As well as the much publicised new 'Advisory Group' which we covered in the post below, this week has seen a few more interesting snippets. As more information comes to hand, we will update.
* We do not propose to cover in any detail the Badger Trust's spokesman's convoluted reasoning with his calculater, that 3000 cattle may enter the food chain with undisclosed bTb. His target appears to be the intradermal skin test, and its alleged accuracy. Suffice to say that parliamentary questions covered this one in spades, with the unequivocal answers that in the abscence of a wildlife reservoir, it was used all over the world as the primary diagnostic tool for bTB under both OIE rules and EU Directive 64/432/EEC , with no problems whatsoever [8/12/2003 Col. 218W 141968] and [30 /01/2004 Col 540W 150492] and [25/03/2004 Col 989W 159061].
Cattle carcasses traded as beef have to undergo both an ante mortem (skin test) and post mortem examination for bTb. So in accusing Defra of allowing infected animals into the food chain, Mr. Lawson is in effect accusing the MHS (Meat hygiene Service) operatives, whose job it is to examine every carcass for signs of disease, of slack practise. Pretty smart.
* We expect Defra to announce a Gamma Interferon trial costing just under £750,000 - but only in areas of 3 or 4 year testing. For large parts of the country, now subject to persistant and pernicious drip feed from wildlfe, it is felt (we are told) that GI is " a complete waste of time". Without action on that wildlife reservoir, everything is a waste of time and money - but let that pass. We could point out however, that for the 3 and 4 year testing regimes Gamma Interferon is still under international trade directives a secondary tool. The intradermal skin test is the primary. But as in other countries, it may speed up diagnosis of animals in the 30-50 day latent period.
*The third snippet, is probably the most important, not that we would expect the voluble Mr. Lawson to agree with our emphasis. More on this as we get it, but this deals with the EU and a 'one size fits all' policy towards cattle testing.
Since the 1950's when a single jab was administered to detect bTB, and heaps of dead cattle indicated that something was amiss, the UK has developed the 'Comparative' intradermal skin test. Our environment is condusive to large flocks of birds, which share pasture with cattle - and carry tb. Avian tb. So the veterinary profession developed our comparitive test. And certainly it is our experience that if cattle are exposed to chicken farming at close contact, or to seagulls, rooks, pheasants or pigeons then the top bumps are very evident. But more importantly, they bring up a bovine bump too.
A Midlands vet, ordering tuberculin for pre movement testing, was recently asked "is this for export cattle?".
When querying why the difference, he was told that cattle for export could only have a single bovine jab. More questions were asked on this, and the answers (verbally at the moment) were that the bulk, if not all of mainland Europe manages with a single jab. And they think the UK should do the same, in fact as we know from the Veterinary certificate covered in our posts Sept. 2004 , http://bovinetb.blogspot.com/2004/09/update-russia-and-tb.html the level of bTB in the UK and Ireland is giving our EU masters serious indigestion. So, a derogation - a year's grace - has been agreed whereby the UK can continue with a compartive skin test, not only for exports, but ALL TESTS. But after that .......
One size fits none? We may have to comply with EU Directives and use a single one - pigeons, pheasants, rooks, seagulls or not.