnel, and a hungry badger will go where it wants".

Abattoir owner Vernon Lobb who has been the meat business all his life, said:
"I've never experienced it [ bovine tb] in a pig before".

Badger campaigner, Pauline Kidner commented;
"Culling an animal alone is not going to resolve the problem"

The International Society for Infectious Diseases who operate the ProMed website ( are more succinct.

The ProMed comment on this BBC report:

"Contrary to the views expressed by some interviewees, the spillover of bovine TB from the highly infected, dense badger population in Cornwall to other species wild and domestic, porcines included, should not be surprising.

Though laboratory confirmation on the species identity of the mycobacterium isolated from the affected pigs (lymphnodes) should be awaited, it may be assumed to be M.Bovis.

If the current situation continues, it might be only a matter of time before humans are infected......"

A postscript to this story was found in the Farmers Guardian (16th July) where their article carried the headline 'Milk linked to bovine tb in pigs..'.

Pretty strong stuff. The article quoted a 'Defra Animal Health spokesperson', (unamed but full of mischief - if not spite and spin)
"We are looking into the pigs consuming dairy by products as a possible source. It is possible that the milk came from infected cows.."

Now this story is not new. The pigs were found to have lesions in mid March. And in mid March, Defra's local SVS (State Veterinary Service) clanked into action. Samples were taken for culture, and sources checked. Mr. Appleton confirms that he sometimes fed very fresh milk (that's milk from a cow which has calved in the previous 4 days and not allowed into the food chain) to his Gloucester Old Spot rare breed pigs. SVS were informed and (in mid March) checked the health status of the supplying farm. And to make doubly sure. they tb tested the farm again.

It had a clear test before the incident, and it had a clear test afterwards.

The Defra spokesman added:"We may never find the source of the outbreak. It may never be proved one way or the other....".

But at the time of this statement, Defra's SVS arm had already re-tested the herd supplying occasional milk to the pigs. And it was clear. Twice.

So 'we' knew what the source was not, didn't 'we'?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Stitch-up , or "Kite flying?"

The two posts below described a joint initiative on Bovine tb which was put together by the NFU, but involved representatives from various other organisations including the CLA, RCVS, BVA, Research Universities, NBA and individual farmers. As we said, the final document appeared to drift from what we had understood to be the core policy - and it certainly provoked comments.

In the murky world of 'politics' this is euphemistically known as 'kite flying'.

No stranger to this method of sneaking a controversial idea into policy, Defra are under fire from fisherman for just such a proposal right now. On the BBC Politics show, Bradshaw accused questioners and the media of 'lies and scaremongering' when they questioned his proposal to charge £1000/ year license to small fishing boats. This little gem was buried in the heart of Minister's own report, which had taken 3 years to prepare and which he had written - or so he said. (more on )

So what is the relevance to our posts?

Well, having spoken to the original instigators of the NFU Policy, the 'Area clearance' which provoked such a vehement response from our commentators, and which the Telegraph (and other newspapers) used as headlines, was certainly roundly condemned - as was snaring (although succesful in Ireland). My comment was 'Stitch - up', but in retrospect, I think it more likely our upwardly mobile Minister was doing what sneaky politicians do - and 'kite-flying' this proposal under the NFU banner, to guage reaction to it.

'Kite flying' is where a controversial proposal is slipped in, or leaked ahead of final copy, to test public reaction. If that is favourable, or at least muted then the idea is pursued. If vehement opposition is raised, then clever Defra denounces or denies responsibility for it - and then awards it to someone else. In this case the NFU. Quite clever really.

And so 'Area clearance' in the NFU Tb policy proposal grabbed the headlines. It's a fudge. As 'George' said, and I've said - it won't happen and it's counter productive to suggest it could. It isn't necessary - but could just scupper the whole policy.

And - it wasn't there when this proposal left its original drawing board.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

NFU Strategy - For Disease Reduction through Sustainable Wildlife Management

Singing from the same hymn sheet as the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (see post 'Badgers must be Controlled' below), this week the NFU presented its Policy Statement on Tb to the minister at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh.

