Monday, January 29, 2007


…………… or in other words, the adroit circular movements of both the RSPCA and the Badger Trust with regard to farming data in general, and animal movements in particular. All 14 million of them, which, despite having the correct interpretation placed in his sticky paw, media adviser to the Badger Trust, Trevor Lawson insists on misunderstanding.

In order that the facts are clear to all – and that includes Mr. Lawson – your contributors have obtained the interpretation of movement data direct from BCMS (British Cattle Movement Service) and we print this below.

"We do require an ON and OFF movement for each animal when it is moved and both these movements are counted in the total number of movements. So the movement of an animal from farm A (off movement) to B (on movement) is counted as two movements in the total movements of cattle in the UK. If that animal goes through a livestock market it would be four movements "off" farm "on" market "off" market "on" farm or abattoir, and the movement from farm direct to an abattoir would also be two movements one "off" farm and one "on" to the abattoir."

So BCMS require two matching movements of data for each actual bovine trip, and if the animal moves via a market, then four are required. So how many were there?
For sure there were 14 million movements of DATA in 2005, but these comprised both ‘On’ and matching ‘Off’ movements, and also movements to dead end hosts – abattoirs, and visits to shows, exhibitions etc.

The figure BCMS have given us for total movements of data, both ‘On’ and ‘Off’ and including all destinations in 2005 is 14,661,407.

However the breakdown of this much quoted misinterpretation is:
Movements ‘ON’ to FARMS 2,718,599
Movements ‘ON’ to markets 1,999,974
Movements ‘ON’ to abattoirs 2,503,059
Other destinations ............ 59,251

A total of 7,280,883 ‘ON’ movements of which just 2,718,599 were ‘ON’ to farms.

BCMS also confirmed that of these 2.7 million movements (NOT 14 million Trevor) a number were made by calves under 42 days, which Defra say pose little or no risk.

"… around 401,000 calves under 42 days of age moved farms in 2005."

So the total live cattle moving ‘On’ to farms in 2005 was 2,317,599 – not including those young calves.

But what did the Badger Trust make of that information? And what is still being peddled to a gullible media? (see post below) This is from the Badger Trust website....

BADGER TRUST ; News Release 16TH February 2006.

Trevor Lawson, media advisor to the Badger Trust, commented:
"This decision demonstrates a shocking lack of courage on the part of Government. It means that around 1.3 million additional cattle movements will occur without pre-movement testing [2], spreading the infection even wider, …."

For further information, contact Trevor Lawson on 01494 794961 or 07976 262388.

And how did our Trevor arrive at that figure?

In the Notes to Editors is the following:

"Each year, the British Cattle Movement Service logs approximately 14 million cattle movements. Spread evenly throughout the year, this equates to approximately 1.3 million movements over five weeks.

The deliberate misinterpretation of this data is the worst type of ‘spin’ - but it is compounded by the diminutive John Bourne, whose address at the last ISG meeting carried the same totally misleading message. The minutes of that meeting however proved that Professor Bourne does indeed have friends in high places, who may understand the data - even if he does not. Reference to '14 million animal movements', heard by his audience at least twice in his address, was completely wiped. Well, well, well.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Trust in 'The Trust'?

Last week, one of our contributers bought a copy of weekly rural glossy 'Country Life'. This contained a lightweight piece on badgers and bTb written by freelance 'journalist', David Tomlinson. Now, the easiest way to produce copy, is to take swathes of scribe from somebody else - and to protect the 'author', ascribe anything controversial or even downright wrong, in their names. And so it is in this piece.

Much space is given to Trevor Lawson of the Badger Trust, who is attributed with the following:

"The Badger Trust estimates that [a culling programme] would result in a third of Britain's badgers being killed, a great many of them healthy individuals".

Not if PCR technology was used to identify infected setts Trevor. See our posting below.

And this little gem " According to the Trust, TB is spread by 14 million animal movements of cattle in Britian each year.."

