Monday, January 31, 2005

Paying for time - Muckspreader

The Tb crisis in cattle farming has not escaped Private Eye's Muckspreader column, (Jan 10th 2005) from which we quote:

"This year, TB will cost government and taxpayers more money than it has promised towards the tsunami disaster. The truth is that our ministers are getting into the most appalling mess over the crisis. And it has now been made worse by the findings of research in Ireland, which show that the (UK) government could solve the problem within months, if only it had the honesty and courage to do so".

Honesty? courage? in a politician?... Muckspreader has more faith than me.

"The problem is that as Britains's badger population explodes out of control, so does the incidence of TB both in the badgers themselves and in the cattle they live among. Before 1982 a policy of gassing infected badger (setts) was so successful that TB in Britains cattle was all but eliminated" *

*Less than 100 herds under restriction and 686 cattle slaughtered .

"In 1981 badgers became a 'protected' species. Gassing was outlawed. The badger population rose rapidly, and TB rose to epidemic levels, in direct parallel with its spread among cattle. As ever more farmers were forced to kill their infected cattle, so ever rose the bill for compensation.*

* Over 5000 herds have been or are at present under TB restriction in 2004 and 24,000 cattle dead.

"In 1997 Labour came to power, aided by a £1million donation from the Political Animal Lobby, totally committed to 'saving' badgers. The MAFFia's top advisor Prof. John Krebs, confirmed the link between TB in badgers and cattle. But so terrified was the government of taking action that Krebs was asked to spin matters out by carrying out an interminable series of 'trials' just to make sure that the link existed.

By last year crisis point had been reached. As the bill soared ever higher, government projections showed that by 2014 the total cost to the taxpayer will have reached £2billion. As Tory agriculture spokesman Owen Paterson deluged the government with record numbers of questions, the government desperately played for time. The minister, Ben Bradshaw extended the Krebs trials to 2008, and also said we must wait for findings of important research being carried out in Ireland".

"These have now been published and they are devastating."
Devastating?. We would say 'predictable' and a carbon copy of all other 'trials' . A surprise then?. Not.

Muckspreader continues: " In all four counties across Ireland where badgers were culled, the incidence of TB in cattle has plummeted. In Donegal to only 4 percent of its previous level. Yet so emotive has the issue of culling badgers become that even the Irish scientists feel forced to conclude that, although it would be 'feasible to control TB in cattle by eliminating badgers, it would not for legal or moral reasons be 'viable'."

"This single sentence in the report was seized on by Elaine King of the National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) as supporting her view that killing badgers is out of the question"
No surprises there then.
""Apart from the moral and political implications of such a strategy", she says " its effects would not be large enough to warrant the massive economic cost".
As we have already pointed out, the lovely Elaine (Battersea's very own Boadicea) also said in her press release following the Irish result " This trial suggests that badger culling only reduces TB in cattle if every single badger is exterminated".
So the link is there then? Take out infected badgers and cattle TB just - disappears.

Muckspreader concludes : " Mr. Bradshaw must stick to his existing policy, even though it has lamentably failed. In other words we have no alternative but to foot that £2 billion bill, paying out more each year than Tony Blair is giving to the tsunami victims, to achieve nothing. The real irony is that, if government gave out licenses to farmers to cull infected badgers on their land they would do the job for free, to save their cattle - and a great many badgers would be saved from a lingering and painful death".

There are more votes in a dead badger than a dead cow, Muckspreader.
And never one to let a dead badger (or a sick, abscessed, mangy tubercular one) get in her way, we expect 'Boadicea' to gallop into print with a reply to this article and will post in due course.

Friday, January 28, 2005

"Cattle 23,000 - Badgers Nil" - NBA

The National Beef Association (NBA) has issued a press release designed to draw public and taxpayers' attention to the cost of controlling Tb with only a one sided management policy.

"Tb is a two species disease with one-sided control management and as a result costs to the Exchequer over 2005 -2006 are expected to top £120 million with further 20 percent annual compound increases to come"
explained NBA policy advisor, Kim Haywood.

