Monday, June 11, 2007

"Cattle get killed anyway.."

We are most grateful for a comment on the posting below, from an eagle eared (is that right? - well near enough) listener to Radio 4's Farming Today programme 9th June.
Describing his reaction to badgers and bovine tb, Trevor Lawson, excused the transmission from badgers to cattle in the following way:

"Cattle get killed anyway - that's what happens to them ultimately"

As the listener said, "he was sickened" to hear Trevor Lawson say this. Us too, and yes you are right, we are all reminded of the inaction and intransigence of the so-called 'animal rights' supporters, including agencies such as the RSPCA, during Defra's FMD culling spree. Their silence was deafening.

It is just not good enough to say cattle do not matter "because they will ultimately end up in an abattoir". Yesterday - Sunday afternoon I spent calving a cow whose presentation was a breech birth. With skill and a lot of care, both cow and calf are well. It does matter. Of course it does. But Lawson's words about the transmission opportunities of bTb are telling too. In answer to the point that the Badger Trust are only interested in badgers and no other species:

“Culling tends to make things worse – the more you cull badgers the more the disease spreads among badgers and that increases the negative feedback to cattle."

Now that dear readers, seems to us to say if we may paraphrase Trevor's words, that if you do a rotten job and disperse badger social groups, (just like John Bourne did?) then they not only infect each other but they infect cattle. "Increase negative feedback to cattle" the man said. Badger speak for giving them Tb then. Yes?

Trevor continues :

"But also lets remember two key things. First of all cattle get culled anyway - that’s what happens to them ultimately. Secondly badgers are a protected species as well and, if they’re getting the disease as a protected species from cattle then the onus is on us, particularly because people value badgers and they’re protected for a very good reason, the onus is on us as a society to focus on the key source of this disease and that is cattle.”

But Trevor, Trevor your little furry friends are not 'getting the disease from cattle': you said it yourself "they [not only] infect each other". For sure they do. And PQ's archived on this site provided us several ways in which this happens, without shaking and stirring the groups up. Transmission from sow to her cubs in the confines of the sett; transmission within the occupants of the group sett, as Tb survives for up to 2 years in dark, damp places : bite wounding and social 'grooming'. All transmission opportunities for badgers to infect other badgers. And you are comfortable with that? But then you do not see the results of these transmission opportunities do you?

And then there are the microbiologists at VLA, beavering (or should we say badgering?) away, clocking badger spoligotypes for 30 years. And guess what? They haven't budged. Not a bit. (That's the spoligotypes not the VLA people) And furthermore, the overlay of cattle Tb matches the spoligotypes in an area's indigenous badgers in up to 95 per cent. of cases. Now for sure, this isn't 'science', we didn't say it was. That's the ISG's domain. Lousy science with a moth eaten base, tortured through computer models, but 'science' non the less. These spoligotype data are a 'correlation', but one that we are very happy to live with.

The less savoury results of letting badgers infect themselves with a serious, debilitating zoonsis like Tb, while airbrushed out by those who say they 'love' badgers, are evident from the post mortem pics which we showed again in our
March posting .

It may suit the executives of the Badger Trust to assert that "badgers do not suffer from Tb", but that it not the reality of this disease's progression.


dominic said...

not all cattle are killed some of ours are in human terms in their 60's (and still productive) our oldest cow is in her 21st year (in human terms about 90) I am not in favour of the extinction of the badger but if an animal is deseased or is carrying a desease it is a danger not only to other specie (including humans) but also to its own, people might have noticed that there has been a significant reduction in the hedgehog population, a delicacy to the badger perhaps the badger protection leage are not animal lovers as the perport to be but just badger activists, I might also say that in our county the badger population out numbers the fox population so are they likly to propose a proteted status for the fox, as a poultry keeper of many years I can protect my poultry from the fox by making sure they are shut up at night in their wooden sheds but to protect against a badger all the sheds have to be either brick or concrete built with steel doors.

dominic said...

sorry Mathew I was so angry about badger Lawsons comments that I did'nt check my spelling I hope you can decipher it or at least the gist.

Matthew said...

No problem Dominic. We get your drift. Welcome to the blog.
Did you know by the way, that the badger proof compound at Weybridge (we are told) is reinforced concrete to a depth of 15 feet? Amazing that Defra suggest farmers 'badger bio-proof' farms or even buildings when it takes this depth of concrete to keep them IN!!
Matt 5

Anonymous said...