The title of the Telegraph's piece (below) by environment correspondent Charles Clover, we can find nowhere in the document at all. Farmers are not calling for a "Total Badger Cull" - far from it. The document calls for;
" an environmentally sustainable policy involving management of the population, with intensive measures aimed at diseased populations which do not threaten the thriving badger population as a whole."
But scary headlines are there to sell newspapers.

The strategy involves a number of measures to be taken concurrently which include:

* Targeted area clearances in which diseased badger populations are present (farms, parishes, districts). Assessment of setts to establish their disease status, and appropriate action taken on those found to be inhabited by infectious badgers. Repeat clearance operations and maintainance of both areas through frequent follow-up operations. This to ensure that the wildlife reservoir of bTb is much reduced, and allow test-and-slaughter policies for livestock to remove disease from the area. Measures to rely on gas as a culling method.

*Lifting of the moratorium, implemented in 1997 while awaiting the results of the RBCT , on issuing licenses for disease control purposes under Section 10 of the 1992 Badger Protection Act.

*A general reduction of badger numbers irrespective of livestock disease. This measure as involving the repeal of the 1992 Act, and replacing it with new legislation which protected the badger from inhumane treatment, while making provision for sustainable mangement of its population.

The document emphasises that contrary to the headline on our post below, the NFU is not advocating widespread extermination of badgers. They wish to see healthy cattle and badger populations, and a corresponding removal of diseased individuals.

They also stress that any policy or combination of policies should be undertaken after thorough risk assessment, and involve the expertise of the State Veterinary Service, Defra Wildlife teams, farmers and landowners in joint initiative.

The whole Policy document can be viewed at: (click Royal Show link)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Farmers suggest total cull of badgers

The The Daily Telegraph reports today that a general cull of badgers irrespective of whether they or cattle have been found locally to have tuberculosis will be put to ministers today.

This is the most radical of a series of proposals for tackling the growing epidemic of bovine TB that will be published by the National Farmers' Union at the opening of the Royal Show in Stoneleigh, Warwicks, today.

Farmers are alarmed by the spread of the disease, which has led to movement restrictions being placed on 6,000 herds this year, most of them in the South-West. About 10,000 cows were slaughtered between January and April, 3,000 more than last year. It is estimated that the Government's slaughter policy will cost £2 billion in the next decade.

Farmers' leaders are expected to threaten to boycott Labour's strategy for improving farm animal welfare if it does not lift its moratorium on licences to kill badgers in TB hotspots.

Today's NFU report details how a successful eradication programme of the main disease carrier, the possum, is dealing with the problem of bovine TB in New Zealand.

Meurig Raymond, the vice-chairman of the NFU, said: "There are certain areas of the countryside where we do need radical solutions."

But Dr Elaine King, of the National Federation of Badger Groups said: "It is not going to work because it is not backed by the science. There is clear evidence that the vast majority of TB outbreaks result from cattle movements."

Friday, July 01, 2005

"We Don't Want your money...."

In a novel sea change from the popular image of farming 'subsidy junkies', National Beef Association (NBA) representatives have this week delivered several hundred letters from farmers addressed not to Defra and its Minister of Conservation, but to Number 11, Downing Street, and Chancellor Gordon Brown. Their message was stark. "We do not want your money - £2 billion over the next decade - we want bovine Tb tackled 'in the round', and that includes infected wildlife."

Farmers from the southwest delivered almost 1500 letters, describing the situation as;

"more of a problem than BSE or FMD, and with more and more herds going under restriction spreading out over Devon and the Southwest, there is a real sense of despair.."

"We have got to have this issue tackled, because farmers are now so desperate that if we do not, they will feel they have to take the law into their own hands and that cannot be right for anyone".

Southwest NBA chairman Bill Harper, himself a beef farmer with experience of managing a suckler beef herd under Tb restriction, said:

"It is pointless to try and control the spread of disease in cattle, without dealing with the reservoir of disease in badgers".

