Sunday, February 13, 2005

What About the Cats?

The site has had a comment posted after the (archived) Cat's Out of the Bag post.

Our reader tells us the story of cattle both on his/her smallholding and neighbouring farms destroyed by MAFF after failing the Tb test. Subsequent badger removals failed to identify Tb in the badger carcasses. (This was under the old system which ground on painfully slowly via the old badger panel. This met quarterly to discuss MAFF's requests for a BRO (Badger Removal operation) in response to their opinion on likely cause of bovine Tb on a holding. It could take a year to authorise a BRO)

In this instance the farms in question were being visited by a feral cat which had " Open sores on its face, -- was seen being sick --- and was subsequently found dead some years later" . Our reader explains that neither he/she or 'neighbours were able to catch it. (Sometimes a 12 bore is the only way)

Our reader thinks that this mangy cat may have been the source of the cattle problems and not the now (dead) badgers. After reading our Tb infected cats post he/she continues:
" Now proof of this hunch has evolved "
Errrr- yes. Cat's are susceptible to TB and we described in the post how after sharing feed bowls with a BADGER that turned its toes up in the garden of a smallholding, 5 of them died of - TB. That wasn't a hunch but cause and effect as the DNA was typed and found to be a match from badger / (exhumed) cat lesions.

Our questioner does not " advocate the decimation of one of our (thankfully abundant) native British mammals being singled out to the exclusion of other possible causes of infection"
He/ she wants to know the reason for just killing badgers, (Actually no-one's killing badgers at all - Defra have been targetting just cattle for the last 7 years) and concludes that all the money "should be spent on VACCINATION".

Now there are several points here.
Farmers cannot criticise the 'carnage by computer' which we saw in FMD, where only a small number of now very dead animals were actually positive for disease, and at the same time defend the 'E' route so wildly propagated by John Bourne's ISG as the alternative to his proposals - unless of course that 'E'limination refers to the ISG.

But vaccination?
Tuberculosis is endemic in UK badgers and in some overpopulated hot spot areas to the degree of 50 - 60 percent of individuals. And in the last months of their miserable infectious lives, they are suffering as much as our reader's feral cat. So what would he/she vaccinate? Cattle? Too long away from a solution.
And meanwhile what else is this pernicious, highly infectious zoonosis which has been allowed to become endemic in our badgers spilling over into. Deer? Farmed and wild. How in hell would you vaccinate wild deer - or any other of the wild Tb spill-over casualties?. Children are now receiving the BSG jab again, but in their teens. Toddlers remain unprotected - as Exocett's comment told us.

But cats are susceptible too as our post showed. So do we vaccinate all the country's cats ?- Explain that to their owners.

So we'll throw the question down again to our readers.

What about a targetted sweep of the country to identify ANY source of tuberculosis?
We're testing the cattle with a test that Bourne says "is an excellent herd test". Thankyou for that, John.
But is the PCR diagnostic tool,(see 2005 - A Good Idea- archived) the 'magic bullet' to identify badgers - or any other species that's harbouring tuberculosis and spreading it?

Our reader tells us that he/she is a member of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Mammal Group and several members of the Trusts have expressed an interest in this more accurate diagnosis of disease source. We quote from a recent conversation with a high ranking member:

"I have no problem with culling infected badgers, but it's no use starting with bits of the middle of Devon - start at Lands End and the coasts and working inwards and upwards, screen all the setts. Where Tb is found cull out the badgers and destroy the sett so that clean badgers cannot become infected. Break the cycle."

Or, dear readers we can vaccinate - everything including the cats.

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