Badger cull abandoned after TB report

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor


Ministers are expected to abandon plans to license a widespread cull of
badgers after a decade-long study by independent scientists concluded
that a cull would only increase the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

The findings of the independent scientists, to be published on Monday,
were branded "unacceptable" last night by farmers who wanted Tony Blair
and David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, to lift the 10-year-old
ban on badger culling to help stop the spread of the disease.

The final report of the Independent Scientific Group, described by its
chairman, Prof Sir John Bourne, as the "comprehensive picture" of TB in
cattle and badgers, rules out badger culling on any scale as a way of
controlling the outbreaks.

The scientists' report says that while badgers are "clearly a source" of
TB in cattle, badger culling can make "no meaningful contribution" to
the control of the disease in Britain.

This is because badger culling trials, conducted over the past ten
years, have shown that badgers disturbed by a cull would move around
spreading the disease to both cattle and other badgers.

There were 1551 outbreaks of the disease in Britain last year -
affecting about 5 per cent of all herds - and 7000 herds were under
movement restrictions.

The disease cost £80 million last year in compensation to farmers and it
is estimated that because outbreaks are likely to increase it will cost
£2 billion by the end of the decade.

The report, results of which have been seen by The Daily Telegraph, says
culling around outbreaks of the disease in cattle would be "likely to
make matters worse rather than better."

The overall benefits of pro-active culling were modest, with an
estimated reduction of 14 outbreaks in an area of 1000 square kilometres.

Where culling was carried out, the beneficial effect on outbreaks in
cattle was offset by an increased incidence in surrounding un-culled areas.

The second key finding of the report, which has been submitted to Mr
Miliband, is that weaknesses in the present regime of cattle testing
means that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the spread of
the disease - because the full number of cattle with TB is not picked up.

In some parts of Britain, it says, cattle movements are likely to be the
main source of infection.

The scientists' findings lead them to conclude that the rising incidence
of bovine TB and its spread can be contained "by the rigid application
of cattle-based control measures alone."

Ministers are expected simply to welcome the report and say they will
consider a response in due course but a well-placed source close to the
Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the
"definitively anti-culling" conclusions of the report meant a cull was off.

Mr Miliband is known to believe that any decision to cull must be backed
by the science or it would be open to judicial review.

The scientists' report does considers the case of Ireland where badger
culling has been going on for 20 years. It says the incidence of TB in
cattle in Ireland, despite badger culling, is twice what it is in Britain.

Ireland, which stopped pre-movement testing of cattle in 1996, found
that the number of cattle with the disease rose from 27,000 in 1996 to
45,000 in 1999, despite badger culling going on throughout that period.

Sir John says that there needs to be a far more rigorous approach to
pre-movement testing of cattle and the use of gamma interferon tests
which detect the disease earlier - though they are also known to give
false positives.

Sir John's report was expected to leave a chink of light for those who
believe that the eradication of the disease requires both pre-and
post-movement testing of cattle and the control of badgers. It does not.

Instead, it creates a huge quandary for the Treasury, for more rigorous
pre-movement testing of cattle would not only be more expensive, but
would be likely to find far more cases of bovine TB, pushing up the
compensation bill.

It would also be disastrous for farmers because they would lose income
from the presently undetected cattle.

Trevor Lawson of the Badger Trust said: "The new science will give
ministers the sound basis they need to formulate policy and get TB under
control - without a badger cull.

"The political challenge is to get farmers and vets together so they buy
into the science."

Anthony Gibson of the National Farmers' Union said: "The saving grace is
that Sir John concludes that badgers contribute significantly to the
disease in cattle. That being the case we just don't accept that it is
impossible to do something about that.

"It cannot be beyond the wit of man. His report is a counsel of despair.
We are not prepared to accept it as it stands."

Anonymous said...

What a short memory you have, Matthew.Sure the way FMD was handled last time was a fiasco, and I distinctly remember that 11 million animals were slaughtered, of whom 98% were completely healthy...Some of us, including the RSPCA, campaigned for vaccination (which got the Netherlands free of the disease in 3 months) but guess who campaigned for the slaughter and against vaccination and effectively prolonged the whole agony to its bitter end? That's right - the farming unions! And those few brave farmers who did try and save their animals were relentlessly and publicly attacked by those same farming unions...And the RSPCA was the ONLY organisation who publicly questioned the inhumane methods of mass slaughter used. That was when I found respect for the RSPCA (and joined them as a member) and lost sympathy for the farmers. So please don't expect us to be impressed with your 'we care so much about our animals' line.

