Lame claims explain in detail why the badger cull will fail and why we believe it will not impact on the reduction BTb in cattle and may make matters worse. It has been divisive in the countryside and financially it is not viable. Bovine TB impacts on the farming community, cattle and conservationists alike we, therefore, need to find a sustainable and effective way to reduce the herd breakdowns.
We believe that culling badgers cannot help bTB in cattle. Save Me Trust is currently working with farmers and the NFU to look at this issue. The current badger cull is failing farmers, failing cattle and failing badgers. Click here to read the complete lame claims file on the badger cull or click on the individual claims below.
Lame Claim no. 1: Bovine TB is a threat to humans.
Bovine TB does not represent a threat to the human population, in fact, cattle infected with bTB enter our food chain every day and we eat infected cattle. More than 22% of all new cases remain undetected until the animal is slaughtered (77). We often drink milk from bTB cattle. If only a few lesions are found, the meat is considered fit for human consumption. The government receives around £10 million a year by selling bTB contaminated meat into the human food chain.
Mycobacterium bovis, or the bovine tubercle bacillus, is an anaerobic bacterium that is part of the mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, and is the cause of TB in cattle. The organism is carried by many animals including deer, cats, dogs, pigs, alpacas, sheep and, of course, cattle. In a study of 4,715 mammal carcasses from the southwest of England, infection was confirmed in the following species: fox, stoat, polecat, common shrew, yellow-necked mouse, wood mouse, field vole, grey squirrel, roe deer, red deer, fallow deer, and muntjac deer. (11). Bovine TB can jump the species barrier and be a cause of TB in humans and that’s where the problem historically lies.
In the 1930s and 40s, there were more than 50,000 cases of TB and around 2,500 deaths a year. During the 1930s, a large proportion of dairy cows were infected with M. bovis. At this time, many herds were moved into the towns and kept near large cities to provide urban dwellers with fresh milk they were closely confined in poorly ventilated cowsheds and this provided ideal conditions for the spread of the disease.
Modern farming practices with huge numbers of animals in small areas has recreated the situation again, indeed, the highest rates of bovine TB are found on intensive farms. Cattle and dairy farming has changed in its intensity since the war, unfortunately, not for the better in relation to welfare and disease. Intensive farms have, it seems lost sight of the animals needs and welfare. Antibiotics are used routinely against the threat from the disease that is a symptom of this level of confinement. Animals are treated as a science project rather than living beings. Cattle are inbred to produce a high yield of milk and, in some cases, struggle to walk, all in the name of profit and productivity. Just because science gives us the ability to create something, it doesn't mean we should do this. We test human athletes regularly to make sure they are not using performance enhancing drugs. Our cattle deserve the same basic rights.
This video shows the impact of 'runoff' from farms and the intensive cocktail of antibiotics that it contains as it enters our rivers and water table. More details can be found here Ethical Shopping
Bulls are bred with double muscles, meaning they carry weight not designed to be carried by their bones. In short, cattle have become an intensively farmed product. This article explains the importance of the size and its productivity:
By 1960, the UK government had introduced compulsory cattle testing and devised a compensation programme for all cattle that had to be destroyed. All herds had to be tested twice for TB annually. Any “reactors”(animals that tested positive) were slaughtered, and bTB became a notifiable disease.
The combination of the pasteurisation of milk, immunisation of children (remember your BCG?) and healthier diets has resulted in a huge drop in the number of cases of TB in humans in the UK over the last 100 years, and in most areas it is no longer considered a matter of concern. In the last decade, for example, there has been only a handful of cases of humans contracting TB from animals, mainly in immigrant populations.
Paul R. Torgerson and David J. Torgerson stated in their paper ‘Public health and bovine tuberculosis: what’s all the fuss about?’ (81), that bovine TB was "not a risk to human health. We propose that bTB control in cattle is irrelevant as a public health policy.”
To conclude, bTB is not a threat to humans.
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
77. 22% of new bTB cattle detected at slaughter.
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
Lame Claim no. 2: No country in the world has solved bTB without first addressing it in the wildlife population.
Of course, that isn’t true – and you don’t need to travel very far to see some strong evidence against it.
In 1938, we slaughtered 47,476 cattle with bTB in England; in 1979, the total was just 628, without any culling of the wildlife population. An outbreak in North West England in the 1970s was also eliminated in the cattle without harming wildlife.
Intensive farming increases the incidence of bTB, and the trend in that direction since the war has been a continuous one. The consequences of cramming more animals into the space available, and in poor conditions, can only be detrimental to their health and increase the prevalence of bTB. Despite all the commotion about a recent rise in bTB in England, only 270 new incidences were reported in herds across the country in the month of March 2013. If we look at the history of the disease there are fluctuations so that number isn’t surprising.
The level of infection won’t stay the same every year, especially when there is a significant increase in testing, as occurred in 2011 when 11,146 more tests were carried out than in 2010. An increase in numbers was inevitable. Why is the APT not being calculated? Unfortunately, it’s very easy, and tempting, to exaggerate the increase in bTB in order to justify a badger cull when you’re set on the idea.
