Sunday, March 07, 2021

After the cat, a herd of deer culled.

Despite acknowledging the success of the farmer led badger culls, with cattle breakdowns and slaughterings down by an average of over 50 per cent, our Secretary of State, with his eye firmly fixed on his advancement, is still whittering on about stopping the culls, in favour of vaccination.

Are his advisers not aware of the vaccinated badger (s) which developed enough disease from the vaccine to infect a perfectly  innocent young cat? Or is he listening with his ears shut?

Following that story, the BBC report a  cull of deer  at Dyrham Park, in south Gloucestershire.  (Picture credit - Sarah Cox)

An entire herd of deer at an historic park has been culled due to an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

The 70 deer at Dyrham Park were put down after a 10-year battle by estate staff to stop the disease spreading.

There has been a herd at the park, between Bristol and Bath, for 300 years.

Several cattle farmers have also had a ten year ( or more) battle trying to keep zoonotic TB out of their herds - but let that pass. The report continues:

The National Trust said over the past decade measures including adding extra fencing, carrying out a badger vaccination programme and stopping cattle grazing in the park had all been tried, without success.

Yup , been there, done that - got many tee shirts.  But now we see from the report on the cat, that at least some scientists are waking up to the fact that vaccinating any old badger in the field, regardless of its current health status, may not be the most sensible of ideas. And may also breach the terms of its VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate)  license. 

But when you look at the wanderings of badgers across pasture land, and add to that their incontinent but highly effective  sprinkler system, and add to that the amount of bacteria they excrete, it's no wonder any mammal encountering this detritus becomes infected too. Whether that's with the strain TB already in badgers in the area, or the Danish BCG strain. 

With thanks to this site for permission to use the picture  taken with a drone over snow covered fields. 

To any new readers to this site, we'll re cap on the amount of bacteria carried by infected badgers, especially in their urine.  From our Parliamentary Questions  we gleaned these nuggets:

Badgers with kidney lesions can excrete up to 300,000 cfu (colony forming units) of m.bovis bacteria in each 1 ml of urine: and they void up to 30ml in each incontinent squirt..

Just 70 cfu can infect a cow, and 1 cfu a calf.

The National Trust say they hope to restock Dyrham Park with deer. Why? They've tried fencing, no cattle grazing and vaccination of local badgers. But as others have already found to their cost, until they clear the Park of infected badgers, anything else is a total waste of time. 

How arrogant. How sad.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Boris : 18/02/2021 " I will follow the data."


Excellent statement. Sadly though it refers to SARS-COV-2 and not a bacteria of the same pathogenic class - mycobacterium bovis - or as we prefer to call it zoonotic Tuberculosis.

The graphs are courtesy of bovineTB information and show the data for Gloucestershire (which piloted a cull of badgers) and Derbyshire (which did not, having had interference from the PM's girlfriend)

Presently DEFRA has a Consultation  out to show us the direction of travel. Led by Boris's current bed mate, a couple of Goldsmiths, a Defra minister and a few more people with much to say and nothing to lose,  Defra appear to want to stop 'following the data', and replace what works with something which most definitely does not. Here's a sample:

A summary of their suggestions
Proposal 1 - extending post movement testing to the edge area
proposal 2 - use of the gamma test in the HRA and edge area
proposal 3 - stop issuing new intensive badger cull licences post 2022
proposal 4 - badger cull licences issued in 2021 and 2022 could be revoked after two years
proposal 5 - reduce the financial commitment required from coal companies
proposal 6 - restrict supplementary badger cull licences to a maximum of two years

Data gathered over the last 50 years shows that to eradicate zoonotic TB from cattle, testing and culling reactor bovines must go hand in hand with culling infectious wildlife reservoirs of disease. That's pretty obvious really, and as CV-19 ravages our economy, lives and industry, lockdowns of people are pretty ineffective if the organism causing the disease, is allowed to spread unchecked. As we have seen.

Government direction of travel  however, seems to be to stop what is seen to work, and replace with something which patently does not. In the link previously given, page 6 states that even the sporadic farmer led (and paid for)  culls have reduced cattle TB by a very significant amount. And the figure of an over 50 per cent reduction has been sustained as more areas came on stream.

As of 2019, 57% of the HRA is now subject to a licensed cull of badgers. This policy, while difficult and inevitably contentious, is starting to yield results. The latest epidemiological analysis conducted by Downs and others has shown that the incidence of the disease in the first cull areas of Somerset and Gloucester has fallen substantially, by 37% and 66% respectively.

