Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Don't get too excited.

Headlines this week indicate a decision on badger culling may be in the wind, ahead of parliament packing its collective bucket and spade for the long summer recess.

Farmers Guardian had the story as does the Independent. The
Mail On-line echos the Independents 'farmers in shooting free-for-all' report.

Nothing could be further from the truth.
If the policy is given the green light, culling will not start until next May or June, as there would still be a number of details to be resolved, reports Alistair Driver in Farmers Guardian. And that's ignoring any time out for a celebrity funded Judicial Review.
Following the announcement, there is expected to be a consultation on the proposed licence conditions the groups of farmers will need to abide by. It will then take time for Natural England to process any applications and for the groups of farmers to prepare for the cull. There is also the prospect of a legal challenge.
So, a consultation on a consultation ? With a dose of Natural England added to the mix? Seen as a really urgent problem then.
Culling is likely to be introduced in a phased approach, with just one or two areas sanctioned initially.
Now at blogger headquarters, we don't 'do' kilometres but 150 of 'em squared, sounds huge. It is not. In fact eighteen of these areas would fit comfortably into Cornwall and still leave room for buckets and spades, urban areas and roads.. So 'one or two areas' as a pilot, leaves an area from north Staffs, Derbyshire, Cheshire, down through Leics., Glos., Hereford and Worcs., Somerset, Devon and Wiltshire to quietly cook ? And bubbling away with big increases in incidence are counties just over Defra's ever moving Maginot line like Dorset.

But it is the comments on these stories which are really depressing. A total divide and a complete lack of knowledge or appreciation about the dangers of tuberculosis - not to cattle, but to any mammal including and especially pets and companion animals, up close and personal with their owners.

Defra do produce a few stats on these hidden casualties, and after many searching questions, we did this posting last year, which explains some of the disparities, but more have come to light since.

The link to Defra's other species stats is here. Our explanations gleaned from patiently tabled questions is below.

Table 1 is cultures only - as the notes explain. But as cattle owners may know (but the alpaca people did not) only one sample is taken. The outbreak may involve several animals - up to 108 dead is the biggest single alpaca herd loss of which we've heard - but just a single sample will be logged on Table 1. And that may not be the first death.

Table 2 is headed 'animals examined'. Now that is really woolly. Examined? All of them? And? Do they then end up in Table 1 when cultures are cooked? Or are they the negatives? They are neither and they are both. Table 2 figures are carcasses examined, which are positive for TB by postmortem at either a VI centre or by an LVI vet and which need a culture sample taken to confirm tuberculosis, and the spoligotype responsible. But if TB has already been confirmed by culture, we have a sneaking feeling that this table is not counting them.
Missing completely are deaths, voluntary euthanasia and skin or blood test failures subsequently slaughtered. Either straight to the knacker yard, or buried, they have disappeared.

In this way 2010 figures of 43 alpaca samples in Table 1, is actually a single initial sample from each breakdown. The 151 in Table 2 were examined of which 43 were confirmed as having bTB at the very beginning of a suspected outbreak. But just 30 members of the alpaca TB support group report over 400 of their animals dead, when further un-cultured deaths or skin test and gamma failures are added in.
As far as we can see, one answer to the huge divide still so evident in these depressing comments, is to remove the public's long distance comfort blanket of someone else's 'cattle' (badly farmed, dirty conditions and moved illegally of course) and substitute ' MY cat', my dog or 'MY alpaca'.

Illustrated with pics like the lungs of this one, totally destroyed by tuberculosis, he was once 'somebody's' pet.

Only then will tuberculosis in a wildlife reservoir, become their problem as much as it is for any cattle farmer.

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