So far, 97,733 badgers have been culled in Ireland and yet the incidence of bTB is still at the same rate. Ireland is signed up to the Bern Convention, and should, therefore, update its wildlife population figures annually. The last submission was in 2001.
This shows the British government’s claim and interpretation of the 50% drop in bTB cases in numbers in Ireland. It is clear that they are 'cherry picking' random high and low points in an attempt to prove a claim. This will not fool the British public - SEE BELOW
This shows a scientist's view of the drop - i.e. no change.
This graph shows how the incidence of bTB actually fell in the 1960's before culling started. Figures are presented by the government as following a downward trend when, in fact, the number of bTB cases has actually fluctuated over the period in question.
bTB incidence declined in Ireland before they began culling badgers, therefore, government figures to support the culling badgers are misleading. They took a high incidence point in the history of bTB compared to a low point, to greatly exaggerate a drop.
In 1958, 160,000 cattle had bTB and in 1979 less than 20,000, however, no badgers were killed.
In 2012, the Irish government spent almost €34 million in its programme to control Bovine TB. 10% of this (€3.4 million) was spent on culling almost 7,000 badgers. And the outcome, after all that slaughter, and expense? 55 fewer cattle were diagnosed with bovine TB compared to 2011. That’s an expenditure of almost €5000 per badger or almost €620,000 for every cow saved! Ireland has culled over 96,000 badgers since 1985 and yet they have not eradicated bovine TB.
This campaign has resulted in the population of badgers being greatly reduced over large areas of the Irish countryside and may lead to local extinctions (49). The loss of badgers is a disaster on an ecosystem level, as they are known to play an important role in temperate ecosystems, acting as engineers, seed dispersers and predators (47).
The culling of over 57,000 badgers between 2003 and 2012 coincided with a reduction in animal disease incidence by 1%. However, to say that this reduction can be put down to badger culling is misleading as a number of things happened over this period that would have been expected to reduce bTB.
Over the period 2004-2011:
- · National herd down by 16.7%.
- · Number of herds down 6.7%.
- · Number of tests per head of cattle population up 13.5%
The year 2000:
The IFN-γ test used increasingly more often (50).
Since the year 2000, the numbers of samples submitted to laboratories has increased with over 12,000 samples now tested annually. This test is much more accurate than the interferon skin test and an increase in its use can only have improved the situation.
- · Anamnestic ELISA test used increasingly more often (50)
- · Introduction of Reaction Herd Management System (50).
The badger culling programme went national in Ireland in 2003-2004, but badger culling had already been on an upward trend prior to this.
The Irish badger culling trials - the East Offaly and Four Area projects, demonstrated a reduction in confirmed TB herd restrictions following badger culling (50,51,52). Both projects incorporated natural barriers and removal buffers in their study designs in order to reduce the movements of migrant badgers (53,54,55).
The effectiveness of the barriers varied greatly, with the open sea and large rivers being found to significantly affect badger movements (47). The rapid migration of badgers from neighbouring social groups that have been observed in English studies following population reduction (56,57,58,59 & 60) were not observed in the East Offaly project (61). These barriers may have been important in reducing badger movements in and out of the study sites and, therefore, may have influenced the likelihood of observing the perturbation effect that has been such a vital element in the RBCT badger culling trials in the South West of England (62,63 & 64).
Other studies in Ireland have shown that when badger population densities are reduced through culling, there is a breakdown in normal badger territoriality with a change in frontier latrine patterns and an increase in detected movements (65).
The differences in the badger populations between Ireland and England make comparisons between studies difficult. Nowhere else in Europe are badger social group sizes as large as those in the South West of England (47,66). The mean group size is known to be larger in England than Ireland (49). There is also a significant difference in the estimated badger population density between Britain and Ireland, with reported national numbers of 3.2 badgers per km2 in Britain, and 1.9 badgers per km2 in Ireland (62,65).
Differences also exist between the capture methods employed in the different trials in Ireland and England. The Irish studies employed stop restraint snares. While stop restraint snares are less efficient than cages at catching younger badgers, they are overall thought to be more efficient than cages (67). For example, a study on red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in Spain showed that restraints are more efficient at capturing wild animals compared to cages (68). Trapping efficiency is significant when considering perturbation as evidenced in the East Offaly study. Where partial removal (approx. 50%) was observed, there was a fivefold increase in herd incidences of bTB (61).
The increase in TB reactors in the UK over the last year, which was being used by Owen Paterson MP to justify the proposed culls in 2013, may be partially explained by the increase in testing over the same period. Between 1988-1990, the amount of testing in Ireland increased by over a million. The peaks in the number of TB reactors in 1989 and 1990 (TB reactors increased by 11,425) have been directly attributed to the increase in testing (69). In England, 11,146 more tests were carried out in 2012 compared to 2011 and this would also be expected to result in a higher TB reactor figure in 2012.