We have written many times about the futility of vaccinating  wild badgers . done in such a way that no credence is given to their health status at the time of a jab, and no micro chip to mark them. The results were of course predictable. But the gravy train continues to roll, with the latest consultation full of hope and more research, and very little else to support our livestock industry.  

We feel that the story we told last week about the young Irish cat  dead from the Danish strain 1331 of m.bovis, uniquely found in badger vaccines, may call into question both the licensing criteria for this product and its ad hoc use in the field.

If you remember, badger BCG has a LMA classification - Limited Marketing Authority. No efficacy data was submitted. That we were told, was the responsibility of the end user. And in this case the end user is the Queen of obfuscation regarding vaccines in general and badger vaccine in particular, Rosie Woodroffe.  The VMD also confirm that the product was licensed on the basis that 'did no harm'.

A dead Irish cat and an unknown number of badgers infected with Danish strain 1331 may take issue with that. 

So while our Prime Minister Boris Johnson, MP  is intent on following the data on one Grade 3 pathogen, we would ask him to ensure that his Secretary of State for Environment, Food and  Rural Affairs does exactly the same for another.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

More on the cat


We quoted the Abstract  from a paper published last week, on the infection of a domestic cat with the Danish strain of m.bovis, found in badger BCG.

Now having read the paper, we are in a better position to comment - and it isn't pretty.

Cats seem to be particularly susceptible to m.bovis infection, and depending on veterinary treatment, prognosis is not good.

"Treatment includes surgery, when indicated, and a long course of multiple appropriate antibiotics (Gunn-Moore 2014b). Long-term remission may be achieved for cats presenting with skin and/or pulmonary lesions. However, prognosis is guarded to poor, for untreated or inappropriately treated patients, due to relapses, pulmonary and/or systemic spread."

The cat in the M.Manou et al paper (published by the Journal of Small Animal Practice by the Wiley Library) was described as a domestic neutered tom cat, aged 7 when he was euthanised. He had been treated for 42 (that is correct - ed) months for a painful forelimb, lack of extension and non weight bearing in that limb and swelling. Treatments included numerous antibiotics and continuous pain relief.  For over three years. 

When finally referred  for further investigative treatment, the cat's condition was described as follows:

"On referral to our institution, the cat was on a 4-week course of meloxicam. Antibiotics had been discontinued 2 weeks earlier. There was severe lameness with toe touching weight-bearing (standing and walking) and minimal use of the left forelimb [grade 4/5 Visual Analogue Score (VAS)]. There was severe atrophy of the muscles of the brachium and shoulder. There was soft tissue swelling around the elbow, and normal range of motion (ROM). Pain was elicited on extension of the elbow and on direct palpation of the point of insertion of the tendon of the triceps muscle on the olecranon. 

Mild discomfort was elicited on flexion and extension of the left carpus. Orthogonal radiographs of the elbows showed a heterogenous appearance of the proximal aspect of the ulna with new bone formation, interpreted as a previous greenstick fracture or osteoarthitic changes of the left elbow (Fig 1). Mild osteoarthritic changes were seen in the right elbow. Thoracic radiographs revealed a diffuse unstructured broncho-interstitial pattern (Fig 2). 

Exploratory surgery was performed."

Having drained the soft swelling in the  elbow joint and ascertained that this cat had extensive bone problems, he was discharged while tests were carried out on the exudate from the joint.

PCR and the usual culture tests revealed m.bovis  But the the spoligotype was revealed as Danish Strain 1331 used locally in badger vaccines.  After another six months with no improvement, intermittent lameness  and pain -  and  now a  definite diagnosis of z Tuberculosis, this young cat was euthanised.

PM results were as follows:

"Post mortem examination revealed marked muscle atrophy of the proximal left forelimb and scapula, mild left axillary and prescapular lymphadenomegaly, and focal pallor within muscles close to the proximal ulna including the anconeus muscle. 

Histological examination showed focally extensive severe necrotizing granulomatous myositis, ulnar periostitis, and granulomatous lymphadenitis of the prescapular and axillary LN; ZN staining was negative. M. bovis BCG Danish Strain 1331 was isolated from the pre-scapular LN, muscle and bone (olecranon)."

Other snippets from this paper should be of interest to all who think that culling infectious badgers can be replaced by vaccinating them.

"Numerous acid-fast bacilli have been found within macrophages at the site of BCG vaccination (subcutaneous route) 371 days after administration in badgers, suggesting the possibility of persistence of BCG within a low percentage of this vaccinated population (Lesellier et al. 2006)."