"Farmers are already hacked off with this unfairness and it can only be a matter of time before the taxpaying public becomes equally fed up and asks its own pointed questions about government's failure to tackle the expensive problem of Tb in Britains' badger population too".

At present badgers suffering from the disease are not included in the government's anti-Tb campaign and this tactic is encouraged by well organised pressure groups.

"Farmers cannot believe that diseased badgers are offered such high priced public and political protection, and are hoping that costly government shortsightedness will soon be challenged by taxpayers themselves" said Ms. Haywood.

"Besieged cattle owners would like to make it clear that they have no wish to encourage wholesale badger slaughter as some propagandists allege, but want culling limited to small, highly critical local populations."

"We propose that badgers in areas where cattle herds are repeatedly infected through eating contaminated grass (or other feed) are tested for Tb using PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) portable laboratories and if found to be positive for Tb, are humanely put down along with their sett mates using inert carbon monoxide gas".

The NBA say that badger numbers have increased 5 fold over the last 30 years that they have been 'protected' and that there is no prospect of the species becoming 'endangered'. Tb in endemic in the badger population, its appearance "triggered by stress of overcrowding, semi starvation and fighting for territory - all symptoms of chronic over population".

The NBA are calling for a properly targeted anti-Tb campaign, which if "focused equally and fairly on both cattle and badgers would have the dual result of lightening the cost burden on taxpayers as well as improving the living conditions for thousands of badgers as well".

Ms. Haywood concluded, "It is important that the public, politicians and groups of activists who argue that there are no circumstances in which infected badgers should be culled, fully understand this"

We couldn't have put it better.

The aim should be Cattle Nil - Badgers Nil.

And no Tb.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Targeting Resources. Hospital rolls out new diagnostic tool.

The largest hospital in the South West region, Derriford at Plymouth, yesterday announced it was pioneering a new technology in the fight against MRSA (methicillin resistant staph. aureus)

Using a minute sample of DNA, this piece of diagnostic kit would be able to screen patients on arrival for the MRSA bug, enabling the hospital to 'target its resources' and treat / isolate carriers prior to invasive surgery. Doctors explained that the technology now allowed them to diagnose MRSA with this in-house machine "in under 3 hours, rather than submit samples to a laboratory and wait for up to 5 days for a result."

The catch phrase, we feel is 'target resources'.

"Resouces". That's money to you and me - in fact it's our money. Governments don't have any, the Treasury counts and redistributes its beans - but makes none. It's ours. So anything that 'targets' those precious and scarce 'recourses' must be welcomed.

And here we return to the post 2005 - A good Idea (on this site) which describes Enigma Diagnostics' new diagnostic tool the PCR cycler. This relies on DNA material from a subject (urine, sputum, pus etc.) to diagnose specific bacteria (micobacterium bovis?) on site in less than 30 minutes.

It would be a brave soul, faced with a positive sample of bovine Tb (micobacterium bovis) from a grossly infected badger sett, who would deny a 'targeted' elimination of a highly infectious source of this pernicious, deadly zoonosis. That is 'targeting resources', rather than an extermination policy, widely and wildly postulated by John Bourne and his cohorts on the ISG, as a reason for keeping the Krebs' debacle going.

"The NFBG are not against culling infectious badgers". said Pauline Kidner (see post below)


Now they can prove that - to Defra, the Treasury, ecologists, ramblers, and not least cattle keepers and the badgers themselves.

Friday, January 14, 2005

NFBG response to 4 area Irish trial

The National federation of Badger Groups' response to the published results of the 4 area Irish trial is ... strange.

Having denied all along that badgers play any part whatsoever in the spread of bovine Tb, (see Throwing Her Teddies - on this site) CEO of the NFBG Dr. Elaine King, comments:

"This trial suggests that badger culling only reduces Tb in cattle if every single badger is exterminated"

She continues;

"It is impossible to determine the actual reduction in cattle Tb that has been acheived in Ireland by badger culling"

and concludes:

"It is vital that Defra focuses it's energy on controlling movement of infected livestock, and removing infected cattle by implementing the more accurate gamma interferon test."

