25TH OCTOBER 2012 Badger Cull
Mr Speaker: Apart from the hon. Member who will move the motion, 36 hon. and right hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. As a consequence, I have imposed an eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches. That limit will take effect after the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) has made her speech to move the motion, and she knows that she should not exceed 15 minutes.
11.43 am - Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I beg to move,
That this House notes the e-petition on the planned badger cull, which has gathered more
Bovine TB, or Mycobacterium bovis, or bovine tubercle bacillus, is part of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. The organism is carried by many animals including deer, cats, dogs, pigs, alpacas, sheep and, of course, cattle. Mycobacterium bovis is an aerobic bacterium and the cause of TB in cattle. Bovine TB can jump the species barrier and cause tuberculosis in humans, and this is where the problem has historically been. In the 1930's and 40s, it was responsible for over 50,000 cases a year and 2500 deaths annually. By 1960, all herds had been tested twice for TB, and all animals which had tested positive, or 'reactors', were slaughtered and it became a notifiable disease.
The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) was the first robust scientific evaluation of the effect of badger culling on cattle TB. It lasted 10 years and cost in excess of £50 million. It was overseen by an Independent Scientific Group (ISG).
Two culling treatments were undertaken: reactive culling where localised culls were carried out on farms that had recently experienced a TB outbreak in cattle, and proactive culling where larger scale areas were culled. Both these treatments were restricted to regions where the historical incidence of TB in cattle was high. In addition to culling, there were matched "control" areas where no culling was carried out. The principle is the same as we see in medical trials, where one segment of the population receives a treatment drug and another receives a placebo, the idea being that, at the end of the trial, any significant effects can be reliably ascribed to the treatment.
One thing we all know and agree on is that Lord Krebs' and the RBCT Trial states that culling badgers in small areas increases the spread of bovine Tb and increases the frequency of bTB within badgers.
SO WHY ARE FARMERS ILLEGALLY CULLING?
No one can deny that bTB has spread across the country over the last decade yet controversy rages as to the reason for the spread.
The logical way forward is to vaccinate the cattle and this is the one area where both sides agree. The reason we don't vaccinate cattle at this time is we couldn't sell them in Europe due to regulations. This was proposed in 1997 by Lord Krebs in his report. We are waiting for a DIVA test to be accepted to differentiate between vaccinated and wild strains. We are supporting the campaign to vaccinate badgers.
Badger BCG alone is not the solution to bTB, but it does have an immediate effect with no associated negative impact.
The Welsh Government are working to eliminate bovine TB from an area of west Wales by targeting every possible source of infection. The area has the highest bTB herd breakdown in the country and is important for beef and dairy production. Their comprehensive approach, with strict attention to every detail, provides a comprehensive solution that is already showing improvements in bTB throughout the country.In an area of west Wales, they have put extra measures in place with the aim of eradicating the disease in the local cattle population. This area is called the Intensive Action Area (IAA). They established the IAA to tackle all sources of bovine TB infection in domestic and wild animal species. This is a similar approach to that used in New Zealand, where they have successfully eradicated the disease from large areas of the country.
Government scrape through with only 49 votes after a three line whip!
Opposition Day [1st Allotted Day] Badger Cull 12.34 pm
Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): I beg to move, That this House believes the badger cull should not go ahead.
We begin with a question: is culling badgers the most effective way to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis? Labour Members believe that it is not. The consensus among scientists who are not on the Government payroll is also that it is not. They call it a “costly distraction” and a “crazy scheme”, and they urge the Government to change course. Labour Members will be led by those scientists; we were in government and are now in opposition.