Now this is really bad. Over a year ago, Trevor Lawson was told (and had, we understand, the paperwork placed in his sticky paw to prove the point) that the 14 million esposed by the diminutive John Bourne et al, mantra faithfully repeated by the Trust, was a movement of DATA - not hooves. What bit of 'On' and 'Off' = 2 movements, to each staging post, including markets( = 4 movements) and abattoirs did he not understand?

The figure for movements of live cattle ON to other farms is (or was in 2005) 2.7 million, including 401,000 very young calves under 42 days. So, around 2.2 million. Not 14 million at all. But it makes good copy, and lazy journalists obviously don't check. It is far easier to repeat dogma, than to 'investigate'.

And Bradshaw's "80 percent of Tb cases are spread from cattle to cattle" came up again, with no clarification of its context. These were the very few infected cattle which spiked short outbreaks in Cumbria after FMD restocks - all found, slaughtered and sorted. No, it should not have happened. With post movement tests which this site favours it would not have and Defra's testing programme for 'new and re formed herds' will prevent it happening again.

Then our Trevor endeared himself to his members by reiterating that cattle are giving Tb to badgers, "so it makes sense to focus on the cattle". That sounds good, and Defra are listening. Unfortunately with ears firmly shut, especially to experience of the past when the 'Downie Era ' in the Republic of Ireland did precisely this but with a burgeoning wildlife reservoir, failed totally to control bTb. Likewise a Cornish DVO in the 70's invented the word 'cohort', slaughtered many hundreds of cattle, implemented pre and post movement testing but totally failed to make a dent in the wildlife-borne infection cycle.

"Government received 47,000 responses from the public about the proposed badger cull - 96 per cent against it."
No mention there of the Advertising Standards Agency's damning censorship of this campaign. "Unsubstantiated and untruthful", the ASA found, but those words are missing from this piece.

The red corner is defended by the NFU and this in itself is 'unfortunate'.
Why not a vet? Especially a bTb expert ; someone from the State Veterinary Service for example, with years of experience under his or her belt - and also years of seeing first hand the devastating results of various political interventions and prevarications in a serious zoonotic disease prevention situation.

Why no 'google' into Bovine Tb, and all the parliamentary questions which form the basis of this site? A wildly out of date figure for badger numbers, (privately now thought to exceed 1 million) but no mention of the infectious load carried by a badger suffering the latter stages of bTb. This can be up to 300,000 units of bacteria in just 1 ml of urine. And that skittered across grassland and feed troughs at the rate of 30 ml in each void. And just 70 ml needed to provoke a 'positive' skin reaction in a cow. Not a squeak about that transmission opportunity.

No mention of the RBCT badger dispersal excercise, as described so devastatingly (and all in the public domain ) by Paul Caruana, one of its field managers.

No mention of the Thornbury exercise, where a complete clearance of badgers over several months was followed by a total clearance for 12 years of cattle Tb in the area. And the badger numbers recovered to their pre cull numbers. No other contemporous reason for this was found, other than the clearance of infected badgers, confirmed parliamentary questions.

And absolutely no mention of the diagnostics of PCR, which would answer many of the publication's readers' more anthropomorphic sensibilities.

And no mention of course, of the many herds who are under continuous bTb restriction, or who have had to give up cattle farming altogether but who have no bought in cattle or cattle to cattle contact. That would spoil a very good myth.

All in all, a very lazy and lightweight piece; Trevor Lawson managed to cover his badgers in inaccurate misleading propaganda while the villain of the piece, a highly infectious zoonotic bacteria lives on to kill more cattle and many more badgers, cats, dogs, free range pigs, alpacas ....... and human beings?

We are considering ....

.. the situation, said Mr. Bradshaw. Our Ben, baby Ben, junior Minister of animal welfare - well some animals anyway. This in reply to a parliamentary question posed by Jim Paice, his shadow minister and referrring to rt-PCR technology and the identification of bTb in badger setts, so successfully trialled last year... but now languishing it would appear, in 'somebody's in tray..

