Monday, June 09, 2008


Tuberculosis testing of cattle may not show the results either of exposure to m.bovis, or the removal of its source, for several months. So after the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial staggered to a halt, the full results would be not seen until the next routine test of the cattle herds which were within the triplet areas.

John Bourne was keen to stress that his 'edge effect' (that is the peturbation of shattered social groups of badgers caused by his hit-and-run eight night trapping forays) was a very good reason not to do anything at all with the wildlife reservoir of bTb in this country. But while Bourne is concerned about his 'edges', others have rechecked the data from the trial and found that over time:
Beneficial effects inside culling areas increased in magnitude and detrimental effects were no longer observed on neighbouring lands,

This study of the longer term effects of the ISG's trial was seen as fresh evidence that a cull of badgers in in high-risk areas can be successful at reducing disease incidence in cattle. This is the conclusion of a report from the International Society of Infectious Diseases, which found that the beneficial effect of badger culling on cattle herds lasted for in excess of twelve months, while the 'perturbation effect' so beloved of the ISG, faded rapidly.

Farm Business has the story. Sorry, no direct links (yet).


We have now had sight of the paper and can offer a few more quotes.
Elsevier - a subscription site - has it on web link and state they publish on behalf of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. The paper was received March 20th 2008, received in revised form 3rd. April 2008 and accepted for publication 9th. April 2008 in the society journal, the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The lead author is to be cited as 'Jenkins, HE et al. The et al being Rosie Woodroffe and Christl Donnelly - late of ISG fame. The title "The effects of annual widespread badger culls on cattle tuberculosis following the cessation of culling.

The paper looked at the trial data for each of the years in which it tried to cull badgers, and then ran the TB incidence in cattle data onwards for each of a further two years at Defra's request and taxpayer's cost.

The estimated effects on cattle TB of culling badgers within the cull areas during the trial increased over the time frame from a modest 3.6 percent in its first year, to 31.8 percent from the 4th to final year. But two years later that effect had increased to 60.8 per cent.

Conversley the 'edge' effect, unique to the ISG 8 night cage trap fiasco, caused 43.9percent increase in breakdowns up to 2 km outside the triplet zone in the first year of culling, falling to 17.3 percent in the 4th - final year's scrape up.
But within two years, that negative effect had somersualted to a (minus) -30.1 percent incidence outside the proactive zones.

The summary results:
"During the post trial period, cattle TB inside culled areas was reduced,[] to an extent significantly greater than during culling. In neighbouring areas, elevated risks observed during culling were not observed post trial [].

And concludes:
Although to-date the overall benefits of culling remain modest, they were greater than was apparent during the culling period alone. Continued monitoring will demonstrate how long beneficial effects last, indicating the overall capacity of such culling to to reduce cattle TB incidence.

Update (2) The paper's author and a link to her work - an extension of the ISG results - can be seen here

The number of cattle slaughtered in GB increased from just 638 in 1986 to 3,760 in 1997 during the so called 'Interim Strategy' while government were making up their minds who was pulling their strings. Then a £1 million bung from the Political Animal Lobby brought a moratorium on badger culling in response to outbreaks of confirmed bTb, which has remained - hidden under the skirts of the RBCT.

During the following decade, cattle slaughterings rocketed to a staggering 28,175 in 2007. And 2008 is on course for another 20 per cent increase.

The NFU is using the ISID report to re-issue a call for the Government to finally make up its mind and allow selective culling to target TB hotspots in England and Wales. GB's 'patience' is running out....

Friday, June 06, 2008

Heil Hilary?

In a positively bizarre stroke, this week it has come to our attention that the 'Thought Police' have descended on our very own Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). A circular instruction has been issued to all staff, which will filter from DVMs right down to local vets holding LVI status that regardless what the announcement from on high is, they must 'support it'. Unconditionally, unquestioningly and wholeheartedly.

We understand that the instruction is quite explicit in that all Animal Health staff who come into contact with 'customers' either by phone or in person, will not be expected to offer any disagreement with Defras's yet-to-announced-position, at any stage of the communication process.

So farmers are now relabelled 'customers'? Supermarkets have 'customers', and 'customers' have a choice. They can go next door if they don't like the product. This is a Government Department with responsibilities it prefers to shirk, but more importantly no alternative source for its 'customers'. But we digress. Just what is the impending anouncement about which the staff of Animal Health must not speak, think unpositive thoughts or utter anything other than unconditional support for?

The future Governemnt strategy for TB control, and the roll - if any - of badger culling of course.

A strategy of any sort would be an improvement on the last twenty years. During that time MAFF, now rebranded Defra, have twisted every which way to avoid their statutory responsibility, which is to have a positive eradication policy for bovine tuberculosis. Culling ever more cattle just doesn't cut it, while infected badgers are awarded cult status and their ancestral home, a Grade 1 listing.

Aghast at the return to the type of jackboot mentality which crushed rational thought and behaviour in the last century, Farmers Guardian has the story.

May one assume that the 400 LVI vets who signed a letter to the Chief Veterinary Officer in 2005, expressing deep concern about lack of government policy on BTb are equally willing to obey 'his masters voice' - whatever that may say?

Their letter ended with the scathing observation that forty years ago, a government feeling its way into a policy on bTb was "understandable". But given the accumulated knowledge acquired over decades, which they outlined in the letter they describe it now as "incomprehensible".

And Defra would appear to intend it stays that way. Heil, mein Fuhrer. Heil Hilary...