Do we see a slight contradiction here?
"Only reduces cattle Tb if every single badger is exterminated?"
So it does work then? And if badgers suffering from and spreading Tb are removed in a meaningful way, then cattle Tb - just disappears.

"Impossible to see the actual reduction" (in cattle Tb)
Eeerr no. The paper quotes a figure of " by 60 - 96 percent."
Elaine must have missed that bit.

And finally the lovely Elaine implores Defra to "focus its energy on the controlling the movement of infected livestock". With that we would concur, but only if her beloved badgers are part of that loop.

As we said, a strange response. Weak, contradictory and selective.
Hoist by her own petard even?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

"The NFBG is not against culling infectious badgers"

That statement was made by Pauline Kidner who runs Secret World badger sanctuary in Somerset. The venue was a meeting to discuss the Krebs' trial concept in Gloucestershire in 1997. Farmer June Pain, whose herd had been completely wiped out by tuberculosis, organised it. Speakers John Bourne (and from the audience Professor Stephen Harris) described the 'trial', Chris Cheeseman and Richard Clifton- Hadley added their input, and NFU's Brian Jennings provoked the most unexpected reaction from Ms. Kidner.

"The NFBG is not against culling infectious badgers".

The audience of 300 people (including 2 of the authors of this site) and the press were delighted to hear it. So building on the Irish report which mirrors every other report done into the subject, perhaps in the 21st century we can move the action on a tad, and identify said "infectious badgers" which the NFBG are on record as neither wanting to defend, nor condemn to a slow painful death.

We have already reported the launch of a British PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) diagnostic tool on this site. We would also point at that the author of extraordinary critique of the Irish 4 area study - Donelly et al - is likely to be the same 'Donnelly' of FMD computer modelling fame who notoriously turned down Fred Brown's offer of an American PCR to better target FMD culls. That resulted in the carnage by Defra's computer of 11 million animals.

Now we have a British machine - better late than never - so no excuses for not using it please.

Would we not stand a better chance of 'selling' a targeted badger cull, to the Treasury, the public and our consumers if identification of those "infectious badgers" which the NFBG are not going to defend, was more certain? At the moment it's a case (like in FMD) of taking out a swathe of animals in the hope of getting the percentage which are in fact causing the problem.

How much better to move the technology forward and be certain that a group of badgers or their sett is infected, then for the benefit of all the ecological spill overs of tuberculosis, not least the badgers themselves, clear that sett in its entirety.

This machine we understand, is 100 percent specific to m.bovis, and can be used on farm to give a result from any body fluid (blood, urine, sputum or pus) in under half an hour.

The answer to a maiden's - or Bradshaw's - prayer?

A most extraordinary spat.

Further reading of the Irish 4 area study referred to below, details a most extraordinary spat between the UK and Irish beneficiaries of taxpayer's money in the battle to determine the role of badgers in bovine Tb.

"In a recent study, Donnelly et al (2003) anticipated the findings of the current (Irish) study."

How odd. Is it normal for one scientific group to pre judge the outcome of another's work? It would appear that the 'migratory' effect of badgers stumbling into vacant territory, (perturbation) which had been cited as the reason for the 'failure' of UK's Krebs' Reactive culling zones was anticipated for the 4 areas Irish study - by UK 'modellers'. We would point out (with the greatest respect of course) that to be effective in executing a badger cull, a Wildlife team first has to appear. And at least one author on this site is still waiting..... and another experienced a 3 year interval between action in Krebs' reactive areas.

The Irish authors point out most forcefully, and suport PQ's archived on this site, that a substantial geographic boundary is a secure barrier to ingress of migratory badgers. The boundaries of the 4 area study included the sea, wide rivers and mountains - mirroring Thornbury, the most successful of the UK trials. But the Irish trial also had a culling strategy in their buffer area to further prevent inward migration.

When we last looked, the UK was surrounded by sea ......

