Saturday, March 21, 2009

2008 - Another stunning achievement.

Defra figures for TB incidence in GB during 2008 were posted this week. A stunning achievement we're sure you'll agree; to take all the hard work and cost of the 1950s and 1960s eradication policies (and some follow up strategies) to clear out the disease and then turn 'science' upside down, must rank as one of the most expensive and recklessly stupid things achieved by any government. (Leaving aside their current preoccupation with the inevitable result of the pyramid selling of unserviceable debt of course)

Our graph shows cattle slaughtered from 1978 - 2008 and the various policies under which TB eradication was attempted. The final figure for 2008 by the way, is 39,973 - an increase of 42% on 2007.

A thumbnail recap on past policies, and their success / failure is also shown in VAWM's Tb Events page. Briefly, working inland from the coasts during the 1950s and 60s during what was known as the 'TB Eradication' strategy, every cattle herd was tested, and reactors slaughtered. It was assumed that cattle with walled up lesions would continue to present at slaughter, or as occasional reactors for a decade or so, by which time the country would be declared TB free.

But in a few areas, reactor numbers remained stubbornly high. Both in the SW of Cornwall, and Ireland brutal and intense cattle measures - much like the ISG has proposed - failed utterly to reduce TB incidence.

A wildlife reservoir in badgers was confirmed in the early 1970s, and only when these infected setts were removed, did TB incidence in surrounding cattle herds drop. The low point was just prior to the 'Clean ring' strategy of the early 1980s when Lord Zuckerman observed in his report of 1980:
"The basic and incontrovertible fact is that TB in badgers is now (1980) a significant second reservoir of the disease in parts of the South West, dangerous for badgers and cattle alike. Given the policy of government to suppress bovine TB the disease cannot be allowed to spread in the badger population. I cannot therefore see any reason for continuing the moratorium on the campaign to eliminate tuberculous badgers".
Despite this, gassing was stopped on welfare grounds, although it is still authorised for other varieties of animal 'miners' and cage traps were introduced. An excellent idea. All trussed up in a neat carrier, the occupant can't bite and can be shifted with ease - anywhere. A little TB takeaway.

During the 1980s, from a low of 638 cattle slaughtered and about seven years of numbers under 1000, but in the face of increasing activity by 'animal rights' protesters and the National Federation of Badger Groups, a further report was produced. This one by Professor Dunnett. Like his predecessor Lord Zuckerman, Dunnett accepted the role of badgers in the transmission of tuberculosis, however during his 'Interim Strategy', the Ministry responsible (MAFF)had its respective arms tied even more tightly. Land available to cage trappers was severely reduced from 7km down to just 1km and they were only allowed on land which reactor cattle had grazed. Setts on arable land, forestry or a neighbouring farm were out of bounds to the trappers - if not to the badgers.

The inevitable result was a steady increase in diseased badgers, and their consequent effect on TB incidence in cattle. From 782 cattle slaughtered in 1988 the number had increased to 6,083 a decade later.

And so to the Bourne conspiracy and the ISG's 'simple mathematical model' driven ten year Badger Dispersal exercise. So that 'his' cull areas could be properly evaluated, Bourne insisted on a 'no culling' policy outside them. And to placate the diminutive professor, in 1997, government bent the law of the land in the form of a moratorium on a section of the Protection of Badgers Act which deals with culling to 'prevent the spread of disease'.
"It is current policy not to issue any licenses under sub-section 10(2)a [of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992] to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis, except for animals held in captivity" Hansard 18th March 2004 [ 158605]

So replied Baby-Ben Bradshaw in answer to PQs on the subject.

So what is the result? In a word, carnage. Appalling, expensive, avoidable carnage.
From that low point (1986) just two decades ago, when 638 cattle were slaughtered and less than 100 herds under restriction, successive lobby pandering by governments has walked this country into a situation where taxpayers are forking out for an 'growth industry' worth £billions. A gravy train of misery for farmers snarled up in it, but which its beneficiaries are loathe to give up on. And the badgers? Sick,diseased and dying, having spilled the detritus of disease into several other mammals with the risk of onwards and upwards transmission into humans. But hey, the NFBG has now morphed into the Badger Trust and expanded its operations four fold. Did we say beneficial crisis? You bet.

