Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tie a yellow ribbon?

The BVA (British Veterinary Association) have issued a statement supporting the High Court decision, that the proposed cull of infected badgers in Wales, is lawful.

Commenting on the verdict, Professor Bill Reilly, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:
“The BVA and BCVA welcome the outcome of the Judicial Review which means that the Welsh Assembly Government’s important work to control and eradicate bovine tuberculosis can go ahead.
John Blackwell, Senior Vice President of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, (BCVA) added:
“We have strongly supported the Welsh Assembly Government’s TB Eradication Order because it combines strong measures to tackle the disease in both cattle and wildlife. We are therefore pleased that the court has declared the Order is lawful.

“We will be watching the outcomes of the measures in Wales under the Order closely and hope that, if successful, these measures will be replicated in other areas of the UK.”

And therein lies the problem, as it was with the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial. Just how is this exercise going to be carried out and will it be 'successful' - as in reducing sentinel tested cattle slaughter and the opportunity for disease spillback into other mammals?

Will it be quiet, clean, thorough and anonymous? Will experienced operatives be allowed input to decision making, so that problems are tackled before they disrupt the operation? Or, like the bureaucratic, intermittent, incomplete and highly visible RBCT, will it actually achieve it's aim and just scatter a highly infectious population of badgers?

Several contributers to this site had the serious misfortune to be included in the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial triplets. Some in the Proactive areas, one in the Reactive. Their experiences were the same. Intermittent hit-and-run highly publicised visits led to trap interference and trespass by 'activists' hell bent on protecting their chosen species, no matter what the cost to others. And this especially in the first four years of so-called 'culling'. We do not label this farce 'badger disersal' for nothing.

Our bitter experiences were supported in a submission to EFRAcom in 2006, by one of thetrial managers who said:
. * Krebs had too many anomalies and weaknesses in the strategy for it to be successful. It took us four years to steer away from trapping setts that had been interfered with by Animal Rights Activists, to be able to trap badgers anywhere, in order to eliminate them. That was only one of a raft of operational problems we faced and had to endure.

* Limited trapping - eight days per year with Krebbs - has little effect if carried out late in the year. The effect being that areas went almost two years without an effective cull. (In some cases three, or not at all - ed)

* The costs for a future culling policy must NOT be based on Krebs costings. [ snipped ]
Krebs was ridiculously expensive for what it delivered.
So what of the Welsh effort? Who is the trial manager? Will he listen to his operatives and has he learned anything at all from what went so wrong with the English version, described so eloquently in the submission above?

Cage trapping individual badgers is arguably the most expensive method of dispatching an infected group. So have the Welsh commandeered all those English badger cages (or what's left of them) lurking somewhere at the taxpayer's expense, or have they bought their own? The English ones, in use since the mid 1980s have been developed over time, to ensure that the mesh gauge encourages - as much as any cagetrap can - entry? We are told that a small mesh will not get many volunteers, and that in past trials, 5cm square, or the old 2 x 2 inch was about right.

This also allowed dispatch of the occupant without too much fuss. Any smaller mesh meant entry was limited but more important, the barrel of the rifle or pistol couldn't make entry. This would mean that the occupant had to be translocated into another cage before dispatch. A procedure which is neither fast, easy, or desirable and has meant escapees on many occasions.

The pistols or rifles used in the English badger culling operations were a) silenced and b) used hollow nosed shells for accurate and instant kill with no ricochet. (Too powerful a rifle using supersonic shells, as used in free running target running in open country, runs the risk of operator or onlooker injury in a confined area.)

The RBCT publicised their locations on websites. And sympathisers within Defra offices ensured that WLU operatives ran the gauntlet of abuse and physical attack on a daily basis. The vehicles used in the early days of the trial were like pink elephants, with white Crown tax discs, sparkling clean and their registration numbers noted. Have the Welsh learnt from this and will they protect their operatives? Or will bright shiny suits and noisy cloned vehicles be the order or the day?

We have reported many times the wastage of man hours and trap opportunities which resulted from this 'open house' on the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial. Hansard confirms that up to 2003, 5 years into the English trial, almost 70% of traps set were either 'interfered with' or had 'disappeared'. Have the Welsh Assembly taken on board this opportunity for disruption, or like the New Zealanders, do they plan to hang yellow ribbons from trees surrounding the trap areas?

In New Zealand, the aerial drops of poison pellets to clear out infected colonies of bush possums over a large area requires public notification so that anyone approaching an area thus baited, can keep a tight hold on dog, child or grandma. Cage traps laid one night and visited within hours are a different kettle of fish.

We make these points with a clear message to our Welsh colleagues. Don't let bureaucratic intransigence or inappropriate operating protocol screw this up.

As John blackwell of the BCVA said:
“We will be watching the outcomes of the measures in Wales under the Order closely and hope that, if successful, these measures will be replicated in other areas of the UK".

Carried out correctly, culling of groups of TB infected badgers works quickly. Get it wrong and they have the ability and opportunity to spread the disease far and wide.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wait till it all comes out. I know several of those who have been offered and turned down jobs on this cull because of there fears about personal safety and the cock ups that have occured and will occur in the future. You infer that the Welsh should use the knowledge that alreadye xists. That would be a first - use common sense and learn from what mistakes they have already made !!! The cage saga is correct. Aparently the mesh is to small to get a gun muzzle into it - what a joke ! How many have they bought ? The Welsh have the oportunity to show what can be done with a strong policy - why oh why have they allowed this to happen ? Something must be done to gaurantee that the cull runs smoothly so why can't somebody with the knowledge and experience to advice and oversee it be taken on to do it ? There are lots out there well qualified to do so especially some of the ex MAFF vets and wild life managers. Come on Wales- get your act together and make this work for our sakes. We need something simlar in England, so you cocking it up to start with wont help !

Anonymous said...

How intelligent, Anonymous. You can't even spell.
You make my blood run cold.

david.tyddu said...

Not very hopeful about the Welsh Cull, have heard from a welsh NFU contact that WAG’s “preferred Contractors” [i.e the cheapest] cut and ran in March. Their second “preferred contractors” are currently offering £12.00 and hour in Pembrokeshire for an 80 hour week, three months work and surprise surprise having difficulty finding a work force!! God help us all. One good thing WAG did manage to win the Judicial Review argument, even with boy George batting for the badgers.

Matthew said...

Anon 7.34
TB makes our blood run cold - and we can string those two letters together.

David @ 9.04
Thought it was Brian May, playing his guitar to them? !! Why not send him the caged badgers, parcelforce? He can deal with them and their most dreadful disease at his sanctuary.
With the possibility of high profile visibilty, no anonymity and much aggro, no amount of cash would compensate WLU operatives.

The WAG may have won their judicial review but if they mess this one up, as seems possible if what we hear is correct, then we all lose.
Badgers, cattle, alpacas, cats, dogs.
Tuberculosis wins.

Anonymous said...

Mathew since you run this list can you contact me on my email.

Matthew said...

Anon 9.37.
No can do. Anonymous comments, in fact all comments to blogs, have no referrals and no return email.

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Matthew said...

Last two comments deleted - spam.