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.