Sunday, October 27, 2013

West Penwith

West Penwith is a rocky peninsular of SW Cornwall, encompassed by sea on three sides. It also has the dubious reputation of persistent tuberculosis problems in it badger population.

Or to put that more correctly, sentinel tested cattle have continued to flag up persistent problems, most of which have been laid at the door of the area's badger population.

The entrenched disease of tuberculosis in badgers in certain areas, first came to light in the early 1970s when the nationwide TB eradication programme failed to clear the disease by testing and slaughtering cattle.

Together with parts of Gloucestershire, West Penwith was a blot on the Ministry's maps. So, William Tait, a fierce Scotsman  was dispatched to this windswept corner of England, to sort the problem out.

His cattle measures were described by those working with him, as 'brutal'. And they became even more so as he failed to stem the Ministry's emabarassingly large pile of dead  Cornish cattle.

But apart from the distinction of having demolished more cob barns in West Cornwall than had been flattened in the previous 100 years, William Tait (- link) failed to make an impact at all, as the CVO reports in the linked posting show. However  the landscape changed a quite a bit, as he tried to pressure wash and steam clean those old cob walls.

It wasn't until 1976, after a visit from Gloucester's Roger Muirhead and the introduction of badger clearances on affected farms, that the CVO reports of the time show that cattle slaughterings in West Penwith finally began to drop.

Also taking a keen interest in this picturesque part of Cornwall is Rosie Woodroffe, a mere toddler when Tait's cattle carnage was taking place, so one wouldn't expect her to know about him at all. But she should. Particularly as she, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and local MP Andrew George have lifted £2m, to vaccinate badgers (- link) in this same patch.

We note that their efforts are being described as a 'trial'. But as with all these ad hoc vaccination forays, there is no population count ahead of vaccination, so no estimate of the number of badgers vaccinated as a percentage of the total population.
Now this seems totally at odds with the present debacle of the Natural England / FERA badger head count (- link) which has so bedeviled the pilot shooting culls. Could one really imagine that these professional bean  badger counters wanted vaccination of badgers to continue their employment, but not culling any at all which would undoubtedly curtail it?
We note once again that as well as no head count, there is no screening of the health of these animals before they are caged, jabbed and released.

 But also heading for the peninsular of West Penwith is Bill Harper of the NBA, whose comments are quoted in this week's industry newsletter. He begins with a mention of  the incomplete, over budget, reportedly under manned and as yet unreported, pilot culls:
"To build on the trial cull results, Mr Harper encouraged farmers to support a professional roll out programme. It will require an experienced and professional full time manager. Funding such a move could cost as little as £2.50 per animal per year." 
Citing one area already getting ready, Mr Harper then " looks for a similar commitment from West Penwith."

West Penwith? Has he spoken to the fragrant Rosie recently? Or Andrew George, MP?
We suspect not as the report continues:
Turning to vaccination, Mr Harper was clear that the best place to deploy stocks is in an area between the Manchester Ship Canal and the Humber, a distance of only 37 miles. Creating a ‘firewall’ across this short distance can maintain the free status of the north, while farmers tackle the issue from the south upwards. (by culling)

"West Penwith is the natural starting point for such a project, and farmers will have the support of Secretary of State, Owen Paterson. Jointly working with government and Natural England, farmers can get on top of the scourge of bovine TB," concluded Mr Harper.

So, after William Tait's fruitless attempts almost 40 years ago, to eradicate zTuberculosis from cattle in West Penwith, (without touching the wildlife reservoir which was infecting them) we appear to have come come full circle.


This patch of Cornwall is attracting funding from the ZSL and lord knows who else to the tune of £2m, to vaccinate as many un screened badgers as they can catch, with a vaccine now boasting a modeled 54 per cent efficacy and no account taken of the sick ones. This project is said  to last for seven years..

While on the other hand,  Bill Harper wants the local cattle farmers to dig deep and fund a shooting party over 70 per cent  the same sq kms of West Penwith?

Both quote the geographical advantages of a coastline on three sides as a recipe for their respective project's success. Which is about the only fact in this whole damn mess with which we can agree.

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