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Badgers & bovine tb to cull or not to cull!


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  • 1. BADGERS & Bovine TB :To Cull or Not to Cull………… MISHANDLED A BADGER CULL COULD MAKE Bovine TB WORSE Farms on the fringes of a culling area are very likely to suffer increased TB rates. Farmers will want compensation for government action that spreads bTB, this could cost the government/tax payers MILLIONS!!!! Remember the badger is not the farmers enemy - foolish action from the Government is!!!!As two Governments in the UK debate whether to kill badgers as part of their programmes to eradicatebovine tuberculosis (bTB), another farmer has been convicted of switching ear tags to save an infectedpedigree animal.The Badger Trust repeats its demand made after the last switching scandal in April for all plans to killbadgers in England and Wales to be abandoned until the cattle industry and Defra have cleared upserious doubts about the scale of such crimes. Claims by agriculture industry organisations that only“some” farmers are involved are clearly optimistic with five counties in the Midlands and the South Westof England and now Powys implicated.Defra’s sudden, massive and expensive response to the scandal of farmers switching ear tags to foilbovine TB (bTB) controls suggests these crimes are widespread rather than local. In view of the urgencyvets offered their services free for six months to gather samples.The Badger Trust emphasises the possible outcomes: a diseased animal could infect other animals, someof these could be sold to other uninfected farms, a sick animal could then be sent to market and toshows to mix with many others and then be sold into another herd. Tuberculosis is not like influenza. Itcan remain dormant between tests that can be up to four years apart. The scale of these cattle-basedproblems vastly outweighs any possible contribution by badgers.Bovine tuberculosis will continue to be difficult to eradicate without universalannual testing and tighter movement controls, despite the economic consequences.Killing badgers is not an alternative.Mr Jim Paice, the agriculture and food Minister’s reply is: “Our concern is that the suspicious reactorswere sent from different farms in different parts of the country (in the South West and Midlands),indicating that the suspected fraudulent behaviour is not restricted to one or two connected farmbusinesses. Because of the worrying findings from Gloucestershire, additional slaughterhouse surveys
  • 2. have been initiated in Cornwall, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire. We are closely monitoring thefindings from these. We will also be identifying high risk herds to target AHVLA inspections where there isevidence of suspicious ear tag ordering”.Sir Harry Mount seriously oversimplified the complex background to the issue of killing badgers in thefight against bovine TB (bTB) (Independent, July 3). The article was patronising, assertions wereunattributed and facts were wrong.A cull would not be “designed to halt TB in cows” but to try to remove a supposed wildlife reservoir ofthe disease as part of the eradication programme. Although the cattle industry and Mr Mount point tothe 25,000 animals slaughtered each year because of bTB it keeps very quiet about vastly more than thatnumber of cows being slaughtered annually because of mastitis and other farmyard related diseases. Thisis usually the result of over-breeding, careless milking or bad hygiene, but it does not carry the economicpenalty of stopping a farm’s trade in live animals as with bTB.It is plain nonsense to claim that no other country has eradicated bTB without wildlife control. The UKitself did, at least to the extent that the cattle toll was reduced to 628 in 1979 from a pre-war level of47,476 (the latter figure from the official 1961 MAFF report on the Area Eradication Scheme). Theincidence was about 1,000 a year from 1970 to 1990.And the badger’s bite? Like any animal, including lapdogs, they will bite if cornered and alarmed.Otherwise, they only attack to defend territory from other badgers. Although they are carnivores theyare primarily gatherers of food. They are built for rooting and digging, not for chasing prey.The incidence of bTB in the UK fell by 15 percent over 2009 and 2010 according toDefra’s official annual returns.The Badger Trust suggests that would have been ascribed to culling if the last government had allowed it.Instead, it was kept very, very, very quiet by those who strive to preserve an obstinate stance byachieving a pointless cull.
