Thursday, September 28, 2006

RSPCA falls foul of the Advertising Standards Agency

"The RSPCA advert breached breached CAP Code clauses 3.1, 3.2 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness)."

That was the conclusion of an investigation of the 'Back off Badgers' campaign run by the RSPCA this spring.Taken to task by the FUW (Farmers Union of Wales) and an individual (un named) farmer, their complaint against the RSPCA was today upheld. The campaign run by the charity, (together with the Badger Trust) alerted their followers to the government's consultation paper on how, when and if it should cull badgers in response to outbreaks of bTb.
We covered their high profile campaign, in our post here and the Telegraph reported;

The FUW case to the ASA rested on the RSPCA's assertion that cattle were to blame for the spread of bTb. And the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today supported their complaint, describing the charity's campaign as being untrue and unsubstantiated. The outcome of this decision could have caused immense damage to a government consultation process on disease control. That the responsibility for this very serious zoonotic disease is wholly Defra's seems to slipped everyone's mind - especially the RSPCA's - but let that pass.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Gareth Vaughan said this morning : "

Defra received 47,472 responses to the consultation and the vast majority were campaign responses prompted by, and supportive of, the RSPCA stance. The RSPCA itself claimed: "Our campaign to try to stop the proposed cull of badgers has received a fantastic response. Thousands of you wrote to the government in opposition of the cull……more than 10,000 people showed their support for the campaign by sending a text message to the government in opposition of the cull. A booklet of your text messages was presented to the government, along with the RSPCA's official response to the government consultation on the proposed cull."

Mr Vaughan said: "It seems clear that the vast majority of responses will have been made by people who were severely misguided by the RSPCA’s advertising campaign and those opposing a cull should now be disregarded. The repercussions of the RSPCA’s untruthful and unsubstantiated advertisements are truly huge. Today’s ASA ruling should serve as a warning to all pressure groups that they cannot twist the truth to subvert a public consultation process for their own blinkered ends."

In light of the ASA ruling, the FUW has written to Defra asking it to review the outcome of the consultation.

FUW policy officer Nick Fenwick, who lodged the complaint with the ASA, said: "The RSPCA has in recent years pursued an increasingly extremist agenda, and the fact that it published such misinformation in an attempt to influence an important government consultation demonstrates the depths it will stoop to follow that agenda."

In its evidence to the ASA, the FUW supplied the ASA with an overwhelming body of evidence from leading scientists, politicians and veterinarians, supporting the fact that the RSPCA was wrong to claim unequivocally that most TB is spread by cattle.

The FUW said "Our evidence even included sources quoted by the RSPCA itself, which highlights its inability to deal objectively with the scientific facts. In fact, we believe that most of the research points to badgers being the major cause of TB in cattle."

Click here to access the ASA website and click here for the FUW.

The conclusion of the Advertising Standards Agency's investigation is below:

"We noted the ad aimed to highlight that a cull of badgers would not stop the spread of bTB and considered that readers were likely to understand it in the context of the RSPCA's position as a well-known advocate of animal welfare. We also noted the RSPCA's assertion that the ad was intended to inform readers that the issue was not straightforward. We considered, however, that the claim was a straightforward and unqualified statement which, in the context of the ad, was used to support the RSPCA's position. We considered that the claim did not reasonably provide readers with an indication of the caution and uncertainty among scientists and government advisers surrounding the relative importance of the two factors in bTB transmission. We also considered that the RSPCA's reputation and public profile was likely to enhance readers' acceptance of the claim. Although we acknowledged that the opinion of scientists and government advisers indicated that cattle-to-cattle transmission was an important factor and may have been the main cause, we considered that it was not generally agreed by expert opinion or supported by the available evidence. We concluded that the RSPCA had not substantiated the claim or shown that it was generally agreed by informed opinion."

The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1, 3.2 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).