These graphs clearly show the number of cattle slaughtered after a skin test and show both peaks and troughs throughout each year. To prevent the creation of any variations, badgers were not culled during this time. 22% of all new confirmed TB cases in cattle were first discovered at slaughterhouses, with the animals supposedly coming from "TB-free" herds.
In many cases, milk from diseased cattle was not successfully kept out of the human food chain.
Defra acknowledged many pitfalls in the system and say there is no practical way to enforce the leaving of [infected] pastures vacant for 60 days on a routine basis: "Enforcement of animal disease control policies is fragmented across a number of bodies and weaknesses have been identified, particularly in relation to co-ordination between AHVLA and the local authorities.”
It is incredible that if bTB is found within a farm herd, the neighbouring farms are not informed. We seem to have learnt very little from the foot-and-mouth epidemic and its rapid spread: "The delivery of the programme is being undermined at present by resource constraints (particularly in local authorities) and inefficiencies caused by the delayed roll out of the new TB software."
All of these factors need to be dealt with prior to any consideration in relation to badgers.
In Ireland, recent research, published in 2012, showed that cattle outbreaks on neighbouring farms were caused by strains that were not identical clearly showing that badgers were not the cause. The cattle were from different sources as was the bTB (34).
In the 1970s, an outbreak of bTB in North West England was eliminated by the slaughter of cattle and restrictions to their movements (sounds familiar!). Had the disease been maintained by badgers, the problem could not have been solved without their removal. Badgers were not targeted yet the area was soon declared free of infection.
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 the 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 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 South West. 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 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, importantly, no money was given to support the culling of badgers.
In New Zealand more than 100,000 possums (82-83) were killed in an attempt to stop the spread of bTB and it was only when the farming community was subjected to very strict biosecurity regulations, and very tight restrictions on the movement of cattle, that the number of cases of bTB actually dropped – by an astonishing 53% in deer and 58% in cattle.
The farmers finally bought into the fact that they themselves were in control and the country’s bTB issues have been fully resolved. In New Zealand, farmers pay 55% of the costs involved, so it’s to their advantage to solve the problem of bTB in cattle. That isn’t the case here in the UK.
Dr Paul Livingstone, Technical Manager for the Animal Health Board (AHB) in New Zealand, has been researching managing and controlling the bTB problem for more than 30 years. He explained how bovine TB was managed in New Zealand through the AHB, and outlined the main elements of the country’s control programme which has successfully moved the prevalence rate in herds from a peak of 3.87% in 1994/5 to just 0.35% in 2008/9, despite the presence of wild animal TB vectors (possums):
“The programme has a clear strategy of cattle testing, movement controls and the culling of possums. The NZTB programme costs around $88m (£34m), and cattle farmers pay 55% of this.
“Basically, farmers pay for all the cattle-related measures (testing, compensation etc.), and then they share the cost of the vector control programme (50% government, 40% farmers, 10% local councils). Farmers receive compensation at a rate of 65% of fair market value, although there is limited scope for this to increase to 100% for dairy cattle under certain circumstances after this was agreed with the dairy farmers – because they have to pay!”
Free-living ferrets (Mustela putoris) (80) have been found to be infected in several locations throughout New Zealand, where their infections were considered to have arisen from cattle or deer (de Lisle et al., 1993). Subsequent studies have implicated ferrets as the possible source of infection for some outbreaks of tuberculosis in cattle in New Zealand, “Farmers have a significant say in the programme through the AHB, both at the national level and through regional TB committees.” (Ragg et al., 1995). Dr Livingstone went on to say that the other main difference between the New Zealand and UK programmes is that the New Zealand’s farmers fund are deeply involved in all aspects of the TB programme. Representatives of the dairy, beef and deer industries, together with regional and central government, elect the directors to the AHB Board. All six directors are farmers or have farming connections. In comparison, from my understanding of the UK situation farmers here don’t appear to want to be involved – and most especially don’t want to pay. Once farmers accept that they should pay, they can start having a say in the policy that is to be adopted. In New Zealand, it wasn’t until farmers started paying and taking responsibility for the programme that it started making progress. In New Zealand, vaccinated cattle are slaughtered and go into the food chain, as does the milk from these cows.
In Michigan, bTB was found to be more prevalent in areas where wild deer came to feed near cattle. Farmers often encourage deer as they are widely hunted for sport and licences bring a revenue stream. The cattle naturally infected the deer but once again, the incidence of the disease only fell when cattle and deer stopped feeding together, and not as a result of the intensive culling of deer. Uptake had been low, with the farming community reluctant to remove deer from feeding with cattle in sheds and in the field, so feeding recreational deer was actually made illegal in the USA.