1. Bovine TB Time Line. Bovine TB Overview and Timeline
2. Randomised Badger Culling Trial. Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on Cattle TB. Read Report Here
3. Estimates of badger population sizes in the West Gloucestershire and West Somerset pilot areas. A report to Natural England - 22 February 2013. Read Report Here http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130822084033/
4. Estimating the risk of cattle exposure to tuberculosis posed by wild deer relative to badgers in England and Wales. Read Report Here
5.Statement from the European Commission regarding an article in the Mail On Sunday on 21 October. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers. http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/press_releases/2012/pr1245_en.htm
'The European Commission was disappointed to see an article by Brian May in the Mail on Sunday on 21 October which quotes Georg Haeusler, chief adviser to the European Commissioner for Agriculture. Some of the quotes are out of context or inaccurate - and therefore misleading.
Vaccination of cattle against TB is forbidden under current EU rules agreed by all Member States, including the UK. This is because there is no effective test to tell the difference between vaccinated and infected animals, making it impossible to protect the food chain and identify which animals could be exported.
If such a test were to be developed and approved at EU and international levels – which would take time – the rules could be changed relatively quickly. But Mr Haeusler explained that this would be the responsibility of the Health Commissioner, who deals with vaccination issues, and who could also advise on the exact process and timing in this case.
The Commission provides substantial financial support to the approved UK bovine TB eradication programme. For 2012, EUR 31.2 million were allocated to implement a rapid eradication strategy. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers.'
6.Parliamentary briefing paper - Science & Environment. Read Report Here or www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05873.pdf
7. The Cattle Book 2008 Descriptive statistics of cattle numbers in Great Britain on 1 June 2008: Density Maps. Read Report Here or http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13572-cattlebook-2008-090804.pdf
8. European Commission Audit - audit was carried out in the UK from 5-16th September 2011. TB Eradication Programme. Read Report Here
9. Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive. Read Report Here
Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive
10. Conversation in the House of Lords where Lord Krebs and Lord Knight of Weymouth – Hansard. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/121023-0001.htm
11. 'Bovine tuberculosis infection in wild mammals in the South-West region of England: A survey of prevalence and a semi-quantitative assessment of the relative risks to cattle'. READ HERE
12. Final report of an audit carried out in the United Kingdom from 5th-16th September 2011 In order to evaluate the operation of the Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Programme. READ HERE
13. TB skin test questioned after false results. http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/05/02/2013/137488/tb-skin-test-questioned-after-false-results.htm#.URD1fq2kidE
14. Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Bovine TB - Key conclusions from the meeting of scientific experts. Held at Defra on 4th April 2011.
15. Illegal in the US to feed deer and cattle together for risk of bovine Tb transfer.
16. Scientist writes an open letter condemning the cull. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2012/oct/14/letters-observer
17. Despite no badgers having yet being killed under official sanction in Northern Ireland, as Ms O'Neill has acknowledged, the annual herd incidence has almost halved, from nearly 10% in 2002 to just over 5% on 30 September 2011. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ni/?id=2011-11-28.7.25
18. Cattle movements the most significant factor in spread of bovine TB.
19. Stress prevents immune systems from working. A 3rd more females (in buffalo adult females stressed out the yearling females) and links with human stats. http://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-2-21-buffalo-tb-21399.html
20. Bovine tuberculosis in Europe from the perspective of an officially tuberculosis free country: trade, surveillance and diagnostics. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21439740
21. Durham University Paper. READ HERE
22. Recording of Professor Atkins from Durham University http://ihrrblog.org/2013/02/14/bovine-tb-risk-in-britain-past-and-present
23. Police don’t want to police this, too expensive. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article3706318.ece
24. Herd size is a known risk factor for bTB (Denny and Wilesmith 1999, Olea-Popelka and others 2004, Reilly and Courtenay 2007); accordingly, direct standardisation was used to adjust for varying herd size (Dohoo et al., 2003). (Abernethy et al., 2013)
25. Slaughter Detection and pre movement Testing in Oreland. http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/biennial%20report%20200809%20bovine%20tuberculosis.pdf
26.Four Area Project. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113914/