The paper goes on to describe tuberculosis persisting in humans when offered to candidates already compromised with disease.  And this is exactly the situation in the UK and Ireland, where the 'trials' - such as they were, pre screened all their badgers before vaccination. And why no evidence of a drop in cattle TB was found in areas where such ad hoc vaccinations had taken place. There was no such expected drop in areas where pre screened badgers had been vaccinated either.

Badgers offered BCG in the wild, are merely cage trapped, then jabbed with  an attenuated (weakened) but live vaccine  - then released. Unmarked except for a quick spray of sheep marker. No microchips to make sure they didn't come in for a second or third dose of peanuts, and certainly no pre jab health check.

The paper's conclusion is thus:

" We hypothesise that vaccinating immunocompromised badgers may result in persistence and shedding of the BCG Danish Strain 1331.

[Badger ] vaccinations took place every spring (April–May) and autumn (September–October) from 2010 until spring 2017. The most likely route of transmission to the cat was either via the initial bite or was secondary to wound infection from environmental contamination of the cat’s intra articular injection site with urine or faeces, from a vaccinated badger shedding BCG."

 The time line for this unfortunate cat, we trace back to exposure to his  m.bovis infection at around 3 years old - 2015/16 - as he was 7 years old when he was pts and had suffered veterinary interventions for half his short and painful life, with no success whatsoever.

But currently we have a Secretary of State hell bent of curtailing the one thing which has halved TB in cattle in badger cull areas over the last few years, and replacing it with - nothing. 

Vaccination for badgers - see above and in this posting.  We call it 'honouring the lie'.  

For vaccination in cattle - see this posting.  

But this is what happens when infectious reservoirs of badgers are removed. Successfully. 

With thanks to for the chart which confirms our Parliamentary questions, posed all those years ago. We asked why the Thornbury TB eradication had been so spectacularly successful .

The answer was unequivocal:

 "The fundamental difference between the Thornbury area and other areas [] where bovine tuberculosis was a problem, was the systematic removal of badgers from the Thornbury area. No other species was similarly removed. No other contemporaneous change was identified that could have accounted for the reduction in TB incidence within the area" [157949 - Hansard]"

Keep it simple. 


Wednesday, February 03, 2021

zTB in cat genotyped to vaccinated badgers.


We knew from previous papers  that vaccinating badgers with BCG at 10x the human required strength, was a daft idea, having covered it many times in the past. But today's news from the respected  Wiley Library  sheds a whole new light on the indiscriminate jabbing of wild badgers, of uncertain health status, by well meaning but stupid people.

The Abstract from the paper is below, in full.

"A 7‐year‐old male neutered domestic shorthair outdoor cat was referred for chronic left forelimb lameness, which had been treated with intra‐articular injections of triamcinolone acetonide. A soft tissue swelling around the elbow joint, extending from the distal humerus to the proximal ulna, was surgically explored and biopsy samples obtained. Mycobacterium bovis was cultured from samples from the soft tissue and bone. 

The mycobacteria from the media were killed and the DNA extracted and tested on a multiplex real‐time PCR for the absence of specific genes and the presence of mycobacterial genus markers. The PCR revealed bacillus Calmette‐Guérin Danish Strain 1331; this was also isolated from the prescapular lymph node, muscle and bone, obtained at post mortem examination. 

Badgers had been vaccinated with the bacillus Calmette‐Guérin vaccine SSI (Statens Serum Institute) in the area where the cat lived, in the spring and autumn of the previous year. 

To the authors' knowledge, this is the first report of infection with M. bovis bacillus Calmette‐Guérin Danish Strain 1331 in a domestic cat, potentially associated with annual vaccination of badgers in the proximity of the cat's home."

Many of the current fluffy ideas for agriculture, originate in the heart of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, a group inhabited by the Prime minister's latest bed mate,  Carrie Symons, his father Stanley Johnson, the Goldsmith brothers, Zac and Ben, one of which was shoehorned into Defra, to join Minister Theresa Villiers. 

Please look at wish number 22. 

And then recall the latest consultation from Defra which proposes vaccinating cattle to avoid culling any infectious badgers at all. But the poor cat whose  nine lives were halved by an environmental contact with the infectious excretions from a vaccinated badger throws a whole new light on the subject.  And also seeds into our environment not only the known spoligotypes of m.bovis  hosted by badgers but the Danish strain 1331 found in badger BCG.