  • 3. Supporters Against a BADGER CULLSir David Attenborough‘The evidence is that a badger cull on a scale or level of efficiency that seems feasible will not solve cattlefarmers problem – that problem is truly serious. Understandably, the feeling is that something must be done,but the evidence is that it should not be a badger cull.’Simon King OBE‘We are on the brink of witnessing a gross miscarriage of justice, where the victims are innocent and naïveand have no voice to speak for themselves. I refer to the proposed killing, or as some would prefer to use -‘culling’ - of wild badgers, which is being contemplated by our Coalition Government and the Welsh Assembly.The scientific work looking into the link between wild badgers and Bovine TB in cattle in this country,conducted at great expense and with impartial participants, has left no doubt as to the inefficacy of a badgercull in the control of the disease in Britain. It would at best, be a complete waste of time and money, and atworst a travesty, killing hundreds of healthy wild badgers with no long term effect on the control andmanagement of bovine TB.If the badger cull in England and in Wales goes ahead it will, like all the other culls that have gone before,prove nothing but the short sighted and politicised debate that continues to muddy an issue which should belooking at husbandry methods, vaccination, regional variants and livestock movement and managementbefore looking for an innocent scapegoat to kill. I completely empathise with livestock farmers who havesuffered the effects of the disease, and strongly urge that the proposed cull is declined and the sameresources used to find a sustainable management plan to help ensure our dairy herds remain healthy anddisease free into the future.’
  • 4. Chris Packham, BBC Springwatch Presenter‘Will there ever be a day in my lifetime when I can wake up and know that Badgers are Mustelids and notScapegoats? The science has been done, the writing is on the wall, but still this lunacy goes on . . .’Chris Packham, BBC Springwatch presenter, addressed a meeting of Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, held atCastell Malgwyn Hotel, Llechryd on Monday 21st February.He congratulated PAC supporters for their campaign to stop the Welsh Assembly Government’s attempt toimplement a cull of badgers in North Pembrokeshire and parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and calledon people to protect their local wildlife as part of the greater global conservation effort.He expressed his dismay that governments were ignoring the solid scientific evidence which showed thatculling badgers was not the solution to bovine tb and indeed likely to make the situation worse.He highlighted the need for policy makers to keep abreast of recent developments particularly in the area ofvaccination which he saw as the way to control Bovine tb.He expressed his concern that farmers were having an increasingly difficult time and called on the audience torally round and support local farmers.Michaela Strachan‘The more I look at the world the more absurd I think everything is. Why have an expensive and lengthyscientific study on the link between badgers and bovine TB in cattle, which determined that culling badgerswas not the answer, and then ignore it! We wag our fingers at African countries where farmers shoot leopardswho kill their livestock and elephants who trample their crops and then we point that same finger at badgersand make them victims of a mass and unnecessary slaughter. We are so unbelievably hypocritical. Isympathise with farmers all over the world who have their livelihood threatened by wildlife but there has tobe ways to combat the problem other than slaughter and in many countries farmers work hard at othersolutions. In the badger case its been proved that slaughter isnt the best way so why the heck are we doingit. Its just so so wrong. I try so hard to stay positive about humanity but when things like this happen it justfills me with despair.’
  • 5. Simon Cowell MBE, Director WildLife Aid Foundation, WildLife SOS PresenterPress Release - 6th July 2011Wildlife Aid Foundation urges Cameron to reject "environmentally destructive and politically risky" badgercullWith a decision expected from the Government this week on whether to proceed with a badger cull inEngland, the Wildlife Aid Foundation is calling on Prime Minister David Cameron and Environment SecretaryCaroline Spelman to "put wildlife and the natural environment first" and not to sign the death warrant ofthousands of innocent wild animals.Going ahead with a cull of badgers in order to halt the spread of Bovine TB among cattle would be"clutching at straws", says Wildlife Aid Foundation director Simon Cowell MBE, and would most likelyachieve no measurable benefit for Englands farmers. "The scientific case for a badger cull is very shakyindeed, and for every study that recommends culling there are several that say it would be pointless andwould do nothing to stop the spread of Bovine TB", says Cowell. "It would be environmentally destructiveand politically risky."The Wildlife Aid Foundation is urging David Cameron and Caroline Spelman not to repeat the mistakethey made earlier this year when they put forward an environmentally-damaging and politicallycontentious scheme to sell off the nations forests. In that case they eventually had to back down in theface of fierce public opposition and Simon Cowell believes that a go-ahead for a badger cull wouldinevitably produce the same result.Cowell says: "The Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary must rule out a badger cull now, before it istoo late. Otherwise they will end up embroiled in yet another messy political controversy, from which theywill eventually - inevitably - have to retreat, though not before the senseless slaughter has begun andthousands of badgers have died."The protection of the natural environment should be above politics and it does nobody any good to havepoliticians and conservationists at each others throats over such a major issue as this ill-conceived andultimately doomed badger cull."The badger is a protected species under the law and in the circumstances it is disgraceful that anygovernment should want to disregard this important legal protection by promoting a large-scale slaughter ofthese wonderful creatures. It is interesting that in Scotland they have achieved TB-free status through testingand without killing any badgers. If they can do it north of the border, they should be able to do the same thingin England too."
