Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mud Slinging

As the vaccuous efforts of the ISG grind to stop in the next few weeks, mud is being hurled from every direction in the debate over bovine Tb and badgers carrying - errr, bovine Tb. The Badger Trust has lobbed some pretty lively adjectives at the veterinary profession, whose job it has been to eradicate bTb from our cattle herds and in the Veterinary press this week, some bite back.

"Attempting to become enlightened by ‘cherry picking’ from computer modelled and or statistical ‘science’ is permissible.

To deliberately spin, translate and qualify the ‘science’ to fuel a pseudo- propaganda campaign is corrupt.

To denigrate those of us who uniquely, have decades of actual field experience of TB in cattle as “closed minds”, demonstrates a bigot deserving little credibility. (Letter Trevor Lawson “Scientific evidence backs increased TB testing” May 7).

The letter clearly proves his ignorance.

Carrique-Mas et al 2005 referred to post Foot and Mouth restocked herds when there was evidence of some cattle to cattle transmission of TB. What their paper did not include (lack of funding) was that most of these herds went clear of TB within a year and have remained clear since.

This was the situation in the 1960’s. Where there is no significant external reservoir of infection.

“The current TB testing regime has failed to control bovine TB”. It is the same regime as the 1960’s; the difference solely being the reservoir of TB infection in the badger population. With my clients the level of cattle reacting to the tuberculin test is directly proportional to the level of badger activity.

“ Their research explains why new outbreaks are more likely in TB hotspots”! This is hardly rocket science. In some of the centres of original hotspots, which have now amalgamated with other hotspots to become ‘blobs’, there has been an improvement in the cattle TB level . This is due solely to a reduction in the badger population. No population never mind badgers can survive a 50% infection rate of TB.

In my experience introducing cattle into a herd with a history of TB, frequently results with some, particularly the younger ones reacting. This due to their inquisitive nature; they have to explore their new surroundings, where there is a low back ground level of infection in the environment.

“Only 14% of infected cattle show lesions at slaughter Bourne 2006”. Cattle reacting to the Tuberculin test indicates only that they have received a challenge from TB. They are not necessarily infected, have lesions, or are even infectious.

The gamma interferon test is a gimmick and a fob to the badger lobby. The test is far too sensitive, resulting in devastation of herd numbers. None of my clients who were ‘conned’ into having the test have gone clear. (One herd twice!). None would “go down that route again”. There is absolutely no point when there is a reservoir of infection in the badgers."

Letter from: D.J.B.Denny, B.Vet. Med. M.R.C.V.S.

(Vet. Times 28th. May)

Meanwhile the figures for incidence in cattle January - March are published for a short time on the Defra website and needless to say, they are up. Defra say new herd incidents are up by 15 per cent, reduced to 11 per cent if extra herd tests are factored into their number crunching. Quite an achievement.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Half a Job

In a blistering attack on the 'one sided and ineffective' non-policy currently operating in the UK on bovine Tb, a frustrated Government vet has spoken out.

Reported this week in an exclusive FARMERS GUARDIAN article, the vet described colleagues as frustrated by lack of any policy to tackle infection in wildlife.

"Of course badger culling can work. The badger lobby are absolutely crackers to say it won't. A week ago, they were saying it hadn't worked in Ireland. (A drop of 46 per cent? it certainly has - ed) - well it clearly has."

The key to successful clearance of Tb from the badger population, the vet said, was to implement a 'comprehensive cull' of infected setts, over selected areas that ensures that infection is virtually removed from the badger population. It is important to ensure that the empty setts are cleared of M.bovis infection so any incoming badgers stay clean, they added.

Full article on the link above.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The right to reply

One week ago, The Badger Trust issued an Opinion piece to Westcountry paper 'Western morning News'. In it, Trevor Lawson described how under the Freedom of Information Act, the Badger Trust had obtained from SVS details of farms under restriction in 'Beaworthy, and its surrounding parishes'. Armed with this information, our Trevor then decided to do a hatchet job on a single farmer in the South West Tb hotspot, who by 'managing' his badgers and using their selection of chronically sick ones, has, he says, kept approximately 30 farms in an undefined area of mid Devon clear of Tb for eight years. He is proud of his healthy vibrant badgers and no doubt if asked would have shown Mr. Lawson - had he deigned to ask. But no, Trevor got a figure from SVS and off he went, armed and dangerous.

