Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"Farmers' representatives ..

... tried to play politics, only to find the politicians were better at it".

The last line of a Badger Trust press release, issued last week, which describes the coalition government's preferred Option 6 as a 'futile jumble'.
The Badger Trust appeals in a new leaflet for the public to respond to the Coalition Government’s consultation on its pointless plans to license farmers to kill badgers in parts of England, its preferred option after setting out a futile muddle of assertions in its official consultation document. It is vital for those concerned about the welfare of this indigenous species to respond not least because the National Farmers’ Union – a far larger and wealthier organisation – is staging briefing meetings countrywide to encourage its members to support the killing of badgers – at their own expense.
We gave links to the consultation documents in this posting. But the one which farmers should read and inwardly digest is Annex F, (number 8 on our list) entitled 'Impact assessment', which describes in detail the impact of an RBCT type area cull on the pockets of participating farmers.

The Badger Trust's reply to the consultation is predictable, and can be found here.

The Badger Trust press release also contains a delicious example of John Bourne misquoting, er, John Bourne:
The consultation document contains inconsistencies, confusing statements and omissions at various points throughout its great length. It is cynically slanted against the badger and fails to quote fairly the principal scientific finding which it buries in an annex 134 pages down. This states:
“First, while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.
That 'principal scientific finding' would be the oft (mis)quoted Professor John Bourne, when describing his ten year prevarication. A single decade amongst many where the epidemiology of TB in badgers and cattle has been cogitated and investigated, published - and ignored.
(**See later edit, for the source of that misquote)

However on many occasions, including in oral evidence to
The Welsh Assembly Government in July 2007, this truncated version of what Bourne said is expanded thus:
"We repeatedly say "culling, as conducted in the trial." It is important [that] we do say that. Those limitations were not imposed by ourselves. They were imposed by politicians."
So, what do we have? Badgers are 'clearly a source of cattle TB, but culling them 'as conducted in the trial' ... can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain".

We knew that, and so did Bourne at the beginning of his RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial. And as our chart shows, it is evident what happens to tested, slaughtered sentinels when TB infected badgers are progressively left to share their infectious load over a series of sanitised strategies, culminating in a moratorium on any control of badgers 'for the purposes of disease', in 1997. And inevitable, as levels of environmental contamination rise, despite Defra's extreme reluctance to publish the true totals of other spillover victims of badger TB, they will continue to die.

And sooner or later, someone is going to hold government accountable for this.

Meanwhile, we have to agree with the Badger Trusts' final line.

Edit 5/11 : The Badger Trust press release clearly states Bourne's statement : " It (the consultation document) is cynically slanted against the badger and fails to quote fairly the principal scientific finding which it buries in an annex 134 pages down."

As we are easily bored at blogger HQ, but also a tad pedantic about such sources, we trawled 'it' - as in the consultation document and its various annexes. The document itself comprises 53 pages, and each annex between 6 and 40 pages. Even with a calculator to add these together, arriving at the appropriate '134 pages down' or thereabouts, we were unable to locate such a quote. Had a grammatical nicety got in the way? Was this gem to be found 134 pages into the Final Report of the ISG ?

Nope. We have marked p.134 of that document, but not because of this statement. It deals with biosecurity, badgers and cattle. And the ISG conclusion is that "It is not possible to identify particular risk factors which can be adopted across all regions with the expectation of ensuring reduced transmission of disease to and from cattle." That will not stop Defra trying to link pseudo and obscure biosecurity advice to farmer payments however, but we digress...

Where did that quote come from?
From what we can see, it is not in the Consultation documents at all, on page 134 of various annexes or anywhere else: neither is it in the ISG Final Report at the reference given. We found it in Bourne's letter to the then Secretary of State, elder brother to small pretender Ed, the Right Honourable David Milliband, MP .... right at the start of the ISG Final Report of 2007, on page 5.

While on our trawl of the consultation stuff, we did find another quote which the Badger Trust obviously missed. This one is on page 17 of Annex F of the package, and states that the policy to cull is to "address the reservoir of the disease in wildlife." Page 18 gives the options but page 16 [1.4] states that the key element not currently deployed is badger control. It continues:
"Scientific evidence indicates that in areas with high TB incidence in cattle, it will not be possible to eliminate the disease in cattle without addressing the transmission from badgers."
Furthermore the document asserts:
" No other country in the world has successfully tackled bTB in cattle without addressing any wildlife reservoir involved in maintaining and transmitting infection to cattle. We therefore regard this as the most pressing issue if we are to make progress on tackling the disease in cattle."

