Friday, September 04, 2009

You'll love this...

Over the years, we have heard some pretty imaginative spin from the Badger Trust. Dear old Trevor was a master whose manipulation of reports, statistics and research would have amazed even Alistair Campbell. Nothing excaped his cartwheels. From 14 million cattle doing bunny hops around the country, to a misleading over view on the Isle of Man's TB incidence, his enthusiasm for his chosen cause knew no bounds. Especially the bounds of honesty and accuaracy, when it came to reporting to his groupies or the media.

Lawson's successor, Jack Reedy, is walking in his footsteps, as we reported here when he told the Radio 4 audience in response to a programme about the Farm Crisis Network TB report, that
".. the TB problems of farms were merely "shoe pinches" because of the "economic penalty" which a breakdown entails, and nothing to do with its emotional impact on the animals or farmers. He went on to say that it is "very unusual for farmers to get fond of their cows" and that they are "usually very careful not to". Cattle are not pets (he helpfully pointed out)"
Which is possibly an slight improvement on Lawson's "cattle get killed anyway" line.

The impression Reedy gave in that interview, was that if farmers are paid enough, they'd roll over and that the TB problem would just disappear. We disagree, as would we suspect, several pet owners, and farmers of other breeds now caught up in the overspill of 'environmental' TB.
In the past, we have given a name to this elephant in the room, 'environmental' TB, labelling the bacterium after its current maintenance host, 'badger' TB. But a succession of ministerial prevarications has given us further inspiration: Bradshaw TB, Beckett TB and now Benn TB? But we digress.

Mr. Reedy,the latest offering ministerial morsels, in a long depressing line of hope over experience, has expanded his organisation's point of view in a longer interview with Alistair Driver, published in this week's Farmers Guardian, saying that:

Farmers are being ‘dangerously emotional’ about bovine TB and need to accept the scientific evidence in front of them.

We won't spoil your pleasure at this man's incredible naivity, by even cutting and pasting his comments. But we will comment on his failure to recognise any 'science' other than that produced by the ISG his apparent blindspots to his 'solution' of whole herd slaughter, which has been tried and failed. Or his kicking into the long grass, the painstaking work of local AH officers who complete a 'risk assessment' when they attend any new TB breakdown. These TB99s were ignored by the ISG, but show that in hotspot areas, as Lord Rooker realised, that only a tiny fraction of cases can be back traced to cattle movements. The majority - 76 percent and probably up to 90 percent, are down to badgers. The chart below was first shown at the BCVA Killarney conference.

The chart also bears out cause and effect of the Thornbury badger clearance in the mid 1970s. The area recorded a herd incidence of TB of 5.6 per cent and gassing setts started in December 1975, continuing for up to eight months. After that, badgers were left to gradually recolonise. Which they did. And the result?
"No confirmed cases of tuberculosis in cattle in the area of the Thornbury operation were disclosed by the tuberculin test in the ten year period following the cessation of gassing" Hansard: 28th Jan 2004 col 385W [150573]
So, what was the cause of the Thornbury success? Whole herd slaughter? Cohort slaughter? Zoning and movement restrictions, licensing and more cattle measures? Biosecurity and stricter testing? Change in the weather? All measures offered today by the Badger Trust, discussed by the T-Beggars ( T-BAG's successor around Defra's consultation table ) - and tried in the past by others, with humiliatingly expensive and ignominious results. However, we did ask. And remembering that it is a hanging offence to mislead a minister in written parliamentary questions, his answer was thus:
The fundamental difference bewteen the Thornbury area and other areas in the south west of England, where bovine tuberculosis was a problem, was the systematic removal of badgers from the Thornbury area. No other species was similarly removed. No other contemporaneous change was identified that could have accounted for the reduction in TB incidence within the area" (Hansard 24th March 2004: Col 824W [157949]

And Mr. Reedy, the earth is flat.


Anonymous said...

Just to let you know this was read and found to be very interesting. I learnt something about blogging and presenting a case from you. Thank you

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Matthew said...

Glad to be of service. Sorry it was necessary.
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