Monday, August 24, 2009

'Alas poor Yorick.....'

We have mentioned not a few times a 'management' strategy, based on badger's own behaviour as a possible answer to the TB problems this country faces. But the idea that badgers themselves exclude their old and sick members has yet to find favour with Defra's desk jockeys. Although PQs describe how Central Science Laboratory (now reinvented as FERA?) explain that they had:
"... identified behavioural differences between badgers excreting m. bovis and uninfected animals. Badgers excreting m.bovis had larger home ranges, and were more likely to visit farm buildings." [ Col 684W 23rd. March 2004 [158375]]
And the diminutive John Bourne appeared to agree with this, commenting in the ISG Final Report that:
.. infected badgers appear to range more widely and disperse further than uninfected animals (Garnett et al 2005; Pope et al 2007)
So where do these illustrious researchers, professors and academics think such badgers go? Although they flit around the word 'dispersed', they do not appear to associate it with homeless, disorientated and sick badgers; where do they hide? Obviously the word' hospital sett' has got the good professor rattled. He gives it a derisory whirl on p.171 of the ISG report.
In fact it gets a whole paragraph.
"It has been proposed that [TB] infection may be controlled by repeated culling of badgers in a number of 'hospital setts'. This suggestion stems from the speculation ( ??? ) that m.bovis infected badgers may be "expelled from their own setts due to disease.." [ making them] .. more likely to colonise setts vacated by other badgers, as they are too weak to dig their own" (British Veterinary Association, 2005)
The paragraph goes on the say that culling such setts would be a highly 'imprecise method of removing infected badgers'.
That would be compared with, what? Doing nothing doesn't seem to be working too well, but let that pass. Defra have.

But has anyone actually seen one of these 'hospital setts'? We haven't. But a blogger on Farmers Guardian website has. And we are grateful for sight of the photo of these excavated remains of a previous occupant, with a newly enlarged hole in the background..

The bones are described in the FG piece thus " .. the skull and leg bones appear to be at least 6 months old, possibly up to year. They could be older but are certainly no less. They are the skull, femur and tibia of a 'fully mature, well grown animal as shown by the very high parietal crest on the top of the skull. The teeth are worn and from that, the animal would appear to be at least 5 years old. The height of the crest of the skull, and the width of the jaws indicate a very powerful animal, likely to be male'.

Pat Bird, the writer, explains that this 'ties in very nicely' with a new confirmed TB breakdown of her herd which began in July 2008, and is ongoing. The health and welfare of the current excavators, digging into this huge, historic and disused sett is also discussed.

Farmers Guardian has two TB bloggers, and stories from the farm of Julia Evans can be read here.


Abagale said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Anonymous said...

There are such things as "hospital setts". When I worked on the Defra culling teams, we often found single hole setts with only one badger in it. Invariably, once culled and post mortemed, they turned out to be highly infected. Imagine using PCR technology on these largely infected setts to eliminate sick badgers ? Food for thought maybe ?

Matthew said...

Abagale. Welcome to the madhouse.
Not sure if 'enjoy' would be the word we'd use when refering to the prevarication, waste and duplicitous 'science' described here - but welcome anyway.

Anon 12.15.
We think there are too. But Bourne has the ear of the minister, and he says there is no such thing. It would be quite wrong of us to point out that should such setts exist, and be identifiable either by experienced ex WLU people, or PCR or both, then many professors would be need of gainful employment.
But we'll do it anyway.