(*That would depend on what one's 'point was, surely? - ed)

NBA Chief Executive Robert Forster said:

"Farmers have written to the Chancellor in the hope that potential cost savings would prompt him to investigate Defra's stance. We do not think that the Chancellor and Parliament are properly aware of the costs arising out of the procrastination by Defra over (lack of) Tb control."

"If the disease is not checked, there could be a £2 billion bill to the taxpayers over the next ten years, much of which is avoidable".

"We want to get the manacles off the industry by persuading Government that they cannot defer action over the badger issue any longer".

After the presentation, NBA representatives met Ben Bradshaw to discuss the implications of his non-policy. Although one Exmoor farmer detected a 'glimmer of hope', a Defra spokesman said that although Mr. Bradshaw had listened to the farmer's concerns, there was;
" nothing to indicate a change of policy..."

Over the last 8 long years, DEFRA have managed to 'miss the point' of most of the industry's representations on this issue, while hiding behind John bourne's increasingly flimsy skirts. Why should this initiative be any different? Bradshaw has already played true to form and 'invited' the NFU to formulate a strategy for him, and while making soothing noises to other industry heavyweights will probably do exactly the same with them.

Isolate, divide, polish a few individual egos - while doing absolutely nothing. Classic politics.
And as a young, upwardly mobile politician, it will be extraordinarily difficult to persuade Bradshaw to 'understand' anything at all, when his future promotions and salary depend upon his not understanding.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

'Badgers Must be Controlled'

In a press release addressed to politicians, media, journalists, DEFRA, wildlife organisations and other interested parties, The Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (VAWM) has issued the following statement:

"VAWM welcomes the recent statement by the President of the British Veterinary Association and former Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr. Bob McCracken. Speaking at the Association's annual dinner in Cardiff, he said that:
"The infected badger must be controlled and removed; what we are debating is how to do so in an effective manner".

Bovine Tb was first discovered in badgers in 1971 and all the scientific evidence since then including the field trials at Thornbury, Steeple Leaze, the Hartland peninsula, East Offaly and most recently, the Irish Four County Trials have identified the badger as the major wildlife reservoir of bovine Tb in cattle.

Latest figures available from Defra show that a large proportion of badgers, up to 50 % in some areas of the Southwest, W. Midlands and Sussex are infected with bovine Tb. Many of these animals will have been excreting vast numbers of infectious tubercle bacilli into the agricultural environment.

Tuberculous badgers die after a chronic illness and all badgers experience other adverse effects of overpopulation; namely loss of territory, fighting, wounding, the increased risk of road accidents, lack of food and starvation.

Failure to control Tb in badgers has inevitably resulted in spill over into other wildlife, including five species of wild deer. The growing reservoir of infection in badgers and other wildlife constitutes a major hazard for man and for many wild and domestic animals.

But Tb apart, the badger, a species without natural predators and protected by law since 1973, is now a serious agricultural pest in many parts of the country, a) from the damage that it does by digging, b) from its predation on ground nesting birds, hedgehogs, new born lambs and free range piglets and c) as the reservoir of a serious zoonotic disease. The population has probably increased 10 - 20 fold in the last decade. It is a classic example of a population out of control through lack of management. The badger is not an endangered species and no longer merits its protected status.

Non lethal methods of population control such as contraception, as yet only a research possibility, are not the answer. And they will do nothing to combat the problem of endemic Tb in badgers, for which vaccination strategies are only a distant possibility.

Strategic culling in areas of endemic infection is essential for controlling Tb in badgers. But nationwide the population also needs to be brought under control by measured culling. The emotive support for the badger is unbalanced and should not continue to undermine proper veterinary concern for the health and welfare of badgers, cattle and other wild and domestic animal species.

In February this year VAWM fully supported the letter sent to the Secretary of State for the Environment, signed by some 350 members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, expressing no confidence in Defra's current handling of the situation. This month, Dr. John Gallagher, senior author of the letter, has told the Secretary of State :
"It is self evident you are being badly advised".

For more information, including the full text of the letter to the Secretary of State, see:

Monday, June 27, 2005

Cornwall's Longest Serving (tb) Prisoner is Released.