Mr. Hill is wrong, said Trevor and his claim is "utter nonsense". But worse than that, those who give him credibility, are "willfully ignorant".

So what exactly did Trevor ask? Because to get the correct answer, it is always wise to understand the situation on the ground. Remember those 14 million animal movements, which were actually postcards? Data x four in some cases. We do.

As Mr. Hill points out in his Right to Reply published today, he is a 'countryman' not 'superman'. and the Beaworthy area of mid Devon, we are told, is huge. The thirty farms on which Mr. Hill's policy has worked so spectacularly form a small part of that very large whole. And of those 31 farms, 30 are clear. One on the edge has a single reactor. So, 99.9 percent of the cattle in Bryan's patch are clear of TB in area which Trevor has found, has 24 per cent farms under Tb restriction. Almost a quarter. Healthy badgers and healthy cattle. We would call that a success - but hey, what do we know?

And more importantly for the health and welfare of the badgers, they are a valued part of the ecology in this area. They are not 'eliminated', 'eradicated' or any other words of high profile emotive spin, which add little to the debate but keep the Badger Trust's collection boxes rattling. We had a paper delivered asking for £50,000 to 'help the cause'. Would that be to save badgers or jobs?

For the record Central Science Laboratory has identified behavioural differences between badgers excreting m. bovis and those uninfected. A parliamentary question regarding this 'atypical' behaviour of badgers in the 'super excreter category was asked in March 2004. The badgers which Mr. Hill describes so graphically as 'excluded, wandering over longer ranges and into farm buildings ', and is roundly castigated by Trevor Lawson for speaking 'more farmer nonsense'. That'd be about right, however, Mr. Bradshaw's answer - for which, as ever, we are most grateful, confirmed that:

"badgers excreting M. bovis are potential sources of infection for other badgers and cattle.The term 'super excreter' is used for research purposes to identify a sub-group of infected badgers from which M.Bovis has been isolated from several different clinical samples. These animals are thought to be in an advanced stage of disease progression and survival analyses have shown that they exhibit a higher rate of mortality than uninfected animals. (That means they die)

Research conducted by the Central Science Laboratory has identified behavioural differences between badgers excreting M bovis, and uninfected ones. Badgers excreting M.bovis had larger home ranges and were more likely to visit farm buildings.

23rd March 2004: Col 684W [ 158375]

We had hoped that members of the Badger Trust might support this type of 'management' of an endemically diseased population until such time as the scientists get off their backsides and ratchet PCR up the political agenda. Instead we see the night of the long knives.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A European Perspective

Annually, Defra and all other veterinary authorities in Member states of the EU must submit their Tb testing status and results to the European Commission and the OIE (Office des Internationale Epizootics) for Tb status reports.

The latest data is to 30/09/2005, (sorry - no link: from SVS Government Veterinary Journal Nov. 2006) and is the result of intradermal skin test and slaughter policy. In the European Union, 11 states are Officially Tb free and some now rely on slaughterhouse surveillance only, having been Tb free for several years. (Belgium, Finland, Germany, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Sweden)

Comments of note from the report regarding the Tb status of the other 14 states:

"Outlook for new member states is quite favourable, as Tb incidence has remained at very low levels for several years"

EU member states are listed with Tb incidence, and succinct comments re their status.
Of countries not obtaining officially Tb free status (99.9% herds 99.8% cattle) the following are noteworthy.

All countries including the new EU entrants are described as "Working towards OIE officially TB status", and either 'Stable', 'Declining' or 'No recent breakdowns". Except:

Ireland..... 96.90 % NHI 5.72 "Slowly decreasing"
Italy....... 90.90 % NHI 0.62 "Stable with wide regional variations in prevalence"
Spain....... 96.54 % NHI 1.11 "Declining"

UK (GB)..... 97.79% (at end of 2004) NHI 6.87 "Increasing steadily. Large regional variations in incidence".

