Save Me Trust BTB Symposium March 2017 - A brief review

In March 2017 Save Me Trust organised a unique BTB Symposium held at Imperial College, London. The idea was to get people from all sides of the Bovine TB debate into one room to seek new insights into the control of Bovine Tuberculosis. Dr Brian May, founder of the Save Me Trust said in his opening comments; All the science in one place. "We have great hopes for this conference. By bringing so much wisdom together in one room we hope to take a step towards establishing the whole truth about bovine TB, and, in frank and open discussion, open a new era of genuine cooperation in the fight against this pernicious pathogen.”

It took great effort to bring so many experts together for one day and it could not have been achieved without the support of Defra and the NFU. It was groundbreaking. The symposium was chaired by Prof Lord John Krebs, FRS and divided into four main sections and a panel discussion The governments Chief Scientist, Prof Ian Boyd and Chief Vet, Nigel Gibbens attended along with the leading scientists from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  

The first section of the day was Cattle based controls chaired by Prof Rosie Woodroffe that included Prof James Wood, the University of Cambridge talking about the performance of the current cattle tests - Prof Christianne Glossop, Welsh Chief Vet covered the Welsh approach to Bovine TB - Prof Rowland Kao, University of Glasgow provided Insights from Scotland on improving cattle controls - before Dr Cath Rees discussed new diagnostic tests to improve cattle controls. This led neatly into Richard (Dick) Sibley, discussing TB Management at the front line - a review of Dick’s project work on two Devon based farms

Second discussion point of the day was Controlling the badger population chaired by Prof Glyn Hewinson, APHA. This started with a review of the RBCT (Randomised Badger Culling Trial) from Prof Christl Donnelly, Imperial College - Then, Prof Tim Coulson, University of Oxford covered the Effectiveness & humaneness of farmer-led badger culls - Dr Lucy Brunton APHA reviewed the Incidence of bovine TB in Somerset and Gloucestershire cull areas in Year 2 of industry-led badger culls - James O'Keeffe, DAFM discussed Ireland’s plans to Replacing badger culling with vaccination - Dr Graham Smith, APHA covered the Modelling the effects of localised badger culling - before Prof Liz Wellington, University of Warwick looked at PCR-guided badger culling and could it work?

The third session of the day covered vaccination. It was chaired by Prof Christl Donnelly and started with Prof Glyn Hewinson, APHA covering cattle vaccination in Britain. Dr Freya Smith, APHA updated on Badger Vaccination in Britain - before Prof Eamonn Gormley, University College Dublin gave a detailed account of why the Republic of Ireland plan to replace badger culling with Badger vaccination - Dr Fraser Menzies, DAERA discussed Northern Ireland’s plan to use TVR (Test & vaccinate/remove).

The fourth section of the day was chaired by Save Me Trust founder Dr Brian May and looked at developing policy. Dr Amie Adkin, APHA opened with Improving cattle controls: risk-based trading - followed by Prof Rosie Woodroffe, Institute of Zoology covered her research into Interactions between badgers and cattle - followed by Dr Gareth Enticott, Cardiff University who reviewed How relevant is New Zealand to TB control in the UK?.

The day ended with a panel discussion; How should these new insights inform TB control policy? The expert panel included Prof Sheila Bird (formerly, Medical Research Council), Prof John Bourne (formerly, Institute of Animal Health), Nigel Gibbens Chief Vet (Defra), Prof Neil Ferguson (Imperial College) Prof Christianne Glossop (Chief Vet, Wales), Prof James Wood (University of Cambridge) James O'Keeffe (DAFM) Ian McGrath (NFU Regional Chairman and Farmer) and was chaired by Prof Lord John Krebs.

The panel took a range of unprepared questions from the audience that included a broad range of people including Scientists, Veterinarians, Farmers, NFU, Journalists, Badger groups and Wildlife and Animal charities.

The questions were wide ranging and initially focussed on badger cull policy and directed to Chief vet, Nigel Gibbens who provided some clear answers, based on current government policy statements and referred a question on badger target numbers to Prof James Wood to answer. Ian McGrath said farmers were going out of business because of bovine Tb but believed the current tests were accurate enough, whilst others wanted to see policy moved forward to afford all farmers the option of using Phage and qPCR testing.

Prof Sheila Bird related the devastating effects of tuberculosis on people and animals currently in the world, whilst Prof John Bourne stuck fast to his belief that badger culling would have no impact on reducing bovine TB in cattle. Northern Ireland’s consideration of TVR (Trap vaccinate remove) didn’t seem popular to either farmers or badger groups with both seeing it as ineffective at resolving the problems for differing reasons. Welsh chief vet, Christianne Glossop said Wales had previously reviewed TVR and decided to continue with vaccination. 

The panel discussion was very lively and popular and whilst many questions were asked there were still plenty of hands up when the chairman brought the panel discussion to a close.

Lord Krebs then finished the day with a summary of the day's events and how he believed that a new level of understanding and collaboration underlined insights gained from the day as to how we could really work to find solutions of Bovine TB.

Save Me Trust arranged for the BTB Symposium to be professionally videoed and will be releasing the full video very soon.