  • 6. Joanna Lumley‘We must not make badgers scapegoats for bovine TB.’Jilly Cooper‘We are joining against this senseless killing of badgers. Killing badgers is a senseless slaughter. We aresupporting the robust science that shows that killing badgers will not resolve the Bovine TB problem in cattle.We implore everyone to join the fight against the culling of badgers.’Brian May‘Morality, Science and Common sense all tells us the same thing; it is utterly unacceptable to attempt to solvea man-made farming problem by killing our native badgers. Yet this is exactly what the present government isdetermined to do. We cannot allow this tragedy to happen.’Alan Titchmarsh‘I am supporting the Badger Protection League in their fight against killing badgers’
  • 7. FACTS1. The badger and it’s sett are protected by law because of the high number of badgers being persecuted by badger baiting, badger digging and deliberate interference with setts. Badgers were never an endangered species.2. In 1990’s it was estimated that over 10,000 badgers a year were taken for sport. Sadly despite the legislation afforded to them, it is now considered to be at the same level.3. It is impossible to tell if a live badger is suffering from Bovine TB. This can only be confirmed once they are dead, given a post mortem and body samples cultured.4. All badgers have long claws. It is not a sign of the disease.5. Badgers do not suffer when infected with Bovine TB. It is only in the final stages of the disease that they will become ill.6. Practically no animal in the wild dies without pain. That is nature. A badger with Bovine TB is more likely to die from a road traffic accident than to die from the disease as a 6 th (1,000 a week) of the population dies on our roads every year.7. It is impossible to identify an ‘unhealthy sett’. Any badger culling will undoubtedly result in a significant majority of healthy badgers being killed.8. Killing badgers upsets their social behaviour causing them to roam further as naturally they are confined by their own territorial boundaries. This is has been found to be associated with an increase of TB in cattle in areas around culling.9. Southern Ireland have removed badgers from 30% of their land mass and Bovine TB in cattle is still increasing.10. A badger vaccine is now available and being tested. This is proving to be very successful.11. Almost a fifth of the infected cattle (17%) are discovered at abattoirs having failed to be found by regular testing of herds on the farm.
  • 8. Badger Cull would be RecklessGamble!Badger TrustA REPORT published recently by a panel of experts confirms that a badger cull would be a massivelyirresponsible gamble that could backfire on farmers and prove hugely unpopular with the public, says theBadger Trust. The Trust says: "The forecast possible reductions in bTB are small and spread over a hugetime frame - nine years until 2020. They are also highly speculative, relying on a large-scale, sustained,simultaneous cull over a large area. They are also, damningly, based not on science but on guesswork."The impact and efficacy of shooting free-running badgers - many of which will inevitably be wounded - isbased not on hard proof but on supposition because shooting has never been tried before. Perturbationis known to have a major negative effect on culling effectiveness but the Government, in its haste tounload costs on to farmers, is ignoring that key fact. It was clear from the minutes of the DEFRA sciencemeeting released on 4 July that one cannot reliably extrapolate from the RBCT results if one takes asignificantly different approach to their methodology, as appears to be planned by DEFRA. Even followingthe RBCT methodology closely, the benefits are miniscule and the process is costly. The group concludedthat vaccination was effective and had none of the negatives of culling." David Williams, chairman of theBadger Trust, said: "A decision to cull badgers could easily backfire, and will be widely condemned asinhumane. Jim Paice talks about a well managed science-led cull. The reality is that thousands of bTB-freebadgers could die in a hail of bullets for at best comparatively small improvements in bTB spread over anine year period lasting until 2020.Mishandled the cull could make bTB worse."Ministers need to be reminded that a decision to cull would be subjecting a protected native species toa sustained shoot-to-kill slaughter likely to leave many wounded. It would be a massive unscientificgamble, hugely unpopular, that would demonstrate once and for all that the Governments consultationpledges--to create "a carefully managed science led