Dr. Gillett is a hospital medical consultant with 35 years experience specialising in microbial diseases and infection control, and he supports the remarks made by Dr. Zellweger, a Swiss vet with over 30 years experience.
Dr. Gillett explains that
The decline of tuberculosis in humans in this country owes more to improvements in living conditions, better nutrition, less overcrowding and the pasteurisation of milk than it does to the introduction of BCG.(We assume here that Dr Gillett is talking about Defra's Badger BCG vaccination project, rather than a mass BCG vaccination programme across the country to mitigate spillover from TB infected badgers into humans, alpacas, cats, dogs free-range pigs, sheep, goats and cattle.)
Studies on BCG vaccination in man show an efficacy of between 0% and 70% and appear to depend on country, nutrition and the prevalence of other mycobacterial infections in the population immunised. Thus a policy to control bovine tuberculosis based almost entirely on the use of currently available vaccines is unlikely to be successful even if one could achieve 100% uptake. Trials on new vaccines will take several years to complete given the chronic nature of the disease in both man and animals, and the outcome far from certain. In the short, and probably medium term this means the DEFRA policy is essentially do[ing] nothing.
Dr. Gillett continues: "It has to be understood that the current policy of testing and slaughtering infected cattle is aimed at preventing the acquisition of bovine TB by humans not cattle. As Dr Zellweger indicates in his letter, to control bTB in cattle, one should be looking to prevent the transmission between and to animals in the herd. This would involve detecting and eliminating sources that pose a threat to cattle and unfortunately the badger is the most important wildlife reservoir that has close contact."
I find it inconceivable that two species of animal that are susceptible to the disease and have proven close contact are not transmitting the disease to each other. Introducing proper control measures is therefore to the benefit of cattle, badger, farmer and the exchequer.He continues with the observation that "Some would advocate the mass culling of badgers and one must suspect that it is fear of the political implications of public reaction to such a policy which bolsters DEFRA’s inactivity."
Why then are such measures not instituted?
( One may also consider that it suits Defra to keep a wedge driven between those farmers and vets who want a cohesive policy to eradicate bTB from wherever it may be found, and the beneficiaries of the current polemic, in whose interest it remains to keep the
Dr. Gillett appears to have caught up with the targeted 'management' strategy for wildlife which we mentioned here, and he comments:
There is an intermediate and more appropriate strategy. I am reliably informed by countrymen that it is possible to detect diseased badger sets by inspection of the runs and other signs. Thus it is possible to avoid mass culling - which may actually be counter-productive - in favour of selective elimination of diseased animals. A measure which is to the benefit of the badger population as a whole and the cattle. A group of concerned West Country farmers and vets have recently produced a DVD outlining the present problems and the potential for training others in the recognition of diseased sets. It is to be hoped that a coherent policy may be formulated about such an approach.Dr. Gillett concludes, "Should an effective vaccine and delivery system become available in due course, then it would be (as in humans) an adjunct to rather than a replacement for effective infection control measures."
(Note: More of this discussion on www.warmwell.com and 'Bovine TB – A Way Forward', the film by Chris Chapman, which describes a management policy, will be released at the end of January. For details go to the homepage www.chrischapmanphotography.co.uk and click on FILM )