Some very large herds of deer (11) now dominate parts of South West England, where it’s clear there are several pockets of heavy infection (4). Unlike badgers, deer are stalked by wealthy landowners and their friends in a highly lucrative activity which, some tenant farmers complain, prevents them from controlling infected deer. One farmer told us that an immigrant Sika deer herd had spread bTB to his cattle herd. Many farmers are more concerned about deer than they are about badgers in the matter of bTB. Our government has chosen to ignore the farmers’ concerns which is hardly surprising given that many of our government ministers own large estates in the region and deer stalking is very lucrative.
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.
In continental Europe, the overall spread of bTB is showing a slight increase in percentage terms, both OTF and non-OTF countries have reported a small rise in the number of herds that are testing positive.
The movement of any livestock always brings the risk of disease and this problem is exacerbated by the difficulty of identifying bTB infection in a herd. It’s scarcely any wonder that bTB is spreading!
Current bTB eradication and control programmes in Europe face a range of challenges, especially given that whole-herd slaughter is now a less attractive option for economic reasons (20).
Bovine TB has been around for several hundred years and has become more widespread here in the UK since the move towards more intensive cattle breeding and farming which started in the 18th century and accelerated spectacularly during the second half of the 20th century. We believe the disease probably peaked in the mid- to late 19th century when it may have been carried by as many as 80% of cattle in some counties. There are cattle on 81,000 holdings in Great Britain.
Every year there are an astonishing 13 million plus movements of these animals. Once again, a solution that involves no harm to wildlife is readily apparent simply tightening and enforcing existing regulations on animal husbandry and transport would clearly result in a huge improvement in the health and wellbeing of livestock.
Despite several highly contagious diseases amongst UK cattle, 40 per cent of all British cattle are moved annually with over 13 million cattle movements taking place every year as farmers buy and sell stock. Closely mirroring the historical rise in bTB cases is the rise in cattle movements with 480,294 more cattle moved in 2010 than 2009 (42). Cattle movements have more than quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294) and have involved over 127 million animals since 1998 (42) (43).
Bovine TB is a farming disease and must be solved, first and foremost by farmers. If they adopt the necessary biosecurity measures and restrictions it will soon be eradicated. Both history and science have clearly shown that badgers are not to blame for bTB infection in herds. It is both impractical and pointless to make our wildlife suffer for the inadequacies of our farming methods. It is also, of course, extremely expensive and is, therefore, an appalling waste of money.
Lame Claim no. 3: Thousands of cattle are being needlessly slaughtered each year, at a cost of £1 billion to taxpayers, because they are infected with bTB.
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.
Lame claims 4
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 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 in 2001 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.
Rules set by DEFRA for restocking (70):
- Cleansing and Disinfection
- DECC Inspection
- Periodic testing for FMD
Unfortunately there was no requirement for bovine TB testing on restocked cattle, a mistake that undoubtedly added hugely to the resurgence in bovine TB cases.
The number of cattle with bTB in the UK is actually falling year on year. Figures presented to Parliament in October 2012 (Parliamentary briefing paper: Science & Environment CLICK HERE) showed that the toll the disease is taking on farms has declined steadily over the last five years, without the removal of any badgers. Control measures have been increasingly effective, and new incidences in herds have fallen by 39% since 2008, from 5,007 to 3,018; while the number of individual cattle slaughtered has decreased by an extraordinary 44% – from 39,015 to 21,512 over the same period. Nevertheless, figures released by Defra in March 2013 show an increase in bTB or do they?
Despite all the commotion about a recent rise in bTB in England this year, only 270 new incidents were reported in herds across the country in the month of March 2013. If we look at the history of the disease, there are fluctuations, so that number isn’t surprising. The level of infection won’t stay the same every year, especially when there is a significant increase in testing, as occurred in 2012 when 11,146 more tests were carried out than in 2011. An increase in bTB cattle numbers is inevitable. The bTB skin test is simply not good enough, and infected cattle continue to live alongside and infect from within the herd. Intensive farming makes the condition right for bTB to spread easily. The problem of bTB lies mainly within intensive farming.
The M. bovis bacterium, which is the causative agent of the disease, can remain latent and undetected for many years; just recently, a cow from a closed herd was found to be riddled with bTB at the time of slaughter, and had clearly been infected for a long time. A routine skin test on the animal had not identified the infection in the previous five years so she had continued to infect others throughout that time (13).
In Switzerland, the first outbreak in 40 years saw the entire herd slaughtered. It was shown that many of the cattle had been infected with bTB for several years showing that cattle had been infected yet undetected (46). In Ireland, recent research published in 2012 showed that cattle outbreaks on neighbouring farms were caused by strains that were not identical, clearly showing that badgers were not the cause (34).
There are 8.5m cattle in the UK and less than 0.5% of them have bTB.
When cattle test positive for bTB they become the property of the government and the farmer is paid their market value. He can re-stock his herd with new cattle, which will subsequently be infected by others that have not yet tested positive. About a third of reactive cattle are sold for human consumption both here and overseas (we export cows’ feet to South Africa and tracheas to Japan, for example). The industry is worth some £2 billion per year and it isn’t the farmer who makes a loss but the taxpayer, to the tune of £20 million every year.
