Tuesday, June 19, 2007

After 'Leak' - ..... Weak

In a press release hurried out today, H.M Opposition spokesman on animal health, the Right Honourable Jim Paice MP, used quite a lot of space and not a little paper to say two words. Well, one actually, but with 3 letters. PCR.

It was so short, that to save time fiddling around with the 'link fairy' we will cut / paste it in full.


Paice: Farmers forced to shoulder burden of more Government inaction

Commenting on the report, published by the Government today, into Bovine TB in cattle, Shadow Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice said:

"Once again the Government has left farmers with little reassurance that this problem will be resolved any time soon. Farmers have waited for 10 years for action, but still, after numerous reports and consultations, the Government is unable to commit to the package of measures which we have constantly advocated. The problem of Bovine TB will continue to escalate while the Government drag their feet and farmers will be forced to shoulder the burden of yet more Government inaction."

He added:

"The economic assessment of badger control appears to be entirely based on the cage system used in the trial which we already know was woefully inadequate."

"No-one wants to see large scale culling of badgers, which is why we have been pressing the Government for four years to carry out field trials of the PCR test. If successful, these tests would radically alter the form of a cull allowing only infected badger families to be culled.

"Sadly only now have ministers agreed to such research, which starts next month. Unless there is a significant reduction in incidence in the next year or two, which is unlikely, the whole issue will return and the last ten years will have been wasted."


Notes to Editors

The Conservative Party has consistently said that eradication of TB requires a package of measures, including greater efficiency in tracing and testing cattle, more widespread use of the gamma-interferon test, the urgent trialling of vaccines and the PCR test (to establish which setts are infected), and targeted culling to deal with the reservoir of infection in wildlife.

The PCR test would enable only infected badger families to be culled thus reducing the numbers making it more acceptable to the public and to reluctant landowners whilst significantly reducing the effects of perturbation.

Sir John Bourne, the auditor general at the National Audit Office, has himself said that Bovine TB will not be eliminated unless the effect of the infection in wildlife is addressed.

Now it may be politically incorrect to remind Mr. Paice that it was a Conservative administration which instigated the RBCT, together with cage trapping after their prolonged prevarication during the progressively sanitised 'Interim strategy'. Nevertheless we will remind him.

It may also not sit terribly well with the current Shadow Minister to remind him that it was his energetic predecessor who jacked PCR up the political agenda, visiting other countries to see it in action. And this may not be the place to remind Mr. Paice that actually the taxpayer has already funded highly successful trials on badger setts using PCR last year. The current proposals to which he refers, are a re-run - or maybe a 'validation'?

Until Ministers show that they are capable of joining the dots, and picking up portfolio information left by their predecessors, (in this case Owen Paterson's tranch of PQ's which form the basis of this site - and his work on PCR) then they are not a solution to the problem, they are the problem.

More than that, they are collecting payment as 'Her Majesty's Opposition' under a very flimsy label.


Jim said...

Re the supposedly non-existent closed herd, there was an interesting letter in the Western Morning News today from a dairy farmer in East Devon. He is the fourth generation to run his farm and, since buying two cows from his uncle in the late 1980's, i.e. about 20 years ago, no other livestock has come onto his farm. The few remaining dairy farms in his valley do not border his farm. He has never had a case of TB - until now. Out of the blue, 3 reactors and 21 inconclusives. Puzzle that one out, Messrs Bourne et al.

Anonymous said...

Jim - have you actually read anything about the results of the Krebs trial? They don't deny that badgers are a cause of infection. But they say that culling doesn't work overall. In fact, if badgers weren't a source of infection the trial would have shown no effect at all.

Matthew said...

Anon. 10.10 There's 'culling'- and then there is the RBCT 'culling'.

What the trial showed is that 8 nights with cage traps with 1 , 2 or even 3 years in between is how not to do it.

Jim. Thanks; we'll look at that tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

so how would you do it that would mean that it would work?

Anonymous said...

and i think the point that you miss is that jim seems to think that the things that bourne et al have said are not consistent with the situation on that particular farm. Jim does not seem to understand that the trial confirmed that badgers transmit infection. there are definitely cases of closed herds which still have TB and it is overwhelmingly likely that it was caused by badgers. Not really very much for anyone to "puzzle out".

Matthew said...

Anon; 7.49

George has left a comment on another thread about this:
"Most of the work on badger gassing seems to have been forgotten. (Yes, it probably wasn't the best way to do it, but the same could be achieved by intensive trapping.) Badgers were removed from an area 3Km X 3Km. That is, of course, quite a small area. Not only did it work - the drop in the cattle reactor rate was statistically significant I understand from VLA. No 'edge effect' was noticed. So removing the badgers over small areas was effective. This work was ignored by the ISG."

I think the point here is to understand the effect on badgers and how they react. Cage trapping for such a short time took out the strongest first. The scent markers. Abandoning the group after only a week would leave just the younger members of the pecking order. It was then that other groups were able to grab the territory, with the infighting and bite wounding that went with it.
The 'dispersers' in single hole off sets were not touched either. That was our personal experience, not theory.

So, yes gassing the sett would avoid the break up of the group. The only thing that keeps a badger out of an area, is the scent mark of another (adult) badger, so after a couple of weeks when that scent mark fades, then is the time to mop up the dispersers from other groups, trying to establish territory. In our case this was not done, to devastating effect.

Intensity for a couple of months over a small area is far more effective than chaos over a larger one as it negates this so-called 'peturbation' effect. Less badgers are culled, but arguably the ones spreading Tb amongst themselves and to cattle.

The sentinel cattle tests indicate where and when to stop. The presence of the disease is the only governor, not a line on a map.

Matthew said...

Anon 9.43
Those who want to walk away from this, could do well to look at the situation outside those RBCT (dispersal trial) triplets. Bourne's so called 'edge' effect didn't extend 20 miles did it?

East Devon where this closed herd is, is nowhere near a Krebs area. And it is our understanding that after ten years of the Bourne induced parliamentary moratorium on badger culling outside his playgrounds, the situation there is as bad, if not worse than within the Proactive triplets.