Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good news for m.bovis bacteria

It was announced this morning that the Welsh Assembly Government have lost their high court Appeal for a cull of badgers in the TB hotspot area of north Pembrokeshire.

Excellent news for m.bovis, the bacteria which cause TB, but seriously bad news for badgers, cattle, alpacas, cats, dogs, sheep, goats and possibly children, sharing their space and increasingly exposed to their spread.

High Court judgement is here.


Anonymous said...

Channel 4 News 7:25

Jon Snow: .... but you can't vaccinate sick badgers can you?

Brain May: but they die !!

Anonymous said...

I used to think Brian May was a smart man

Anonymous said...

This blog often pushes 'the facts' about badgers suffering from bovine TB.

Perhaps BM read this blog and got the impression of badgers dying from TB?

Are you saying that badgers are not at risk?

Matthew said...

It never ceases to amaze us how apparently intelligent people can accept that badgers carry TB, spread TB and yes, die a particularly nasty slow death from TB - and yet blank out their transmission of this diease, both between themselves and onwards.

This is compounded by a politically skewed civil service.
Having shrunk their ever increasing 'other species' TB figures to just VLA samples and not actual deaths in the 2009 stats, have omitted to publish any figures whatsover for 2010.

To answer the last Anon. Yes of course badgers are at risk of TB. If one member of a group has TB and is shedding bacteria, in the context of a warm, dark underground sett, intergroup spread is inevitable. M.bovis is known to survive for up to 2 years in such conditions.
Also confirmed by Hansard from research done over decades at Woodchester (and others), is TB transmission from an infected sow to her cubs.

Anonymous said...

"Yes of course badgers are at risk of TB"

So Brian May was right - they die

Jim said...

Two other learned gems from Mr May: culling will mean the "eradication" of badgers - and, only 9% of cattle TB is down to badgers. (Not even Prof Bourne managed that.) Clearly Mr M needs to spend less time with his guitar (or whatever it is he does).

Anonymous said...


I'm sorry - but Brain May should surely spend MORE time with his guitar!

Matthew said...

Anon 12.25.
Yes he's right. TB will eventually kill many badgers - but, and this is why they are such a successful maintenance host, the process may may take up to eight years.

During this time they are able to maintain body weight, sire or rear cubs and lead a relatively normal life - for a badger. But all this time are they are able to shed, often intermittantly, m.bovis - and share it with other mammals.

When the disease does overwhelm them, the pics we have of badgers showing advanced lesions are not pretty.
And they are so not pretty, that mainstream publications have difficulty publishing, as they say they may 'offend'.
And so they should.

Many of the wild statements attributed to Brian May, take some swallowing - even for us. But perhaps he did say them. Who knows.

Anonymous said...

The Coalition document states:-

As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis

WE have no reason to believe otherwise

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said
The Coalition document states:-

As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis

WE have no reason to believe otherwise
Matthew four says the problem with this statement is that is the part which says science-led policy that science will be the rbct which is part of what just lost Wales the ability to cull.
Science-led as long as the science is good, is fine, science-led if the science is flawed is not so good and will mean the above statement will not be followed

Anonymous said...

In 1980 Lord Zuckerman wrote:

"The basic and incontrovertible fact is that TB in badgers is now a significant second reservoir of the disease in parts of the South West, dangerous for badgers and cattle alike. Given the policy of the Government to suppress bovine TB, the disease cannot be allowed to spread in the badger population. I cannot therefore see any reason for continuing the moratorium on the campaign to eliminate tuberculous badgers."

Matthew said...

Anon @ 3.11
Yes, Dunnett (1986) had similar thoughts after his appraisal of the situation. And what followed both Lord Zuckerman and Prof. Dunnett was either progressive sanitisation of badger control under section 10 of the Protection of Badgers Act, or, in 1997 courtesy of the ISG and £1 million bung, its abandonment altogether.