Full judgement: ASA website

The RSPCA enjoys "charitable" status, and as such is regulated by the Charity Commission.
One wonders what their view will be of the antics of one its most high profile members, found guilty of committing breaches of "substantiation" and "truthfulness". As we have said before, such organisations are not a solution, or even part of the solution to bTb, they are the problem.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

90 pages of.........Fluff.

The editor and her team of 14 Very Important Persons profess 'pride' in their glossy booklet, which Defra has produced to promote 'Disease Control, Animal welfare, Consumer protection and Public health'. Not doing too well on bTb are they? Unless a succession of glossy booklets and stakeholder partnerships count as 'Disease control'.

"I am proud to present you with the first Government Veterinary Journal bovine TB special edition." can be viewed here

Editor Linda Smith then enthuses that her readers will 'learn from it', pointing out that 'contributions have been made by some of the UK's leading authorities on bovine tuberculosis".

Aside from making the damn thing sound like a MacDonald's Special, what, may one ask, has the editor, or anyone else involved in this whole charade got to be proud of?

After almost eradicating bTb in the 1980's, the 2005 figures for bTb are back where GB was in the 1950's at the start of the Tb eradication programme. Define progress?

Skimming the 90 page A4 tome's content shows little new, even less to be enthusiatic about - even its "recycled paper, containing 80 per cent consumer waste, and 20 per cent totally chlorine free virgin pulp," could probably have been better used - eeerr elsewhere.

The introduction by the CVO Debbie Reynolds contains many weasel words - stakeholders, partners and the commitment of Government to developing policies. Then she spoils it all by regurgitating the first year's Krebs results - yup, the ones John Bourne was spitting feathers about and alleging he was being misquoted in our post here.

Dr. Reynolds also mentions pre movement testing, about which she is enthusiastic and the tabular valuation which she says "is designed to be fairer to both cattle owners and taxpayers" . That is a matter of opinion, but is now somewhat outdated by the EU bombshell of last week, which we covered here.

She concludes: "The range of policy mechanisms available for controlling Tb depends largely on achieving a better understanding of the disease, how it is spread, and the effectiveness and practicality of interventions and the outcomes of our research programme and other evidence will help us with this."

Understanding the disease? It's really quite simple. Badgers carry bTb - in some cases an overwhelming load from which they eventually die - and cattle are curious.

To identify another creature, cattle sniff and smell (see above)

And if that 'other creature' is carrying mycobacterium bovis in its lungs, urine or pus ridden bite wounds, as infected badgers do - 300 units in just 1ml of urine - then a sniff of just 70 units of the bacteria is enough to flag up a reaction in the skin test. And that means another dead sentinel cow.

We are back to the appalling level of bTb reactors slaughtered of 1959 - in fact last year we exceeded it - and the lady wants more research? Almost 50 years wasted, 30,000 cattle dead annually, our trading status in tatters and the spill over from infected badgers affecting cats, dogs, pigs and camelids - and the lady wants more research? Sheeesh.

The Parliamentary Questions archived on this site were the millenium equivalent of the Evans postulates - the gold standard in epidemiology. What do we know about this disease? How is spread? For how long and under what circumstances can the bacterium survive? What is the infectious load carried by an infected badger, and how long can it survive carrying it? How little does it take to infect a cow? What are the transmission opportunities? And all the other 532 questions answered patiently - or not - by baby Ben Bradshaw, with the Minister finally admitting that "Government recognises that eradication of bovine Tb is unlikely to be achieved in the next 10 years using current control methods" Well he got that right and he continues "A desirable outcome would be achieve Officially Tb free status, as defined in EU Directive 64/432/EEC".

But from Ricardo de la Rua Domenech's charts in this dead tree booklet (OK, recycled dead tree ) that ain't going to happen any time soon. Only Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Spain have a worse record of disease clearance. The UK (GB) trend over the period 1999- 2004 is unique in the Community, described as 'Increasing steadily'. Something else for the contributers and editors of this book to be proud of?