Six long years, over 30 consecutive 60 day tests on his home bred herd, 130 cattle slaughtered, but now Roland Uglow has had a 2 clear tests and Cornwall's longest serving Tb prisoner is free - until the next test at 6 months?

Roland told the Guardian newspaper that "the worst thing, is having to hold down bull calves, healthy and full of life, to give the man from the knacker's yard a clean shot at them. You don't want to be there, you'd rather be miles away - but someone has to keep them still".

For a herd under tuberculosis restriction, the only movements allowed for any class of cattle are to direct slaughter. Very occasionally, and with strict ministry licenses, stock may be moved to dedicated finishing farms. So Roland Uglow's distress in holding these fine healthy calves as they are shot is a situation we all face. A 'benefit' of being under restriction, our Minster of 'Conservation', Mr. Bradshaw may say.

Wildlife campaigners argue that cattle to cattle is the route of Tb transmission. Roland Uglow had a 'closed herd' until Tb struck. Read my lips - No Bought in Cattle.
Roland is a farmer, not a 'wildlife campaigner' but his is a 'wildlife friendly' farm. He plants barley to encourage very rare 'corn buntings', and the farm supports deer and foxes as well as badgers. In 1999, prior to his Tb breakdown Mr. Uglow found a sick badger in his yard. Three months later the herd was placed under restriction at a routine annual Tb test - and has been there ever since. Six years and 2 months. No time off for good behaviour and another couple of dead badgers found as well - in the cattle yards.

For the moment, Roland's cattle - all of which he regards as part of his 'family' - have a respite from the relentless 60 day testing jabs, but he is realistic;
"We are clear for now, and can trade. But we know that the next time we are tested the disease may be back.........."

See link from:

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Badger BCG - more Smoke and Mirrors?

In our post Damping Down, (archived May 05) we told you of both VLA and Irish trials using BCG tuberculin to 'damp down' infection in badgers.

Our observations then - as now - were that it was potentially difficult to administer the accurate optimum dose orally, and that if cattle had access to the bait, would probably flag them up as Reactors to the skin test, and slaughter at Defra's convenience. Injection was safer, but that involved trapping and with all the problems encountered by Krebs - only about 30 - 50 % of target badgers captured and 57% of traps 'interfered with' and 12% 'disappeared' - was unlikely to yield substansive results.

Also, we explained that any badger vaccine so far tested, only slows down the disease progression to other organs than lungs, so while generalised Tb throughout the body may damp down the spread to cattle via urine, the progression of this dreadful disease through the badger population, continues. And it would seem slightly odd to 'vaccinate' an already infected animal - if not fatal.

But having held back the Exeter University report until post election, on the day it was released, our Ben, Captain Bradshaw threw another red herring from his shoal (well he is Minister for Fisheries) to the waiting farmers.
A Tb vaccine trial.

"A small-scale, 3 year study using BCG vaccine will begin in a South West Tb hotspot in the middle of next year. It's primary purpose will be to gather data to assess the safety of the vaccine for badgers, although this will be a secondary aim. There are instances where this method of administration may be useful as an alternative to culling, for instance in disease hotspots" said Captain Birdseye.

Field trials are necessary before the candidate vaccines can apply for the necessary licensing procedures, and results are not expected before 2009. That's another election then? The intention is that the field trial will take place in or near an abandoned Reactive area of Krebs.

That would be the one where the Wildlife teams didn't turn up Leaving our Matthew 5 with a festering warren of infected badgers, which in turn cost the taxpayer ££ thousands for 300 of his and his neighbour's cattle over 5 long years? And that was where by very small scale muddle and incompetence, not to mention animal activists' interference, Bourne and Co managed to 'increase' bTb in the cattle by 27%? Where heavily infected badgers are seen dead or dying, in broad daylight all over the place. That's where they propose to do this 'trial'?

"Defra plan to seek landowners' permission for this trial which will begin after next spring's closed season" - and cost £1.1 million / per year. Not on my patch you won't Ben. Go and play somewhere else.

With his usual ascerbic wit, Muckspreader in Private Eye, (June 21st) captures our own reaction to this latest attempt at displacement activity - or Defra's 'Smoke and Mirrors' if you prefer.