27. Where is this?
28 . History of bTB – Defra. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/abouttb/index.htm
29. HOUSE OF COMMONS. ORAL EVIDENCE TAKEN BEFORE THE ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, BOVINE TB VACCINATION, TUESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2013, BERNARD VAN GOETHEM, FRANCISCO REVIRIEGO, KOEN VAN DYCK AND JACQUELINE MINOR. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenvfru/uc981-ii/uc98101.htm
30. Incidents of M. bovis infection in non-bovine domestic animals & wild deer in GB confirmed by laboratory culture. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/tb-otherspecies.pdf
31. Lord Krebs, who ran a ten-year review into whether culling could control bovine tuberculosis, said that the Government’s estimates had varied so wildly that under the previous target farmers would have been asked to shoot 144 per cent of the badgers in Gloucestershire. He said “To me what it says is that the practicality of killing 70 per cent is one question but the real question is how do they know what their starting number is?” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article3703610.ece
32. Professor Robbie McDonald, an author of the paper and now at the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute, said: "This striking result in cubs shows a protective effect at the social group level and is important evidence that vaccination not only has a direct benefit to vaccinated badgers, but can also reduce the infectivity of TB within a badger social group that has been vaccinated."
33. World Health Organisation description of TB and how it is transmitted.
34. Neigbouring farms have different bTB.
35. End ban on hunting with dogs, urges Tory Environment Minister: Paterson makes his views clear on controversial subject.
36. In Wales the government have caged, trapped and vaccinated over 1,400 badgers. Evidence from a four year field study (9) shows that BCG vaccinations in badgers reduces the risk of infection to cubs. It is possible to vaccinate. It will not make matters worse and evidence to date suggest it has a positive effect. Myself and Brian May met with Christianne Glossop (Chief Vet of Wales) in London last month to discuss successes and failures of the vaccination program and how we may work with them on this project to improve and support it to its conclusion.
37. Defra graphs on bTB showing increase after foot and mouth http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/files/defra-stats-foodfarm-landuselivestock-tb-statsnotice-120403.pdf
38. Conservative Animal Welfare - Statement on bTB. http://www.conservativeanimalwelfare.co.uk/page/20/
40. Deep divisions in the badger cull. http://catbrainsite.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/deep-divisions-in-british-society-over-badger-cull/
41. ORAL VACCINE TELEGRAPH. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7996663/Oral-TB-vaccine-may-prevent-need-for-badger-cull.html
42. British cattle are moved annually; with over 13 million cattle movements. http://rpa.defra.gov.uk/rpa/index.nsf/UIMenu/C2268E828EFED0B280256FE300347A0C?Opendocument
43. Closely mirroring the historical rise in bTB cases is the rise in cattle movements, with 480,294 more cattle moved in 2010 than 2009 Cattle movements have more than quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294) and have involved over 127million animals since 1998. http://rpa.defra.gov.uk/rpa/index.nsf/vContentByTaxonomy/BCMS**Statistics**2010%20Statistics**?OpenDocument
44. Oral vaccine Eamonn Gormley. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7996663/Oral-TB-vaccine-may-prevent-need-for-badger-cull.html
45. Details on Eamonn Gormley. http://www.ucd.ie/research/people/veterinarymedicine/dreamonngormley/
46. Swiss herd shown that BTB was endemic in herd and had been present for several years. http://worldradio.ch/wrs/news/wrsnews/cows-infected-with-bovine-tb-culled.shtml?35284
47. Byrne, A. W., Sleeman, D. P., O’Keeffe, J. & John, D., (2012a). The Ecology of the European Badger (Meles meles) in Ireland, a review. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 112B(1), pp. 105-132. http://www.academia.edu/671427/The_Ecology_of_the_European_badger_Meles_meles_in_Ireland_-_a_review
48. Man shot while hunting rabbits . Fell on his gun SHROPSHIRE. http://news.sky.com/story/1075232/rabbit-hunter-shot-dead-in-tragic-accident
49. Byrne, A. W. et al., (2012b). Impact of culling on relative abundance of the European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland. European Journal of Wildlife Research, pp. DOI 10.1007/s10344-012-0643-1.
50. More, S. J., (2005). Towards eradication of Bovine Tuberculosis in Ireland A critical review of progress, Dublin: Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis.