Precisely. And while 'we' are making such statements, perhaps as well as cattle, 'we' should mention the other bTB overspill victims of an unfettered wildlife reservoir of disease. The now hundreds of other mammals which we have highlighted on this site, but which 'we' still seem keen to ignore.

We are most grateful for the opportunity to correctly quote a Badger Trust mis-reference.


Anonymous said...

In the recently published Collins book ‘Badger’ the author Prof Tim Roper writes that:-

• “if TB is self-sustaining in badgers (virtually certain) and if the percentage of new cattle infections attributable to badgers exceeds 50% (which it does significantly), then it seems self-evident that some kind of action against the wildlife reservoir will be necessary, at least in the hot-spot areas”

His scientific ‘summaries’ on this subject are not always those of an independent scientific thinker, reviewer or commentator and to a very large extent – they replicate the ‘thinking’ of the then / current(?) DEFRA management team’s mindset as installed and groomed by the previous New Labour regime.

Indeed Pro Tim ‘bottles’ his conclusion by saying “the scientific case against isolated, one off, spatially restricted, culls of limited duration, such as were carried out in the RBCT is very strong” ie don’t choose a 4 foot, blind, one-armed, alcoholic Cuban to be the England goal keeper !!!


However Pro Tim importantly says “it has subsequently become clear that this is not the end of the story - culling ceased in 2005 – but the incidence of TB in cattle within the proactively culled areas continued to decline while the perturbation effect also declined and eventually…. went into reverse”.


Anonymous said...

The 'second reading' of the Sustainable Livestock Bill takes place on Friday 12th November, and needs the support of 100 MPs to proceed any further.

Currently 160 MPs support it - 75% Labour

But they can't even agree that a disease like TUBERCULOSIS still needs properly sorting. Ask all those 115 Labour politicians if we need to cull badgers - ANSWER - 100% - certainly not!!

At the moment we also have (amongst others) an organisation (the RSPB) with 1 million members that are being told to LET bTB RIP in all UK wildlife mammals!

On the other hand it wants to us to capture and scrub the bovine gaseous emissions!

Bonkers !!

Matthew said...

Trimbush @ 4.51

Tim Roper's earlier research included the filming of badgers accessing cattle feed troughs at over 4 feet high, and night cameras in cattle sheds where badger MacDonalds was the order of the day. No mutterings about territorial boundaries if ad-lib food is on offer, we note. Up to 3 social groups had a badger love-in on most nights of his filming.

Prof. Roper, is of course one of the beneficiaries of this crisis, and so we would not expect anything but the caveat, 'more research needed'. We haven't read his book.

Bourne couldn't have been more clear. Don't cull badgers this way. He showed us - as if we needed to know - just how not to do it.
Small scale culling in response to cattle breakdowns used to be very successful. It was less so with cage traps,(1982) and even worse with the reduction in land available to the WLUs after 1987.
The time delay was also a factor. BROs became extraordinarily bureaucratic, to a degree that it was not unusual for WLU operatives to be twelve months behind the problem.

Anon 5.21.

We think the PR machine is missing the point by concentrating on cattle casualties. Far better to inform the public of the risk to them and their pets, the hundreds of deaths already and the conspiracy of silence which surrounds such victims. One may enquire just why that is?

Ask people 'do you want to kill badgers' and the immediate answer is 'No'. And that would be true of most farmers as well.
But ask if badgers with tuberculosis, capable of sharing their infection with cats, dogs, pigs, alpacas, sheep, goats, llamas, bison and the general public at large in the country side - and the answer would be completely different.

Anonymous said...

There is endless analysis of data but it all ends up saying "this will not prevent TB in Cattle." As an owner of Pedigree cattle with the problem I need to know if there is any future for my herd. Can anyone put into clear language the ideal way to tackle the disease?

Matthew said...

Anon 11.49

Dr. Cheeseman, late of Woodchester badger heaven, is on record at least twice as saying 'Get rid of your cattle'.
If you want to keep your pedigree cattle, and keep them healthy, then watch out for the source of your problems. No one else is going to do that for you. You may block off buildings, feed stores and access to minerals etc.,raise your water troughs and do all the necessary bio stuff. But grassland is what cattle eat. And as yet, as far as we are aware, no one has yet found a way to shrink wrap it.

Anonymous said...

From Anon at 11.49

That's all well and good Mathew but to "watch out for the source of your problem" is easier said than done as things stand.