Finally as Matt 4 said in the previous comment we are now firmly stuck with this chunk of politically skewed 'science', which the courts have now ruled is the 'science' the whole 'science' and the only 'science' on their particular table.

Anonymous said...

The court ruled that not only had the order permitting the cull been drawn too widely, but that the Welsh ministers had also acted unlawfully in misinterpreting section 21 of the Animal Health Act 1981 as giving them power to cull if they could achieve a reduction in TB which was "merely more than trivial or insignificant". They also unlawfully failed to carry out a balancing exercise to weigh up the harm involved (ie killing over 2,000 badgers) against the potential benefit – which the minister's own model predicted to be a reduction in the rate of cattle herd breakdowns of just 0.3% of farms annually.

Matthew said...

Anon 8.51.

Yes. We have read the judgement.
We have also warned against echoing the RBCT early operating protocol, in favour of a more thorough clearance but over a much shorter period.

To put that more clearly, Thornbury gassed setts regularly for approximately three months ( or several times as they became reoccupied) and for some setts, up to 8 months from December to August. Then they walked away, leaving a smaller population of badgers around the land perimeter to re colonise.
That kept cattle (and the environment) clear of TB for at least ten years, by which time badger numbers had recovered to pre-cull levels. No extermination.

The RBCT barged into a more intensly infected badger population, (as shown by herd incidence cattle tests) for 8 nights, with cage traps, once a year - if you were lucky. That they achieved anything at all is remarkable, but after their change of protocol in 2004, they did and cattle testing data in 2008 / 2010 has supported that. A 50% average reduction in the centre of all ten proactive triplets, less towards the edge, and an inevitable early 'edge effect' - 100% down to operating protocol, and avoidable. And that 'halo' disappearing with time and benefit spreading to cattle herds surrounding. Benefit - around 35% - from memory.

Returning to the Welsh debacle, any mathematical model is only as good as its input data, and the 9% benefit described by the judge, is mythical.(Can't see 0.03%)
A tentative prediction based on a seriously skewed ten year prevarication - some of which was based on 'rough assumptions' fed through a 'simple mathemetical model' ?
That's 'simple squared to the power of x', but still = stupid.

Remove the source of any disease - thoroughly, quickly and completely - and that disease will stop. No percentages of 'stop'. Stop, as Thornbury, means stop. 100% stopped, but the area then repopulated with healthy badgers.

As you may have gathered, we favour a targetted, but thorough cull. Not wipe out of any particular mapped area via an electronic abacus.
The presence of disease should be the only driver; using cattle tests as a baseline, backed up with fieldcraft tracking and PCR to identify diseased badger territories. And then clear them out. Completely. No exceptions. (As with the cattle)

This could be done in months, not years and would result in a much healthier badger population, as well as knocking on the head the spillover into the other susceptible mammals that we are seeing at the moment.

The more we see of the operating procedure offered to the Welsh Assembly for their proposed cull, and now this incredible prediction of benefit, the Court judgement was correct. And predictable from the start.
And the WAG were roundly shafted.

Matthew said...

Sorry - typo on your '0.3% benefit' - decimal point in the wrong place.

Matt 1.

Anonymous said...

I've very recently come across an old copy of Gamekeeper & Countryside magazine (March 1978) which included the following in the Editorial - "The Tuberculous Badger"

"whilst it is too early to assess results of the gassing programme, the Ministry's policy of identifying infected social groups and then eliminating them, is paying off.

In one small area of Dorset, where there has been a serious history of bovine TB for many years, no cattle infected with the disease have been disclosed since January 1976 (gassing began in August 1975)"

So gassing started in Aug '75 and come Jan '76 - CLEAN - 100%!!


Matthew said...

Trimbush. Think that area would be Steeple Leaze. Another patch was cleared at Hartland on the Cornish / Devon border, and of course Thornbury. All saw a big - up to 100% - reduction in cattle TB.