We have mentioned PCR many times on this site, not least to remind readers that such a magic box was offered on March 12th. 2001, by the late Fred Brown who had developed the American version, to detect with certainty the presence of FMD in cattle herds. Government turned it down in favour of the infamous 'carnage by computer' with led to the deaths, quite unecessarily in our opinion, of up to 12 million animals.

But things have moved on and we now a choice of magic boxes, some British (Enigma Diagnostics is one) some still in need of laboratory diagnosis but some described as 'real time' and giving results in the field in minutes - even when used by soldiers - or vets. Commercially the technology is now widespread in hospitals across the country, and offered by animal health screeners as an option in animal disease diagnostics.

Last year, Warwick University trialled the technology in the environment and in particular screened badger setts and latrines for bTb, precisely to avoid the mass wipe out so beloved of Defra (and John Bourne) and so emotionally fuelled by their incessant use of the 'E' word .... exterminate, exterminate exterminate. Like pre programmed Daleks, it keeps coming.

And our Trevor, Mr. Lawson has repeated the mantra, speaking of 'wiping out a third of the badgers in the country' in a recent glossy publication (which we will explore later, as he is also attributed with that '14 million animal movements' - again. Sheeesh. I thought we'd squashed that one)

We are most grateful to the ever vigilant for the following posting;

"James Paice asked yesterday when DEFRA "expects to undertake research on the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction technology to detect M. bovis in badger setts"[110858]

Unfortunately, Mr Bradshaw chose not to answer the actual question asked so we do not know when - or even if - scientific evaluation will follow up the Warwick work, reported on in March 2006. Dr Orin Courtenay from the University of Warwick's department of Biological Sciences said in the university department press release that the team did not advocate culling badgers to control bovine TB, particularly in light of the scientific results emerging from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial but that if the government did continue to cull badgers, culling should at least be targeted at diseased and infectious animals. Untargeted culling kills healthy and uninfected animals.

"With some further scientific evaluation, a "sett test" based on state-of-the-art molecular technology could provide a tool towards achieving this aim," he said.

Mr Paice's question was evidently asking about progress on this further scientific evaluation. It seems evident, from Mr Bradshaw's answer, that in the past year, DEFRA has done nothing more than "consider" proposals towards bringing forward a technology that is so vitally needed in Britain.

Why are we not surprised?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

November stats.

For a short time only, Defra have posted the Tb statistics for January - November 2006.

Defra describe the results thus:

"There has been a provisional 7% reduction in the number of new bTB incidents in Great Britain in January to November 2006 compared to the same period in 2005. There was a considerable drop in the number of new incidents in the first four months of 2006 compared to 2005. However, since May the number of new TB incidents reported in 2006 was slightly up on 2005. As a result, the percentage decrease in new incidents reported in previous months has now reduced" .

From March, when the drop in New Herd breakdowns was almost 30 percent, the fall (and thus increase) in bTb incidence has reduced and now stands at 7.2 per cent lower than in 2005 at the same time.

We have tracked these results with a great deal of scepticism, and reported our thoughts regularly. The immediate candidate for the fall was the substitution from September 2005 of our own UK produced 'Weybridge' tuberculin antigen with a product made by Lelystatd in Holland, which although a similar product, was found in the CVO's report to have given "a small but statistically significant difference" in performance. Annex C of the same report described the difference thus:

"The sensitivety of the combined dutch PPD is less because of failing to pick up NVLs ( animals which could be in the early stage of disease)... [ ] This would result in underdetection of cases, resulting in a transient decline in cases reported, despite there being no true decline in cases."
We covered this at

At the time of the CVO's report, the authors, despite blaming their veterinary practitioners for jabbing the cattle in the wrong way (Have they all been retrained? All of them? Really? Wow..) leant towards this explanantion, but is it the whole story? For figures to be comparable, the root raw data must be from the same source, and in this case it is not.