51. Griffin, J. M. et al., (2005). The impact of badger removal on the control of tuberculosis in cattle herds in Ireland. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, Volume 67, pp. 237-266.
52. Máirtín, D. Ó. et al., (1998). The effect of a badger removal programme on the incidence of tuberculosis in an Irish cattle population. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 34(1-6), pp. 47-56.
53. Sleeman, D.P., Davenport, J., More, S.J., Clegg, T.A., Collins, J.D., Martin, S.W., Williams, D.H., Griffin, J.M. and O’Boyle, I. (2009c). How many Eurasian Badgers (Meles meles) are there in the Republic of Ireland? European Journal of Wildlife Research 55, 333-44.
54. Eves, J.A., (1999). Impact of badger removal on bovine tuberculosis in east county Offaly. Irish Veterinary Journal 52, 199–203.
55. Eves, J.A., (1993). The East Offaly Badger Research project: an interim report. The Badger Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin (1993), pp. 166–173
56. Cheeseman, C. L., Jones, G. W., Gallagher, J. & Mallinson, P. J. (1981). The population structure, density and prevalence of tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) in badgers (Meles meles) from four areas in south-west England. J. Appl. Ecol. 18, 795–804.
57. Cheeseman, C. L., Mallinson, P. J., Ryan, J. & Wilesmith, J. W. (1993). Recolonisation by badgers in Gloucestershire. In The badger (ed. T. J. Hayden), pp. 78–93. Dublin, Ireland: Royal Irish Academy.
58. Tuyttens, F. A. M., Delahay, R. J., Macdonald, D. W., Cheeseman, C. L., Long, B. & Donnelly, C. A. (2000a). Spatial perturbation caused by a badger (Meles meles) culling operation: implications for the function of territoriality and the control of bovine tuberculosis Mycobacterium bovis. J. Anim. Ecol. 69, 815–828.
59. Tuyttens, F. A. M., Macdonald, D. W., Rogers, L. M., Cheeseman, C. L. & Roddam, A. W. (2000b). Comparative study on the consequences of culling badgers (Meles meles) on biometrics, population dynamics and movement. J. Anim. Ecol. 69, 567–580.
60. Macdonald, D. W., Riordan, P. & Mathews, F. (2006). Biological hurdles to the control of TB in cattle: a test of two hypotheses concerning wildlife to explain the failure of control. Biol. Conserv. 131, 268–286.
61. O'Corry Crowe, G., Hammond, R., Eves, J. & Hayden, T. J., (1996). The Effect of Reduction in Badger Density on the Spatial Organisation and Activity of Badgers (Meles meles) in Relation to Farms in Central Ireland. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy , 96(3), pp. 147-158.
62. Bourne, F. J. et al., (2007). TB policy and the ISG's findings. Veterinary Record , 161(18), pp. 633-635.
63. Donnelly, C.A., Woodroffe, R., Cox, D.R., Bourne, J., Gettinby, G., Le Fevre, A.M., Mclnerney, J.P., Morrison, W.I., (2003). Impact of localized badger culling on tuberculosis incidence in British cattle. Nature 426, 834– 837.
64. Woodroffe, R. et al., (2006). Effects of Culling on Badger Meles meles Spatial Organization: Implications for the Control of Bovine Tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 43(1), pp. 1-10.
65. Sleeman, D. P. et al., (2009a). The effectiveness of barriers to badger (Meles meles) immigration in the Irish Four Area project. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 55(3), pp. 267-278.
66. Roper, T. J., (2010). Badger. 1st ed. London : Harper Collins.
67. Byrne, A. W. et al., (2012c). Population Estimation and Trappability of the European Badger (Meles meles) Implications for Tuberculosis Management. Plos One, 7(12), pp. 1-11.
68. Munoz–Igualada J, Shivik JA, Domınguez FG, Lara J, Gonzalez LM (2008). Evaluation of cage–traps and cable restraint devices to capture red foxes in Spain. J Wildl Manage 72: 830–836.