UK (NI)..... 91.87% NHI 9.17 Gradual increase accelerated in 2001/2002. Followed by slow downturn; accelerated in 2005

The paper explains;

"By contrast, bovine Tb remains a significant animal health problem in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and (to a lesser degree) Greece and Portugal. The reasons vary from country to country, but are generally linked to the presence of reservoirs of infection in wild or domestic mammals, extensive use of outlying, rented or common grazing, high stocking densities, incomplete testing coverage, lack of compliance with scheme requirements or a combination of these factors."

And specifically with regard to the UK:

"The comprehensive testing regimes that have eradicated TB in many European countries have failed to yield similar results in the British isles. In GB, the highly successful herd attestation scheme, launched in 1950 reduced the number and incidence of test reactor cattle from nearly 15,000(16.2 reactors per 10,000 cattle tests) to 569 (2.3 per 10,000 cattle tests) in 1982.
This remarkable progress came to a halt in the mid 1980's when the situation began to gradually worsen to a point where GB now sustains one of the highest incidences of TB in the EU".


",,, the Eurasian badger has been identified as the true maintenence host and principal wildlife reservoir of M.bovis in the British isles, where it remains a protected species.Nowadays, endemic M.bovis infection within badger populations in parts of the UK and Ireland is a major impediment to the eradication of bovine Tb......."

Earlier in this journal, Defra quote a headline figure for UK of " 93.6% of herds considered Tb free" which is substantially less than the 2004 figures listed in the EU tables above.

So, the EU recognises that in the Republic of Ireland, the incidence of Tb is "slowly decreasing", while across the Irish Sea, UK mainland Tb is seen as "increasing steadily". So what are European partners going to do about it?

Don't forget that in 'somebody's' drawer, already drafted, ready and waiting, is that EU veterinary certificate which we told you about here in September 2004.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A reprieve for Shambo

Our posting below details the plea for clemency in the case of a 6 year old cross bred bull(ock) known as Shambo, and living in a Hindu monastical setting in SW Wales.

On re-test, this animal gave a positive reading after an Inconclusive result to a routine Tb test. Shock, horror from the Hindu community, who immediately walled him up in straw lined 'temple' and protested. Loudly. His 'religion' (can a bull(ock) have a religion?) means that he is regarded as 'sacred', and cannot be killed. We note that it did not prevent the removal of certain parts of his anatomy, to prevent him 'giving life' - parts which will be presumably reunited with the rest of him on his demise? - but let that pass.

Yesterday, Shambo's website posted the following message to his many supporters;

The National Assembly of Wales has deferred its original intention to slaughter Shambo, the sacred bull at the Skanda Vale Temple.

The authorities were going to move to slaughter next week but they have since delayed this action. They have said that they are still carefully considering what they concede to be a sensitive and unusual case. The Temple hopes that this consideration will lead to a change of policy and change of practice.

Responding to the decision by the Assembly, Swami Suryananda of the Skanda Vale Temple, said: “We are encouraged by the response of the authorities to defer their decision on the future of Shambo. To consider killing as a solution is not an option and we would hope the threat of slaughter could be removed so that we can establish constructive dialogue with the Assembly to find a practical solution that upholds the highest values of the Hindu faith but also meets the health and safety requirements.

Ishwer Tailor, President of the Hindu Forum of Britain added, "The campaign to save Shambo has received considerable support from people of different faiths in the UK and, around the world. It is important that we continue to request the Welsh Assembly to remove the slaughter notice that is hanging over Shambo. In the meantime the temple we will continue to take the necessary bio-security measures to protect animals and humans from harm.”

CB Patel, Chair of the Patrons Council of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: “There is still a lot of concern among the community, but the Assembly’s decision to respond sensitively to this unusual case is heartening. We would suggest other diagnostic tests are conducted to ascertain if infection is actually present and, if so, identify the area infected and treat accordingly with medication.”