To see the truth as published by DEFRA in July 2013 Click here
To see England’s draft strategy for achieving OBT "Officially Bovine Tuberculosis-Free “ click here
Lame Claim no. 5: Badgers have spread bTB across the country.
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.
The bTB skin test is simply not good enough and infected cattle continue to live and infect from within the herd. Intensive farming makes the condition right for bTB to spread easily. The problem of bTB lies mainly within intensive farming. The M.bovis bacterium, which is the causative agent of the disease, can remain latent and undetected for many years; just recently, a cow from a closed herd was found to be riddled with bTB at the time of slaughter, and had clearly been infected for a long time. A routine skin test on the animal had not identified the infection in the previous five years so she had continued to infect others throughout that time (13).
In Switzerland, the first outbreak in 40 years saw the entire herd slaughtered. It was shown that many of the cattle had been infected with bTB for several years showing that cattle had been infected yet undetected (46).
The cattle restocked after the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 did not require bTB testing. That was a mistake that undoubtedly added hugely to the resurgence in bovine TB cases.
In the 1970s, an outbreak of bTB in North West England was eliminated by the slaughter of cattle and restrictions to their movements (sound familiar?!). Had the disease been maintained by badgers, the problem could not have been solved without their removal. Badgers were not targeted; yet the area was soon declared free of infection.
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 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 reinfected 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 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 northwestern 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 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 re-stock after foot-and-mouth with fresh animals, and very often they bought those animals from the southwest, which 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 bio-security in return for the funding; but very little has changed.
These maps show the density of farms and cattle in 2008. It’s clear from the distribution patterns that the areas of the UK in which farming is most intensive correspond to those where bTB is particularly widespread.
Badgers are widespread throughout the UK as the map clearly shows, yet bTB only appears an issue in areas of intensive farming.
Defra and the NFU currently offer this non-mandatory advice to farmers: Cleansing and disinfection (C&D) is an important disease control measure and may help reduce the risk of the infection spreading to other cattle or to other susceptible animals on your farm. Under certain conditions, M. bovis can survive in the environment for a long time, so it is good practice, and will be a requirement under notice, served by Animal Health, to cleanse and disinfect thoroughly all buildings where reactor cattle have been kept. It is particularly important to clean and disinfect any fittings or equipment that may have come into contact with sputum, faeces or milk from TB reactors.” (73)
It is not illegal to spread slurry from cattle that are under movement restrictions on a farmer’s own land. Defra tells farmers that they, “should consider the risk of spreading the disease to other stock or wildlife”. This means that slurry containing bTB bacterium is a vector for spreading the disease not only to badgers but other cattle. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years (74) & (75).
Research from Northern Ireland has suggested that excrement could aerosolise (i.e become dust particles) that could be breathed in by animals and further facilitate bTB spread (76). The slurry can also run off into waterways and the bTB bacterium can remain active in water for up to 58 days (73) meaning that cross contamination to neighbouring herds and wildlife could be a potential vector.
I think the picture is clear. Cattle cause the major spread of bTB. Intensive farming means intensive bTB.
Lame Claim no. 6: All the science tells us to cull. Actually no independent scientists back the cull.
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.
For complete letter READ HERE
Lord Knight of Weymouth spoke in the House of Lords on 23 October 2012: Lord Robert May, a former government Chief Scientist and President of the Royal Society, has said: “It’s very clear to me that the government’s policy does not make sense.” He added, “I have no sympathy with the decision. They are transmuting evidence-based policy into policy-based evidence.”
Current government Chief Scientist Prof. Sir John Beddington has refused to back the cull. When asked if it could make a meaningful contribution to tackling TB in cattle, he replied, “I continue to engage with Defra on the evidence base concerning the development of bovine TB policy. I’m content that the evidence base, including uncertainties and evidence gaps, has been communicated effectively to ministers.”
In April 2011, Defra brought together a number of experts, and claimed they had agreed that culling badgers carried out in the right way would help to prevent the spread of bTB in cattle (2). Professor Rosie Woodroffe, of the Zoological Society of London, said, “The document simply doesn’t endorse the policy.” She also stated, “Furthermore, all the evidence shows that culling badgers increases the proportion of badgers that have TB”.
“It’s still the case that the government, perhaps too often, prefer policy-based evidence rather than evidence-based policy. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of scientific experts have concluded that the policy of killing badgers to control TB in cattle will have only a small beneficial effect, if any. It’s essentially a waste of effort and money, and a distraction from the business of getting on top of a serious animal health problem that can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of farmers."[Official Report, 17/10/12; col. GC514].
