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.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

"Dithering Defra"

...was the description afforded to the government department 'Determined to Eliminate Farming and Rural Activities" otherwise known as Defra, by SW regional director of the NFU, Anthony Gibson. He described bovine Tb as "spreading like wildfire across the region", but commented "Defra is still dithering about stopping it".

A report from Exeter University (to which we have referred before on this blog) to be published this week, emphasised the need for 'urgent action' to tackle the growing problem of bovine tb.

The study found that for the vast majority of farmers who suffered an outbreak of bTb in their herds, the overall cost of the outbreak was greater than the Compulsory Purchase money which they received for individual animals slaughtered. Researchers also discovered the 'human toll' of bTb, with farmers, their families and workers suffering higher levels of stress and anxiety.

The report describes "An important contributory cause (of stress) has been the increase of uncertainty about the future, both in the long term implications for the business, and its personal effect on individuals. All this is compunded by an acute sense of frustration and dismay about the apparent lack of progress in regaining control over a disease that was once thought to have been eliminated as an economic threat to agriculture".

Exeter's researchers emphasised that throughout the study they had worked closely with Reading University who prepared a similar paper last year. Broadly speaking, they found that 80 percent of valuations were 'in line with market prices'. Of the rest some were grossly undervalued and a notable few over valued. The conclusion was that the 80 percent was "As good as it gets" in the field of accurate valuation on this scale. The 'cost' of the stress, damage to the farm's ability to trade, uncertainty about sale of produce is of course, incalculable.

Anthony Gibson continued his criticism, pointing out that the increase in new outbreaks across the wider SW region this spring equated to a 40 percent rise. 630 new breakdowns in the first quarter of the year, compared with 1,735 for the whole of the previous year.

"We are committed to working with the Government to resolve this costly and unnecessary crisis, but it has so far steadfastly refused to tackle the major source of infection in the wildlife population, upon which there are now no controls whatsever - diseased badgers".

Unfortunately little evidence of tuberculosis in the badgers has been available to the general public - so far. But more and more farmers are seeing the result of this 'total protection with no controls and no responsibility' in emaciated, distressed, abscessed badgers moping around in broad daylight.

It's only a matter of time before the public will be seeing this too.

Meanwhile, another day, another report - and more dead cattle.
To describe Defra's inaction as 'Dithering' is too lightweight.

Try paralytic inertia, supine quiescence and arrogant indolence.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pre movement testing : Sorry we got it wrong.

Never ones to mince words, we are nevertheless honest on this blog and when we get things wrong - hey, we can hold our hands up and say so.

So apologies from the team to Captain Ben and his cohorts at Defra.

What did we get wrong? On the post which highlighted the futility of pre movement testing (See To Test or not to Test - below) we estimated the cattle reactors missed by this exercise in Ministerial window dressing, at around 60 percent, given the latency of the test, and all other proposed cattle exclusions from it. Today however in launching the concept on the press, our Ben while committing Defra to the idea, told reporters that:

"it would reduce the number of outbreaks by 720 per year - about one-fifth".

One fifth? 20 percent? What about the other 80 percent??

So dear readers, having geared up our calculaters to inform you that pre movement testing would miss around 60 percent of the cattle reactors, we bow to Ben's superior mathmatics.

If the man says it will reduce new oubreaks by just 20 percent- and he assures us it will - then we apologise, we are contrite and repentant. It will not miss 60 percent at all, it will miss 80 percent of cattle reactors. The Minister says so. It will also cost an average of £9 per animal, for which the industry is expected to pay, with Defra providing the tuberculin (25p). It will cost the industry almost £3million, but Defra expect it save the taxpayer £10 million.

Using Ben's figures, if the tuberculosis problem was tackled 'in the round' it would save the taxpayer another £40 million, but we're not supposed to have worked that out..

How many 'schools'n'hospitals' is that?

Chief Veterinary Officer, Debbie Reynolds said:" Cattle farmers do not need to wait until Government makes movement testing compulsory. Farmers should take steps now to reduce the risk of spreading Tb".

Quite right. And if they have taken those steps - and they have not worked, farmers are entitled to feel seriously let down by the very Department empowered with the responsibility for 'disease control' are they not? And for those who have purchased cattle tested in line with the Chief Vet's advice, and find that the pre movement test will, in her own Minister's words have missed 80 percent of potential reactors? What then?

She's going to have some very difficult questions to answer.