Other contributers from the circle of Tb beneficiaries, offer their thoughts on the Intradermal skin test (good world wide tool - yup we knew that) the value of NVL reactors ; not 'false positives' but animals picked up early in the disease transmission cycle (yup- it was useful, but Lelystad tuberclin has stuffed that) and wildlife interface in other countries. Been there as well.

But there is nothing in this booklet about the disease in badgers. Nothing to show the extraordinary suffering, starvation and suppurating abcesses that these creatures are enduring - and spreading to cattle and onwards and upwards into other species. And absolutely nothing about which Ms. Linda Smith and her team should be in the least bit 'proud'.
Those with a strong constitution may view the evidence of abandoning the problem of bTb in badgers at: (Warning: This picture should offend)

Another glossy booklet and a new committee is not a solution to the problem of bTb, which after twenty years of prevarication is now "endemic" in the UK's badgers and producing an "epidemic" in the sentinel cattle. (thankyou Ben) This gaggle of bTb beneficiaries - including Ms. Smith and her editorial team - are the problem. They should hang their heads in shame.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

More on the EU Animal compensation cut...

After our posting below, which sketched out Commission proposals to change the rates of animal disease compensation payable to reporting farmers in member states, more from that document has surfaced - although we expect it to be of little use to UK farmers. Defra - formerly MAFF in a new jacket - have a history of making things more complicated for, or of less value to their so-called 'partners' - or any other member of the European club for that matter.

The Commission proposals limit animal disease compensation paid by all member states to 75% of market value (80% in LFAs, Less Favoured Areas) and then only to businesses able to substantiate a 30 percent loss. And any compensation would be limited to 'small or medium sized' enterprises.

But hidden in the depths of the paperwork is an option to offset 'consequential losses'.

These occur when farms are put under a 'restriction notice by Defra, and can be as expensive and onerous as the death of the individual candidate animal(s). The farm cannot trade at all, except for direct slaughter, or, in rare circumstances and with Defra's permission, to another holding of the same status. That means a standstill on all breeding stock sales, store stock and calf sales. Only finished beef animals and cull cattle can move, and then direct to abattoir or via dedicated collection centres.

As we have pointed out before, the accumulation of extra stock numbers may cause problems with pressure on feed and housing, and with tuberculosis restriction, the testing of all cattle every 60 days for years at a time, is time consuming and stressful both to men and beasts.

But within the EU package - and we are not defending it in any way ( see on our sister site; ) is a section on such 'consequential losses'. Although member states would be limited to paying only threequarters of market value on an individual animal, and then only in a breakdown which involved a 30 per cent loss to the business concerned, a further 75 percent of cash could be available for 'consequential losses' of the disease.

Defra however, is indicating 'shock horror', and that it has no intention of taking advantage of this option, stating: "Current UK policy is that we do not pay for consequential losses".

More here:

The whole point of this debacle, with the greatest respect to Defra and its numerous spokesmen (and women of course) is that Defra have very little choice in the matter anyway. That competance has been signed away to the unelected and nebulous 'Commission', who in our humble opinion have got this particular rule change totally, recklessly and dangerously - wrong.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Copy Cats...

In our posting : , we described some of the measures undertaken by the Irish, against cattle / cattle spread of Tb during what was known as the 'Downie' era in an effort to circumvent the tb problem - without encroaching into the disease in badgers. Exactly mirroring the contortions, prevarications and general arrogance of our own dear Defra - twenty years later. And with the same result of course.

A snippet of information to build on that has come in from a farmer who has a better memory for these things than we do, about the effect of this water-treading on the veterinary profession as well. In the postings discussing Lelystadt tuberculin, Defra's smokescreen was 'veterinary practise' about which the CVO issued a report. But if the SVS and LVI vets conducted cattle tb tests on several hundred cattle, in the way in which they were supposed to - and able to - on ten, then all these clerical 'technical errors' (primarily concerned with who writes eartag numbers down, and who measures with calipers the skin thickness on day one etc.,) would double the time taken to conduct the test.