President of the National Council of Hindu Temples, Sudarshan Bhatia, commented: "The deferral of the decision to slaughter Shambo could mean that the Welsh Assembly is considering various options. We hope that the sensitiveness of the issue and the needs of the different communities can be carefully considered."

Other UK Hindu organisations that have given their support to Skanda Vales’ campaign include the Hindu Council of Birmingham, Hindu Council of Brent, Hindu Council of Harrow, Hindu Council of the North, Leicester Festival Hindu Council, Hindu Council UK and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK.

Much as we sympathise with the people who run the Hindu community in Wales, we feel that the 'temporary reprieve' of this animal opens an even larger can of worms for the as yet unformed, Welsh Assembly. The fact that no one will take reponsibility for the consequences of a positive Tb test on Shambo, is fluff. Either we (as in the UK including its devolved parts) have a screening policy for Tb which complies with international directives and in which we believe - or we do not. No 'decision' needs to be made, or at least if the reactor was an Anglo Saxon Welsh black steer of Methodist persuasion, it would not. Last year, Defra figures showed that Wales slaughtered almost 6000 cattle in response to a positive Tb test; we suspect most were 'sacred' and induced 'sensitive and unusual' emotions in their shell shocked owners.

If the owners of Shambo are able to isolate him and 'screen' for Tb using other methods than those available to the rest of us, then should the same procedure be made available (to those who request it) in the rest of Wales - or the wider UK for that matter?

We suspect that placing this one in the 'too difficult' file, may in the longer term cost the Welsh Assembly dearly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Define 'failure'?

In an amzing bit of number crunching, this week our Trevor, he of the Badger Trust, put out a press release on the apparent failure of badger culling in the Republic of Ireland in their fight to eradicate bTb.

We find his conclusions strange to say the least, as did the Minister of State for Agriculture in the Republic who offered this Rejection of Trevor's mathmatics.

Following various successful trials initially in East Offally, followed by the four county Trial, the Republic concluded that while a reservoir of bTb remained in the badgers, they were not going to make much headway in clearing it in the cattle - no matter how many cattle measures they put into place.

The Republic tried pre movement testing (preMT) but abandoned that in 1996, in favour of annual testing for all herds, combined with badger removal under Ministry license where they were implicated in an outbreak of bTb. The agreement with the Dept. of Environment does not allow for 'elimination' of the species, as so grahically painted by Trevor. The Republic had concluded after all its trials, that:

Cattle to cattle transmission is not a major factor in the spread of TB as evidenced by the fact that, on average, 38% herd breakdown episodes involve just one standard reactor and, even in larger breakdowns, epidemiological investigations do not frequently implicate infection spread via this route. In addition, in breakdowns triggered by a single lesion at slaughter, no reactors are identified in approximately 85% of herds during subsequent herd testing. Furthermore, investigations of disease episodes in Ireland have shown that a relatively small % of all outbreaks were purchased animals positively identified as being the source of the infection. Ms Coughlan also said that research shows that the proportion of badgers that are infected with TB in the vicinity of TB infected herds is at least 40% and that infection by badgers was the single most important source of infection of cattle. In addition, contrary to what is stated in the report, badgers and cattle do share the same strains of TB locally with different strains dominating in both species within the same geographic area when compared with different areas. In view of these findings, her Department had concluded that pre-movement testing of cattle on a widespread basis was not cost effective."

The minister, Mary Coughlan also went on the point out that the 'success' of any change in bTb tests would in the short term be likely to increase rather than decrease the number of reactors found. She pointed out that since 1998 (after preMT was abandoned in favour of annual testing of all cattle herds) and following concerted efforts to reduce the level of infection in badgers by a robust culling strategy where they were implicated, incidence of bTb in the Republic had fallen by 46%.