Matthew said...

Anon; 12.50
Viewing from a distance is not the same as being at the sharp end of FMD. At least you got the 11 million bit right.

All along we have compared 'mass cull' of anything with that carnage by computer so beloved of government.
It was appalling. It should not have happened and many of us fought long and hard for it not to happen.
Ring vaccination was practised in some EU countries,but it was still followed by slaughter. The late Fred Brown's offer to Defra on March 12th. 2001, of his PCR 'smart Cycler' (which subsequently cleared Macedonia of FMD in 3 months, with only positive herds slaughtered) was turned down - as was the authorised use of the machine by a FARMER who purchased one. Defra, we understand refused access to the FMD assay needed to fuel it.

The RSPCA were found guilty last year by the ASA of using 'misleading' and 'untruthful' statements to fuel their 'Back off Badgers' campaign.

Would you support the use of rtPCR to identify wildlife Tb infection?

Anonymous said...

Actually I was right slap bang in the middle of an FMD affected area, thanks Matthew, and - living on a farm - was certainly at the sharp end! It meant my partner could not work at all for 18 months, and my own business (as well as the businesses all around us) were severely affected..And we didn't get the compensation that was doled out to farmers!
Also, if it was all Defra's (Maff as then was)/Government's fault, how come the farming unions campaigned so very vocally, publicly and aggressively AGAINST vaccination - or any other solution than slaughter? Why is killing always seen as the solution by the farming unions? (NOTICE I don't say 'farmers' as I know there are a few honourable exceptions, and I would back these to the hilt)
Also, if we're going to talk about misleading/dishonest claims, I think the NFU have got to take the biscuit! Some of the extraordinary misrepresentations (and frankly, downright lies)about the ISG report really took my breath away...
And yes, if there were a reliable and accurate live test which could distinguish infected wildlife INDIVIDUALS, and if this were not used as an excuse to wipe out whole groups, and some PRACTICABLE method were devised to actually put it into effect,and some reliable guarantee that it would be used as intended, then I would support it....BUt I don't think the PCR or any other test yet brought forward can answer all the above.

Matthew said...

Anon : 11.38
Same as us then. Only we had cattle to protect. Not all farmers who were subject to FMD slaughter, particularly the contiguous cull - illegal at the time, covered now by the Animal Health Act - were 'happy'. Many have never mentally recovered. Some committed suicide. was started to provide information and support for such people who did not go with the flow.

With bTb, there is enough evidence to show that once one individual badger in a social group contracts tb, then transmission to other group members is a certainty over time, and within the confines of the sett. This from Woodchester and PQ's. Also on record is the effect on the group if key members are removed, ie. the so called peturbation effect. (Which is exactly what the RBCT did in practise).

Taking these two points together, we would prefer to remove all the group indicating tb infection, and use vaccination to protect badgers in clean areas from infection, as they move in to replace.

Only 1/3 of 'farmers' actually belong the NFU. We do not. In fact it is our understanding that their 'countryside' arm of pony /llama and companion animal owners, is now larger than the farmer base. Government however still refer to them and use them.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Matthew I'm afraid the study below shows that your belief that a TB infected badger will ' as a certainty' pass that infection on to even its own young, let alone to other members of the sett or wider social group, is simply wrong.We already knew this anyway from previous research which showed that only a tiny proportion of infected badgers actually progress to the active stage of the disease where they are themselves infectious i.e.capable of passing it on to another animal.
The study "Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers", (Woodroffe et al (2006), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ) published in 2006 and verified by independent international scientists, showed that when FMD temporarily halted routine TB testing of cattle, infection rates in badgers doubled. At this time, infected cattle remained in their herds and the researchers suggest that this allowed them to transmit the disease to other cattle and to badgers.
Once cattle testing was resumed but WHEN NO CULLING OF BADGERS HAD TAKEN PLACE the infection rate dropped dramatically amongst badgers as well as cattle, from a high (in badgers) of 26% to only 2% within one generation - thus disproving your assertion that badgers pass the infection on to their young, let alone other members in their sett or social group.
As the ISG report makes clear, culling of badgers (of any kind) actually increases infection amongst badgers, controlling the disease amongst cattle decreases it,both in badgers and cattle.

Matthew said...

