Monday, August 11, 2008

The NBA (and Defra) on bTB

We are grateful for sight of the latest press release from the NBA (National Beef Association). Members of the NBA are reeling under a backdoor live-export ban, and with the minister in charge off with his bucket and spade, they pull no punches.
We quote the document in full, (with some highlights.)


"The failure of Hilary Benn to meet his legal obligation under UK and EU law [1] to have an effective policy to eradicate a major notifiable disease (affecting both animals and humans) has led to the NBA TB Committee issuing new recommendations to the beef industry.

In the light of Mr Benn’s refusal to licence the culling of the occupants of diseased badger setts, farmers are recommended to take note of Defra’s “Husbandry best practice advice” on TB control:- 16 out of 21 of these guidelines refer to badgers with TB. In addition, the TB Committee points to the words of Mr Hilary Benn on the 7th July in Parliament
We know that badgers are infected and are a source of infection — no one argues about that” and “section 6 of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 allows someone to put down a badger if it is seriously injured or in such a condition that to do so would be an act of mercy. That is what the law currently says”[2] . If a diseased badger is seen, Defra advice is for it to be humanely destroyed, and only the occupier of the land is permitted to dispose of the carcase which has to be done “sensibly”.

At this time of year it is also crucial for farmers to check forage conservation areas, particularly maize, and follow Defra best practice advice. The TB Committee particularly advises farmers of the danger of maize crops. It recommends filling in any holes in the ground that might attract a passing badger. It is known that increasing badger numbers are partially attributed to badgers drawing in and living off maize cobs underground.
Defra wild-life officials have stated that underground holes can be checked as being unoccupied by placing two or more crossed sticks within the entrance to each hole and, provided these sticks are not disturbed for 21 days, the hole can be certified as not affecting wild-life. All nearby holes should be checked in the same way in the same period. Written records of daily inspections of the sticks should be kept.

If further reassurance is needed, spread sand at the entrance to such holes to ensure no animals are attempting to enter. The TB Committee further points out that an empty hole, which was occupied by diseased and dead badgers, is a hazard to any new transient healthy badgers because the carcase of diseased badgers and their bedding remains infectious underground in dark damp conditions for over twelve months. (A Defra licence is required to remove an active badger sett.)

In the Midlands, Wales and the SW over 3,500 farms are currently under TB movement restrictions. In Gloucestershire alone one in four farms are forbidden to move cattle. Because such a high proportion of parishes in these areas are one year testing parishes, any cattle picking up infection are removed and severe interpretation TB testing carried out until the whole herd passes two clear tests at 60 day intervals. The remaining healthy cattle act as sentinel animals – repeated reactors revealing that there is a source of infection in the local setts.
As TB continues to spread to fresh, healthy badger setts at over 10 miles a year, farms throughout these and adjoining regions are in two categories. They either have already shown there to be TB in their badgers, or it is heading towards them. Farmers in these and adjoining regions are urged to do everything in their power to protect their cattle and themselves from TB.

The TB Committee is also concerned at the lack of care for the badger population which is facing levels of TB at 70-80 percent in certain identifiable setts in these hot spot areas. With the rest of the industry, it will push the government hard to recognise wildlife within a TB eradication plan. The NBA TB Committee therefore strongly criticizes Defra for ignoring the main EU document [3] on TB eradication . This recommends that:-
“The reservoir of infection within wildlife populations should be effectively addressed’. (2.1.5),
‘Improved management of wildlife by strategic removal of infected wildlife’ (7e).
'It has now been reliably demonstrated that the persistence of an infected wildlife reservoir that enters into contact with cattle is a major obstacle to the eradication of TB. This obstacle should be addressed in tandem with the measures implemented in relation to the cattle population'.
'Removal of wildlife, either proactively or reactively following outbreaks, has proven to be an effective ancillary, and in certain situations necessary, measure to control and eradicate bTB'. (2.3.8)

The whole industry is devastated at the lack of care for the domestic healthy cattle population that is being newly infected and culled at a rate predicted to be 40,000 for 2008 - and rising. There also appears to be a total disregard for the welfare of badgers themselves by Defra and the rest of the government.

[1] Council Directive 78/52/EEC, Directive 82/400/EEC and Directive 87/58/EEC

[2] Hansard col. 1163 & 4 - in answer to David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): “We have a large number of badgers in Somerset, and TB is endemic among them. Is nothing to be done to rid the badger population of bovine TB? and Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): “They are suffering.” Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman talks about the suffering of badgers” then the quote made above.

[3] Working Document on Eradication of Bovine Tuberculosis in the EU accepted by the Bovine tuberculosis subgroup of the Task Force on monitoring animal disease eradication
- Brussels, 10/08/2006 SANCO/10200/2006 final

Today, Defra have confirmed the legal position of dispatching a sick or injured badger, as an 'Act of Mercy' under section 6 of the Protection of Badgers Act.
"The law does therefore allow individuals to take action to allow the prevention of suffering which is so severe that killing the animal would be an act of mercy, but protects badgers from wilful killing which is not justified on this ground (or one of the other grounds mentioned in section 6 of the Act)".

However, from where we sit, it appears that the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wants farmers to shoulder the responsibility that is uniquely that of the department.


Anonymous said...


In response to the NBA article I visited the NBA website. What did I find – an interactive advert from DEFRA advising me to “close my gates to disease”.

What the hell is the NBA doing? Is the NBA being paid for the advert – or is it free from its ‘friend’ - DEFRA?

When is the Cattle Farming community going to put its collective 11 years of pent up frustration to some good and do something about bovine TB (bTB) in wildlife (badgers)?


What have organisations such as the NBA, NFU, CLA done in over 11 years – well - er – nothing really – just taken the subscriptions of farmers and landowners (stakeholders) and ‘communicated on issues’ with their enemy – DEFRA – whilst patiently awaiting an MBE or knighthood with the possibility of ennoblement some time soon if they behave themselves.

Where is Farming’s bTB Strategy – where is its ACTION PLAN? Where is its BUDGET?
WHO – in the Farming Industry is responsible for the bTB PROJECT? What are the costs? What are the TIMESCALES? What are the MANPOWER requirements? What’s the DOWNSIDE? Where is the kitty to pay the fines in the unlikely event that are required?

Meanwhile DEFRA continues to divide and conquer. My message to the likes of the gutless NBA NFU and CLA is – to stop pretending to yourselves that you are truly representing your members’ interests – because you have culpably failed them in respect of bTB.

PS - If theVLA9 GROUP would welcome a free comprehensive and professional appraisal / evaluation of its Business Plan (Mission, Objectives, Strategy & Tactics, Project Plan, Methodology, Costings etc) We shall be pleased to assist

Peter Brady


Anonymous said...


I agree with you. The government doesn’t either fear or respect Farming or Farmers.

You’ve hit the nail on the head – the NFU & NBA are always behind the game!

The farming community have voted for their representatives at the NFU & NBA so presumably we get what we pay for and therefore it’s us farmers that are, as you say, gutless.

Surely NFU, NBA etc representatives read this blog – I wonder what their views are – likewise the management of this blog. Blogs like this and help the cause but we are preaching to the converted.

You are right Peter – it looks as though we farmers are on our own – until the government changes – and then the NFU, NBA etc will no doubt claim that the change is due to their political pressure over 10 years! As to the VLA9 group – where can we find out what it’s all about?

Good luck to you with your very lonely cause

Matthew said...

Anon 3.59
"Surely NFU, NBA etc representatives read this blog "
I wouldn't bet on it! Some do, some do not even know it exists and some do not own a computer.

"– I wonder what their views are – likewise the management of this blog."

Our view is and always has been that a one sided approach (cattle measures) to this very serious disease is a hiding to nowhere. Neither are we interested in doing 'deals', where more measures are placed on cattle movement, in the misguided belief that government will offer control of infected setts of badgers in return. Can't speak for anyone else, but have seen government polish enough 'egos' and then manipulate the result of stakeholder groups to be highly suspicious of their motives.

"Blogs like this and help the cause but we are preaching to the converted."
Agree. But there is so much on this site now, (and and both have links to many other prestigious sites and people. Contacts. Also all major internet search engines frequently throw up even small sites like this when enquirers ask a question, which may have been covered in postings.

Agree too with you and with Peter that g'ment couldn't give a monkey's about farming, farmers or cattle (or badgers). But the spillover of bTB into cats, dogs, llamas, goats, free range pigs and now human beings? That is a different ball game entirely.

Matthew said...

The VLA9 project was set up in Devon and North Cornwall, covering an area where that particular bTb spoligotype is found. Farmers were encouraged to sign up their farms for a badger culling license should one become necessary. We understand that tye project was originally a Krebs style size, then Bourne mentioned 300 sq km, and hard edges, so using the coastline and major rivers, it grew.

It was/is an excercise in farmer co-operation to illustrate that, contrary to g'ment belief, farmers could and would act together.
We understand that Animal Health officers would have the overall picture of the disease status of the area, and help make an informed decision on if and where any cull should take place.

The cat landed amongst the pigeons when Hilary Benn threw his rattle out of the pram and announced that he would not lift the moratorium, introduced in 1997, on the issuing of such licences under section 10 of the Protection of Badgers Act.