Data in the past has been drawn solely from routine tuberculin skin tests. For sure, as bTb increased, so did the skin tests as more and more parishes fell under annual regimes.
And over the last two years, Defra has come down hard on the cattle side of bTb - short of the obvious of course, and that means testing annually every herd in the country, but let that pass.

Parish testing intervals have been extended outwards, drawing more farms into more regular testing, but also farmers' own pre movement testing results will build into these figures, giving a further increase in herds and cattle tested which was not in the data from 2005 or prior to that. Defra are compunding this increase with a 'hypothetical drop' of around 23 percent in bTb, given the increase in testing. Into this mish mash of figures add gamma interferon, now in use in all areas but under different circumstances, and the picture is even more muddled.

It is our understanding that in areas of annual and two year testing, a third time IR skin tested would only result in around 15 percent failure rate. But those animals now get no third chance; after two Inconclusive tests, gamma interferon is routinely used. And it is giving a failure rate of 50 percent. For what reason we can only repeat previous info. That this diagnostic test is different, picking up antibodies to bTb in the animal's blood and that it is much less 'specific' than the comparative skin test. We understand that it is confusing, amongst other things paratuberculosis (Johnes disease) which may or may not be a good thing - but when lumped together in a bTb statistical context, is misleading. Many will argue, probably quite rightly, that in a hot spot situation, many cattle will have had a small exposure to m bovis, and thus need a higher exposure to provoke either the disease itself, or a skin reaction to it. But Gamma interferon will take out exactly those animals who have acquired this degree of immunity. For more see:

And then there is the weather. Blazing hot sunshine - with associated ultra violet - is the single most lethal influence on m.bovis. And we've had two consecutive summers, where its survival on grassland has been severly curtailed- to the benefit of any grazing cattle who may encounter it. The downside of the heat and the hard packed ground, is hungry badgers, foraging this summer, we hear, in farm buildings. The results of which will only show up in cattle tests this winter and into the spring.

But we are aware that with all these different data streams into the statistics, it is very difficult to compare. So we will concentrate on the figure which draws the attention of our trading partners. Bearing in mind that to achieve OIE 'Tb free' trading status, the number of herds under Tb restriction in a given period must be less than 0.02 per cent of herds registered on the country's database, the only thing we see, is that headline figure of GB herds under bTb restriction as a percentage of herds registered on Vetnet, is UP.

To November this appalling figure stands at 6.10 percent. An increase of 0.2 on last year.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

They cannot be serious.....

It is difficult to find words to describe our reaction to today's headline in West Country newspaper, Western Morning News. Many times over the last couple of years, we have described the relocation of badgers - for whatever reason - as 'Tb takeaways'. This mainly because of the total ineffectiveness of the so called 'Brock' blood test, sometimes, but not always, used to identify lurking tb which although fairly good on a positive result, is only 40 per cent accurate on a negative.

We have also written of the dire results of Pauline Kidner's release policy from 'Secret World', in Somerset, where young badgers were chewed up by the indigenous brocks, resulting in Ms. Kidner releasing them elsewhere. Your place or mine? See:

The RSPCA, that veritable bastion of truth and guardian of all things four legged and furry- except cattle - which was found earlier this year to have used 'unsubstantiated and untruthful' ( )information to garner support for its 'Back off Badgers' campaign ( have done just that. Released a group of badgers in a Tb hotspot.

Read where at:

Local farmers seeing vehicles parked up with long antennae, were told that badgers had been released and these operatives were 'tracking them'. They didn't stay put on the few square yards of land authorised by the land owner then? Of course they didn't. They would be disorientated and a certain target for the nearest group to fight with. That's what territorial scrapping is all about. And that spreads Tb.

The more polite among us would say the RSPCA's action was misguided and unwise. Those of us on the receiving end of the Tb problem may be less charitable. Try ... recklessly bloody stupid. And who issued the goddam license ?