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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link.
Two things. One is Geoffrey Cox's comment about Bradshaw 'Having the spectre of a High court judge peering over his shoulder" This in relation to any culling of badgers.

And the other is Defra's 'reinterpretaion' of the Badger Protection Act - without discussion in parliament as described by Owen Paterson:

"He has made up his mind. He has not told Parliament why he has, in effect, repealed a section of British law"

So there we have it. A minister who is 'looking over his shoulder' at judicial proceedings (presumably from the Badger groups) should he authorise tb control in the round, and a Minister who obviously sees the farming organisations as no threat at all, and indeed uses parliamentary protocol as his own private train set.

Anonymous said...

As you raise the issue of the debate in Parliament, could you explain the following attributed to Ben Bradshaw who said:
"It was also interesting to note that Tony Yewdall still features in the
statements made in the Commons. With this in mind, the following from
Farmers Weekly on 20 October 2000 will be of interest:

Western buyers out in force at Devon
WEST country buyers dominated the bidding when the Curland Guernsey herd
was dispersed to a top price of 620gns" .........

......."Volume buyer was Tony Yewdall, Bideford, North Devon who took
10 cattle.

Mr Yewdall has claimed a closed herd."

What did Mr Yewdall do with the cattle?

Matthew said...

We cannot answer either for Ben Bradshaw, nor Tony Yewdall, or in fact for the accuracy of newspaper reports of cattle sales.
But it is not unknown for individual farmers to purchase cattle on another's behalf.

As long as the testing is regular, buying cattle in is of little importance. But those of us who have deliberately NOT purchased cattle, kept a genuinely 'closed' herd, and have that in writing from the British Cattle Movement Service, are then entitled to feel more than a little let down, when it offers no protection whatsoever against bovine tb.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link - I thought Owen Patterson's contribution to the debate on Tuesday was particularly poor - I hope Cameron has the good sense to drop him from the Shadow Team and bring in someone who can hold the Government to account. Simply asking questions in Parliament and going on fact finding missions to the US (at our expense, no doubt) is simply not good enough. At no point has he ever told us - in any detail - what the Tory's would do if/when they get back into power. I believe he said some months ago - when pushed by Ben Bradshaw - that he would allow the culling of infected badgers; I'm afraid that just highlights how misinformed he is if he thinks infected badgers can be positively identified without a post mortem.

It would be interesting to know whether the Tony Yewdall claim above is in fact true - is there any way the authors of this blog can find out ?

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to have a definition of "genuinely 'closed' herd" Matthew.

To many this would mean much more than no bought-in cattle - whether or not supportd by BCMS that we all know 'misses' plenty of cattle movements each year.

Here in West Cornwall cattle are moved around in small trailers frequently to utilise pockets of grazing land widely dispersed around the countryside. This gives ample opportunity for nose-to-nose cattle contact across hedges between herds from different farms.

Some'Closed Herds' also seem to permit insemination by 'external soures', and some even fatten stock for other owners.

Do closed farms exist? They would be a contiguous land area double ring-fenced to prevent cattle to cattle contact? And of course absolutely no stock movements except outwards.

Professor Bourne of the ISG once stated "There is no such thing as a closed herd" .

A coleague of mine has met Tony Yewdall who I'm told had an unusual view of a closed herd system (one that does indeed allow 'external' cattle onto his farm).

Matthew said...

This is to all our 'Anonymous' questioners;

1. We agree that Bradshaw does appear to be uneasy with culling badgers in controlling Tb. For what reason we can only speculate. As we have said on this site, (and vets are now releasing photos of grossly infected badgers), the effect of endemic tb on this delightful animal is appalling. But most library pictures show bright eyed, bushy tailed, healthy badgers. The reality, after up to 8 years of infection which can ebb and flow in terms of active excreted infection, is vastly different. The instigators of the Badger Protection Act have openly said 'It was never designed to work like this'. And Bradshaw's unilateral action on the Act has not yet been openly challenged, as Paterson said.

2. You think Boy-King Cameron actually has policies???
He's a Blair lookalike, a policy free zone, who will tell you, rather vaguely, exactly what you want to hear.
I don't agree Paterson's folder on Tb has been a waste of time. The questions drew some stunning answers, (all archived on this site) and gave the basis for policy which Owen has annouced on more than one occasion. His trip to Michigan came as a result of information on this site, in that the States are using PCR to identify bTb in the environment. The UK is too, but as yet it is at the 'experimental' stage.
If this technology can be moved forward, then the old chestnut of culling non-infected badgers will be squashed for good. It will take a brave person to defend to the taxpayer, and to local cat owners and farmers the continued existence of a positively identified infected badger sett - or any other source for that matter.

As far as I'm aware Tony Yewdall is not ex-directory, so you may get an answer directly if you telephone him. From memory, he had a handful (5 or 6 ?) 'bought in' pedigree cattle which had been tested several times before his well publicised breakdown.

3. Closed herds.
You allege BCMS misses many. Not when you're testing every 60 days they don't. The veterinary surgeon arrives to do the test, with a CTS (Cattle Tracing Service) print out for the holding which lists every animal. If any are missing an explanantion is required, and any extra animal must have a Defra issued Tb license to cover.

Three contributers to this site had what I think you would agree, were 'closed herds' despite John Bourne's wild and inaccurate assertions.
In our case the farm qualified for voluntary EBL status (for which we paid an annual fee) That meant that it underwent inspection for the double fencing bio security and had absolutely no cattle to cattle contact. Our 300 acres is actually surrounded by woods and roads and only touches one neighbouring farm which has sheep, on a single field boundary so it was quite easy to do.

Our Derbyshire contributer has the kind of stone walls and high banks found in West Cornwall, which for conservation have to be protected with back fences to prevent damage from cattle and sheep. That gives an effective barrier width of about 15 feet. Only if a bovine has open lung lesions is their movement going to cause potential problems. And even then work in Ireland (Costello) in the 80's and 90's showed that such adult cattle kept in close confinement with 2 sentinels failed to transmit bTb in 6 months, and transmitted to only 5 out of 12 pairings in a year.
Easy - it is not.

I've said it many times on this site, but I'll say it again. Since the BCMS database began in 1996, they are happy to confirm that we have had no 'ON' movements of purchased cattle. The only movements registered have been 'OFF', as we sold breeding stock and store cattle. Insemination was always AI. We had no bought in or hired bulls.

If you look back on the site, you will see that Margaret Miles had a similar system. No bought in females, all replacements home bred. But they had purchased 4 beef bulls over a period of 40 years, the last one having been on the farm for 9 years and tested as required, before their devastating and ongoing breakdown.

The authors of this site actually tried to put a substansive figure on 'closed herds' and more importantly 'closed herds under tb restriction', from BCMS. The chap with whom we were dealing was very helpful. The answer to the first bit was fairly simple - there are a great many. Only recording 'OFF' movements and births/deaths. No 'ON' movements.

Then we asked could he cross check how many such herds were under tb restriction. (This is held on database available to Trading Standards and SVS to make sure that cattle under restriction are not traded - hence my amazement at your 'cattle missed' comment)
The chap came back verbally, and said he was staggered at how many such herds were under tb restriction, and he was going to double check his figures (ask for permission to release??) and he would email the numbers through.

That was August. He has now been moved, no contact details and no figures. Obviously it suited Defra not to publice. It suits them far better to assume cattle to cattle, and ignore herds like ours.

At some stage somebody is going to explain to the taxpayer why such herds are going under restriction. If cattle contact can be ruled out, then it is up to the defenders of tb infected populations to hypothesise a source. But that source - and in our case it was badgers - has cost us 50 head of pedigree in calf cattle. 5 years under continuous restriction involving nearly 30 consecutive 60 day tests with all the associated employment opportunities that this entailed.

We test again next week.
Happy Christmas

Richard said...

Simply asking questions in Parliament and going on fact finding missions to the US (at our expense, no doubt) is simply not good enough.


Matthew said...

In case you are in any doubt, I'll spell it out. Richard's 'Nope' referred to the assumption that Owen Paterson's fact finding trip to Michigan was a taxpayer funded 'jolly'.

It was not.

Anonymous said...

So who did fund the trip? The authors of this blog, and Richard North in particular, seem to be very close to the Shadow Minister. Perhaps they can shed some light on this?

Matthew refers to Owen Paterson making a policy announcment on more than one occasion - can anyone tell me where I can find full details of the Shadow Minister's policy for eradicating TB?

Matthew said...

"Perhaps they can shed some light on this?"


"the Shadow Minister's policy for eradicating tb"?

No idea.

Cameron will collect his own team together, which may or may not include the former shadow minister Owen Paterson, whose policies were well documented in numerous articles in the farming press and media.

Anonymous said...

"No" and "No idea" - very helpful. Thank you.