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'.?

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