Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wales cuts the tow rope

For some time now we have assumed that England's proposed badger culls would piggy back the Judicial Review piloted by the Welsh Assembly Government(WAG). Particularly as the revised operating procedures for Wales included free shooting and ring vaccination, which was Defra's preferred Option 6 in the English consultation.

But this week, the new Welsh Assembly Government decided to put on hold the current plans, and re examine 'the science' behind them. We will resist the opportunity to comment on that piece of spin. This time.

So where does that leave England? Defra minister Jim Paice MP, is treading water just as fast as he can paddle, with mentions of higher up 'decision makers' and 'public opinion' coming thick and fast. The minister's commitment may be undiminished but his boss, having had her chain saw confiscated, is unlikely to be seen waving a dead badger around any time soon.
And his ultimate boss, the Boy King, has an irritating habit of 'U' turns at the slightest hint of public dissent.

We also hear from Jan Rowe, a member of the T-BEG , that a holistic approach will be considered. Mr Rowe said he was ‘still pretty confident’ Ministers will give the go ahead to the cull.
“But I think we will be expected to do quite a lot, including some quid pro quo tightening of cattle measures, and the rules will be very tight,” he said.
That latin expression quid pro quo (or something given up for something in exchange) strikes a chord in our memories, (and sends a shiver of apprehension down our collective spines) if not in T-BEG's. The Welsh farmers have already had the screws tightened with this 'holistic' approach. And extra cattle measures have now left them high and very dry. And in December 2005, we reported a similar shafting negotiation on behalf of English farmers, as industry representatives delivered preMT and tabular valuation, while Defra delivered - precisely nothing.

So what now for England, as the WAG cull and subsequent court case looks set to stall? It is our gut feeling that Defra will flunk it. As they and their predecessors have done so many times before. Thus the increasing environmental contamination will affect even more pets and companion mammals than it is doing now.
And in doing so, it will bring tuberculosis straight to the general public's hearthrug.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

'Boxster' clear on first skin test

Champion bull Hallmark Boxster, owned by the Jackson family in Yorkshire and condemned on gammaIFN earlier this year, then reprieved by a High Court judge, has passed his first skin test, the Yorkshire Post reports today.

A further blood sample was taken at the time of the jab, but the paper reports:
DEFRA said the sample had clotted, so it could not be properly analysed.
We couldn't possibly comment on that little gem. After putting the bull and his owners through sheer hell this last year, when all they asked for was the correct operating procedure for Defra's TB tests, one would have assumed that the sample from Boxster would have been airlifted to the bloody lab in cool cotton wool. But we digress. The report continues:
They want to come back and take yet another. But the Jacksons argue they might get a false positive arising from the skin test procedure. They say the Department should wait until Boxster is due for his second skin test, 60 days from the first.
Our readers will be aware that the intradermal skin test is the primary test for the EU, recognised by the OIE and used worldwide. GammaIFN is an ancillary and secondary test. And should Defra manage to extract yet another tail full from this animal, and even get to a laboratory in reasonable condition, he will still have to clear two skin tests to be declared out of restriction.

Background to this farce story is here and here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

"My commitment is undiminished"

.. so said Defra Minister Jim Paice today (June 7th) in parliament.
That is his commitment to dealing with bTB which he described at the end of the debate, thus:
Finally, I come to the issue of tuberculosis. I am grateful for the words of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon about my personal commitment to the matter, which is completely and utterly undiminished. However, as he has said, we must get things right. A number of his presumptions about why we have not yet been able to make any final decision were accurate. We launched our consultation in September, and it concluded before Christmas. As I have said repeatedly in public, that consultation threw up some serious issues that must be dealt with because, as he rightly presumes, we would almost inevitably be faced with judicial review if we were to decide to go ahead with the badger cull. Several of those issues have taken some tackling. We are working with our own lawyers, and we have retained QCs to advise us. As he will know from his own eminent career, they have raised all sorts of issues to which we must have answers in the courtroom if the situation arises.

This sounds very much like an example of MPs being vociferous when in opposition, but treading water now they have the opportunity for some solid decision making. And that decision being the subject of a departmental musical chairs to determine ultimate responsibility with a disturbingly unquantified 'wider package of measures' thrown in to placate any wobblers.

Update. Link above mended. Apologies.

New link here which includes a piece on the BBC's "shall we let farmers murder / exterminate control badgers" questionnaire. The piece also includes an optimistic look at vaccination.
Perhaps if Defra's 'Other species' TB stats were more up to date and accurate, and perhaps if the public answering such questions were aware of the risk to them and theirs, their answers may have been somewhat different.

PR is vital, and with not a little assistance from the spinning axis of the BBC, FERA and Defra, farmers are losing that battle. The public are increasingly divorced from reality, assuming that bTB is limited to badgers or cattle - and probably just cattle. Meanwhile TB overspill is costing the lives of hundreds of their pets and companion animals, as we discussed here.