In our post below, we quoted from a Wildlife operative's submission to the EFRA committee which described his experiences trying to catch badgers for the Krebs RBCT, and he warns observers not to take any Krebs results seriously.
The whole basis of Krebs was to compare methods of ..... errr, culling badgers.
And it appears that on that basic premise the trials failed, so what of any conclusions drawn from this trial in 'peturbation'?
A letter printed in this week's Veterinary Record from Dr. John Gallagher and others follows:
TB policy and the badger culling trials.
With reference to last weeks letter (Bourne et al. 2006 ) from the Independent Scientific Group on TB (ISG ) we feel the catastrophic problems surrounding the current TB policy are such that this requires a response.
The raison d’etre for the formation of this Group was to carry out the badger culling trials as recommended by Krebs (1997). Despite the huge logistical difficulties encountered and problems with animal rights activist interference, intimidation and lack of cooperation compromising its efficacy, it is understandable that the ISG wish to defend the findings of their trial.
However, DEFRA staff carried out the trapping as determined by the ISG and it is DEFRA which admitted that the overall trapping efficiency was remarkably poor at between 20 and 60 per cent (DEFRA 2005). The consequential social disruption and dispersal of infected badgers was found to have been very considerable . Thus these trials have been so badly compromised that extreme caution is required in their interpretation.
It is unfortunate that the ISG have disregarded earlier work on this subject but understandable as to admit the veracity of this work would have made the Krebs culling trials unnecessary. But it is folly not to heed such work as it was carried out to more exacting standards with regard to culling efficiency, being virtually 100 per cent in both the Thornbury and Steeple Leaze trials and over 80 percent in the East Offaly Trial and Hartland clearance (Gallagher et al 2006). The ISG’s trial was envisaged as a culling trial but as a result of the many problems encountered it turned out to be virtually a study of disruption and dispersal of badgers.
Based on many years of practical experience of tuberculous disease in cattle and badgers and its control we disagree with the ISG over their conclusions based on their trials and their recommendations for future control of TB in cattle. The ISG should be aware that TB has been eradicated from cattle in 23 of the 25 Member States of the European Community by test and slaughter. It was almost eradicated in this Country in 1986 when only 84 confirmed outbreaks were recorded before effective strategic culling of infected badgers ceased. Only Britain and Ireland have a problem and Ireland is making encouraging progress in tackling theirs. Whilst the huge carnage of cattle taken as TB reactors continues it is quite irrational for the ISG to assert that cattle to cattle transmission is the real problem.
We can assure this Group that until the badger maintenance host is effectively dealt with TB in cattle will not be controlled and certainly never eradicated.
This is also the agreed opinion of over 420 veterinarians mostly from the problem areas in the South West, South Wales and Sussex and dealing on farm with this problem. Considering there are now only about one thousand veterinarians in farm animal practice this represents a considerable body of informed opinion. These views were expressed in a jointly signed letter to the Secretary of State for DEFRA in February and June 2005. We consider that this problem is too serious to be put off track by views based on a trial with highly questionable results.
Dr. Gallagher refers to Defra observations of the number of badgers caught in the Krebs triplets as "remarkably poor, at from 20% to 60%". It is our understanding that this figure is calculated using the amount of land available to the RBCT, and John Bourne has said that as much as 50% of that was 'unavailable' in some areas. Whether that included the RBCT's own 'exclusions', i.e farms already under Tb restriction at the start of the 'trial' or just land whose owners refused access, we do not know. Neither do we know if the Defra figure factored in the RBCT trapping efficacy as described in Parliamentary Questions:
8th Dec 2003: Column 218W
Mr. Paterson. To ask the Secretary of State for Environment,Food and Rural Affairs in how many cases badger traps laid by or on behalf of the Department in the TB culling trial have been interfered with or removed without authorisation. 
Mr. Bradshaw. Interference with badger traps laid in the Randomised Culling Trial is variable between operations. It is usually quite geographically localised and repetitive within a culling operational area. Management records indicate that - over 116 culling operations, across 19 trial areas, between December 1998 and October 2003 , during which 15,666 traps were sited - there were 8,981 individual occasions where the trap was interfered with, and 1,827 individual cull sites when a trap was removed.
We make that 57% opened or trashed, and 12% went AWOL altogether.
So out of a 100% cage traps set, 69% were unavailable to catch anything at all. And we suspect that this figure was attributable to in some cases on only 50% of land available and mapped in the RBCT, some of whose boundaries changed over the time of the 'trial'.
Amazing stuff this 'science'. You couldn't make it up.