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Impact of Badger removal on the control of tuberculosis in Cattle herds in Ireland

We entitled this post with the same wording as the result of the 4 area study, which was published January 5th.2005. For anyone who wants the full transcript, this can be obtained from .

The impact briefly was that procative culling of badgers in the 4 area study saw a " 60 - 96 percent decrease in the rate at which herds were becoming subject of a confirmed restriction" compared with the Reference area where only Reactive culling took place.

In the Republic of Ireland, (like the UK) m.bovis is endemic in the badger population. A growing recognition of the role of wildlife as reservoirs of tuberculosis led to the setting up of field trials to determine the role of badgers. The UK has done such excercises to which we have referred in Thornbury, Steeple Leaze and Hartland with a larger 'trial' being conducted at East Offaly (R of I) in the mid 1990's. The UK is still operating the Krebs trial.

East Offaly was critised for allegedly causing the enforced 'migration' of badgers through the buffer areas. The 4 area study tried to avoid this, and followed the impact of badger removal in a wider range of environments, the four areas chosen being different geographically and with different types of farms.

We will compare the 4 area study with what we have learnt of John Bourne's Krebs trials.

* Where natural barriers were absent (rivers, mountain ranges and sea) , buffer areas of up to 6 km were created.
Krebs. Circles on a map, with boundaries which 'altered' after commencement of trial, and buffers of 1 - 1.5 km.

*Each area managed by a single team (both pro active removal and reference) and supervised by a single DVO (Divisional Veterinary Office)
Krebbs. Wildlife team of 133, moved from site to site (10 triplets of 3 areas each) and spent up to 5 hours per day each on the motorway. Local SVS involvement excluded. Designed and run by ISG.

*Study herds comprised all herds within the reference areas.
Krebs. Excluded herds already under Tb restriction at start of the 'trial', leaving 'hotspots' within the trial areas which could not qualify for clearance and did not qualify for data capture.

*Participation voluntary. Only 19 ha in Cork was refused access to survey. Badger Removal was refused at 13 surveyed setts. (0.42 percent of total) located at Cork (5 setts) Donegal (5 setts) and Kilkenny (3 setts).

Krebs. 50 percent of one Cornish triplet 'out of bounds', with many other areas within the triplets excluded.

*Method of capture wire snares, followed by shooting. Removals carried out 2 or 3 times a year, repeated if evidence of badger activity was detected.
Krebs. Traps, 57 percent of which suffered 'interference' and 12 percent disappeared. Of target badger population, 80 percent was the best which could be expected, and as low as 30 percent recorded.
Removal once a year (maybe). In some triplets this stetched to once in 3 years in both Reactive and Proactive. In some Reactive areas, wildlife teams did not arrive at all.

*Reactive culling in reference areas was to a more stringent protocol than that routine used throughout the rest of Ireland. Removal was triggered if a herd suffered 4 or more reactors to the skin test whereas normal procedure in the remainder of the country triggered removal if 2 or more reactors are found and the source 'reasonably attributed to badgers'. A non removal 'control' was not undertaken as it was thought this might encourage illegal removal of badgers within the refrence area.
Krebs. Reactive culling suspended October 2003. Trial has 'control' areas where no culling- survey only took place. No badger removal at all in UK after 1997 in response to cattle tb - and £1 million from the Political Animal Lobby.

*In a recent paper Donelly et al (2003) anticipated the findings of the 4 area study, reporting an increase of tuberculosis in cattle in UK trial, following' reactive ' culling. They speculated that this effect was associated with 'perturbation' or disruption of badgers following small scale removal and would over-estimate the effectiveness of widespread reactive culling The 4 area study found no evidence to support this.
Krebbs. Stopped Reactive culling Oct 2003. Prior to that some farms in reactive areas had not been visited at all, and some had endured 3+ years (and up to 18 sixty day herd tests, and 150 dead cattle ) between 'reactions'. Many farmers withdrew from trial.

*The 4 county study over 5 years confirmed that the herd restrictions in the proactive removal areas were significantly lower than the matched reference areas. (up to 96 percent lower) It is reasonable to attribute this effect specifically to proactive badger removal.
Krebbs. To be continued?

