The following comment appeared on the site, after our posting "Survey after survey..." which we quote in full:
The Badger Trust has welcomed the admission by animal health and welfare Minister, Ben Bradshaw, that a cull of "sick" badgers is impossible.
Speaking in yesterday's debate on the dairy industry , Mr Bradshaw said:
"We are well aware that TB is a difficult problem. However, we also want to be careful to ensure that any decision on badger culling is guided by the science. We do not want to initiate any sort of action that could be counter-productive.
"As he [Mr Geoffrey Cox, Conservative, Torridge and West Devon] well knows, one of the things that all the science says is that a piecemeal, patchy culling regime for badgers could make matters worse. One of the other myths that a number of people still repeat and that it is worth exploding while we are on the subject is that it would be possible to have a cull of sick badgers. That is not possible. One cannot tell whether a live badger has TB. One can tell only through a blood test. Any badger cull would have to include healthy badgers, as well as sick badgers."
Responding, Trevor Lawson, public affairs advisor to the Badger Trust, said:
"The vast majority of badgers, even in bovine TB hotspots, are not infected with bovine TB. Of the minority that are infected, most are not even 'sick' - long term studies at Woodchester Park show that most badgers with bovine TB show no adverse symptoms and go on to live and breed normally for many years. Bovine TB is not even an important cause of death in badgers .
"Mr Bradshaw's admission that countless healthy badgers would be slaughtered in a badger killing strategy is welcome. It explodes the myth, repeated by the farming lobby, that only sick badgers would be killed whilst healthy badgers would be protected . The grim reality is that a badger cull would be a grotesque slaughter on a massive scale that will irrevocably damage public support for farmers."
1. See Hansard, 8 March 2007, Column 1657.
2. Cheeseman, C., 16 January 2006, Farming Today, BBC Radio 4. Dr Chris Cheeseman is the outgoing director of the Central Science Laboratory's research facility at Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire.
3. On 31 January 2007, the NFU used an opinion poll to claim that 74 per cent of the public supported a cull of sick badgers. The NFU did not report that the 38 people questioned in the poll had been told that the NFU wanted the "culling of infected badgers and protecting healthy ones, in much the same way as diseased cattle are dealt with at the moment". The panellists were not told that no such mechanism exists for killing the minority of infected badgers. On 13 February 2007, NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond admitted that "any badger culling strategy would need to be intensive and thorough". On 28 February, NFU spokesman Anthony Gibson admitted that virtually 100 per cent of the badgers in a culling area would need to be killed.
So despite all the cash, all the 'science', 'one ' may not be able to identify a sick badger? Not true. Another badger can and PCR could - given the political will to use the goddam thing. And that 'vast majority' of badgers which are not infected? Just how vast is a 76 percent infection rate in badgers trapped in Broadway Glos. 1986 - 97? (Bourne's 4th report to Bern Convention) Sheesh, talk about standing figures upside down.
It is absolutely no use the Badger Trust rubbing their hands in glee at these inane comments from a politically engineered spin doctor, which prevaricate the situation to an even worse level than now. We have said many times on this site that a blanket cull of badgers is as obnoxious and counter productive to us, as Defra's carnage was to most sane people during FMD. There is another way, and we are getting seriously fed up of repeating ourselves.
We have described the 'management' of large and mainly healthy badger populations in mid Devon, by man who lets the badgers decide who is sick. When they do and exclude it from the group, he will put this loner, this disperser out of its misery before it can infect anything else. That Tb is endemic in the badger population is not something of which the Badger Trust should be proud, nevertheless as this is the reality of several years of complete protection for the species, it is with this that we all have to deal.
Trevor Lawson is correct in quoting Woodchester's research on the length of time a badger can sustain itself, have cubs, and yet show no ill effects from Tb. That does not mean that it it is not infectious. In fact that is why a badger is such a successful maintenance host. It is not killed by Tb straight away and it can do all these things quite comfortably for several years - while shedding, and infecting everything it comes into contact with. However when the disease does start to debilitate a badger, the remainder of the group will oust it. And it it this 'badger' selection process which has been so successful in mid Devon, clearing a ' hotspot' of Tb in the cattle while maintaining the social structure of healthy badgers.
See BRYAN HILL'S story, which we covered in 2005. Thirty two farms in this 'managed' patch of Devon are still clear of bTb after 8 years.
For boys who like toys, rt-PCR does work on sett materials to identify those inmates capable of onward transmission of the disease, and leave behind the groups not transmitting and healthy. Warwick have had good results, others trying to replicate (repeat?) less so we understand. More recent work is encouraging - but again no fine tuning yet. No urgency there then? Personally we would lock all the researchers into rt-PCR and bTb in a windowless room; no coffee, no toilet - until they had sorted out a viable assay, and set a timetable for validating it. And we would have far more success if the Badger Trust would accept that there are people like us about, who have had no cattle to blame for extensive breakdowns, but who still only want to cull out the infectious badgers.
As farmer Malcolm Light from Hatherleigh, Devon at the recent NFU conference said to David Miliband:
"As farmers and stockbreeders we have been accused of spreading bovine Tb throughout the cattle and wildlife populations. We have been accused of making a profit from the disease compensation - and then complaining to government that it's all their fault. Tell that to the organic dairy farmer with a closed herd, who has never bought a cow in his life, lost half his herd to Tb infection [received 'compensation'] at a fraction of their market value, lost his milk contract, sacked half his staff, and couldn't replace these cattle even if he could find them, because there is no place for 'organic' cattle in the tabular valuation".
It will happen folks. It has to. The technology is there. It is the political will to use it that is missing and the result is 'A slight wheeziness' - or so the RSPCA would have us believe. The pictures tell a different story. And it is with this 'result' - the reality of endemic tb in the badger population - that the Badger Trust is 'delighted'.