"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."
.. which was pretty encouraging. But in order to collect those Euros, certain conditions are set down for our current Secretary of State, Owen Paterson MP.
These are detailed in this letter, and go a long way to explaining AHVLA's latest
The letter initially unravels even more of the allowances made in the recent past, which have enabled farms under TB restriction to continue trading, thus allowing successive governments to do nothing to prevent reinfection from diseased badgers. It explains:
In the past four years the Commission has allocated considerable funds to support the UK bTB programmes (EUR 116,3 Million in total).
We therefore expect significant improvements in the epidemiological situation in 2013 that show efficient use of Union funds. This is absolutely necessary in view of a further renewal of the EU financial support to this programme.So there we have it. He who pays the piper is entitled to expect
As well as the continual lock down of all farms under TB restriction with few outlets for live cattle but an increasing pile of dead ones, the EU has instructed that within a timeline of 10 years, cattle vaccines be trialled.
This is explained, with expected dates, in Annex 1, p4 of a letter to Mr. Paterson earlier this year:
In order to provide answers to the still open scientific questions on bTB vaccination, substantial experimental research and large scale long lasting (possibly 2-5 years) trials, also under EU field conditions, are needed [start 2013, end 2015-2016].The EU wish list goes on to detail the need for an extremely sensitive DIVA test, which must also be developed alongside any vaccine. This is to differentiate between vaccinated animals and those with actual exposure to tuberculosis. Also mentioned are the hurdles of international trade, should the resultant product ever be granted a full VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) license. The end date is 2023 / 25.
The timing of this announcement, smack in the middle of yet another
And understandably, AHVLA are more than enthusiastic about another 10 year job creation programme. Even if it is financed by the EU in order to gain more cash with which to shoot more cattle, alpacas, sheep, pigs, and deer - but very few badgers.
But we remember AHVLA's last efforts to torture this 85 year old product known as BCG into a usable vaccine for cattle. A process first tried over 50 years ago.
Published last year AHVLA's Project SE3227 failed to prevent bTB in naturally infected animals in the UK. So, as AHVLA instructed by their paymasters, rush off to get this project started, has something dramatic happened to BCG vaccine development in the very few months since their last effort?
'May' be divine intervention by the good Doctor has had a hand in its refinement in these last months, along with that of a 100 percent reliable DIVA test.
And ultimately, will this product ever be fully licensed or prevent inevitable trade bans?
In the face of the enormous challenge faced by our sentinel tested cattle from bacteria left by infected and infectious badgers, answers to all the above are 'unlikely' - which is a polite word for 'in your dreams'.
We see cattle vaccines as a very unfortunate red herring, as are BCG vaccines for badgers, where the very word 'vaccine' appears confused with 'immunity' - regardless of the candidate and in particular, regardless of the efficacy of the vaccine.
When the naive are being sold the concept of 'immunity within 5 years' regardless of a candidate's disease status at the start of the programme, and using a vaccine which has submitted no data for efficacy as part of its licensing procedure, the following questions were asked by an experienced and published epidemiologist:
Where is the actual evidence for any of this statement? [All clear in 5 years]
There are a number of assumptions here, some of which are very dubious.
The percentage necessary to control an outbreak of disease is the percentage immune, not vaccinated. We don't know how many badgers will actually become immune.
None of those that are infected will. Any cubs born to an excreting (not necessarily sick) badger may well become infected before they even leave the sett.Vaccination will not be effective at this stage, so how is eradication in 4 or 5 years going to happen?"
It isn't. A modeled benefit of just 9 per cent after 5 years was accepted for the Welsh IAA badger vaccine project. So while our dead cattle mountain continues to grow, a whole shoal of these red herrings are floating around, ready to swim into the nets of the gullible.
Our industry deserves better.