"Apart from the tacit admission that it is badgers that are the cause of the problem, the rug has already been pulled from under this plan by none other than Defra's favourite Tb 'expert', Professor John Bourne. There has now resurfaced a report from a committee chaired by Bourne as recently as 2003, whish poured withering scorn on the value of vaccinating badgers. At best, said Bourne's report, vaccination could only offer a 70 percent success rate (that's a lot better than the good Professor is achieving with his Kreb's traps - ed) - making it virtually useless."
'Virtually useless' ? With that we would not disagree - but would include the RBCT Krebs' trial as well.

Bourne's report continued "Researchers have been looking for a better vaccine since the 1920's - and failed." The only effective strategy Bourne advised, was a cull.
"Dead badgers", he concluded "don't spread disease".

Absolutely spot on. So why not protect the healthy ones?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Left Hand and Right Hand?

In previous posts, we have explored the use of PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) diagnostics to help identify sources of bTb.
(2005 - A good Idea, and US : UK Special Relationship)

Defra appear very much against the idea, despite (through VLA) having part funded the machine now developed by Enigma Diagnostics. But then Defra were against using the Professor Fred Brown's US version, already proven in Macedonia and Uruguay in diagnosing FMD, preferring instead to use computer modelling to slaughter 11 million animals.
So that is no recommendation - in fact probably the opposite.

Defra are currently funding Warwick University to conduct a three year trial - now in its final year - on 140 farms in the SW, into bTb and other forms of tuberculosis, particularly m.avium paratuberculosis - Johnnes disease. The study involves taking regular serum (bloods) from all adult cattle over the 3 year period, both from Reactor cattle and their cohorts who were clear on the intradermal skin test, having not been in contact with the tb bacterium.

During this third phase, faecal samples are collected for analysis of Johnnes.
The paper describes :
"the sensitivety and specificity of the serological tests for MAP (m. avium paratuberculosis) are poor and of limited use to study Johnnes disease in isolation. The faecal samples analysed this year will enhance their usefulness...

To date studies on MAP have used cultures, and more recently PCR.

MAP is a slow growing organism with fastidious requirements. PCR is challenging because MAP is in faeces and has a tough cell wall. These issues have now been addressed by Professor Wellington, and we can now use PCR ....... to study MAP. This may remove much of the confusion over this apparently ubiquitous pathogen..........."

Well, well, well.

Let's hope news of Professor Wellington's 'removal of confusion' and his use of PCR tecnology to do it, funded by Defra, eventually reaches the corridors of power within our Ministry of Conservation. Until then, forgive your editors for reminding the left hand of the paymaster of this research(Defra) that its right hand is using PCR to facilitate this study into a form of cattle tuberculosis - using a technology about which Defra appears not to want to know.

More on :

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Defra's Badger Road Kills - A 'Study' in Constructive Ignorance.

In the post below we described the crazy and shambolic situation of Defra's refusal to test badger carcasses for Tb if they had been found in fields and barns, only picking up 'road kills' in very limited designated areas. The results were then denied to farmers concerned, and any action which may have been taken to clear up confirmed Tb infection prior to cattle becoming affected was of course completely out of the question, the ISG (Independent Scientific Group) and John Bourne sitting on their results like a broody hen on her eggs - or in this case the illustrious Professor's pension.

Since 2002, Defra have postmortemed over 3200 badger carcasses, and sources 'within the State Veterinary Service' say that maps showing the location of grossly infected badger carcasses, correlate exactly with areas of endemic and prolonged cattle Tb.

So far, however Defra has resisted all requests to release, and more important to act on the information these results show. A Defra spokesman, (still hiding behind the diminuitive John Bourne) said that "If farmers had access to these maps, illegal killing of badgers might be encouraged".

