Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Christmas 2014

It is now over a decade since as Shadow Minister, Owen Paterson MP, irritated the hell out of Labour's baby Ben Bradshaw with his 500 Parliamentary Questions. The answers, most of which were extremely revealing, form the 2003/4 archive on this site.

Ten long years of blogging about zoonotic tuberculosis, and have we achieved anything at all?

A coalition of greens, celebs and badgerists, aided and abetted by the BBC's PR machine and fueled by fully paid up pseudo scientists - [link] has presented a case for vaccination - [link] as an alternative to culling wildlife, both infected and infectious with z.Tuberculosis. While seemingly they are quite content to keep testing and slaughtering cattle and banging on about biosecurity.

And earlier this year, they succeeded in ousting the best Secretary of State - [link] we have ever had.

The European Union has approved funding - [link] to the tune of around £25 million for the UK, to test more cattle and offer advice. This, says Farmers Guardian is by far the largest slice of this particular pie, needed or requested by any EU member state.
"In total roughly £25m will be provided to the UK from the EU, the single largest allocation for a member state’s animal disease eradication programme. The funding received will be split between England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Defra said the funding would help it pursue elements of England’s TB strategy, including for on-farm cattle tests and laboratory work.
This is the sixth year running, that funding has been allocated, after the EU first approved the UK TB eradication programme in 2010.

We would have thought EU patience was wearing a tad thin, especially as the bottomless pit of cattle carnage while leaving a wildlife reservoir of disease to flourish, appears to be errr - bottomless, with almost 24,000 cattle slaughtered in the 9 months to September 2014. That is slightly down on 2013, but so are the number of herds registered on Defra's computer network. Thus the percentage of herds experiencing TB restrictions remains stubbornly high at around 10 per cent of all cattle herds in GB.

We note that 2014 ends with some pretty outrageous statements made by the top end staff at Defra, which in the positions which they hold, and with the qualifications they wave about, are an insult to reality.

We reported Ian Boyd's gaff at the NFU TB Conference - [link] in November, and he is not alone in using wild, computer  generated assumptions when solid data is available from his own departments.

But the word which seems to have got the great and good in such a tail spin is 'Transmission'. How it happens, by what method, why, when, how... and usually combined with the need for more 'research'.
It goes on like a broken record. And merely confirms the total lack of epidemiological credibility within the upper echelons of Defra / AHVLA.

Which brings us neatly back to those PQs of a decade ago.

For sure they were publicity for a problem which should never have been allowed to ferment, but they were much more than that. They sought to satisfy the 'gold standard' of disease transmission, by answering certain postulates originally formulated - [link] by Professor Koch for the spread of Tuberculosis, in 1884.

This is pure epidemiology, where if certain events happen, (causality)  then how transmission occurs does not need further investigation. Such transmission can be assumed.

These early postulates were upgraded by Evans in 1977 and include:
* Disease should follow exposure to the putative agent
• Exposure increases disease incidence prospectively 
* Exposure increases disease prevalence
• Exposure to the cause more common in those with the disease than those without ceteris paribus
• Dose-response relationship.
.* Experimental reproduction of the disease possible
• Measurable host response following exposure to the cause
          • Elimination of putative cause reduces incidence

          • Prevention of the host‘s response eliminates the disease

          • The whole thing should make biologic and epidemiologic sense

But how this zoonotic, bacteriological killer has been handled in this country over the last three decades make no sense whatsoever; biological, epidemiological or any other descriptive term Defra can dream up.

 As research over the last century has shown, for zoonotic Tuberculosis, the epidemiological postulates are satisfied. Thus further prevarication over its control in wildlife is purely political .

And that is a damned disgrace.

We'll end this post with a snippet which we hope you will appreciate.

You may have read the [shock, horror, how awful ] stories of how long it takes a badger, shot during the pilot culls to 'die'. But all may not be as it seems. For sure, the stopwatch starts ticking when the rifle fires.

 But then the marksman has to discharge the spent round, discard his camouflage gear, (including trousers), having removed his boots so that said trousers could be discarded. Put on bio security garb commensurate with the examination of a Category 1 waste product under EU Waste regulations, (a dead badger) and sprint across to where said badger was felled.

Now this may be 10 feet, 10 yards or 100 yards. And when he finally reaches the animal, he has to tickle its eyelid with a twig to confirm death. And it is only when he indicates a 'thumbs up' to the man with the stopwatch and a torch, does that apparatus get stopped.

So all is definitely not as it seems. And let's hope there were no chimneys involved. Happy Christmas.

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