#Wake Up Defra

Our campaign looks at the issues surrounding the badger cull and pulls out all the stops to prevent it from continuing. When will it be safe for badgers?

The cull is bad for badgers, bad for cattle and bad for farmers. It won't solve bTB.

The Badger cull pilots of 2012 had an additional trail within and that was to assess the effectiveness and humaneness of "free shooting" badgers at night. It was neither humane or effective to free shoot badgers, as stated by the governments own Independent Evaluation Panel. Yet the cull continues.

Other mammals can become infected by the Mycobacterium bovis bacterium, which causes the disease bovine TB (bTB). Between 1994 and 2011, there were just 570 human cases of bovine TB in humans and none were related to cattle.

We believe the reason bTB re-emerged is because of the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, which led to thousands of cattle being slaughtered and farmers all over the UK restocking and taking advantage of a government concession to do so without carrying out bTB testing as required legally.

Switzerland eradicated bTB by slaughtering entire herds rather than single reactive cows, and has been officially free of the disease (OTF) since 1960 until early this year. The disease has been controlled solely by means of passive surveillance of abattoirs since 1980, although isolated cases, which are sometimes due to the reactivation of human M. bovis infections with subsequent transmission to cattle, have been observed in recent years (46). Just this year, (2013) a herd of cows was euthanised in the canton of Fribourg, after it was found that most were infected with Bovine Tuberculosis. The herd was tested after one cow became seriously ill last month. 

Neuchâtel’s Department of Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs says the testing showed that the herd had “a high rate of infection” and decided to euthanise and incinerate all of the animals. The health officials say the high rate indicates that the Tuberculosis was present for years, and that cows that tested negative were in fact carrying the infectious agent. This shows, once again, that M. bovis bacterium, which is the causative agent of the disease, can remain latent and undetected for many years.

Research from Durham University released in 2013 has confirmed that badgers are not major players in the transfer of bTB. Professor Peter Atkins of Durham University has stated:

“It is very probable that other animals did, and do carry TB, including badgers and deer, but cattle-to-cattle transfer is likely also to be an important factor. For example, only one out of nearly 400 badgers killed in road accidents in Cheshire over two decades tested for the disease turned out to be positive. This goes against received wisdom that bTB would have stayed in badgers which obviously weren’t culled when the cattle were in previous decades, and they then re-infected cattle stocks. But this interspecies transference seems unlikely to have occurred on the necessary scale.

Furthermore, no one has yet proved definitively which direction the infection travels between species. The RBCT (Randomised Badger Culling Trial), which ran from 1998 to 2006, indicated complex, interwoven patterns of infection, and concluded badger culling was unlikely to be effective for the future control of bTB.” (21)

Prof. Atkins believes that bTB in badgers is a spill-over disease from cattle, rather than an endemic condition, and probably does not persist over lengthy periods. He contends that a cull could even exacerbate the problem (22). 

Prof. Atkins has also said:

“Bovine tuberculosis was completely eliminated from Cheshire, and from the counties which do have badger populations. That elimination took place in the 1950s and what you’d expect according to the traditional badger ecology is that bovine tuberculosis would have stayed in the badgers – which obviously weren’t culled at that time – if there is an association between the two species, but the road traffic accident data shows that wasn’t the case; in fact only one animal out of, I think it’s 400, that were collected over two decades in Cheshire was infected with the disease, which doesn’t suggest it was endemic in that particular county.”

He continued:

“Farms needed to restock after foot-and-mouth with fresh animals, and most often they bought those animals from the dairy rich southwest. Keeping cows in calf for their milk means this is a traditional cattle breeding area; so in County Durham, for instance, where quite a lot of cattle were slaughtered as a result of foot-and-mouth disease, cattle were brought in and it’s been shown that actually on several occasions, those cattle brought bovine tuberculosis with them into areas which previously hadn’t had it, so this was rather ironic. Almost certainly a proportion of the increase in bovine tuberculosis after 2001 is the result of that restocking after foot-and-mouth disease. I think that the ecology of the assumption that badgers are always responsible for the cattle disease has got to be reviewed.”

Our biosecurity is extremely poor. In 2011, the European Commission considered our biosecurity practices in farming so dismal that it threatened to withdraw the £32 million annual funding (12) to combat bTB. That move saw Jim Pace (the then minister) hot footing it to Brussels to plead our case. He promised more rigorous biosecurity in return for the funding, but very little has changed. The EU confirmed the money was to eradicate bTB but no money was given for culling badgers.

We are opposed to the unscientific and wholly unnecessary badger cull, as the disease is in the herd and must be solved in the herd.

We object, on science and cost. 

After extensive research, the RBCT trial concluded that “Culling badgers would have no significant impact on bTB in cattle". The costs are estimated at £28 million so far. 

Badgers really are the scapegoats in this. The disease remains undetected in the herd. The inferior skin test doesn't detect TB at its latent stage so it can go undetected in cattle for at least a year, yet the cattle remain ‘infectious’ during that time.

The overspill from the cattle can infect domestic animals such as cats and dogs, wildlife such as deer and farm livestock such as horses, pigs and goats amongst others.  

The disease is not self sustaining in the wildlife but it is in the cattle. 

The scientific evidence that has been accumulated by previous governments, Chief Scientists and world-renowned experts has consistently, over the last twenty years, concluded that culling badgers is not a solution or even part of the solution to the problem of bTB.

Wake up Defra, it's in the herd. 

 

For References, click here References