Anon 4.48
Nope. We covered this in October 2006. Post FMD, two things happened to the ecological balance not one. When 11 million grazing animals were removed during the spring / summer of 2001, the predators who relied on them had to adapt.
So while Rosie Woodroffe concentrated on cattle not moving or being tested (ours were) she totally missed the bigger picture of what effect that removal, often across thousands of acres, had on badgers relying on their dungpats, short grass, placentas, dead (or live) lambs / calves.

To survive, the badgers had to move. And when they did - they found other badgers. They fought for territory and the same sort of peturbation stress as caused by the RBCT dispersal occurred. When the farms restocked a year or so later, the badgers returned and with them came Tb. (As well as an ecological effect on badgers, as the dungpats supporting grubs/flies disappeared so did the song birds. The whole ecosystem changed)
Just because a 'scientist' didn't see this, hasn't written it up, realised it happened at all or its importance does not mean it did not happen.

Re setts / transmission / sow to cubs etc.:
"the lack of light and relatively constant temperature and humidity conditions found inside a badger sett would favour the survival of m.bovis." PQ 10th Dec. 2003 Col 522 W [141394]

On a question as to transmission opportunities between badgers;
"It is possible that a sow infected with M.bovis may transmit infection to her cubs through contaminated milk, or by aerosol in the confines of an underground nest chamber. Badgers may also infect each other by bite woundingm either during play fighting or though more aggressive territorial and mating encounters"
8th. Dec 2003 col 210W [ 141080]

On how long m.bovis can survive in the setts.
" seems possible that M.Bovis could remain viable in badger setts long enough to infect badgers during recolonisation.
and .......... up to 2 years when buried 5cm deep, and for one year when buried 1 cm deep. On pasture 5 - ll months"
29th Jan 2004 Col 483W [150567]

"Transmission of infection between infectious females and their offspring is thought to be an important process in the dynamics ofTB in badger populations. The CSL Woodchester Park study has shown a significant statistical relationaship between the number of infected cubs in a social group and the presence of an infectious female."
29th Jan 2004 col483W [150578]

Anonymous said...

So now we're relying on parliamentary questions/answers (by whom, if you don't mind my asking?) and far-fetched personal hypotheses rather than scientifically established and independently verified facts, are we?? Iraq is a word that springs to mind here!
And by 'predators who relied on...grazing animals'I presume you mean badgers? Are you serious?? If you are, I'm afraid meaningful discussion on this topic is impossible as you know zilch about badgers! What do you imagine they did for centuries before we were kind enough to provide them with domesticated sheep and cattle?? And where is the evidence for 'running out of earthworms'?? As regards the sett density: I think you're probably right that providing an extra food source in terms of maize and cattle feed will encourage maximum sett density in that locale ...But if that's a problem for you, then it's up to you to protect that food source (electric fencing etc).I accept that that is neither easy nor cheap - but you would get a lot more public sympathy and suppoprt if you campaigned for government help for those measures, rather than trying to destroy yet more of the natural world that has enormous value for the rest of us (as the ISG report acknowledges).

Anonymous said...

An increase in setts does not necessarily mean an increase in badgers by the way. Whether a sett is active, the particular use of setts,and the number of individuals using a sett varies all the time. You may be seeing the same badgers at different setts.
I've been watching an (undisturbed) sett that had 12 individuals most of the summer 2 years ago, and for the last 2 seasons has only had 6.This year, because of the dry spring probably, there have been no cubs.Not quite 'spiralling out of control' is it?

Anonymous said...

And I should point out that the Woodroffe study findings are significant precisely because they showed that WHERE CATTLE STAYED IN PLACE AND THERE WAS NO TESTING,the infection rate doubled in badgers - and when CATTLE TESTING was reintroduced WITH NO BADGER CULLING, the infection rate went down massively in badgers IN ONE GENERATION (so they weren't passing it on, and cattle testing reduced infection in both badgers and cattle). Nothing can change the significance of that finding!

Matthew said...

This thread is geting stagnant.
The perturbation of colonies of badgers after FMD which we described, ended up with them moving to where there WERE cattle - and of course indigenous badgers. So Woodroffe's observations of 'cattle not culled out' would have had this parallel input.

PQ's are answered by WLU / VLA /CSL and Defra staff, not necessarily involved with any 'agendas', which is why they are asked and why the answers are often quite revealing.
I think we shall have to agree to differ on this one.
Matt 3