69. O’Flaherty, J., (2008). Value for Money and Policy Review Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Programme. 1996–2006. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/publications/2008/valueformoneyandpolicyreviewbovinetuberculosiseradicationprogramme1996-2006/
70. Farming after foot and Mouth. http://www.tbfreeengland.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/RP01-67.pdf
71. 81%of the population are against the proposed culling of Badgers (Bow Group research 2012). http://www.bowgroup.org/policy/bow-group-urges-government-scrap-badger-cull-plans
72. The Citizen newspaper poll found 90.2% were against the cull (4 Oct 2012).
73. Control of Bovine (bTB ) Cattle Biosecurity - Part 5 NFU Southwest http://www.southwest-tbadvice.co.uk/uploads/TB_Bulletin_5-Cattle_Bio-security_30_11_10.pdf
74. BTB remains in slurry for up to two years. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2710499/
75. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2710499/#R61
76. Bovine TB : a review of badger to cattle transmission. http://www.dardni.gov.uk/afbi-literature-review-tb-review-badger-to-cattle-transmission.pdf
77. 22% of new bTB cattle detected at slaughter. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/oct/05/badger-cull-tb-cattle
78. TB Vaccination of Badgers www.bacvi.org.uk
79. The use of dogs and Defra. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69586/pb13716-shooting-guidance.pd
80 .Cattle bTB and ferrets, 4 out of 80 foxes had btB. http://www.bovinetb.info/docs/johngallt_b_review9-04.pd
81. Paul R. Torgerson and David J. Torgerson stated in their paper ‘Public health and bovine tuberculosis: what’s all the fuss about?' READ HERE
Yes, you can. You can vaccinate badgers now and people are. Wales is vaccinating and so are UK farmers, including farmers in the cull zone.
After ten years of culling badgers in the UK, based on figures from DEFRA and a proper reading of the RBCT (Randomised Badger Cull Trial) report as opposed to cherry-picking, it can be seen that even the small drop of 16 per cent in infection claimed by advocates of the cull is not a real expectation. Lord Krebs (author of the RBCT) himself reminds us that the figure of 16 per cent is merely a lessening of the rate of increase of prevalence of the disease. So after 10 years, farmers will in fact not see an improvement. And the long-term prediction is even worse. Thus the proposed cull is, as agreed by the whole scientific community, nothing short of 'crazy. In addition, the cull will alienate farmers from the public, who are horrified at this unethical killing that places no value on a wild animal whatsoever. From a supposed Ministry of the Environment, this is a disgrace. The prognosis for farms on the periphery of the cull zone is grim indeed. They will very likely see bTB increase by up to 30%. DEFRA are (ironically) talking about vaccinating badgers in these zones, but Lord Krebs warns that vaccination only works with a badger population that is stable. This is not going to be the case next to an area where they are being randomly shot
40% of the farms in the cull zone have been bTB free for 10 years or more, but science tells us they will not remain this way. Us humans have been vaccinating for years to protect ourselves.
Vaccinating badgers on farms is a simple and effective way to deal with bTB, showing results within four years instead of nine or ten by culling. It doesn’t disturb the badger population. Healthy badgers protect the areas they inhabit showing little or no perturbation.
Vaccination is the obvious way to address bTB in cattle and badgers. Vaccination is the only sustainable and effective solution. A paper published by the government’s science laboratories shows that vaccinating adult badgers also protects the cubs against bTB (9). While adults already infected with bTB are not cured, the symptoms are reduced.
This process, over time, would mean that herd immunity would be obtained in the badger populations. Family units would not be displaced; perturbation would be avoided, as would any further spread as seen in the randomised badger culling trials.
Well, that’s not true. In New Zealand, they have used oral vaccines and they work as they do here. Trinity University are working on this, but safety tests are being carried out. It doesn’t dissolve in the stomach and is as effective as the injectable vaccine. However, the University is not allowed to talk to us.