Would that be before or after these heavily diseased creatures had caused the slaughter of half the Mile's closed herd on the Roseland? Or their 6 year drip feed of infection into the Uglow's herd in North Cornwall? Mr. Uglow has found 3 dead in his yards - so far. Our Derbyshire 'Matthew', trying to produce organic Angus beef, found dead badgers on his land, and was warned not to touch or repair stiles in his walls without wearing full protective clothing. Our Staffordshire 'Matthew' also found dead badgers prior to his Tb breakdown. He saw them in the daytime, sick and so horribly affected by Tb that he felt physically sick. "If I allowed a dog to get into that state, I'd be prosecuted", he said.

But as we said in the post below, forget dead or sick badgers in fields and buildings - which vets tell us is a classic precurser to cattle Tb within months. Wrong carcass, wrong place. It's road kills Defra want. And even then they refuse to release results, or act on them preferring to hide behind the ministerial smoke screen of Krebs. The very fact that Defra are refusing to release these results suggest that they confirm every other study, trial and report commissioned into bTb. That is that a substansive reservoir of the disease exists and is growing within the badger population.

A 'study' in constructive ignorance then?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

National Badger Day - A vet's view.

Adding his comment to the population explosion 'enjoyed' by the UK's badgers, David Denny MRCVS writes:

"Badgers, once a rarity in the countryside have increased in such numbers, that they are now relatively common. These fascinating creatures are becoming more and more popular with the public. This population explosion can be attributed to badgers being made a protected species in the 1970's - in an attempt to outlaw obnoxious badger baiting, together with an increase in maize growing - maize is their favourite food, (after peanuts) - by farmers.

Unfortunately, many badgers - up to 80 percent - particularly in the western UK have Tb. Infected badgers will suffer for up to three years, before dying slowly from starvation.

There is no treatment. Since humans can catch Tuberculosis, great care should be taken when handling badgers, dead or alive, - or even where they have been.

This explosion in badger numbers coincides with a dramatic increase in cattle with Tb. Consequently thousands, many heavily pregnant, are compulsorily slaughtered monthly, in an attempt to contain the disease. Controversially, farmers claim that badgers are infecting their cattle. The National federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) claim badgers are innocent.

In an attempt to settle the 'argument' the government commissioned the Independent Kreb's trial which involves trapping and culling badgers. Why, if the NFBG are so convinced that badgers are innocent, are they sabotaging this trial, by wrecking traps, relocating badgers and intimidating those involved?

It is hardly the behaviour of those defending the innocent?"

David Denny has first hand experience 'in the field' of the scourge of tuberculosis, both in the badger population and it's spill over into his client's cattle herds, all 5 species of wild deer and increasingly now into cats, both feral and domestic. He replied to Ben Bradshaw's slippery and shameful letter to Margaret Miles (see post below) as follows:

"It is both naive and hypocritical of the Minister, Ben Bradshaw to claim that a cull of badgers would 'result in some healthy badgers being killed'. Thousands of cattle a month are being compulsorily slaughtered as a result of failing their (Tb) test. Only a few of these cattle actually have Tb, the others being perfectly healthy." (Here we would explain again, that the intradermal skin test, used all over the world in line with OIE (Office of International Epizootics) and EU regulations, does not indicate full blown Tb in cattle. It flags up an immune response in the skin to the animals' exposure to Tb bacteria - bacteria which in a closed herd like Margaret Miles' should not be there at all. And we would also take the opportunity to thank Ben for his answers to PQ's (archived) that in the absence of a wildlife reservoir, all countries control Tb with this skin test and slaughter of any reactors to it.)

Mr.Denny continues, "It is only common sense (since when did that come into it? - ed.) that it cannot be in the interests of a healthy badger population to have Tb in their midst. Badgers with Tb (that's up to 80% of them) eventually die after several months from starvation."

"The problem lies with the far too successful lobbying of Ministers and Professors alike, by Dr. Elaine King - the Chief Executive of the NFBG, claiming the badger's innocence. What are the motives of these 'badger protection groups', when they subject badgers to this unecessary suffering?"

At the 'sharp end' - that is in the fields and farmland of the western UK, the badgers are we see are indicative of a thoroughly diseased population.
Often crawling around in broad daylight, they are emaciated, mangy, abscessed and distressed. They are also highly infectious to many other species with which they, or their body fluids have contact. National Badger Day? With library pictures of bright eyed bushy tailed shiny badgers? Tell it as it is Elaine. Why should farmers be the only ones to experience the suffering caused by your 'industry'?

