Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Over confident - under resourced"

The Badger Trust has issued a press release (yup, another one) roundly attacking the SVS (State Veterinary Service) now rebranded as Animal Health. It accuses them of "making critical decisions on bovine Tb management on the baisis of anecdote, supposition and insufficient evidence".

In short, the Badger Trust is accusing officers and employees of the former SVS, farmers and accumulated agencies which support animal tracing, of lying. Telling porkies folks.

"They are often responsible for disease management in thousands of herds, yet at best have a very blurred snapshot of on-farm activity."
Government vets when faced with a bTb breakdown do not pluck supposition out of the air. They go back to two months before the last clear bTb test and monitor through BCMS / CTS any 'On' movements of bought in cattle. If there are none, then the source of the outbreak is unlikely to be bovine. Yes? No? Or are all the agencies they use for support 'blurred' too? Using EU comments from a report issued in 2005, the Trust uses a broad brush and assumes that all farmers are using 'linked' holdings and moving cattle between blocks of land miles apart. No we are not. We are not. Our land is in one block, ring fenced by woodland, roads and a river. Only one field even touces another holding, and that has no cattle. Our vet knows this. SVS vets have maps where land ownership / occupation is identified. They know that. It may not fit with the Badger Trust's prejudicial wish-list, but nevertheless it is true.

State veterinary officers and vets working with LVI status are all local and they know their clients - including the cattle. The vets conducting the tests are often on farm in an advisory 'animal health plan' capacity monthly. Local AHOs are aware of the situation on the ground and if they say with certainty 'No bought in cattle' are implicated in the disease breakdown, then that is the case. The fact that David Williams, Trevor Lawson Dr. Yarnley and all, have thrown the balls up in the air and they have landed a little haphazardly, is unfortunate - for the Badger Trust, and even more so for the badgers. But as that roll-call illustrates, the phenomenal growth in bTb does have some beneficiaries, albeit Badger Trust employees.

Farmers Guardian has the story, and the Badger Trust has provided a link to their paper in a comment below.

Bear in mind though, that clicking onto the Badger Trust website generates cash for them. Save a badger or create another job? Your choice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From Trevor Lawson, Badger Trust

Our report on Animal Health (the State Veterinary Service) can be found online at

Here's the press release that provides key summary information:

Treat state vets' advice with caution, Badger Trust warns Miliband

Strictly embargoed: 00.01 Thursday 7 June 2007

State vets' claims about the causes of bovine TB are based on anecdote rather than sound scientific evidence, the Badger Trust warned Secretary of State David Miliband today.

In an open letter, accompanied by a short but detailed report, the Badger Trust reveals that:

(i) State vets do not collect sufficient evidence to explain the causes of bovine TB events. Furthermore, the limited data that is gathered is held on paper, not data-processed and never statistically analysed.

(ii) State vets rely on unreliable farmer evidence about where livestock have been held on farms with multiple land parcels. Consequently, state vets cannot say with any authority where a TB outbreak was acquired. This, in turn, means that it would be impossible for state vets to determine where badgers should be killed, in the unlikely event of the Government approving such a policy.

(iii) Animal Health (formerly the State Veterinary Service) does not hold records on badgers collected by state vets from farms for post mortem examination.

(iv) A wide range of failings in the bovine TB testing programme was identified by the European Union in 2005. Many of these allow the possibility of undetected cattle-to-cattle, herd-to-herd transmission of TB.

(v) State vets have not been kept up-to-date with new scientific research on bovine TB. We show that even the Introduction to the online bovine TB practise manual has not been updated for a decade.

Trevor Lawson, public affairs advisor to the Badger Trust, commented:
"We were astonished to discover that state vets base critical TB management decisions on little more than guesswork. They lack the fundamental data needed to understand the spread of bovine TB amongst local cattle, their IT systems are archaic and there appears to have been no attempt to keep staff up to date with scientific research on bovine TB.

"Now called Animal Health, the state veterinary service is finally starting to reform its systems and training. But the benefits will not be seen for some years. Until then, claims by state vets that they can explain any bovine TB outbreak or that they know how the disease is best controlled should be treated with a great deal of caution.

"The Secretary of State's advisors are often state vets who have spent years in this over-confident but under-resourced guesswork culture. It is vital that Mr Miliband understands the impact that this could have on the quality of their advice, compared to the advice he receives from independent scientists."