Eamonn Gormley a senior research associate at Trinity University in Ireland has an impressive background (46) and led the research at University College Dublin's school of agriculture. He said: "Our study has shown that oral vaccination can be effective in badgers and that it does work” (44).
The oral vaccine works and is currently going through safety tests with the VMD at AVHLA in Weybridge. Oral vaccines will be ready by 2015 so we can vaccinate through injections now and use oral vaccines in 18 months time.
There was no intention to collect any data or science from these trials. If the culling is rolled out across the ten initial cull zones, 130,000 badgers will die. If the cull is rolled out across the country in 2015, the bill for taxpayers will reach in excess of £50 million; as costs soar once culling actually starts. Not only that, but if this year’s cull does go ahead, it will undoubtedly exacerbate the problem; bTB won’t be eradicated from farms, and as the RBCT clearly stated, culling increases the incidence of the disease in badgers. The project is surely not viable on any level.
Cost mounted and a year before the cull started the costs were rising at an alarming rate
Actual costs to date:
Surveying the 2 cull zone
Day of action
Shooting foxes has long been a nocturnal activity, but foxes live above ground and only have simple earths in which they shelter their cubs. Badgers, however, have complex setts, some of which extend to almost mile in length, and a badger that has been shot and injured may return to its sett and die a slow, painful death. There’s no reason to assume that marksmen who have spent one day learning about the anatomy of badgers will be able to carry out the task either humanely or safely, and policing costs will be prohibitive.
Senior police officers have told the government that private security companies will need to be drafted in, to prevent the culls being overrun by animal rights activists. The two forces involved have told civil servants at Defra that they haven’t the manpower to cope, and believe the operation is an impossible one, “We welcome this like a hole in the head” a source close to Gloucestershire Constabulary said. “The amount of policing that’s going to have to go into this is like a nightmare.” (23)
Shooting badgers is a complex procedure, and the fact that they’re low-slung creatures means that bullets with a trajectory of one mile must be used.
Arrangements for the cull require the shooting to take place at night, which cannot be either safe (for local residents, for example) or effective, given the reduced visibility.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) sets out best practice guidelines on night time shooting and these are included in the following guidance, “As a matter of courtesy, inform local residents who you are and where you will be shooting, together with your approximate starting and finishing times”, http://www.basc.org.uk/en/codes-of-practice/lamping.cfm.
The Deer Initiative sets out best practice guidelines for night time shooting with respect to the Deer Act and states, “Anyone likely to be in the vicinity should be given advance warning and adjacent occupiers should be informed”, http://www.thedeerinitiative.co.uk/uploads/guides/92.pdf.
The guidance for the planned badger cull outlines that the cull zones are to be kept confidential, hence they are ignoring the best practice.
This statement is taken from a Defra publication: The use of a trained dog to follow a scent trail, with the aim of locating (without physically coming into contact with) an injured badger, does not require a licence and can be carried out under an exemption provided in the Hunting Act 2004. Any dog used in this way should be kept under close control on a leash when following a trail and, if shooting from or near a vehicle, should be kept in the vehicle unless actually being used to locate an injured badger. Normally only a single dog should be used for this purpose (the exemption under the Hunting Act does not permit the use of more than two dogs). Use of a dog muzzle should be considered. (79)
Given that the disease cannot be contained, a cull will inevitably only spread the infection over a wider area and outside the cull zone. This is known as perturbation. The effect on farmers in the perturbation zone will see a bTB increase by 29%. The perturbation can only be prevented by hard boundaries and short culling periods.
All lactating creatures—including rats, deer and squirrels, as well as domestic dogs and cats—carry bTB, and culling for a period exceeding five days will lead to an increase in the spread of the disease. Against scientific advice, the proposed culling period has been extended to six weeks and, in the absence of hard boundaries, much of the wildlife will move out of the cull zones during its operation. The government has said that rivers and canals, and busy roads such as motorways, form hard boundaries – but badgers (along with foxes and other wild animals) cross motorways every night – and most survive. Badgers are also amazing swimmers; they can swim across large rivers, and against the current. So neither motorways nor rivers can be regarded as hard boundaries!