And this, we are told, happened in Ireland during the late 1980's. In a broadside aimed at its practising vets, the Irish Ministry of Agriculture at the time issued instructions not dissimilar from our own Debbie Reynold's 'retraining' manual. The result being of course, that a Tb test would take twice as long, and up with which the Irish vets would not put. Well, not for the same money anyway. They went on strike. And for a period of time, variously described to us as 18 months to two years, no cattle were tested at all.

Defra seems to have a nasty habit of repeating vacuous efforts of the past, while ignoring anything of note (PCR) which may drive targeted detection of bTb nearer. But I wonder what our own veterinary profession's reaction will be, when after its 'refresher course' in Tb testing, it realises that it is expected to do twice the (clerical) work - for effectively half the money?

Any bets on it being the same as the Irish vets of the 1980's?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Compensation - all change again?

Compensation for animal diseases is set to change dramatically as of January 1st 2007 - and as far as we can see, there is little the UK government can do about it, even if it wanted to.

Out to tender from Sept. 8th, but with a closing date of September 17th, is the following 'consultation paper', which has been forwarded by the moderators of

Proposed EC changes to slaughter compensation
Defra has informed participants at their recent FMD, CSF and Avian Influenza Stakeholder meetings that the EC is proposing changes to the state aids regulations for agriculture. We urge you to read and discuss with others these proposed changes as they would appear to have serious consequences for livestock keepers and could constitute an unacceptable disincentive to reporting of suspicious signs.

Note that the consultation deadline is 17 September 2006, and that the changes are currently due to come into force on 1 January 2007 . This matter deserves wide public dissemination.

Please do send your comments directly to the EC at the address below (email:, and we invite you to comment and discuss these issues on our CA Forum and include your submission to the EC if you wish. We also invite comments on the role of Member States.
According to Defra: “State aid is Commission competence. This means that the Commission has been given the power by Member States to decide which forms of aid are to be allowed and under which conditions. There are therefore no negotiations or vote on these issues – the Commission will decide having listened to the views of the Member States and those with an interest.”

Extracts from a Defra email to stakeholders dated 8 September 2006: “We have just been made aware that they are holding a public consultation period which ends on the 17 September. Comments can be sent to the following address/fax/email. European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture, Unit H.2, Office Loi 130 05/126, B-1049 Brussels, Fax (32-2) 296 76 72, E-mail:
These changes are currently due to come into force on 1 January 2006 [correction: 1 January 2007] and would have the following implications:

* Limit aid to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
* Limit compensation payments for animals
slaughtered to 75% of their market value (80% in less favoured areas (LFAs)
* Limit compensation for animals slaughtered to
outbreaks of disease which result in a 30% production loss on the holding concerned.

Article 10 contains the relevant information on 'Aid in respect of animal and plant diseases and pest infestations'.”

The briefing document sent by Defra is available on the CA Forum at :
Extracts from this document: "As the Community Animal Health Policy is currently under review we are questioning whether it is appropriate to introduce quickly a temporary new policy at this moment in time. State aid is Commission competence. This means that the Commission has been given the power by Member States to decide which forms of aid are to be allowed and under which conditions. There are therefore no negotiations or vote on these issues – the Commission will decide having listened to the views of the Member States and those with an interest. The Commission is likely to launch a public consultation on the Block Exemption Regulation shortly. There will then be a further consultation of the Member States in the autumn. We have previously circulated the links to the relevant documents, but they are attached again for ease. The Block Exemption Regulation can be found on the Commission website at:

The Article 10 on page 14 is the relevant section. The proposed revised guidelines are also attached, the animal diseases section begins at paragraph 121 on page 30.” The document with the proposed revised guidelines that Defra sent to stakeholders has only 24 pages, so we ask Defra to please post this information with the correct page and paragraph reference on the Defra website.
From: Mary Marshall, Member, Defra’s FMD, CSF and Avian Influenza stakeholder groups

The extent to which the UK has lost control - or rather its elected representatives have given or bartered it away - is quite clear, when this 'consultation' is taken in the context of previous EU legislation already in statute.

