This posting contains images which should cause distress.
Four years ago, almost to the day, our co-editor blasted the RSPCA and the badger groups with this posting after their collective 'airbrushing' of the effect of tuberculosis on their chosen species.
If you remember, the RSPCA came up with the witheringly simplistic phraseology, that in the latter stages of the tuberculosis, badgers may experience 'a slight wheeziness'.
This was to support the Badger Trust's 'Back off Badgers' campaign.
A dose of Venos, two paracetamol and an (organic) carrot then?
Now much as we hate to burst this cosy bubble - and we too would like all badgers to mirror the one at the top of this posting - too many with tuberculosis, end up like these pics which we list below. All were taken at, or prior to, postmortems which showed them to have generalised, highly infectious and often terminal tuberculosis.
Of badgers taken in Ministry removals 1987 - 97, the area of Broadway in Worcs., came out top of the pile, with over 70 per cent of its badgers showing tuberculous lesions at postmortems.
Tuberculosis is not like a sniffle or a common cold. And although badgers can and do live with the disease, sometimes for years, intermittently shedding copious amounts of bacteria, eventually, this is their end, often after fierce fights.
They maybe diseased and excreting bacteria for 1 - 3 years, but once tuberculosis becomes generalised, they are in a very sorry state indeed. Often excluded from the group, they become what is referred to as 'super excreters'. That is, having tuberculosis in several organs, and capable of excreting huge amounts of infectious material from all of them, which is then available to any mammal unlucky enough to trip over it.
If they have been bitten by a tuberculous assailant, then generalised tuberculosis is often the result.
Behind the puncture wounds, this is the sort of infection they are harbouring. Pints and pints (or litres if you prefer) of pus - all capable of dripping from the original bite wound holes. And with the organisms travelling to other parts of the badgers' body, particularly his lungs and kidneys.
From the outside of the animal, the puncture wounds from inciser teeth appear quite small. Badgers are strictly territorial and will fight to protect their patch, so bite wounds are common. If the assailant has not got tuberculosis, these may heal.
But if it is infected.....
... then tuberculous abcesses form at the entry point. This is the cleaned abscess site of the badger pictured above.
It may be useful to point out that when a badger's kidneys are affected by TB (and this is a common site for lesions) he is capable of excreting up to 300,000 cfu (colony forming units) of bacteria in just 1ml of urine. Badgers are incontinent and will void this indiscriminately across grassland, at 30ml a squirt. It is also used as scent markers and as a 'fright / flight' defence if startled.
About 50 bacteria is enough to provoke a 'reaction' in a tested cow. And she is shot.
The reason for this posting, as we said at the beginning, a mirror image of one four years ago, is this blindingly naive and misleading statement by the Badger Trust, issued last week and criticising farmers for pointing out the effect tuberculosis has on badgers.
“We know of no scientific evidence or authoritative validation for a statement of that kind, though we are, of course, aware that similar but totally unsubstantiated claims have been made repeatedly by pro-cull lobbies in an attempt to emotionally influence the public to support their case,” the Trust said.
Well how about this for 'scientific evidence'.
An emaciated badger, drowning in the fluids issueing from a massive tuberculous pleurisy. This can occur when a lung abscess bursts and affects the surrounding membranes. Pleurisy is extremely painful, and this animal would certainly have shown respiratory distress before death.
That's what tuberculosis does. Abscesses (or lesions) burst or multiply to affect many of the organs of the body, until the animal starves or suffocates to death.
In 2003, on this very point, the 'welfare' of badgers with tuberculosis, we received the following answer from the then minister, Baby-Ben Bradshaw. 
"It is difficult to make objective assessment of whether these animals suffer"Those pics don't exactly show the individuals in glowing health and comfort - but let that pass...
Typically individuals may live for many months or even years while infected, showing no overt signs of clinical illness and maintaining normal body weights. Infected females often give birth and successfully rear litters.Which is why they are so bloody successful as a maintenance host. TB kills alpacas who are equally riddled, and tested sentinel cattle, with little infectivety at all, are shot. But we do get the answer eventually, so bear with us:
However, post mortem findings (as our pics ?) where advanced pathological changes have occurred, particularly in the LUNGS ( my emphasis - ed ) indicate that during the final stages of the disease there would undoubtedly be an effect on the quality of life of such an animal. This stage is thought to last a few weeks at most".Well that's all right then. They only 'suffer' for a few weeks (they think) This animal is drowning in its own body fluids (this is a close up of that 'massive tuberculous pleurisy).
Veterinary scientists advise that this badger would have been in extreme pain, possibly excluded by its peers, certainly starving and probably seeking shelter.
“Badgers have no divine rights over TB and as disease takes hold they lose bodyweight and condition, while the disease processes gradually invade and finally engulf their lungs over a period of many months.
“Proper appraisal will show, as with any species with a slowly developing pneumonia, that respiratory disease signs worsen as disease advances. Also kidney disease frequently occurs and as this can be acutely painful. In the badger this results in a more rapid deterioration of condition.
“Does TB cause painful disease? It is rather naive to assume that it does not.”
Some of these photographs were used to illustrate the following article: "The Cause of ill health and natural death in badgers in Gloucestershire". Gallagher J, Nelson J. and published in Vet Record. 1979 Dec 15;105(24):546-51.
An abstract from the piece, describes cause of death in these animals thus:
During the period 1973 to 1976 inclusive, 1206 badger carcases were examined for evidence of tuberculosis and other diseases. Tuberculosis was the major cause of natural death, killing 39 per cent of the natural death cases, followed by bite wounding and starvation.But remember the words of the Badger Trust and the RSPCA - a badger does not 'suffer'.
Somebody needs a reality check.