“The truth is that this is yet another humiliating moment for the government and for Defra, because they put prejudice and ideology before science and evidence.” (10)
On the same day, Lord Krebs spoke: “My Lords, as has been said, bovine TB is a serious problem, and it deserves serious science to underpin policy. I don’t want to take up too much time, but I hope that your Lordships will forgive me as an individual who has been involved in this over the past 15 years and, as has been said, instigated the randomised badger culling trial and took part in the review of the evidence with Sir Bob Watson last year. It’s worth briefly repeating the facts: the long-term, large-scale culling of badgers is estimated to reduce the incidence of TB in cattle by 16% after nine years. In other words, 84% of the problem is still there. To reflect on what that means, this is not a reduction in absolute terms but actually a 16% reduction from the trend increase. So after nine years there is still more TB around than there was at the beginning; it’s just that there is 16% less than there would have been without a cull. The number is not the 30% that the NFU quoted; that is misleading – a dishonest filleting of the data. The other thing that the experts conclude is that culling makes the situation worse at the beginning, so it will take a long time to emerge into this nirvana of a 16% reduction, and 84% of the problem is still there. That’s just the background. I turn to questions that I hope the minister will answer. Last Friday we were told by the Minister of State for Food and Farming that between 500 and 800 badgers would be culled in each of the two areas. The number, thanks to rapid badger reproduction over the weekend, is now 5,530 over the two areas – a fourfold increase. I’m impressed! What this underlines is that if the policy is to cull at least 70% of the badgers, we have to know what the starting number is. This variation from just over 1,000 to more than 5,000 in the space of a few days underlines how difficult it is for us to have confidence that the government will be able to instruct the farmers to cull 70% if they don’t know the starting numbers. So my first question to the minister is, how will he assure us that these numbers are accurate? If we ask why the NFU has backed out, it’s because it was due to pay those who were going to shoot the badgers on a per-badger basis. The NFU calculated it on the basis of shooting 1,300 badgers. Suddenly it’s told, “It’s 5,500 badgers”. The farmers thought it was worth doing – but not that much. They’ve done their own cost-benefit calculation, and say that it is not worth the candle. So my second question to the minister is: in next year’s cull, who is going to pay? Are the farmers going to stump up on a per-badger basis to shoot 5,500 badgers, or are we, the taxpayer, going to pay?”
“Finally and briefly, we have a pause and time to rethink. I urge the minister to gather together scientific experts and rethink the government’s strategy altogether, starting from square one.”
Given all previous Chief Scientists to Defra and the Government are openly against the cull, why is it they are considered wrong and Owen Paterson’s dismissal of the same evidence is right?
No scientist outside of the government has supported the cull and many have spoken out to condemn it (14) including 28 top scientists, all experts in their field.
This letter—signed by over 30 leading scientists—appeared in the Observer on Sunday 14 October 2012:
Culling badgers could increase the problem of TB in cattle. Badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from nationwide TB control.
Bovine tuberculosis is a serious problem for UK farmers, deserving the highest standard of evidence-based management. The government's TB-control policy for England includes licensing farmers to cull badgers. As scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife diseases, we believe the complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it.
Even if such increases do not materialise, the government predicts only limited benefits, insufficient to offset the costs for either farmers or taxpayers. Unfortunately, the imminent pilot culls are too small and too short term to measure the impacts of licensed culling on cattle TB before a wider roll-out of the approach. The necessarily stringent licensing conditions mean that many TB-affected areas of England will remain ineligible for such culling. We are concerned that badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from nationwide TB control. We recognise the importance of eradicating bovine TB and agree that this will require tackling the disease in badgers. Unfortunately, culling badgers as planned is very unlikely to contribute to TB eradication. We therefore urge the government to reconsider its strategy.
Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS The University of Cambridge and President of the Zoological Society of London, and 30 others (see observer.co.uk/letters) Professor Mike Begon, University of Liverpool; Professor Tim Blackburn, Zoological Society of London; Professor John Bourne CBE, former Chairman, Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB; Professor William Sutherland, University of Cambridge; Professor Terry Burke, University of Sheffield; Dr Chris Cheeseman, formerly Food & Environment Research Agency; Professor Sarah Cleaveland, University of Glasgow; Professor Tim Clutton Brock FRS, University of Cambridge ; Professor Andrew Dobson, Princeton University; Dr Matthew Fisher, Imperial College London; Dr Trent Garner, Zoological Society of London; Professor Stephen Harris, University of Bristol; Professor Daniel Haydon, University of Glasgow; Professor Peter Hudson FRS, Pennsylvania State University; Professor Kate Jones, University College London; Professor Matt Keeling, University of Warwick; Professor Richard Kock, Royal Veterinary College; Professor Lord Krebs Kt FRS, University of Oxford; Dr Karen Laurenson, Frankfurt Zoological Society; Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS, former chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council; Professor Simon Levin, Princeton University; Professor Georgina Mace FRS, University College London; Professor Jonna Mazet, University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; Professor Lord May OM AC Kt FRS, University of Oxford; Professor Graham Medley, University of Warwick; Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland, Imperial College London; Professor Denis Mollison, former Independent Scientific Auditor to the Randomised Badger Culling Trial; Professor Pej Rohani, University of Michigan; Dr Tony Sainsbury, Zoological Society of London; Professor Claudio Sillero, University of Oxford; Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Zoological Society of London
Lame Claim No. 7: The EU condemns the UK’s control of policy, and confirms the money given is not for culling badgers.