The number of reactors has declined substantially since 1998 from 45,000 to just under 24,200 in 2006 (46% decrease). The number of reactors removed last year was the second lowest in the last twenty years. Ms Coughlan said that, while there were a number of factors involved, her Department was satisfied that the badger removal policy made a significant contribution to the improvement in the situation. Her Department is satisfied that its current badger removal programme is justified and has contributed to the decline in the number of TB reactors and the costs associated with bovine TB. Ms Coughlan said that her Department rejected the finding in the Report that the reduction in the incidence of TB was due to the introduction of new TB tests. Such tests would in fact increase rather than reduce the number of reactors in the short term."

Ms. Cloghlan concluded that the policy would remain in place for some time and certainly while a recognised wildlife reservoir remained to infect cattle.

One of the recognised requirements for the eradication of a disease is that there is a single host species with no external reservoir species at present. The wildlife reservoir is recognised as a major impediment to the eradication of tuberculosis in cattle in states such as New Zealand and Michigan State and to ignore this is tantamount to dismissing one of the basic tenets of eradication. The hope of developing an oral delivery system of BCG that will reduce the impact of tuberculosis in badgers is a realistic one. Confining capturing of badgers to areas where herds must first be identified with proven tuberculosis that was not caused by infected cattle is a further safeguard against unnecessary removal of badgers. Removing heavily infected badgers from localities where cattle breakdowns have been identified can only but benefit the surviving test negative cattle as well as the badgers in the wider area surrounding the removal zones."

A 46 per cent drop in ten years. And our Trevor defines that as a failure in policy? We should be so lucky, or should we say our cattle should be so lucky. With no action on our 'sacred' wildlife reservoir, Defra have confirmed many times that GB is looking at a 20 per cent increase year on year.

The BBC's highly selective and totally (almost) unopposed version of the Badger Trust statement of 'failure' can be viewed

We note that the BBC have chosen not to offer the Minister for Agriculture in the Republic, the right to reply - which is why we have offered her statement.

Another result of the 46 percent drop in reactor cattle in the Republic, (which our Trevor defines as a 'failure' of policy) is the subsequent drop in expenditure on bTB. A salient point of which we reminded Chancellor Gordon Brown in our November posting.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Spot the difference

In a comment our posting below, which links directly to the Defra paper concerned, media person for the Badger Trust, Trevor Lawson kindly sent us his press release.

Below we show part of Trevor's press release, and below that the full context of the paper from which it is snipped. Having discussed between ourselves the tactics of 'spin', we think it only fair to show a master in action.
Maybe Gordon Brown has a vacancy...?

First an extract from the Badger Trust press release:

From Trevor Lawson, Badger Trust

NFU gets it wrong on badgers - again
Badger Trust for immediate release

The Badger Trust today mocked the National Farmers Union (NFU) for failing to understand basic scientific research into badgers and other British mammals.

The NFU claims[1] that a Central Science Laboratory survey "has shown badgers are now as common as foxes across large parts of the English countryside". The NFU also claims that the survey confirms "that predation by a rapidly increasing badger population has been the key factor in the hedgehog's decline".

But Trevor Lawson, public affairs advisor to the Badger Trust, commented:

Contrary to the NFU's claim that a rapidly increasing badger population is to blame for a decline in hedgehogs, the report provides no evidence of an increasing badger population and the authors state: 'there was no overall correlation between mean hedgehog density within a survey area and badger encounter rate'.

The paper from the the CSL (Central Science Laboratory) - and for which there is link in the posting below - describes numbers of badgers found on pasture land and amenity land, and compares their numbers to those of other sighted mammals including foxes, hares deer and ... hedgehogs. With reference to Trevor's quote, the paper does contain it, but our Trevor has snipped the sentence, thus removing its subject and with that, the context in which it was said.

We quote from the paper to allow our readers the full sense of the CSL findings;

The occurrence of hedgehogs (percentage of fields with hedgehogs present ) on pasture was MARKEDLY LOWER than on amenity grassland. In total, hedgehogs were recorded on 3 (2 per cent) of pasture fields, and on 32 (26 percent) of 125 amenity grasslands. Regionally the percentage of hedgehogs were recorded varied between 19 percent and 30 percent. Hedgehogs were not recorded at all on pasture in two regions (Devon and Gloucestershire.)