As we said in the previous posting, there is no vaccine for stupidity. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Covid 19 - It is strenuously denied by DEFRA...

 .. that the pandemic sweeping the country known as Covid  19 is spread by badgers. But who knows ?

Badgers are certainly a super spreader of another Grade 3 pathogen known as zoonotic Tuberculosis and our 538 Parliamentary Questions, which form the basis of this site - now in its 17th year - confirm that. From the early 1970s Ministry vets have known that, and  also that the thorough removal of diseased badgers is essential if cattle are to remain TB free.

So why would George Eustice, the current Secretary of State, on the day that yet another tranche of consultations were launched on badger control, give an interview to the Daily Telegraph  indicating that:

" ...  indefinite culling is "not acceptable", adding "Badger culling is one of the most contentious and divisive policies within our bTB eradication strategy. Our current policy enables four-year intensive cull licences in defined areas with scope for a further five years of supplementary culling."

The plan apparently is to not issue new licenses after next year (2022)  and reduce the length of supplementary culls to just two years.

His optimism is based on the availability of cattle vaccines within 5 years. Good luck with that one, George. We think the world currently has more on its mind than vaccines for cattle TB in the one country which won't control its wildlife reservoir of  the disease. Priorities George, priorities. 

The consultation documents for future strategy, (already decided) can be found on this link 

The relationship of zoonotic disease control with the PM's current bed mate, one Carrie Symonds, has all the hallmarks of being  complicit with Eustice's announcement. It also featured in the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation's wish list, at No 22. 

But it beggars belief that a minister would announce the result of a consultation, not yet collated.

But it neatly confirms what most of us already knew. That Gov.UK makes up its collective mind, then consults to get  the 'democracy' box ticked.

A shameful sham, but one that also ticks boxes on Climate change ( fly around the world - kill cattle?) but also, as if the chaotic Trans .End to Brexit wasn’t wasn’t enough, gives our exports a toxic label, when Export Health Certificates are completed. Or not. 

There is no vaccine for stupidity.

Thankyou DEFRA. 

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Dr. Brian's New Year treats


Superannuated stargazer and guitar player,  Dr.Brian May is reported to have created a new  perfume  , bottles of which he will sign, to raise money for .... wildlife. It is said to smell of sandalwood, and badgers. Really?  How quaint.

Dr. May was also recorded on Radio this week selling his success at preventing TB on Gatcombe Farm in Devon,  by amongst other things, vaccinating the badgers locally. Sadly the interactive TB map   tells a very different story, with the latest breakdown (of many) lasting in excess of 6 months. 

And of course Dr. May in an interview offered to Farmers Weekly earlier this year  described such vaccinations as 'futile'.
With this we would agree, but not for the reasons given by an aging rock star, hand in hand with the most political of vets. Badger vaccination is indeed 'futile' because as we explained in this posting after four big trials in two countries, it did nothing at all to reduce TB in cattle. Check out the links in that post. 

But Dr. Brian, turning this on its metaphorical head has put the blame on cattle - in particular, slurry and the skin test. How odd then that the same skin test has cleared so many countries of zoonotic tuberculosis. Completely. 

The only thing done differently is their control strategy for infected wildlife, known to interact with the regularly  tested sentinel cattle and slaughter of  any reactors. 

And below is the result: depending on the thoroughness of  the control the better the result for cattle. 

 Sadly, with our Prime minister's  current  bed mate and many of  her friends active on the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, (CAWF) their wish list of  vaccinating badgers (No 22 out of 32 Beatrix Potter type wishes) may be encouraged. However futile that may be. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Defra's Christmas priorities

Another year has stuttered by. The badger culls have had a deal of success, but bubbles of infection still haunt our cattle herds as stragglers, escaping from a patchy 70 per cull, on 70 per cent of available land, wander about. Sometimes finding an unoccupied and still highly infectious sett.

Our PQs answers suggested that m.bovis can survive for up to 2 years in the dark, humid conditions of a badger sett.  They were not wrong.

 Meanwhile, our Chief Veterinary Officer is launching Christmas consultation on the micro chipping of - cats.

 One would have thought that the eradication of a Grade 3 zoonosis would have been a priority? But no. Cats it is, so they don't get lost. 

Cat's lives matter - all nine of them - even if those of our cattle do not. 

 So as another 'plague' spreads across our country, and our 'world beating' scientists fall over each other's shoe laces not controlling it, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas and healthy new year.