We understand that new guidelines, described as "the strengthened partnership with national parliaments", were announced by the Commission on May 10th, and endorsed by EU at the June summit. From September 11th. 2006, all the Commission's new legislative proposals and consultation papers will be sent by e-mail, to national parliaments for 'comment'.

But this 'partnership' is in name only, in that national parliaments and their elected MPs, have the right to receive the Commission proposals directly, but not the formal right to oppose them.

Margot Wallstrom, Vice-President of the European Commission is quoted as saying" A greater voice for Parliaments is a greater voice for Europe's citizens". Which is all well and good, but does not mean that the commission is under any obligation whatsoever to follow up on any 'opinions and comments' which it receives. As the Commisssion says " The procedure does not change existing legislative procedures forseen by the Treaties".

For more on the background to how our decision making process has been culled, see our sister site;

So dear old Defra in a spin over this, we understand. They seem unable or unaware of just how to operate the EU's instructions on animal compensation due to be introduced on January 1st 2007, and are presently trying to interpret how the key elements which will affect UK farmers. In particular how they define:

* Limit aid to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
* Limit compensation payments for animals slaughtered to 75% of the market value (80% in less favoured areas (LFAs)
* Limit compensation for animals slaughtered to outbreaks of disease which result in a 30% production loss on the holding concerned

And they have just one week in which to - say anything at all to the Commission, having presumably agreed to this procedure at the June summit. How this will pan out with Tb compensation is anybody's guess. Defra haven't a clue, so why should we?

So from a professional 'valuation' procedure, we have been shafted onto a 'one size fits none' tabular chart - with little chance of obtaining insurance to prop up pedigree values. And now our lords and masters in Brussels are preparing to ratchet 'values' down again. From what we can see in some instances, to perhaps nothing at all. And all in a year..........

This is not helpful in the due process of disease control. For that, full co operation with the owners of affected livestock is crucial. If they feel that they cannot 'afford' to report a suspect animal, then they will not. Long term, that has huge implications for any disease control programme - particularly zoonoses like tuberculosis. Perhaps we should have entitled this posting 'Cheques and Balances'. More in Farmers Guardian today.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

'Cream' is the new 'Fern'.

In a squabble which echoes the case of Devon farmer Sheilagh Kremers and her Dexter calf Fern, a Cornish beef farmer from Looe, is challenging defra over his 'Cream'.

This time the animal is a twelve year old beef cow, whose Tb test was positive. Owner Mr. Arthur however is refusing to let her go for slaughter, claiming the test was not carried out properly. He has banned Defra from his land, meaning that the cow cannot be valued (at approx. £680) collected and slaughtered. However, SVS has in this case, refused to retest the 12 year old cross bred beef cow and stand behind the veterinary surgeon who conducted the test.

Quoted in the Western Morning News, Mr. Arthur said: "I am demanding that she is given a retest to give her the benefit of the doubt. I don't believe she is carrying the disease and I'm willing to carry this through."

But a spokesman for Defra replied: "We are aware of a case in Cornwall where a farmer has disputed the way in which a TB test was carried out on his premises.The State Veterinary Service has spoken to the local veterinary inspector who performed the test and are content that it was performed satisfactorily. A request for a retest has been refused as there is no reason to suppose that there was any fault or problem with the first test.The purpose of TB testing is, of course, to prevent the spread of the disease in cattle and this is why it is imperative that an animal which has tested positive is slaughtered."

