Saturday, June 01, 2013

June 1st - A Wish list

As a few high profile but vociferous opponents of the control of tuberculosis prepare to descend on London today (are there any badgers in the Metropolis?) we have prepared a 'Wish list' to summarize the current stupidity policies surrounding this disease.

Why a start and finish date for controlling a fatal zoonotic Grade 3 pathogen? M. bovis, the bacteria which causes tuberculosis in mammals works 24/7 and not to a bureaucrat's time clock. Lord Krebs pointed this out in his policy document of 1996. So our first wish is for a long term management strategy for any wild hosts of b. tuberculosis.

Secondly, we would propose a cull of Defra's statistical computer weasels so that the full extent of other species overspill of this deadly disease is visible to the general public.

For sure, the risk to human beings from their pets is now being mentioned.

But the evidence base to back this up is still firmly glued to the counting of the single microbial sample which confirms 'bovine' tuberculosis only.
Other victims - and there are thousands - have disappeared

 When the results of dubious data collection are fed into a mathematical model, (or even Brian May's astrophysical calculator ) perhaps it would be a good idea to check the source of that data. So our third wish is for less 'rough assumptions', vague estimates or downright lies which subsequently become hard facts. With Defra's ability to tweak boundaries and the Badger Trust's failing calculator batteries, the cynical amongst us may believe that this dumbing down of our senseless sentinel cattle slaughter is a deliberate ploy to keep the gravy train this disease has created, on its rails.

 And while we're on the subject of dodgy data, our fourth wish is for the John Bourne's comments describing the conception of 'his' 8 year prevarication trial on how to disperse infectious badgers, be quoted in full, and not castrated to fit his political steer. If you remember, in his evidence to the EFRA committee, he proudly announced not that culling badgers to control tuberculosis would not work, but:
"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."
And the method of culling Bourne chose to satisfy his political steerage? Cage trapping for 8 nights only, once a year if you were lucky, with time out for FMD in 2001 / 2002 and open access for the badgerists to remove or destroy 69 per cent of the traps set up to October 2003. Some policy. Some 'trial'. Some data.

But it from this crazy skyscraper of 'facts' that the present pilot cull - and its vociferous opposition - has sprung.

 Meanwhile, the columns of the press, TV interviews and the Twits are full of very wild assumptions made by many 'experts' who know nothing either of this disease, its progress through mammals or its control in other countries. As Derek Mead says in his Western Morning News column this week:
"People who you wouldn't expect to know the first thing about bovine TB, bio-security, gamma interferon testing and the personal habits of badgers have been occupying platforms and writing letters to the newspapers, all with an immense air of authority..."
This while the men and women on the phone lines at Farm Crisis Network are trying to calm the fears of the farmers who have had whole herds of cattle, sheep, pigs and alpacas slaughtered, and are then faced with turning out any replacements or the survivors of a what can be lifetime's work, onto the killing fields again.

The wildlife responsible for this carnage continue to enjoy free range, defended by the totally ignorant or the wilfully misled.

So our final wish is for Defra to target Tuberculosis wherever that may lurk. Defra takes a lead in its non-eradication of tuberculosis in cattle and bison from DG SANCO in the European Union, which in turn follows the Office Internationale des Epizooties guidelines on TB eradication. But to ignore, deflect or dumb down a continuing threat from an acknowledged and established wildlife host, is not just expensive, it is just plain reckless, as DG SANCO so forcefully said in their latest blast paper describing the lack of progress made in Great Britain.
"It is however of utmost importance that there is a political consensus and commitment to long-term strategies to combat TB in badgers as well as in cattle. The Welsh eradication plan will lose some impetus as badger culling will now be replaced with badger vaccination. This was not part of the original strategy that consisted of a comprehensive plan that has now been disrupted.
There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that badger vaccination will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle. However there is considerable evidence to support the removal of badgers in order to improve the TB status of both badgers and cattle.
UK politicians must accept their responsibility to their own farmers and taxpayers as well as to the rest of the EU and commit to a long-term strategy that is not dependent on elections.

The TB eradication programme needs continuity and it must be recognised that success will be slow and perhaps hard to distinguish at first. There is a lot of skill and knowledge among the veterinary authorities and they must be allowed time to use it."
There is nothing we could add to that.

The target for the eradication of Tuberculosis should not just be a sentinel cow's head. That is the easy option, but solves nothing if the cause of her 'reaction' is left to reinfect any other passing mammal. Tuberculosis is a slow burn disease in human beings. It has a long term incubation, even with a BCG jab. And passing the buck to a hard pressed NHS is not an option. 

We leave you with a picture of a badger with tuberculous pleurisy - one such that May's groupies, marching today, want to preserve, protect or vaccinate.
Did it suffer?
It was completely emaciated: suffocating  with its lungs full of fluid  and abscesses, and highly infectious with every breath it was able to take.

On its 'suffering' - we'll leave you to judge.

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