We have no idea of ultimate strategy, cost, etc. oulined by Peter. This is purely our impression from contact with some farmers involved.

Anonymous said...

Have a look at The Irish Times for a view on the effectiveness of 'removing' badgers -

"Over 16,000 badgers were killed in the first four months of last year as
part of a programme to stem the disease.

Hundreds of millions of euro have been spent in recent decades in a
largely fruitless effort to eradicate bovine TB.

More than 600 staff work in the area of disease eradication and animal
welfare and 50 per cent of local vets' resources are devoted to TB
eradication, the report notes.

The report says the prevalence of TB and the rate of new cases remain at
a high level despite the measures taken. The annual number of TB reactor
animals has never been below 20,000 in decades.

In recent years, a small decrease in prevalence has been recorded but
numbers of infected cattle are still higher than in the mid-1970s."

Full story at:

Anonymous said...

Indeed. Here's the full story:
(Especially notice the figures and comments re cases of human infection)

TB-INFECTED carcasses of Irish cattle that should have been declared
unfit for human consumption may have entered the food chain, according
to a scathing EU report on Ireland's efforts to eradicate bovine

Inspectors from the EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) have identified
major deficiencies in the slaughter of TB reactor animals, including a
risk of carcasses which are fit for human consumption being contaminated
with the TB micro-bacterium.

Their report acknowledges that Ireland's TB eradication programme is
generally in compliance with EU legislation but says there are
shortcomings in a number of areas.

The inspectors were critical of the slaughterhouse they visited for not
slaughtering TB reactor animals separately from other animals and for
not taking sufficient precautions to avoid risking the contamination of
other carcasses.

They noted that when slaughtering cattle, staff and the veterinary
inspector did not wear masks and, afterwards, washed only their aprons
and boots with a disinfectant that was not effective against the TB

Inspectors noted that only a few of the animal transporters used the
cleaning facilities of the market they visited, and said the cleanliness
of vehicles varied remarkably.

The pens, walls and floor of the market building were not thoroughly
cleaned and disinfected after the previous sale.

In one of the six holdings they visited, inspectors noted discrepancies
between the number of cattle recorded on the register and the number of

An EU requirement for cattle to remain in a single holding for 30 days
prior to export was not adhered to, they reported.

The inspectors also found that a dairy plant used milk from restricted
herds without official authorisation, as required by EU regulations

The report says TB outbreaks are caused by movement of cattle into a
herd, contiguous infected herds and wildlife, mainly badgers and deer.

Over 16,000 badgers were killed in the first four months of last year as
part of a programme to stem the disease.

Hundreds of millions of euro have been spent in recent decades in a
largely fruitless effort to eradicate bovine TB.

More than 600 staff work in the area of disease eradication and animal
welfare and 50 per cent of local vets' resources are devoted to TB
eradication, the report notes.

The report says the prevalence of TB and the rate of new cases remain at
a high level despite the measures taken. The annual number of TB reactor
animals has never been below 20,000 in decades.

In recent years, a small decrease in prevalence has been recorded but
numbers of infected cattle are still higher than in the mid-1970s.

In 2006, €38.3 million was spent on TB eradication, including €16.6
million for compensation, €8.6 million for testing fees and €2.6 million
for wildlife measures. Farmers whose animals are slaughtered qualify for
compensation of up to €3,500 per head.

Five cases of human TB caused by the TB micro-organism in cattle have
been confirmed since 2002. Overall, about 400 to 500 cases of human TB
are recorded each year.

© 2008 The Irish Times

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

Anonymous said...


In the consecutive years from 1978 to 1990 when MAFF understood that diseased badgers were the prime source of bTB (and badgers were culled properly) the number of cattle slaughtered each year due to bTB infection was less than 500 or so.

I shall keep repeating the following statement


That’s the way to do!



Matthew said...

Anon 6.21
Thanks for the link.
In 1998 Rep.of Ireland slaughtered 45,000 cattle. By 2006, that had nearly halved.
But their badger culling policy is still very hit and miss. Using snares for 14 nights only is pretty indiscriminate, and as we said before, increases in herd breakdowns are creeping in from counties not covered by a culling policy.

Can't comment on EU abattoir inspections etc. but unless cattle have open lesions, onward transmission won't happen.

Cases of tuberculosis in humans are not always strain typed - or even capable of being strain typed. Thus the majority will always be grouped as 'tuberculosis' not one type or the other. But if not diagnosed at an early stage via an infected contact, the disease has a very long incubation period; the results of exposure now, may not be seen for decades, hence public health involvment when bTB is 'confirmed' in cattle or any other mammal..