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 the 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.
Lame Claim no. 8: We have stopped perturbation.
Given that the disease cannot be contained, a cull will inevitably only spread 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 bTB increase by 29%. 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!
Defra agree that the best possible result of this cull in 10 years time will be a 16% drop from the increase - in other words an 84% increase in btB. bTB will spread extensively outside the hotspot. 40% of farms in the hotspot areas do not have bTB. This is an area we need to research to understand why this happens. We know all wild lactating mammals can carry bTB and the disturbance from culling will cause them to carry bTB far and wide. The 40% of farms may not remain bTB free.
Lame Claim no. 9: Free shooting is the best way forward.
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”,
The guidance for the planned badger cull outlines that the cull zones are to be kept confidential, hence they are ignoring 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)
This is NOT humane.
Perhaps the final word on free shooting should be from this, apparently, very knowledgeable man:
“I own a wood of approximately 20 acres. It contains three large earths. Because I hunt, shooting of foxes is forbidden and there is a flourishing and healthy fox population. They are protected for 360 days per year. On two days in the autumn and three days in the winter they are at risk when the Wynnstay hounds visit. Only the old, sick and weak are generally caught. Hunting is strictly seasonal, so vixens can bring up their cubs in total safety in the spring.
In all my years of hunting, I have seen numerous foxes which have been wounded by inaccurate shooting. Most farmers own guns but they are not expert shots and the shot is not powerful enough to kill a fox. The abolition of hunting would leave many foxes to die long, lingering deaths and I have no doubt that this is significantly more cruel than death by hunting. Farmers in my constituency are adamant that if hunting were stopped, they would eliminate foxes by shooting or snaring.
Animal welfare groups talk about marksmen; however, given the current law and order debate, it is highly unlikely that any Government would wish to see a proliferation of rifles in the countryside. Although I have lived in the country all my life, I have never met a "marksman" and I fear such a proliferation, because most farmers are not highly skilled rifle shots. If hunting is banned, foxes will have to be culled and every alternative is significantly crueller. The tragedy is that it would lead to the disappearance of the fox in many parts of the country.”
In contrast, opponents of hunting propose shooting 365 days a year. The IFAW submission p10, para.2., states; night shooting is becoming ever more popular with gamekeepers and is humane. In fact it is indiscriminate; healthy adult foxes and nursing vixens will be just as likely to be shot as older foxes.
The above letter is obviously about killing foxes but the principle should be the same. The author is Owen Paterson MP and former Secretary for the Environment
Lame Claim no. 10: Culling is the most economically viable option. We do not need to record numbers etc as the evidence will be clear when bTB levels drop
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.
Costs mounted and a year before the cull started the costs were rising at an alarming rate;
Actual costs to date:
Surveying the 2 cull zones
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)
Both forces are understood to be unhappy about having to divert officers from their normal duties following recent budget cuts.
Gloucestershire Constabulary is currently discussing these issues with Defra. A senior figure familiar with the negotiations said the operation would place a “massive strain” on the force’s already stretched resources and involve drafting in hundreds of additional officers from other counties. “We’re expecting Defra to pay the full costs,” he said. “It’s going to be millions. The police are not Defra’s private security service.”
“Defra will meet the additional costs incurred by Gloucestershire and Avon & Somerset constabularies to police this summer’s two badger cull pilots. The additional costs are likely to be down to extra staffing.”
Cull Zone Targets set by Defra
|CULL ZONE||NEW CULL DEFRA FIGURES||OLD DEFRA FIGURES|
|22nd FEBRUARY 2013||15th OCTOBER 2012 (£750,000 )|
|West Somerset||1972 - 2973||3740 - 5085|
|West Gloucestershire||2657 - 4079||3145 - 4391|
Cost per Badger Killed
|Cost to 2013||
|Cost to Farmers||3,200,000|
|Cost to Government||2,600,000|
|Cost to Police||7,300,000|
|Cost per badger||4,121|
Badger Cull Costs Increase for second year
Badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have cost the equivalent of £5624 for each badger killed; a sharp increase on the 2013 cost of £5200 that caused outrage last year.
Official figures show the cost of £3,350 for every animal killed, before the cost of policing. Now the government have confirmed policing cost 1.4 million in 2014 - taking the real cost of every badger killed to £5624 - A large increase on 2013 costs.
The government and farmers believe culling badgers will curb TB in cattle although leading scientists, the government's own Independent Expert Panel (IEP) and Team Badger (a coalition of animal welfare charities) all disagree. The pilot culls aimed to kill 70% of the badger population to test the feasibility of the humaneness of free shooting before rolling out a nationwide cull. The government said costs were due to rigorous monitoring of the humanity and effectiveness of the culls, with 615 badgers being killed. Of these, 341 were killed by “free shooting” and 274 by cage trapping and shooting.