When an animal is found to be reactor to the intradermal skin test, the vet who has conducted the test immediately serves a 'standstill' notice on the farm. No animals can be traded at all, except for direct slaughter until the whole herd tests clear at least once. And this is now the position of Mr. Arthur. He can sell nothing at all until 'Cream' is slaughtered, and, depending on the post mortem results, all his cattle have had at least one clear test. If the reactor cow (Cream) has lesions, or samples from her prove 'culture positive' then he will need two tests at 60 day intervals to get his herd clear again. Assuming there are no more reactors lurking he is looking at a standstill of at least two months from when 'Cream' leaves the farm, and possibly four. And the longer she stays, the longer this beef farmer will be unable to trade any of his stock. And the longer he will have no income.

Unlike Mrs. Kremer's Dexter calf, which was part of a much loved ' hobby' herd, Mr. Arthur is a beef farmer with over a hundred cattle. He needs to sell cattle for his living, and with a standstill on his herd, this he cannot do. His protest to Defra is therefore very different, and from all directions both trade and other income, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affiars have him over a proverbial barrel.

the Western morning News article quotes 'farmers' (they didn't ask us) as suggesting that the intrdermal skin test is "not 100 percent accurate". In fact on the back of the Kremer's case, Defra sent a few clerks out with both SVS and LVI vets to see if 'I's were being dotted and 'Ts' crossed. And shock, horror they were not. Nothing to do with the actual physical jabbing you understand, but 'vets were not filling out eartag numbers', and 'vets were not putting 5 digit Lelystadt batch numbers into 3 box batch codes, so that they could be read'.

As far as your contributers are concerned, they have utmost faith in the skin test, particularly as a herd test, as in the case of Mr. Arthur. And also its veterinary practitioners. Used around the globe, either with or without a comparable avian jab, this test is the primary tool for diagnosis of exposure to tb bacterium. Not full blown disease, but exposure to the bacteria. And as we have said many times, and as PQ's confirmed, in the absence of a wildlife reservoir, it is the only tool that is necessary.

If of course a country is daft enough to let Tb establish and flourish within a wildlife reservoir, then nothing is going to eradicate it. Not intradermal skin tests, gamma interferon, PCR or the man in the moon.

In this case, Defra cannot afford another 'Fern', and Mr. Arthur cannot afford a prolonged standstill of his business. 'Cream' has to go.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"My trial is good science......"

.....and the critics are wrong. In this weeks’ farming press, John Bourne hits back at his critics - or if you prefer, throws his teddies out of the ISG pram. In an interview with Alistair Driver, for Farmers Guardian, he blamed pressure from politicians in general and the Minister in particular, for causing ‘confusion’ over his trial - or to be more precise, his first and only years’ results published so far.

Calling the Minister’s "Consultation on Badger Culling", a complete waste of time, Professor Bourne said that things had been "rushed through to meet a timetable but we couldn’t do it in the timescale we were working to". As a result, the document made "many inaccurate statements. For example two of the proposals for taking badgers out were shown in our trials to make the situation worse".

Professor Bourne said that the 20 – 60% culling efficiency figure presented in the Defra consultation document was "wrong, absolutely and categorically wrong". (What was it then, less than 20%? Sheeesh) He continued, having hurled a few more toys, " It was only based on an assessment after the first cull, but that was never made clear".

Errr. Yes. But having heard all the world and his dog speak on this subject, did we really miss the strident voice of the diminutive John Bourne announcing that this set of tortured data, presented in autumn 2005 - SEVEN years after the trial started - only made up his first year’s results, should not be relied upon, and was inaccurate in its conclusions anyway? No. I thought not. Neither did he stamp his foot at those politicians / un-civil servants allegedly pressurising him, as he has done so many times in the past with us lesser mortals. ‘Sound science’ can not be subject to the sort of meddling – unless of course its result is an excuse for more prevarication by its paymaster. That Bourne is a paper shield for Defra’s continuing intransigence is unequivocal. That the good Professor has yet to realise this, is more worrying.

Professor Bourne categorically denied that he was against badger culling saying: " What I am against is culling that is not effective, and makes the situation worse". Aren't we all.