Monday, January 10, 2005

A time to cull

So says the leader in The Daily Telegraph today, pointing up that "the case against badgers has now been vindicated." This refers to a new study in Ireland that demonstrates that reducing the badger population is the best way to contain tuberculosis in cattle.

"Every year," the Telegraph says, "the Government spends on bovine TB compensation as much as it has spent on the tsunami crisis. Ministers could save themselves this sum, and relieve our farmers from a nuisance, simply by allowing them to cull badgers, whose numbers have anyway hugely increased." It continues:

The trouble is that an anti-badger policy would fly in the face of the Government's approach to the countryside, which is based on the idea that wildlife should be protected from man. The badger, like the fox, benefits from having been anthropomorphised. In early childhood, we read stories about friendly-looking striped creatures called Mr Brock, and this makes us feel bad about slaughtering them.

This touchiness is based, not on morality, but on aesthetics. It has to do chiefly with the size and class of the animal. Country people who live and work with animals rarely succumb to such sentimentality. But they are outnumbered by the urban and suburban majority.

Even so, with a general election perhaps only weeks away, ministers would be well advised to demonstrate their awareness of rural sensitivities. The hunting ban has radicalised many non-hunting country people because they feel that the Government is not listening to them. Authorising a wider badger cull might help to mitigate their anger.
Good stuff from the Telegraph. The full story, written by environment correspondent Charles Clover, can be read here with a further story here on farmers demanding that they be allowed to cull badgers in areas where bovine TB.

What now Mr Bradshaw? Will you please explain why you are spending more on not solving the Bovine TB epidemic than the rest of the government is spending on the tsunami victims?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Cattle Tb reduced by up to 96 percent.

Long awaited results of the 4 county Irish trials - the precurser of our own Krebs- are now published.

The 5 year trial (November 1996 - 2002) in the counties of Cork, Monaghan, Kilkenny and Donaghal mirrored all previous work and its published results today show a reduction in cattle herds under restriction of up to 96 percent.

More to follow.

2005 - Not a good Idea?

We understand that Defra are using a six figure sum (that's in excess of 5 noughts) to fund research into genetic resistance of cattle to bovine Tb.

What's wrong with that we hear you say.
There is no doubt in our author's experience that genetic resistance can be a factor in whether a particular breed of cattle, or 'cow families' within a breed succumb to Tb. But Defra have gone way beyond that. They have ignored information stored on their own database and rejected a proposal requesting £8,000 (that's only 3 noughts) to assist modelling of that information in favour of work with genetic material from the sacred cows of India.

A research project in Botswana, will observe the genetic potential of Bos Indicus cattle to resist Tb infection. Cattle imported from India are to be used in the trial. The genetic performance could apparantly then be used in the UK in a breed grade-up programme. Results could be expected around 2030.

Yes, you did read that correctly. Defra are proposing a grade up of UK native breeds using Indian cattle and they hope to roll it out in 25 years time.

Can we expect spin offs such as large humps on the backs of Aberdeen Anguses, red marks between the eyes of all beef cows and an inbuilt collection of gold rings in UK bullock's noses?
Survivability, meat quality and consumer acceptance are not mentioned - and it's not even April 1st.

2005 - A Good Idea ?

We have been made aware of a new development in diagnostic testing which may have a place in the fight against Tb.

Readers may have already been aware of a variant of this system known as the Smartcycler, developed in the USA by the late Fred Brown, which was recommended by him (and turned down by Defra) to rapidly diagnose FMD on site in a very short time. Defra preferred to complete a contiguous cull of adjacent cattle and sheep, while they developed their own machine.

Developed by the Ministry of Defence's research arm, the UK system was originally designed to search for biological agents in the battlefield. We would comment that it's use in our countryside as over 5000 farms are now under Tb movement restriction , our 'Animals and Animal products '- as yet undefined- subject to a potential Russian trade ban which feeds back to the farm of origin and infected wildlife are left to maintain a substantial threat to other species including human beings, could not be more aptly described.