The British Veterinary Association recently called on the Government to stop the “free shooting” of badgers as they do not believe it is humane - the key purpose of the pilot culls is to test the effectiveness of free shooting.
We believe the government's badger cull policy to have failed. It has failed badgers, cattle, farmers and every British taxpayer. The cull is unscientific, uneconomic and should be stopped immediately.
Badger Culls cost more in second year - £5624 (up from £5200) for every badger culled in 2014.
After the government confirmed policing costs of £1,400,000 for the 2014 badger culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire this month, the cost to taxpayers for every badger killed—officially estimated as £3350 per badger—stands at £5624 per badger.
Lame Claim no 11: There is no effective oral badger vaccine currently available as it breaks down in the stomach.
Well, that’s not true. In New Zealand, they have used oral vaccines and they work as they do here. Trinity University is 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.
Lame Claim no 12: You cannot vaccinate
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. We 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.
The scientists behind the new vaccine have been working with the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in Weybridge, Surrey, to test it on badgers and found that it was effective at conveying immunity upon the animals.
It will cost £51 per hectare for vaccinations (an oral vaccine will be available by 2015). It is 73% effective (in humans BCG is only 50% effective), and it was found that 75% of badgers were TB free even in endemic areas (78).
Dr Eamonn Gormley, who led the research at University College Dublin's School of Agriculture, said, "Our study has shown that oral vaccination can be effective in badgers and that it does work”.
The field trial to test the BCG vaccine in wild badgers has seen scientists catch, tag and vaccinate hundreds in Co. Kilkenny over the past three years. These tests have been carried out on captured animals for over a decade. In Kilkenny, the vaccine is squirted into the mouths of sedated badgers. For the future, it is hoped badgers will self-vaccinate by eating bait containing the BCG vaccine. Perhaps 80 per cent of badgers would need to be vaccinated in order for the strategy to succeed.
The tests have shown the vaccine is effective and doesn’t break down in the stomach. Ireland’s bovine TB programme costs taxpayers around €60 million each year, part of a TB-control effort that began in the 1950s. Gormley says there was “a gradual realisation that the problem in cattle would never be solved without addressing TB in badgers.”
The European Commission has now laid out a ten-year plan for the legal establishment of vaccination for cattle. This is not, as Paterson and Heath are so fond of telling us, bad news. Cattle vaccination could be here in 2023 if the Government acts now to take up this proposal as an absolute priority. Time and money spent on killing badgers is counter-productive, because, although this looks like 'doing something right now', it is something that will not solve the problem. With badger culling, we arrive at 2023 with a crippled farming industry.
Team Badger will assist anyone in the cull zones to vaccinate their badgers now instead of culling. This will not disrupt the badgers; they will stay in situ, preventing migration and protecting the TB free status of the farmer's environment. A herd immunity in the badgers will be built up over a period of about four years as infected animals disappear, preventing bTB from being passed to them from then on. This would also eliminate the 'reservoir' of disease. This is infinitely more sensible than killing off the healthy badgers and risking an influx of unhealthy animals.
Team Badger is committed to helping both cattle and badgers in this campaign, and solving the problem of TB for farmers. The team is composed of animal campaigners, and its work is directed towards the welfare of all animals. We urge the Government and the NFU to abandon this awful plan immediately and clear a path for all parties to work together towards a viable solution for farmers.
1. Bovine TB Time Line. Bovine TB Overview and Timeline
3. Estimates of badger population size in the West Gloucestershire and West Somerset pilot areas. A report to Natural England - 22 February 2013. 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. DOCUMENT 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 http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/press_releases/2012/pr1245_en.html
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. 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. 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 HERE
9. Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive.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. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf
15. Illegal in the US to feed deer and cattle together for risk of bovine Tb transfer. READ MORE
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.pdf
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
82. Possum control in New Zealand http://savemetrust.org/images/pdf/Possum.pdf
83. Possum Management in New Zealand, May 1994, Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington. Summary on http://www.pce.govt.nz/ Reports/Possum.html.
84. Possum Biocontrols, October 1999, Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington.
85. Public Perceptions and Issues in the Present and Future Management of Possums, 1996, G. Fitzgerald, L. Saunders and R Wilkenson, MAF Policy Technical Paper 96/4, MAF Information Bureau, Wellington. http://www.maf.govt.nz/MAFnet/ articles-man/posat.
86. Possum Control by the Department of Conservation: background, issues, and results from 1993 to 1995, September 1997, Department of Conservation, Wellington.
87. National Tb Strategy: Proposed National Pest Management Strategy for Bovine Tuberculosis, November 1995, Animal Health Board, Wellington.
88. Current Practises in Sequential Use of Possum Baits, December 1999, Technical Series no. 22, Department of Conservation, Wellington.
89. A Review of Recent Regulatory and Environmental Toxicology Studies on 1080: Results and Implicationsí, 1999, C.T. Eason. M. Wickstrom, P. Turck and G.R.G. Wright, New Zealand Journal of Ecology 23(2):129-137.