We want to share the result of your lobbying, on this most loved of British mammals. Pictures of diseased and suffering badgers - in the raw.

Bring it on.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Crisis? Wot Crisis?

It has not escaped our notice that today, June 18th is National Badger Day. Radio 4, BBC and the mainstream media are making fluffy, bunny noises - "ooohs and aaahs" in response to library pictures of shiny healthy badgers enjoying life. Oh that life were that simple.

In our post "Cattle slaughtered up 30 percent " (May 10th), we also reported a letter written by Cornish farmer Margaret Miles in which she described the devastation caused to her 'closed' herd of cattle on the Roseland Peninsula by bovine Tb. To refresh your memories, Mrs. Miles' dairy herd is self contained, the last breeding female being purchased in the mid 60's. Four times in 40 years, Mr. & Mrs. Miles have purchased a bull, the last one had been on the farm for almost his allotted time. Ten years. During 2004, several badgers were found dead or dying on the farm. In fact one was found recently, horribly scarred, skeletalised, decomposed and extremely dead in a barn on the farm. Not a good picture with which to celebrate National Badger Day, but of course the general public would not see these badgers. Yet.

In her original letter, Mrs. Miles invited Mr. Bradshaw to discuss the problems with bovine Tb on the Cornish farm, given that no cattle had been purchased in the recent past. But with his usual political dexterity, our Ben answered questions which had not been asked, with answers we already knew and then scuttled away - behind John Bourne's skirts and the Krebs trials. Now there's a surprise.

Mrs. Miles has now lost almost 50 percent of the herd's milking cows, many heavily in calf. Some in fact only a couple of weeks from calving. Heavily pregnant, they were shot, and their bellies bellies split - to disgorge guts and also live calf on the abattoir floor. Why?. Because the skin test had revealed they'd had contact with a bacteria which in a closed herd, should not be there at all. Tuberculosis -mycobacterium bovis. The public don't see that either.

Unimpressed with the Minister of Fisheries and Conservation's reply, this week Mrs. Miles again put pen to paper in a second letter to the Telegraph.

" I have asked for an interview with Mr. Bradshaw in the hope of finding out the real reason for Defra's refusal to test the badgers on our farm for bTb. We are forbidden to do this ourselves, and without a clear indication of the source of infection in our 'closed' herd, it is pointless and somewhat immoral to introduce clean cattle onto our farm. For our cows, time is running out..."

The following day, bright eyed and bushy tailed, the Minister replied:

"We do not test badgers on farms like the Miles as there is no reliable test".

Now on that we would agree with Ben. But this is the old ELISA Brock test to which the Minister refers. The test which badger 'sanctuaries ' use to test their mended and rescued badgers - before releasing them - anywhere at all. How smart is that?

Mr. Bradshaw continued to tell Telegraph readers (and the Miles family)

"The only way of reliably telling if a badger has Tb is by postmortem"

He really did slither there didn't he? Spot the deliberate mistake. Mrs. Mile's badgers were already dead - but in the wrong place. On the farm. In the fields. In the buildings. Anywhere but NOT ROAD KILLS, so forget it. Defra will NOT pick up badgers reported dead in fields. No they won't Ben, don't argue. Farmers have a contact number to ring to report such carcasses, but even in the Krebs areas, we can say with absolute certainty - been there, done that - and the badger was not collected. Constructive ignorance then? And even if the carcass (actually 'your' carcass) is translocated to the roadside, then reported and post mortemed, results are guarded with a tenacity reminiscent of the Cold War. John Bourne's job depends on it.

Ben then goes into 'lecture mode' and sternly continues with the the threat:

"Those advocating badger culling need to acknowledge that, if carried out now, it would inevitably mean killing healthy as well as infected badgers"

Would it? PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) technology is available and used in the States. What did the minister mean by 'now'? He can't still be waiting for the UK version - can he? And what is the difference between killing a few (if there are any left) 'healthy' badgers and the 30,000 cattle slaughtered annually because the 'Minister' of Fisheries and Conservation can't get a handle on the reservoir of bTb which his answers to PQ's tell us is "Endemic in the badgers".