'Identify biological agents in the Battlefield' - we like that.

Described in the Veterinary Times at its launch late last year, this new diagnostic tool could allow vets to test for bovine Tb in the field. Scientists at the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL) used technology called the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) originally to diagnose biological warfare agents but its wider potential is now recognised and spun out to include the food industry and veterinary and human medicine.

DSTL is launching a joint venture with industry to produce more 'mini labs' which they hope to have available very soon. Enigma Diagnostics, funded by £5 million from a consortium of investors led by Porton Capital (a spin off from the MOD) and the treasury, and including private venture capital will launch fully automated diagnostic machines encapsulating the PCR process which will allow:

* field tests for animal diseases, including FMD and Tb within 30 minutes, rather than sending samples to a far flung laboratory and awaiting their analysis
* detect food contamination such as salmonella, e.coli and listeria.
* fast diagnosis of meningitis etc.

A single machine currently costs around £40,000 but that figure is expected to drop to about £10,000 once mass production kicks in.

Now that the UK has its own PCR cycler machine available, it has been suggested that although this technology can only be used as complementary to the primary intradermal skin test in cattle, there may be a place for it to give rapid identification of Tb in badgers. We have spoken before of the appalling sensitivety of the so called 'Brock' ELISA test on a negative reading, (40.7 percent) and this tool could refine diagnosis with much more accuracy.

The potential advantage of the PCR over gamma interferon in cattle, is that it should be able to differentiate between bovine Tb (m.bovis) and avian (m.avium) particularly in cases where wildlife interface is not identified as a cause, and speed up clearance of movement restrictions.

Of course, if a wildlife reservoir of Tb is allowed to flourish then as we have seen, none of these diagnostic tools will halt its spread.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

New Year Resolutions (2)

Dr. Richard Clifton- Hadley (Veterinary Laboratories Agency) joins John Bourne in our gallery of people (who should know better) who have made a quantum leap of assumption regarding cattle Tb.

Professor Bourne along with his colleague Elaine King of the NFBG have assumed - quite wrongly - that the only reason for the arrival of cattle Tb in previously (assumed) Tb free areas is movement of cattle. We make no apologies for pointing out once more, the parasitic link between badgers and the cattle habitat on which they depend.

When cattle were slaughtered by the million during the carnage of FMD, farmers noted that although the deer stayed on the eerily empty farms, once the cattle went, so did the badgers. No dung pats, placentas, dead lambs (or live ones) no autumn crops to feed on and long, rank grass. They packed their cases and moved out. The setts were empty.

Where did they go? To the nearest farm that had the 'habitat richness' on which they thrive - a cattle farm.

And what did they find there? Resident stripeys who didn't welcome an invasion of 'their' territory and fought to protect it. And an enormous upheaval, often referred to as 'perturbation'.

Chris Cheeseman who runs 'Badger Heaven' in Woodchester Park described perturbation thus:
".....encountering more badgers so the contact rate of the population goes up. Contact rate is an opportunity for disease spread. The idea is that disruptive populations may actually be promoting the spread of disease in badgers. We know that increased movements in the badger population lead to an increase of TB in that population"

With that we would not disagree. A shaken and stirred badger population causes endemic Tb to spread.

After FMD, farmers who had restocked their cattle sheds observed that in time badgers returned to those vacant setts. But what a sorry sight they were. Mauled and scarred, thin and mangy. After a year or so away from their own cattle inspired 'habitat richness', the badgers who came back, either original residents or dispersers from other areas, brought with them - and on a large scale - TB which showed up at the subsequent post restocking Tb test.

The point of this post is to point out (with the greatest respect of course) that things are not always as they can appear. The seminar in September at which Cheeseman alluded to perturbation - and then requested more research in to it - was also the scene of a Dr. Clifton-Hadley's 'observation' re cattle movements.

"20 years ago there were 100 confirmed cases (of TB) a year or less. At that time, I would have said that 80 percent of those could justifiably be put down to badger origin". The situation is now entirely different. Data set on cattle movements are available to us that we have never had before. That shows huge numbers of cattle moving around, especially locally".