Full report:

Alongside Professor Bourne’s spirited defence of his trial, is the sorry tale of one farmer, unfortunate enough to be in the middle of it. Describing how, after a ‘hit and run’ visit by the Krebs team in June 2000, this North Cornish dairy farm, housing a closed herd of pedigree cattle became a mecca for badgers and endured a Tb breakdown lasting almost 5 years, farmer Pat Bird is less than sympathetic to Professor Bourne’s indignation.
As the tests on this farm, and its neighbours, continued with 60 day depressing regularity and the mound of dead cattle grew, Bourne’s ‘Reactive’ culling team, charged with clearing out badgers in response to a breakdown, failed to turn up at all. No wonder the Reactive figures were shown to ‘increase tb’. Well they would, wouldn’t they if the Krebs lot didn't come? As her farm became laced with badger trials, Mrs. Bird describes Bourne’s trial as a ‘death sentence’ for her cattle, and suggests it could be renamed ‘Badger Dispersal Trial’.

Full article:

And farmers are not the only people with first hand knowledge of the ‘rigorous and robust’ work, done by the Krebs team, now so vigourously and indignantly defended by Professor Bourne. We covered in the post comments from Paul Caruana, a Senior Manager of the trial's Wildlife teams who said " The whole basis of Krebs was to remove badgers off the ground. For the first four years, that effort was farcical, due to restrictions placed upon us. The trial had too many flaws in it to be trusted to produce meaningful evidence. How much weight do we give the latest ISG report, detailing their ‘robust’ findings to the minister? If it were down to me and my staff, very little".

With vets, his Wildlife teams and now participating farmers saying how weak this ‘trial' was, Professor Bourne must be feeling a tad lonely out there.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Latest stats

Defra have published their latest statistics for Tb incidence, available for a short time at:

This link will only connect to Jan - July as long as these figures remain. When Jan - Aug are posted, the link will show the updated statistics.

Briefly, the upward trend continues, or the downward trend has not been maintained - depending on your point of view.

Our analysis so far:

The Jan - March figure which caused all the fuss, showed a drop of almost 30 percent in New Herd Incidents (NHI), but herds under restriction was steady at only 1 percent down on 2005, and this as a percentage of herds registered, was slightly up at 3.65 percent. Cattle slaughtered were down 35 percent and slaughterhouse cases (as reported) was up 75 percent.

Jan - April : a drop of 27 percent in NHI but herds under restriction down just 3.5 percent, which as a percentage of herds registered on Vetnet was down very slightly. Cattle slaughtered still showed a 36 percent drop on 2005, and slaughterhouse cases we were unable to tabulate the change (typo)

Jan - May, the pattern was the same: A drop of 20 percent in NHI (so rising again) herds under restriction down just 1.7 percent, and this as a percentage of herds on Vet net up. Now at 4.33 percent. Cattle slaughtered still showing a 32 percent fall, and slaughterhouse reports up 50 percent.

Jan - June. A 'drop' of 18.7 percent in NHI, but herds under restriction down just 1.9 percent. This figure as a percentage of herds registered, slightly up, and cattle slaughtered still a third lower than 2005, with reports from slaughterhouses up 35 percent.

And the current figures continue this pattern:
Jan - July. The 'drop' in NHI has now reduced to 14 percent lower than 2005, and Defra are no longer flagging it up. Herds under Tb restriction remain slightly below last year at just 0.4 lower, and this as a percentage of registered herds is now 4.82 compared with 4.73 in 2005. Cattle slaughtered are still a third less than last year - 32 percent lower, while cases reported by MHS from slaughterhouses is up 36 percent.

For the record ( and members Her Majesty's Opposition, should they care to look before offering their opinions to the press in a burst of opportunist, lightweight spin (see post below)}:
391,822 more cattle were tested during this period, and 4,500 more herds than in 2005 - an increase of almost 17 percent.