The paper continues:

The mean density of hedgehogs was significantly greater in amenity grassland than in pasture in all four regions. For AMENITY GRASSLAND there was no overall correlation between hedgehog density within the survey area and badger density (from distance sampling)"

The subject (AMENITY GRASSLAND) of Trevor's snipped sentence was therefore missing and may have given his readers completely the wrong impression. The paper continues and reinforces its findings. Lots of badgers = no hedgehogs and vice versa:

Relatively HIGH DENSITIES of HEDGEHOGS, however, occurred almost exclusively in areas with relatively LOW BADGER ENCOUNTER rates."

But none at all were observed on the pasture land surveyed in Devon and Glos. Not one.

Seems pretty clear to us and of course there was correlation between the numbers of badgers and the numbers of hedgehogs sighted on pasture land, if not on amenity land. But that dear readers, is a master at work. Not of badger conservation (or hedgehogs) and certainly not cattle - but of the art of hoovering up partial sentences from the evergrowing pile of 'science' surrounding this vexed subject and regurgitating them in no particular order and, as the above quote quite clearly shows, totally inaccurately.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"As common as foxes..."

....and much more common now, than hedgehogs.The density of badgers in bTb hotspots surveyed last year by the Central Science Laboratory, has found that badgers are now more common than foxes, hares or deer and certainly the hedgehog. They conclude that this dramatic increase is in direct correlation to the decline of hedgehogs in pasture land. Some were found in 'amenity grassland' , and by that we assume the authors mean parks and playing fields, but in Devon and Gloucestershire not a single little Mrs. (or Mr.) Tiggywinkle was recorded on pasture land.

We are aware that people involved in hedgehog rescue schemes, are warned that if a badger sett is within a certain distance from their dwelling, then rescuing hedgehogs is not something in which they can be involved. "We are not allowed to" one lady told us. The reason is that to the all powerful, omnivourous badger, a hedgehog is merely a quite large, prickly orange, to be rolled over and peeled. Alive.

The survey was conducted during spring and autumn of 2006, ahead of any possible change in 'management' policy of badgers, as a precurser to assessing any change in population status and in the areas surveyed, Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Hereford, the badger population outweighed foxes - and certainly hedgehogs.

Full report can be found on the
Defra Website

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sacred cows?

... or in this case, bull called SHAMBO .To be more precise a Hindu bull no less, living in Carmarthan and part of a monastic community, dedicating their lives to following karma yoga and bhakta yoga. Their bull has had a positive skin test, and must be slaughtered say Defra.

So, hard on the heels of the $million dollar cow (ROXY), dear old Defra look like having to take on the Race Relations Board, not to mention the governments of India and Nepal and various Hindu communities across the UK, who are flocking to protect this sacred bull.

The following communication has just arrived, in fact it arrived from 3 separate sources. That said, we cannot vouch for its accuracy:

"I am writing on behalf of Skanda Vale Temple seeking your urgent assistance in helping the Temple save the life of one of our bulls, Shambo. He is currently threatened with slaughter on May 14, 2007, by the government organization DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

The reason for this is that he has reacted positive to a bovine test for tuberculosis. It is government policy to kill all 'reactor animals' who so test positive. The test is not 100% accurate, and he is currently a very healthy animal.
None of the rest of our herd of 40 cattle and water buffalo is infected. We have three temples at our monastery, Sri Ranganatha Temple, Maha Kali Temple and Lord Subramanium Temple. We embrace Sanatana Dharma. The 25 residents of the monastic community live in service to life following karma yoga and bhakta yoga. We have approximately 90,000 pilgrims visit a year and are committed to worshiping Almighty God in his Universality.

"We have engaged solicitors to seek an urgent injunction to prevent the slaughter and have suggested a solution to DEFRA to address the concerns of animal and human health. They have refused to use the discretion they have under UK law not to slaughter. Under the Animal Health Act 1981 Section 34: 'The minister may, notwithstanding anything in this Act, reserve for observation and treatment an animal liable to be slaughtered under this Act at his direction.'