With all due respect to Dr. Clifton-Hadley, just because we now have cattle movements logged by CTS and BCMS and he is aware of them, it is an incredibly naive assumption that they did not occur, or occurred less, before the birth of cattle passports.

In fact the so called green lanes which Defra are now investigating from 500 year old maps so that drivers of 4x4's can play in the countryside, are in the most part old 'drovers' roads'. Cattle were shod with leather shoes, and driven from the hills of Wales, Dartmoor, Exmoor and Cumbria firstly to the kinder fattening pastures of the river valleys in the midlands and south, and thence on to London and other big cities. Later they travelled by train, and later still via various livestock markets on lorries. Trade was brisk, bouyant and involved hundreds of thousands of cattle, in several short haul journeys.

Recently it could be argued that as the national herd has shrunk, so cattle movement has declined.
Firstly with BSE and the Over Thirty Month scheme, many farmers selling fat have joined the supermarket fan clubs and sell direct, rearing their cattle from birth to slaughter.
Instead of Dr. Clifton-Hadley's "under 100 herds" under restriction 20 years ago, nearly 5000 are now unable to trade cattle except for direct slaughter.
Auctioneers confirm that over the past 6 years, livestock auctions, the trading places for cattle have declined by up to 60 percent.

And some of us have taken notice of the biosecurity advice given by the great and the good, that in some way keeping a closed herd (those sort of herds which Bourne says do not exist) can protect cattle against Tb.
But have found that having no ON movements for several years has no effect at all on the prevalence of Tb.

2005 could be time for a new research project.
Can Tb be transmitted through the ears?

Work it out!

Monday, January 03, 2005

2004 – A Most Extraordinary Year

This site has been running for 6 months now, and despite a very narrow and specific brief, has attracted a respectable number of ‘hits’.

Following an exponential rise in cattle Tb after the cessation of all badger culling in 1997, which coincided with a £1 million donation to the Labour party by the Political Animal Lobby, 2004 started with a deluge of Parliamentary Questions on Bovine TB directed at the Minister of Conservation and Fisheries, Ben Bradshaw. The questions and the Minister’s answers are archived on this site and a preliminary analysis follows:

The badger population in Great Britain is very high. National Badger Survey work which took place in the mid 1990’s estimated 300,000 – 400,000 with a 77 percent increase taking place in that time. Latest research indicates a further doubling of numbers, but onto a smaller area available for sustainable habitat.

Badger densities are highest in the South-west, West midlands, Southern counties and Wales, which exactly coincides with the highest incidence of Tb in cattle.

If there is evidence for association, there is also evidence of what happens when badgers are removed. Prior to the Krebs trials, the Minister confirmed that four large scale badger clearances resulted in a reduction or complete elimination of cattle TB. Thornbury, with action taken on setts over a longer period was the most successful, "with no other contemporaneous change identified that could have accounted for the reduction of in TB incidence with in the area" (24 Mar. col 824W)

Also, "No enhanced biosecurity measures were maintained during the Thornbury badger clearance programme" (25th Mar Col 989W) and "no confirmed cases of tb in cattle in the area were found in the 10 year period following the cessation of gassing" (28th Jan Col 385W) while badger numbers recovered to pre gassing levels.

The method of transmission of M. bovis between the two species was explored with questions on most common site of cattle lesions and infectivety/longevity of badgers with TB. Most common in cattle were respiratory tract lesions, followed by lymph nodes, which suggests that the most likely source of infection is inhalation, or ingestion followed by inhalation. (28th Jan Col 379W)

Badgers infected with M. bovis may excrete the organism in both urine or faeces, and they also transmit through sputum and pus from abcessed bite wounds. Although faeces tend to be deposited in latrines, urinations take place at pasture, trail up to 3m long and can contain up to 300,000 units of bacteria in 1ml of urine. 30ml is voided at a time, and while cattle will avoid faecal deposits they will sniff urine.

