Study finds "no evidence" that badgers give TB to cattle, says Badger Trust
The Badger Trust strongly challenges claims by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) that "TB could be passed from badgers to cattle" through contact between cattle and badgers in the field.
Would we expect anything less?
In a paper in an online journal , researchers explain how they used data logging equipment to record what they call "contact initiation" between cattle and badgers. On publication, lead researcher Mike Hutchings claimed in a resulting SAC press release that this contact is "a potentially significant area of disease transmission between the species".
But David Williams, chairman of Badger Trust, dismissed the claims: "The idea that badgers 'initiate contact' with cattle is just ludicrous. These claims are absurd and are not even supported by the researchers' own data. Their data loggers recorded a so-called 'contact' when badgers were around two metres away from cattle.
Nope, it was less than 'around 2m'. The transponders were set at 2m to initiate a contact log. But average contact distance was much less, and as far as I know these gadgets were around the necks of the candidates, not attached to the end of their noses. Thus the distance from the transponder to the 'aerosol opportunity' changes contact distance a lot. Estimate 2 feet for a holstein cow from the transponder around her neck to the end of her nose, and about a foot for a big boar badger ? That's almost a metre less than the average 1.46 recorded. And that's more than enough to splatter particularly if the there is a badger cough or spit aerosol propellant involved.
That's hardly 'contact': the badgers could have been on the other side of a hedge. And the researchers have conspicuously failed to explain how a badger, whose nose is just a few centimetres off the ground, could transmit bovine TB to a cow that is almost two metres tall and two metres away.
Small hedges then. Ours are 3 m wide at least, including protective back fences. And cattle have their heads 2m off the ground? Always? They never graze? Lie down? Drink? Are they stuffed? By Williams, Lawson and their fellow travellers. Yes.
"Around half of all so-called 'contacts' were for barely a second and the researchers even admit that this so-called 'contact' was 'relatively infrequent'. Indeed, over six months less than half the cattle were anywhere near a badger.
There aren't that many badgers in this area of Yorks.. Imagine the difference if the work had been done in the SW where we're falling over the bloody things.. It ain't quantity (except of bacteria) It's quality - as in how infectious are these creatures. If even one 'contact' had been from a super excreter and the cow had sniffed just 70 units of bacteria, then she's stuffed. A reactor.
"Of course, the study found that cattle are constantly close to one another, even though the equipment was turned down to intentionally minimise the number of cow to cow contacts that were recorded. Cow to cow - both within herds and between herds - is the obvious way in which bovine TB is spread and maintained and this study provides ample evidence for that transmission route.
Of course it is. And the earth is flat. This chestnut that cattle contact is a significant transmission opportunity totally contradicts VLA's spoligotype maps. (If a cow has developed lung lesions and is housed, that is the only exception.)
"The only interesting finding of this study, which confirms the well documented territorial behaviour of badgers, is that neighbouring social groups of badgers almost never came anywhere near one another.
Er, read it again. There was a lot of contact between the two groups in September, which is what we see at ground level. A huge amount of activity in autumn and spring.
It's the 'dispersers' that cause much of the trouble. Sick badgers excluded from their own clan, will travel further and encounter other groups. Bite wounding as territorial scrapping takes place is a documented route of disease transmission.
The idea that a badger group remains the same size even when sows have cubs every year and the group expands, and gets older (weaker) and young males fight for supremacy within the heirarchy, is 'Wind in the Willows' stuff.
This scotches the view promulgated by farming unions that bovine TB is spread between badger social groups rather than from herd to herd.
"This study simply confirms that cow to cow is the most likely route of bovine TB transmission and it provides no firm evidence that a single badger was ever close enough to a cow to infect it with bovine TB.".
And the fact that this hissy fit has exploded from the Badger Trust, gives Professor Hutchings work more credence.