Saturday, January 21, 2012

Constructive ignorance?

We have spoken many times about overspill of bTB into other species, particularly alpacas. And we have spoken to Defra about this overspill too. Not with any great degree of success it has to be said - but hey, on this blog, we're nothing if not persistent, bloody minded ? tenacious.

We are aware of the cost and regulatory implications of flagging up bTB in group mammals other than bovines, but as cattle owners, we are equally aware of the problems which may occur for our animals (or clean wildlife), with onward transmission from such animals bouncing unchecked around the country, coughing up or excreting TB bacteria.
We face enough of that from translocated badgers.

From the alpaca TB support group we have data which just a handful of members have provided of their losses over the last couple of years. It is an eye watering over 422 animals. While another small group of alpaca owners, not members of this group, have lost a shed load more, with 28 going into Defra's mincer from just two breeders.

In July last year, hidden within a TB paper issued by Defra was the following snippet:
" We will be improving the current statistics collected for each non-bovine species to provide monthly statistics for the numbers of herds or flocks infected; number of animals’ skin or blood tested; number of TB test reactors and cases removed"
What Defra did not say of course, was when they would clarify these figures. And last week, we were alerted to a PQ answered by Defra minister, Jim Paice on just this subject.
Dan Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many mammals other than cattle were identified with or slaughtered for bovine tuberculosis as a result of (a) microbial culture sample, (b) reports from local veterinary practitioners, (c) gross pathology examinations by veterinary investigation centres, (d) disclosing diagnostic tests including intradermal skin or blood assays and (e) reports from Meat Hygiene Service examinations at abattoirs in (i) 2006, (ii) 2007, (iii) 2008, (iv) 2009 and (v) 2010. [89799]

Mr Paice: The risk to non-bovine species from TB is assessed as generally low and the surveillance system is therefore proportionate to these risks. This means figures are not collected or broken down by the specific categories the hon. Member has requested. Moreover, these scenarios are not mutually exclusive for a particular case and it would be difficult to allocate each case to one of these scenarios. In addition, TB in non-bovine species is not considered to have been “identified” until positive culture results are confirmed.

Figures from 1997 on the annual number of total samples from non-bovine animals that are (a) processed by the AVHLA laboratories and (b) found positive for M. bovis infection, are broken down by species and are available on DEFRA's website at:

(These figures do not include the number of animals slaughtered from a herd where TB has been confirmed when M. bovis is not cultured from that animal.)

So, back we are directed to these damn statistics which only count the primary, single sample which a) confirms bTB and b) identifies the spoligotype. No skin or blood test failures and subsequent slaughterings, no deaths with TB confirmed by pm, and no knacker collections. As we said in our posting of 2010, all these have disappeared.

Defra seem to have quite a problem lining all their ducks in a row on this. They simply cannot count. This alpaca was not a primary sample death, so he too 'disappeared' - even with open TB lesions right up his trachea to his throat.

We aired the problem again in this posting as well. But the boss is more familiar with these duplicitous Ministerial shenanigans than perhaps we are. And while we would assume that these figures for alpaca (and other ) deaths are located 'somewhere', regardless of the minister's convoluted answer, he calls it deliberate and constructive ignorance.

No comments: