Sunday, June 10, 2007

We've been here before...

The Badger Trust letter to David Miliband, (see posting below) imploring him to use 'science' (aka the ISG? - wow) and not to listen to his own Animal Health employees, or even the people at VLA come to that, is only the latest in a depressing line of prevarication over the role which badgers play in the bTb cycle.

During the 'clean ring' strategy of the 1980's, GB did have a policy of squaring the circle, and if badgers were implicated (and that was decided not by SVS but by a panel of badger 'experts' who met quarterly), then setts local to the outbreak were gassed. In 1986 less than 100 herds were under restriction and only 686 cattle slaughtered and GB complied with EU and OIE Tb free trading status.

Over the next 20 years, Professors Zucherman and Dunnett issued long reports - but policy was still progressively 'sanitised'. Trapping replaced gassing, and land available for control was reduced from 7km down to 1km and then "only on land cattle had grazed". Thus badger setts on arable land or neighbouring farms were excluded. In 1997, all badger control ceased, except of course where John Bourne was enacting his badger dispersal excercise. All these good people concluded that badgers were a part of the bTb transmission cycle. Krebs and John Bourne, Bradshaw and Miliband have said the same.
And without exception, all have bottled doing anything at all about it.

The taxpayer has funded clearances in Steeple Leaze, Hartland and Thornbury, East Offaly and the Four County trial in Ireland and of course Krebs' RBCT. Without exception all have resulted in a reduction of tb in cattle. Thornbury being the most successful, which 100 per cent. clearance for the next (at least) 12 years. And the important thing with Thornbury is during that time, the badger numbers returned to 'pre trial levels'. Tb was eliminated, the badger population was not.

So dear readers, we've been here before. Politicians faced with their own veterinary experience (now derided by the Badger Trust) and the recommendations of various well paid professors have all concluded that to control Tb in cattle, Tb in badgers must be tackled as well. And to date they have flunked it. Bottled out, in the face of the shrill voices of 'animal rights' activists, for whom some animals have more 'rights' than others, and copious donations to party coffers.

It may be different this time. Time (and an elongated 'government response' to Krebs plus a reshuffle into a less vulnerable position for David Miliband) will tell.


Jim said...

I am sending this again AS I'm not sure it arrived the first time.

I was sickened to hear Trevor Lawson on Farming Today This Week yesterday (9 June). When asked why badgers should not be culled as cattle are, he said (and I've transcribed this from the "Listen Again" feature): "...cattle get culled anyway - that's what happens to them ultimately." It reminds me of the worst of the so-called animal rights people who refused to say a word about the FMD bloodbath on the basis that farm animals were destined for the slaughterhouse anyway. It's clear from the rest of Lawson's answer (in full below so I can't be accused of taking things out of context or accidentally omitting the subject of a sentence) that the Badger Trust are interested in only one species and that all other species, especially cattle, can go hang. His reply is also interesting for, incidentally, admitting that badgers can pass TB to cattle and for what one should by now regard as his customary spin (perhaps one should say deliberate avoidance of the facts) about badger culling making matters worse. Lawson's full reply: “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. 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.”

Matthew said...

Jim; thanks a lot for that. We have posted it above, with our comments.

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."

Matthew said...

As we said Anon.9.20., we've been here before.
How exactly that leaves those of us who have done the bio security bit, and still lost shed loads of cattle, is not made clear.
Unless and until those sick, wandering badgers with endemic Tb are removed from circulation, then the cattle who come into contact with them or their highly infectious secretions are - dead.

No mention of spillover into over mammalian species here, we note?

That's the triumph of hope over certainty, for sure.