M. bovis is relatively resistant to U/V rays when suspended in badger urine, and if only partially eliminated can repair damage to cell walls.

The Minister confirms that not only can M. bovis survive for up to 6 months on pasture land, and longer underground (3oth Jan Cols 542W – 543W), the minimum infectious dose via respiratory tract is just 70 CFU (Colony Forming Units). Badgers have been known to survive for up to 8 years, while shedding m.bovis. They can maintain body weight and rear cubs during that time and are a most successful maintenance host for the bacterium.

The number of badgers testing positive for TB has been steadily rising (28 Jan Col 380W) and by 1997 had reached 24 percent. The minister confirms that Tb is now endemic in the badger population (30th Jan Col 538W)

Despite its increasing numbers, evidence of association with the transmission of TB, an increased proportion of infected badgers, and an ‘epidemic’ in cattle, the minister has no plans to remove the protected status from badgers. Compare the pathological eagerness to destroy in a contiguous cull, animals adjacent to infected herds with FMD, with Bradshaw’s refusal to include contiguous infected wildlife in any plan for the control of bovine TB.

Despite knowing of the onward transmission from an infected sow to her cubs, (29th Jan Col 485W) no effort is made to prevent this reinfection, nor the prevent recolonisation of infected setts (20 Jan col 1186W).

Further to that, the Minister is happy to confirm (20th Jan Col 1186W) that no controls exsist to register badger sanctuaries or 'hospitals' and no provision to oversee their relocation of badgers - merely "a 'code of practice' neither drawn up nor approved by Defra".

Our Minister of Conservation and Fisheries culled in the region of 25,000 cattle, spent (wasted?) over £74 million of taxpayer’s money and despite ( very reluctantly) answering our questions proved that he has a uniquely one sided way of treating a highly infectious zoonosis.

As we said – 2004 proved to be an extraordinary year.

2005 - New Year Resolutions

John Bourne.

I promise to tell the same story to whichever audience I am addressing.

Professor Bourne, as we have pointed out before on this site is consistant only in his inconsistancies.
At the farmer's meetings to garner support for Krebs, he announced he would be 'culling all the badgers'.
When this proved to be a grossly optimistic statement, Bourne excused the failure by explaining to a Tb Seminar on 14/09/2004 that he was " constrained by the methodology of Krebs" and in any case " up to 50 percent of land within Krebs was unavailable to him"
(Bovine Tb Seminar 14/09/2004)

He is also on record as describing the intradermal skin test as 'flawed'. Indeed that adjective is now widely used by Defra, and even amongst the veterinary profession who are happily jabbing needles into cattle's necks regardless of their thoughts on the test's efficacy. Or is it the £ signs in their eyes which drives them?
John's latest offering we quote in full from the Tb Seminar 14th September.

"The skin test is an excellent herd test" Prof. J. Bourne 14/09/2004

Have we all read that? We accept that it has limitations as an individual animal test, but thanks to our Minister's answers, we also know that when the test is carried out "more than once to an infected animal , (it) will cause the sensitivety to rapidly approach 100 percent. " (25th March Col 988W)

"People claim to have a closed herd, but they simply do not exist" Prof. J. Bourne 14/09/2004.

Now that's a mighty fine statement. Matthew 5 is writing this at the moment and getting more 'irritated' by the minute. Chris Cheeseman answered questions on how to avoid Tb, with the bland assurance of "Biosecurity and good husbandry", while Sue Eades proposed the comfort blanket of pre-movement testing - knowing that the test has a latency of up 50 days and that post movement is a better indicator of disease.

What do these fine people expect farmers to do when they've done all this and still had home bred cattle from a closed herd (which Bourne says does not exist) go with Tb?

What part of 'NO ON MOVEMENTS' from the BCMS database do they not understand?

Ben Bradshaw our Minister for Conservation and Fisheries thanked the participants for a 'constructive seminar', and suggested it would be useful if "we were to do it again, 'perhaps in a year or so'"......

That's another 25,000 dead cattle then.

Happy New Year.