Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas thoughts 2016 - and a turkey to chew on.

As Christmas draws nearer, Defra has launched another Consultation - [link] document to stuff into your Christmas stocking. This is a proposal to continue a 'management' strategy for badger numbers in cull areas, after the initial four year blast.The document explains thus:
1:3 Licences have been issued under section 10 of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and section 16 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to enable the culling or vaccination of badgers for the purpose of controlling the spread of TB in endemic TB areas. When successfully completed, these licensed intensive culls can be expected to reduce cattle TB breakdowns (see paragraph 3.2) in an area for around seven and a half years. To prolong the disease control benefits it is necessary to maintain a steady badger population at the level achieved at the end of the licensed culls.
Now that would seem to indicate that the moratorium on section 10 (2) a of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, bought and paid for with £1m bung in 1997, has been quietly lifted?
But we digress. The consultation document continues:
1:4 Natural England (NE) would need to licence a supplementary form of culling to achieve this.[ Ed- the disease control benefits of a smaller number of badgers] Continuing with badger control in this way is consistent with the TB Strategy’s adaptive, evidence-based, long-term approach to disease control and would complement the other measures within the Strategy.
The paper explains that two such farmer-led operations have now completed successfully their fourth and final year, eight areas have two or three years to run and more than 30 other areas have expressed interest in starting operations.

And then possibly the most sensible thing that the CVO has said in a long time:
The UK Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) advises that preserving over the long term the benefits achieved through these operations is important to sustain the good progress being made on the strategy.
In other words, a few disparate patches shooting badgers for 42 nights, just doesn't cut it, given the scale of government neglect of zoonotic tuberculosis in wildlife, over the past two decades.
The document explains more:
4.12 Licensed supplementary badger control must start in the year following the conclusion of a prior cull, as allowing the badger population to recover and then undertaking badger population control risks causing a perturbation effect in cattle TB incidence and undermining the disease control benefits achieved.
What we glean from this, is that further culls may be licensed on a 5 year rolling timescale, and certainly before giving the badger population time to recover and reinfect sentinel cattle. But to qualify for this, farmers must also comply with a shed load of thought-to-be-important sops to the badgerists, in the form of cattle controls, biosecurity and they must continue to jump through ever increasing NE hoops.
None of which will have the slightest effect whatsoever.

The paper needs to be completed by February 10th 2017 and the online response form can be found    on this link -[link]

Meanwhile, badger expert Rosie Woodroffe (who explains helpfully that she is a ' disease ecologist ' ?? Que? Is there such an animal?) has posted an abstract - [link] explaining that the vaccinated collared badgers playing in west Cornwall showed no different behaviour patterns from their un-vaccinated sett mates.

With respect, the ranges and rambles that vaccinated badgers take, are of less importance to a cattle farmer, than the detritus they may leave behind. And caging, jabbing and then releasing a badger already infected (but possibly not infectious at the time he is jabbed) is perhaps not the wisest of activities, especially when even a clean badger can succumb to a dose of m.bovis, after vaccination.

 Remember poor old D313? - [link] We do. And in that posting is the disgraceful preamble of Woodroffe's old boss at the ISG, explaining to the EFRA committee that at its inception, their £74m trial, from which Woodroffe is so keen to quote, had a predetermined conclusion.
He taught her well.

 In a recent visit to the Welsh Assembly, using ten words where one would suffice, our Rosie had this to say:
Professor Woodroffe: Yes, I should preface what I say, that, whilst I’m a disease ecologist, I am primarily a wildlife ecologist, so, you know, I’m not the biggest and best expert on cattle TB, except as it applies to badgers; badgers are particularly my expertise.
Nope Rosie; badgers are your bread and butter. And you'd like to keep it that way.

Read the whole ramble on this link - [link]

And you're gonna love this one, from 'disease ecologist' Rosie;
[81] Professor Woodroffe: In terms of other hosts, evidence suggests that the principle host, or the overwhelmingly most important host of TB in this country, is cattle.
That 'evidence' would be the modelling from the RBCT would it? Where two parts cattle to one part badger was the rough assumption fed into Christl Donnelly's magic box? She continues:
The evidence strongly suggests that badgers are involved.

Badgers can and do give TB to cattle in those places where that’s a serious problem. The best estimate of badgers’ contribution is that they’re responsible for about — in England, this is; in the high TB risk areas of England — 6 per cent of newly affected herds.
Rosie then rambles into the range of 'confidence levels' for that wild assumption of just 6 percent badger related cattle breakdowns - presumably leaving 94 per cent of outbreaks down to cattle?

                                                                                                                                                                                   Actually she estimates 75 per cent - but let that pass. She's got an 'ology, after all.
But please look carefully at the pi chart above.  We have more 'confidence' in the actual figures complied in Devon by veterinary professionals, who having excluded cattle contact and bought in cattle, attributed some 86 per cent of new breakdowns to - badgers.

 So this year ends with another consultation, inviting farmers to mop up government negligence in disease control - and pay for the privilege;  and more wild statements from people who make their living by keeping this gravy train going. As Bryan Hill - [link] says in his newly published book, "20 per cent of scientists say one thing, 20 per cent will contradict that and 60 per cent ask for more funding".

Merry Christmas from us all.

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