Dr Brian May, founder of the Save Me Trust, will be taking part in the bTB “read test” with Crediton, mid-Devon, farmer Malcolm Huxtable on Thursday 29th October. This is being filmed for BBC Inside Out. Dr May, together with Anne Brummer, CEO of The Save Me Trust, has campaigned tirelessly for an end to the badger culls, and runs a badger vaccination project known as BACVI (Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative) that works with farmers, primarily in the South West. There has been a lot of criticism from farmers in respect of the accuracy of the tuberculin skin test. To carry out a skin test the tester has to clip two small areas of skin in the middle of the animal’s neck, measure the thickness of both sites using callipers and inject into the skin of the neck with a small volume of each tuberculin.
The TB tester then returns three days later to examine the injection sites, look for any reactions to the injections and re-measure the skin thickness. The reactions will be in the form of lumps or swellings and the size and type of reaction (relative to the skin thickness measured before the injection of tuberculin) and determine whether the animal is to pass the test, whether it is deemed a reactor (and slaughtered), or classified as ‘inconclusive’ (and re-tested 60 days later). In order to obtain accurate results, TB testers have to adhere to the standard operating procedure meticulously. This is not always easy under field conditions on cattle farms. Skin tests are also physically demanding and can be very time consuming as the cattle have to be gathered and restrained on two separate days.
The farmer, Malcolm Huxtable’s, herd has been down with TB since September 2014, but only getting one positive each time. None of these had lesions at slaughter. Over the last 15 years, his cattle have been down, on and off, 14 times, seriously affecting his herd and livelihood. Primarily he believes the TB test needs to change to become more accurate. Brian May and Anne Brummer will help with the testing procedure and talk to farmer Malcolm Huxtable and testers on the outcomes as part of a BBC Inside Out programme produced by Anna Varle.