Sunday, October 06, 2013

Don't use the 'G' word

News this week that SUE is to be trialled on badger setts. Defra just lurve their acronyms and the 'G' word (gassing) may have unfortunate connotations for more sensitive souls. Or those who have yet to experience of consigning home bred,  heavily pregnant cattle to premature slaughter.

So, an acronym is needed. Will Selective Underground Euthanasia or SUE  do? And if not, we're sure that our more inventive readers (or Defra's zTB team) can suggest more.

But that really depends on how committed the latter are to solving this mess without embroiling our cattle, sheep, pigs, deer and alpacas  in yet more obfuscation. (link) 
Or consigning our cattle industry  to the longest suicide note (link) in history; a process which is likely to involve all products from so-called vaccinated animals as well as the beasts themselves.  But we digress...

The product previously used for underground culls, hydrogen cyanide, and its more modern cousins are still in use for control of all subterranean mammals - except badgers. But newer and less evil substances are available, including Carbon Dioxide - used most widely as 'reacreational fog' at pop concerts. Which 'may' explain quite a lot....

Most importantly, in a sub-lethal dose, any product used must not maim.

Carbon dioxide is used widely in the selective euthanasia of pigs and chickens, death being instantaneous and carcase damage nil. Less refined anaesthetics are also a possibility.

So a new product has to be found. Why? Because taking pot shots or even indiscriminate, high profile cage trapping of just a few members of an endemically infected, subterranean, nocturnal, group mammal is just plain crackers. It ignores all we know about effects of splitting social groupings of badgers, the transmission and survival of the bacteria which causes zoonotic Tuberculosis within a badger sett and is hugely expensive to operate. It is also indiscriminate as to its targets. Some will be infected, but others not so.
And those presently uninfected groups need to be left completely alone.

The Times has a snippet about new trials to assess products which may be suitable (link) but the full article is hidden behind a pay wall, so just the introduction can be produced here:
Farmers could be allowed to gas diseased badgers in their setts, following research into alternatives to the shooting being used in the present culls.

The gassing of badgers using cyanide was banned 30 years ago because it was considered inhumane, but many farmers believe carbon monoxide poisoning would be a painless way of killing animals in setts that have been infected with tuberculosis.
Never missing a journalistic opportunity, the illustration and strapline in this article show a shiny group of badgers and refers to the 'gassing of badger families'. But then they would not like to show the reality of zTuberculosis in badgers, would they?

Pictures like this may upset people.  But here he is folks: emaciated, excluded, alone and now dead. But not before sharing his lethal burden with any mammal unfortunate enough to have crossed his highly infected, bacterial footprint path. And leaving it, in some circumstances for weeks if not months.

 More information that the removal of infected groups of badgers (as opposed to picking off one or two individuals) has on the incidence of Tuberculosis in cattle, can be found on this link to

And you will find previous work on SUE done by Defra, using Carbon monoxide (link) in our 2008 posting on the subject.

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