Sunday, June 24, 2007

Robust science - or political science?

"The shock waves created by the release of the final report by the so-called Independent Scientific Group on TB (ISG) have left many bewildered as to how on earth the current TB epidemic is to be controlled.

The ISG is unequivocal that culling of badgers will cause the epidemic to worsen. They consider culling likely to spread infection by causing social disruption leading to a dispersal of infected badgers that would result in the problem spreading to neighbouring areas.

They refer to this as the “perturbation effect” and consider it almost an insuperable problem. While this must be music to the ears of Ministers, getting them off the hook yet again, is this really a valid reason – or is it more of the political science we have already heard from the ISG ?"

In a focus article for Farmers Guardian , Dr. John Gallagher, former head of MAFF Veterinary Investigation Services for Devon and Cornwall, and former Independent Advisor to MAFF's Chief Scientist Group, questions the 'robust' basis of the RBCT.

"... from 80 per cent to 40 per cent of infected badgers were dispersed to spread their infection, making this more a study in dispersal of TB rather than a culling trial to control it. "


"In the MAFF annual report of 1995, the chief veterinary officer stated that 90 per cent of outbreaks were considered due to infected badgers and this was also affirmed by MAFF’s senior TB epidemiologist. Indeed, in the two gassing trial areas the complete cessation of TB in cattle following removal of the badgers indicated that they were the sole source of infection. Thus there, and throughout the areas where TB infection is endemic in badgers, cattle have been acting as sentinels of active disease in the badger. But the ISG say they have been unable to quantify the role of badgers in cattle outbreaks, although they do admit they can be a source of infection for cattle."

and concludes:

"...the one unequivocal finding from the ISG is that if culling is not done completely disruption of badger groups and their dispersal will result.

But it makes you wonder whether this is really robust science or political science?"

Those of us suffering prolonged bTb breakdowns, with no bought in cattle to blame, no cattle contact via other contiguous herds (and accused on this site of shunting cattle around illegally), are considering the report carefully - as we suspect are the people who have the political clout to challenge it. All we will say at this stage, is what we have said throughout this long debate, that those of us involved with the 'trial' agree with every word Dr. Gallagher has said.


DJD said...

Localised culling is efficient, provided that it is carried out regularly - monthly. (not the 3/4 days in Nov/Dec when the badgers are at their season of inactivity in the flawed, negligent Krebs trial).
However there will be a time lag of at least a year from badger removal to an expected improvement in the cattle TB situation.
Bourne and his minions took no account of this, when interpreting their data.

The 'super excreter' being in solitary confinement, is not only difficult to locate, there by avoiding a cull, but can take 6 months plus to die.

The environmental contamination from badgers excreting 1,500,000, TB bacilli in a teaspoonful of urine, can survive for 6 months.

George said...

Anybody working on the TB problem in the field knows that you need at least a year, probably two, to pass before trends can be seen. TB is found mainly by testing, and routine tests are carried out annually (often 13 or 14 monthly) so it takes more than a year to get the new picture in an area.