Last year was the worst on record - and far worse than during the eradication clearances of 1950s. Defra have presided over a one sided policy which has hoovered up just short of 40,000 cattle during 2008, has snarled up 7,928 herds - and shows no sign of slowing down. Why would it? With lousy, grey, wet summers and major floods last year throughout the South West and particularly Gloucestershire, should we be at all surprised that herd breakdowns are running at 24 percent over 2007, and cattle slaughterings at up 50 percent in some areas. Herds remain snarled up in cattle restrictions but open to constant badger reinfection from an overpopulated, endemically infected and weather stressed population.

Ironically the only patches in the south west to have shown a drop in TB incidence during 2008 are the RBCT Dispersal Trial cull areas, where after a few years of struggle, the WLU actually managed to catch a few badgers. ISG data has been topped up with a report, which detailed a 60 per cent reduction in TB incidence.

* (Strangely, Defra seem loathe to show us the county figures for the West region for 2008. Perhaps they cannot believe their eyes. They should. However, the GB total and a calculator shows an extra 237 herds affected in December, and almost 2000 cattle slaughtered in the nine counties which comprise Defra's 'West' area. When they finally get around to posting December's stats instead of those for November, we'll work out the increase in each county.)

So what for the future? Our minister for (some) Animal Health, the Right Honourable Hilary Benn MP, has put all his eggs in the vaccination basket, along with £20million, with more to come. Will it work? Who knows. The earliest date that Defra reasonably expect a vaccine to be available and cleared through its regulatory hoops is 2014, which we shall call 'VE' day. (Vaccination Expected) Prior to that, a few 'pilot' areas are expected to be volunteered, where badgers endemically infected with tuberculosis, will be - err, vaccinated against tuberculosis.

But a 'trend line' on our graph of cattle casualties up to 2014 when we are told a vaccine may be available, is not a pretty sight. We won't say 'we told you so'. We would much rather have said "We are glad not to have to say 'we told you so'". The Parliamentary Questions which form the bedrock of this site predicted this insanity, the epidemiological data on the disease in badgers, so painstakingly extracted from Defra and VLA, told us and the contributers who so confidently kept to Ministry bio-garbage guidelines and found to their considerable cost that it had not the slightest effect on disease incidence, also told us.

So we are not in the least surprised.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Once again an excellent succinct summary of Badger TB – where it’s come from and where it will be in the very near future – if the ‘do nothing’ option continues!

So who’s to blame?

We knew in 1997 that the corrupt and ignorant incoming New Labour regime was anti-Countryside – anti-hunting, anti-badger culling etc etc.

After many long hard years – despite the current doom laden economic ‘clouds’ – country folk are anxiously looking forward to the next General Election when all true countrymen will be able to vote and forever rid the nation of this politico-marketing phenomena called New Labour.

There will be time – as T S Eliot always said – to reflect on how we allowed ourselves to get into this horrendous position! There will be time to learn lessons!

The Countryside Alliance – formerly the British Field Sports Society – changed – it moved – it fought – tooth and nail – and at length. It could (probably) do no more than it has. It is close to ‘proving’ that the Hunting Act is unworkable!

So who’s to blame for allowing the current Badger TB debacle to persist?

Quite simply – as the leading farming organisation – it must be the NFU !

A few days ago I came across the Final Issue of the NFU's house magazine "British Farmer & Stockbreeder" (1984 – I think) which I had filed (?) away for some reason or other.

I scanned the content looking for references to Badger TB – there was none.

But there was a provocative article on the selection of the guy in charge of the NFU.

Hasn’t this always been our problem? The NFU boss may be a good man. An experienced farmer – well thought of in the trade – better even than most!

But no bloody good at strategy – always in response mode and then some. No accountability – but always pushing at DEFRA’s open and always revolving door!

Intellectually out-gunned by a one-man (woman - actually) band! Pathetic!

It’s said that we get the leadership we deserve – be it Government or NFU! But no farmer deserves the pain ideologically delivered by this New Labour government.

After this fag end government has evaporated there will be time for all countrymen and women to reflect on what they did during the ‘Great War of 1997-2010’.

Sadly for many farmers – the NFU’s answer will be – “very little”

Peter Brady