"We believe it would be an act of desecration of the Hindu religion if they were to slaughter a temple cow or bull. We have isolated Shambo and have made him a secure home inside an area of our main Subramanium Temple. He is, after all, Nandi, the vahana of Lord Siva. Lord Subramanium as commander of the heavenly forces is the Shakti of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. We need the assistance of Hindu organizations to put urgent pressure to find a solution. Maybe the government of India or Nepal could help. We require assistance. Time is short."


Monday, May 07, 2007

Lifting the moratorium?

When Sir John Krebs, he of the RBCT fame, outlined his 'trial' in 1997, and the diminutive figure of Prof. John Bourne took up the helm, a moratorium on badger control outside the designated trial areas was snuck into British law. It was not subject to parliamentary discussion, statutory instrument or anything as democratic as that. It just happened. with gov'ment blithely and arrogantly stating in an answer to PQ's posed, that "it was government policy not to issue licences".

The badger dispersal trial has now finished and in mid June, Prof. Bourne will sing his swan song - maybe.

But in preparation for that, farmers from Cornwall to North Staffordshire are preparing, it is said, to test whether this moratorium has been snuck away as quickly as it had been put into place.

The TELEGRAPH reports:

"In the expectation of an imminent end to the moratorium on licences to kill badgers, farmers have earmarked areas of the country where the cull could begin, while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is conducting four secret trials to find which is the most effective ways of killing badgers - snaring, trapping, shooting or gassing.

A move to permit culling, however, would be certain to provoke ferocious opposition from animal welfare groups, who insist it is not necessary and believe the spread of the disease is due to bad husbandry by farmers.

The Government research, by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG), began in 1998 and was accompanied by the moratorium on licences. However, the final report, which ministers will receive later this month, is expected to acknowledge that culling badgers can be an effective means of controlling the disease. Defra officials have already indicated to industry figures that following its publication they would struggle to justify continuing the moratorium.

Tony Blair and David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, have been involved in discussions about lifting the moratorium. The Cabinet will make the final decision.

There were 788 new suspected outbreaks in January and February compared with 703 in the same period of last year. There are reports of the disease spreading to domestic cats, which has provoked fears that this could lead to infections among humans.

Meurig Raymond, the NFU's deputy president, said: "The Government can't walk away from its responsibility this time. The scientific evidence from the report will prove they must act. The anger and depression of the livestock industry is unbelievable. We need to move ahead with a cull as soon as possible."

Malcolm Light, a beef farmer from Okehampton in Devon, suffered an outbreak in his herd last month, which has been blamed on badgers.

"It's not beyond the realms of possibility to get on top of this disease," he said. "We want healthy cattle and healthy badgers, but we must be able to deal with sick badgers."

Although the ISG report is expected to say that removing badgers can play a positive role in tackling the disease, it will also warn of the possible dangers of perturbation, where badgers that escape the cull relocate elsewhere and help to spread the disease.

This will give farmers two options: to apply for a licence to cull in a large area of more than 116 square miles, where research suggests the benefits of culling outweigh the effects of perturbation, or to demand small, targeted culls, in areas which are bordered by rivers, railways or coastlines.

Richard Haddock, the union's south-west regional chairman, said: "The hints we're getting are that there will be limited licences issued. If they allow us targeted culls against the sick setts in the hot spots, then in two years, we will be on top of it."

Richard Yarnell, the chief executive of the Badger Trust, said the problem could only be dealt with by stopping the disease spreading between cattle".

And this may be the place to remind our Minister for animal health - well some animals anyway - of his erudite words to Parliament in December 2005:

"International experience indicates it is not possible to contain and eradicate bovine TB if its background presence in wildlife is left unaddressed."


"The scientific evidence shows that intensive culling of badgers over large areas can be effective".

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Roxy's Reprieve

Ecstacy Journalist Roxy, the high profile holstein who tested 'positive' on a preMT, prior to exhibition at the Paris show has been retested this week.

We are pleased to report that she passed and, now the National Holstein show and Paris have both taken place without her, she and her 300 herd mates are released from restriction. Full story here