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.


Anonymous said...

Oh so well put sir, I applaud you for standing up to the likes of that ignoramus little spin Dr Lawson and put your very knowledgeable points over for the badger lobby to hopefully start thinking. It is shame on them for not trying to lessen TB in badgers, cattle and other wild life. Mr Lawson still cannot answer my question on cattle from a completly closed herd going down with TB,then getting a clean bill of health, to go down again when in contact with badgers, surely, he has some grey matter that can think logically? I still await his answer, if he can!!

Jo said...

On another point, I have written an email to the Badger Trust asking why there is nothing on their website to show whether they are doing anything about sick badgers. I was surprised to see that they have not mounted a campaign to get badgers vaccinated. The only mention of TB is in relation to stopping badgers being killed to save cows. It made me wonder what other possible agenda Trevor Lawson could have. Why doesn't he want to stop the spread of TB within the Badger population? Having a popular wild animal under threat from wicked farmers must help the Trust in its fund raising. Is he in paid employment with the Badger Trust? If so, what is his salary? Is it possible to get the Badger Trust accounts from the charity commissioners? How much of its funds go directly to helping sick badgers and how much to campaigning against farmers and their cows? Do they do anything at all in the way of funding research into preventing badgers getting sick in the first place? How do I find out?

Anonymous said...

Good points Joe, perhaps we should do some digging regarding where the funds from that charity are spent. Shouldnt think any of the funding goes to sick badgers, or we would have seen more help to sort the problem out.The badger trust, or rather Trevor Lawson seems to forget that badgers pass it on to each other as well as cattle and deer. Mr Lawson never answers questions that are put straight to him, so perhaps we shall have to start lobbying the badger trust direct. Like taking dead diseased badgers to their head quarters for them to start realizing that we all need positive help in this fiasco.

Matthew said...

Jo, and Anon 5.20:
As a registered 'charity' it is more difficult to get audited accounts, from the Badger Trust. These are freely available with limited companies.

Mr. Lawson is the media consultant for them - a spin doctor, formerly in advertising we're told. The new CEO is one Dr. Richard Yarnell, who on 21st March wrote to members of the badger groups, saying "We urgently need £50,000 to support our fight to protect Britain's badgers". But not from bTb one assumes, as it is endemic in them.

Both these gentlmen we assume, are on the payroll, as although badgers will roll over for peanuts, we doubt their 'protectors' will.

What we have noticed, is that when we post pics of dead, Tb riddled badgers, the response is fast and furious! (See our posting in March "One cannot tell a sick badger ....", where we didn't link to the nasties with a health warning, but posted the reality of a Tb infected badger.

If that picture was on the collecting boxes, not a lot of cash would be forthcoming.

We have said it before, and will no doubt repeat the comment, that the polemic that has developed between badger activists and farmers over bTb, has had beneficiaries too. Not least these employees of the Badger Trust, and of course it is not in their interest to solve the problem, much less admit it. They would be out of a job.

What puzzles us is the lack of support for high tech diagnostics like PCR, which would identify infected setts, thus removing an element of guesswork from badger clearances. Far better than the emotive 'genicide' as described by Mr. Lawson to his faithful groupies, re any badger culling at all. The assumption that 'farmers hate badgers' is also emotive claptrap. The farmers running this site do not hate badgers. They hate Tb, which has decimated their herds, some of which were closed to incoming cattle. That is different. Badgers are an integral part of the overall ecology. To us they are not the only part, and not by any means the most important part. Many other species have equal standing and value.

We are not aware of any funding from the Badger Trust into research. Vaccines for badgers is a well advanced programme, but funded by Defra (taxpayers) What they do have is links to animal sanctuaries which 'mend' and then release these animals - anywhere the landowner gives permission.

Their neighbours must be thrilled.

Bluedog said...

Happy farmers?????

Miliband will allow badger culling again!


Bluedog said...

Can't get my head around this system


Matthew said...

Thanks Bluedog. We'll post that article.

You "can't get your head around the link system" on blogger?? Join the club! It works on the posting, but not we think, on the comments section for some reason. Blogger has a mind all of its own.

Anonymous said...

What a nasty, vindictive collection of posts!
You do yourselves a disservice by so personally attacking an honourable man (Trevor Lawson) for committing the crime of disagreeing with you, and having the courage to say so, and why, clearly.
And as for all this paranoid rubbish about the Badger Trust - just go to their website and look! I see no secrecy about their work (which is brilliant)nor how many paid full-time employees they have - two.

People who love wildlife (including badgers) can see that, although some may contract bTB, very few indeed actually go on to develop the active stage of the disease, and will not therefore generally suffer or pass the infection on. You may publish gruesome photos of badgers who have died from TB but all that proves is that it can occasionally happen....NOT that it regularly, or even often happens...And certainly NOT to justify culling of ever larger numbers of their brethren! Why not take a look at some of the photos (if you have the stomach for it) on the Badger Trust site, of badgers (and other animals) who have been cut slowly in half or strangled by snares? (A la the 'so successful'Irish experiment)...Or how about gassing setts full with tractor exhaust fumes causing convulsions before death? (And, incidentally up to 30 other mammalian species caught in there at the same time)
Gosh - so difficult to understand why animal lovers would not see that as the obvious way to 'help' badgers!
Of course, it's deeply regrettable and should be a source of shame to us that our modern intensive rearing of domestic animals has led to outbreaks and epidemics of diseases that has spread to wildlife.....But to then resort to blaming that very wildlife, demonising it, holding it reponsible for our own actions, and then slaughtering it in huge numbers, horribly, is both cowardly and wrong.

Helen said...

There is no definite proof that Badgers spread bTB,there are no Badgers on the Isle of Man,but there is bTB in cattle.Why do the farmers not feed quality foods to their herds?Why do they not supplement their diets with minerals,to replace those lost through intensive farming practices?Heaven forbid they should spend a little extra on their animals,we are always told how poor they are!Surely spending a little extra outweighs the loss of a herd to bTB?

Matthew said...

Helen; listening with ears shut.
Minerals eh? Our cattle are fed minerals - specially formulated to match the herbage on the farm. Didn't prevent them getting TB.
Have heard just this week of a wonderful herd of rare breed beef cattle - small farm, extensively grazed - also suffering heavy losses. Farm has more badgers than cattle, and the badgers have been fed special 'badger blocks' to boost their immune systems. That didn't work either.

The IoM, we covered last November in our posting Manx mischief, and were grateful to the Manx veterinary admin. for their clarification on BT spin.