Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mass cull? - it won't happen.

Farmer Ian Pettyfer from Devon echoes our thoughts in an opinion piece in this week's Western Morning News. Forget pythagorus and huge cull areas aka John Bourne. They may work in a hypothetical, mathematical modeling situation but are a bloody disaster in any other.

Mr. Pettyfer welcomes Sir David King's overview of the Bourne report, pointing out that the ISG only considered one form of culling. (And accomplished that with total arrogance and aplomb, ignoring both the advice from their WLU managers and the recommendations of Professor Krebs)

[Sir David King] correctly, in the opinion of farmers, disputes the conclusion of the Bourne Report that any cull will merely exacerbate the problem, since Professor Bourne was only looking at one form of culling - cage trapping. However, King, in proposing a cull, goes on to agree with Bourne that, for this to be effective, it needs to be over a very wide area, a minimum of 100 square kilometres at least, but fails to consider any evidence to show that a different form of culling could succeed in much smaller areas, involving the deaths of far fewer badgers, and only in the diseased setts.
It is unfortunate that Sir David did not go further back than AB (After Bourne). In fact it is quite remarkable that (scientific) life began with Bourne and the ISG. No research, trials, cattle controls - nothing to do with controlling bTb happened BB (Before Bourne) it would seem. At least nothing that isn't ridiculed and pilloried into submission by a new 'modeling' exercise. Forget if you will, that 20 years ago GB achieved Tb free trading status. The last time we able to say that. And certainly ignore the advice of the people who fought so hard to gain that status. They were BB. But we digress. Mr. Pettyfer doesn't like the idea of huge area culls any more than we do - or the Bern Convention would.

Forget a massive cull - it is simply never going to happen. For a start, many landowners and farmers, let alone the general public, will never tolerate it. Where are the natural barriers, which are necessary for it to succeed in Devon and Cornwall - the M5, the English and Bristol Channels? Attempting to slaughter 80 per cent of the badgers in such a huge area is a preposterous idea.
Quite right. It is a red herring designed to prevaricate even more on the contentious subject of culling selective wildlife reservoirs of tuberculosis. Mr. Pettyfer concludes that he is "inclined to believe that Sir David intended to stir up controversy by suggesting it, knowing that the adverse public reaction would allow the Government to stall for the remainder of this parliament."

The sooner we start doing what we did successfully 40 years ago, and should have been doing for the past 20 years, the sooner we shall beat this heartbreaking and costly disease. Farms where TB keeps recurring and where cattle are not being introduced from other herds, should be licensed to take out the badgers, using carbon monoxide gas under veterinary supervision, and kept free of badgers until the herd goes clear. That is what farmers and vets have been advocating for years. It will eventually happen, and the public will tolerate it.
They'll tolerate it even more when their pet cats, dogs and free range companion animals start coughing. Spill over has already decimated a llama farm in East Devon which operated a 'closed herd' policy. We will post more on that in due course.


matthew said...

Dr Jayne Hope and colleagues at the Institute for Animal Health's Compton Laboratory have developed a test that can distinguish cattle that have been vaccinated against bovine tuberculosis (TB) from those that had been infected by the causative agent, the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis.

Problem solved then!

Matthew said...

See our reply on posting above.

farmerwantingpublicsupport said...

Badger cull report findings are criticised by scientific journal

News | 9 November, 2007

A LEADING scientific journal has suggested that Government chief scientific adviser Sir David King’s report recommending a badger cull was politically motivated.

In an editorial, Nature accuses Sir David of ‘mishandling’ the issue. It says his intervention was an ‘example to all Governments of how not to deal with such advice, once it has been solicited and received’.

Sir David’s paper, based on the final report of the Independent Scientific Group on bovine TB and other evidence, concluded that badger culling could make a ‘significant contribution’ to reducing disease in cattle, alongside enhanced cattle controls.

This contrasted with the ISG’s conclusion that badger culling could ‘not meaningfully contribute’ to control of bTB in Britain.

Nature said Sir David had been ‘rightly criticised’ by scientists and MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for ‘seeming to go back on the ISG’s advice, which the Government had itself sought’.

‘Badger culling is a politically fraught issue in Britain, pitching farmers against the equally passionate and vocal animal-protection lobby. King’s motives remain unknown but his actions are likely to encourage speculation that his report was written to please the farmers’, the editorial said.

It said political factors ultimately overrule scientific ones when a Government takes a decision in a contentious field. In Britain, scientists enjoyed a better relationship with their Government than in countries like the US.

‘Prior to the badgers episode, little evidence has come to light of advisory recommendations from scientists being cooked or spun to match the Government’s intentions’, it said.

It urged Defra to base its policy on the ‘unfettered advice’ offered by the ISG, rather than Sir David’s report.

Matthew said...

Scroll down. We covered Nature's rather skewed editorial Nov.1st;

Although how anyone could have missed Bourne's evidence to EFRAcom that his trial had had a political steer from day 1 is quite bizarre. Not 'science' but bizarre.