Stricter measures to prevent cows from spreading bTB to other cows are the only way to combat the disease effectively. As a result of stringent practices put in place in the 1960s, the disease was virtually eradicated in England. The EU has contributed £32 million to the UK to combat TB in cattle, but doesn’t give funds for badger culling: “The Commission provides substantial financial support (5) to the approved UK bovine TB eradication programme. For 2012, €31.2 million was allocated to implement a rapid eradication strategy. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers” (5).
In the first half of 2011, EU inspectors found that the removal of cattle with TB was below the target of 90% in 10 days, and more than 1,000 cattle had still to be removed after 30 days (8). In May 2011, 3,300 TB tests were overdue, and “many” calf passports – used to track movements – were incomplete. Missed targets on the rapid removal of cattle with TB, following up missed tests, and “weaknesses in cleaning and disinfection at farm, vehicle, market and slaughterhouse levels, exacerbated by lack of adequate supervision” were all seen by EU inspectors as increasing the risk of the spread of TB among herds. The EU inspectors also found that only 56% of disease report forms had been completed on time, with the authorities blaming a lack of resources. In addition, “Local authority surveys provided evidence that some cattle farmers may have been illegally swapping ear tags, i.e. retaining TB-positive animals in their herds and sending less productive cows to slaughter in their place.” The government accepted most of these failings. In the view of veterinary surgeon Prof. John Bourne, stricter measures to stop cows spreading TB amongst themselves are the only way to combat the disease effectively, “Despite some improvements, the government is still going nowhere near far enough with bio-security,” he said. “It’s not badgers that spread the disease throughout the country; it is cattle.” On that, we are all agreed.
Tougher bio-security measures were introduced in January 2013, and we look forward to seeing the results of these before any further action is taken.
Lord Krebs who oversaw the RBCT has argued, “The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case.” The following letter, written by David Heath, clearly states that this is "not a scientific trial" and talks of "judgements calls" There is no intention to serve science here just policy.
Given that badgers don’t generally travel by bus or lorry, and rarely cover long distances on foot, the widespread and frequent movement of cattle provides a much more convincing explanation for the spread of bTB in the UK. The map below shows the pattern over a 20-year period. The spread across the country mirrors exactly the increase in intensive farming. Just like humans, cattle under stress become sick, and crowded conditions make the spread of a disease common place.
In the 1960s, farming in England was experiencing a serious outbreak of Bovine TB but through careful cattle management, strict biosecurity and stringent animal testing, the proportion of cattle reacting to the TB tests reduced by a factor of four in just five years. For the next 20 years, bTB in cattle was brought under control and kept in check with very few cattle suffering an infection. During the 1980s, following a marked relaxation of cattle testing and movement controls, the situation began to change for the worse.
Bovine TB was again on the increase and to make matters worse the arrival of 2001 brought with it the worst outbreak of foot and mouth the country had ever seen. With over 6 million animals slaughtered, farmers were forced to restock with cattle, most of which came from abroad.
Well, that’s not true either. Every year the UK’s farming industry sends 350,000 cattle for premature slaughter, most of which are suffering from illnesses that are easily treatable and preventable. Only 25,000 of these, or 1 in 14, are suffering from bTB. Intensive dairy farming, in which cows never graze in the fields, has not surprisingly, resulted in an increase in mastitis and lameness. Cows’ hooves, like those of horses, are unsuited to harsh concrete, and even lame cows that are unable to move, are often milked lying on their sides for the sake of profit. Dairy farming has changed beyond all recognition and is now a highly intensive industry.
Given that cows are held in crowded sheds where they suffer from severe stress, it is little wonder that bTB is prevalent. Cows now produce ten times more milk as nature intended and are often milked for more than 6 hours a day. Inbreeding is used to increase productivity, and when their yield falls they’re needlessly slaughtered. It’s astonishing that anyone can regard today’s farming practices as humane.