He concludes his letter:

"The key questions are whether a badger culling policy could be cost effective, sustainable, and viable as part of our overall efforts to control Tb".

This from a Minister who has presided over a 20 percent rise (in cattle Reactors) annually of one of the biggest scouges of human beings on earth - tuberculosis, and is preparing to commit the treasury to a budget of £2 billion over 10 years NOT sorting it out. But on a day when viewers are being encouraged to join the NFBG, and 'enjoy' badgers we must spare a thought for them as well. The total protection which they are privileged to 'enjoy' has bought them endemic, disabling, chronic disease which they recycle through contact in their sets, and then spill out into other animals, both wild and domestic. Ultimately human beings are at risk.

Mrs. Miles has told the Minister in a second letter, that badger numbers on the farm had increased dramatically and that since the summer of 2004, several dead or dying badgers had been found and reported to Defra. But as we have pointed out, wrong carcasses, wrong place.

"Slaughtering our cattle is pointless without efforts to eradicate reservoirs of infection in the wildlife". concluded Mrs. Miles.

With that, we would agree - even or especially, on National Badger Day.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Defra wanted 'yes men' to rubber-stamp its proposals..."

...and with one exception - it got them".

In the post below, To Test or not to Test, we explained why we felt that pre movement testing of cattle as a disease management aid was weak, that this site favoured a post movement test of breeding cattle (if anything) but that while a wildlife reservoir of bTb remained to re infect, and reinfect and reinfect... nothing would work at all. We also gave examples of both pre and post movement testing regimes, cohort slaughter of cattle and licensed movements, which others had diligently applied at great cost - but to absolutely no benefit whatsoever.

But now the whole pre movement testing strategy and the group who were tasked with its implementation has been labelled a 'total sham', by - one of its members.

Ben Messer-Bennetts, an auctioneer from Truro, Cornwall had been a member of the 9 strong 'stakeholder' group but refused to endorse its report, delivered to the Minister for Conservation and Fisheries this week. His criticisms include:

* The Chairman's reluctance to allow open discussion or debate in the meetings, which appeared to be heavily swayed by the presence of two Defra 'observers'.

* No detailed minutes of meetings, on which the presence of Defra's people seemed to have a "disproportionate effect".

* The report's ommission of any member's dissenting views to its conclusions or calculations.

* The cost/benefit calculations done by Defra's Economics Department and the report admits much of the RIA (Regulatory Impact Assessments) 'guesswork' (new calculators then? You really couldn't make this up could you?)

* No robust independent scrutiny of the group's recommendations, or input from those most affected by the pre-movemnt testing proposals.

Mr. Messer-Bennett points out that:

The proposal it (the group)arrived at, was effectively what the Department had wanted from the very beginning. I believe that farmers have been let down very badly. Defra wanted a lot of 'Yes men' to sit and rubber stamp its proposal, and with one exception - it got them".
In his own report forwarded to the Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Debbie Reynolds, Mr. Messer-Bennett outlined his unease with the report which in fact mirrors our own criticism.

He also emphasises his anger at Defra's denial of the group's access to RTA Tb- infected badger casualty figures which when overlaid onto cattle bTb incidence areas show a 'striking correlation'. The request for these figures "was firmly turned down", he said.

He concluded:

It will be impossible to contain bTb in cattle, if we do not contain it in the wildlife. This is the biggest issue facing farming and to lumber the industry with the proposal this group has produced, would be nothing short of disaster.
Off topic slightly, there were many 'conspiracy' theories rampant when FMD was allowed to become 'carnage by computer', and as we've pointed out many millions pf animals were 'modelled' to death. Personally I don't buy it.

But... when a crisis erupts and no pre-emptive measures are taken...? When the mistakes of the past are ignored...? This sort of cock-up can only continue and grow, when good men sit on their hands and say - nothing.

So to Mr. Messer-Bennett, this site says - thank you.