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?