Nothing we have seen from these figures, can we interpret as a substantial drop in bTb. The one 'constant' is the drop in numbers of cattle slaughtered, which are consistantly one third lower than last year, in every period from March. So we stick with the opinion that the Dutch Lelystadt tuberculin, while not a substandard product, is different from the UK produced antigen. And the more we scan the CVO's statement on it, the more we see that all the dots are in fact joined. The statement comments on the numbers of VL animals between the two products thus:

"The comparison of the tuberculin data, indicates to date that a proportion of VL animals [ ] differs significantly between Weybridge and Dutch PPD batches, with the Weybridge results having a smaller % of VLs.

The authors say that there are two ways of interpreting this, but conclude that the following is most likely:

"The sensitivety of the combined Dutch PPDs is less, because of failing to pick up NVLs (animals which could be in the early stages of disease) which may or may not be confirmed with culture, to the same extent as Weybridge PPDs. This would result in underdetection of cases, resulting in a transient decline in cases reported, despite there being no true decline in cases."

Precisely. The incidence of bTb is not dropping significantly, but the incidence of its detection, especially in the early pre visible lesion stages, is.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I wish.............

.... that before politicians opened their mouths, they would put their respective brain cell into gear. This week, Shadow Minister for the Conservative party, Peter Ainsworth MP joined a sorry crew of misinformed meddlers, by suggesting that Defra had skewed its own Tb stats, by deliberately delaying tests and test results.

The story was reported in Westcountry newspaper, Western Morning News thus:


"Did the Government deliberately slow down bovine TB testing in the South West to manicure the figures and make it look as though the problem was going away? That was the question posed to farmers by Shadow Defra Secretary of State Peter Ainsworth when he toured Devon and Somerset last week.
With the unexplained dramatic fall in the number of cattle returned as positive reactors to the TB test, he asked farmers how they thought it had happened. Had slowing down the number of tests and increasing the length of time it took for results to be made known simply been a cynical ploy to reduce statistics and thus head off a cull of diseased badgers, he asked.

Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw had ruled out a cull this year on the back of the latest statistics - thus retaining support from the animal rights lobby."Is it a fiddle of the statistics?" asked Mr Ainsworth, whose East Surrey constituency is not affected by diseased badgers.

Farmers agreed that in the Westcountry the testing campaign had certainly been getting slower - and receiving the results back was now very slow indeed, they said."TB had been virtually eradicated from farming, but because of what is happening with wildlife it's back with a vengeance," said Rob Mortimer, who hosted one of Mr Ainsworth's visits. "Something must be done quickly, as it is now accepted that it's being transmitted through wildlife."

Defra's comment on Mr. Ainsworth's inane jibe, with which we agree, was to point out that in fact 16% more cattle were tested in the current year nationally, than in 2005. But the figures are there for anyone with half a brain to look at. The main drop in Tb incidents (or detection of incidents, depending on one's point of view) was for Jan - March, peaking at almost 30% less than 2005, so if the Right Honourable Member for East Surrey is correct, less cattle should have been tested during that period. About 30% less? He's wrong. Lightweight, inane, out of his depth, ill prepared and an embarassment. And wrong.

In 2005 Jan - March in the West region, (from where he was 'campaigning') there were 7,121 herd tests involving 862,020 cattle.
Compare this to Jan - March 2006, when the Shadow Minister impliedthat "deliberate slowing down of tests had manicured the figures", vets carried out 7,230 herd tests involving 913,419 cattle. So in that period, which saw the biggest drop in incidence, SVS actually tested 51,419 more cattle and 119 more herds than in 2005. Hardly a drop in cattle tested then? Or herds?

Nationally in 2005 Jan - March there were 15,390 herd tests and 1,649,543 cattle tested and in 2006, as Defra's spokesman correctly pointed out, 17,385 herd tests and 1,807,805 cattle tested. Not a drop in testing then, 'manicured' or otherwise.

And Her Majesty's Opposition get paid for purveying this sort of rubbish? Playing to the gallery may sound good, but this industry deserves better than cheap soundbites, dreamed up 2 minutes before the press arrive.