cull"-- are meaningless spin from a minister who hasbeen in farming for 40 years and the secretary of state who has worked for the NFU. Cattle testing mustbe improved, the majority of cattle are tested only once every 4 years and with a test which is at bestonly 80% accurate. This means that despite a 15% reduction over the last two years there were still anestimated several thousand cattle undetected and left to infect others. Is this why the Government wontpublish the results of the consultation? Furthermore, despite assertions by the NFU for decades thatbadgers are responsible for spreading bTB, not all farmers share this belief although loyalty to theircolleagues and fear of intimidation prevents them from speaking out. Their loyalty is misplaced when, ashas been recently publicised, some farmers are switching ear tags, ignoring hygiene laws at markets andallowing cattle under restriction to be taken to shows, all practices which put their colleagues livelihoodsat risk.The Trust goes on to warn:The Cabinet should be very wary about an estimated 12-16 percent net reduction in bovine TB outbreaksafter nine years (according to the panel of experts). It should first digest the following, from the samesource: " . . . if culling is not conducted in a coordinated, sustained and simultaneous manner accordingto the minimum scientific criteria, then this could result in a smaller benefit or even a detrimental effecton confirmed cattle bTB incidence".
  • 9. In the light of that, it should closely examine the reliability of advice about shooting free running badgers atnight and the dangers to the public, pets and other wild animals associated with this untested, untriedstrategy with no guarantees of success. The Cabinet should demand proof based on experience that a cullwould achieve a required minimum 70 percent kill synchronised in each area for 4 years. This means it wouldstill be in operation when the next election is due.Ministers have listened too much to industries that resisted measures to control the disease over decades.The Government is in danger of earning the contempt of the scientific community and those who havetaken time to understand its work.Scotland achieved TB-free status by sustained and thorough pre-and post-movement testing but without killing badgers.The UK as a whole did the same thing after World War II and the farming industryspread the disease far and wide, not the badgers.
  • 10. BOVINE TUBERCULOSIS INCATTLE AND BADGERS:Q AND AFOR DECADES discussion and controversy has raged about bovine tuberculosis (bTB). For the BadgerTrust it has sidelined other major issues—notably persecution—because of the insistence, led byfarming unions that bTB will be solved only if badgers are slaughtered (culled is the word they preferto use). Unperturbed by conclusive scientific evidence, the result of the near 10-year £50 milliontaxpayer-funded research programme by the Independent Scientific Group (the ISG) that killing largenumbers of badgers would have no meaningful impact on the spread and control of this disease, theyhave continued to call for widespread “targeted” action. Badger Trust totally rejects this argument. Butto put the issue into some context here we answer some of the points most frequently raised aboutbTB.Q: What is bTB and how does it relate to the human version?A: TB in cattle is a debilitating, highly infectious and progressive respiratory infection, very similar tohuman TB, caused by the organism Mycobacterium Bovis (M. Bovis), which forms lesions or “tubercules”(hence the name) most often in the lungs. Clinical signs of the disease are rarely visible in the early stagesso detection relies on routine screening using the tuberculin “live test”. Before milk was pasteurisedbovine TB in humans was common and often fatal. Today it’s rare. The human form of TB is more usuallycaused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis).Q: What does bTB do to cattle?A: Grossly infected animals become emaciated, weak and lethargic and eventually die. But in countrieswith established test-and-slaughter eradication policies this doesn’t happen because the disease isdetected in its relatively early stages. TB in warm-blooded mammals is a world-wide problem. Cattle arethe main hosts—hence the name, bovine TB—but the disease affects many other mammals, from bisonin Canada, to brush-tailed possum in New Zealand, buffalo in southern Africa and white-tailed deer in theUnited States.Q: How do cattle catch TB?A: Principally from other cattle by breathing in bacilli expelled by infected animals as tiny aerosol droplets. Itmay also be caught through contamination of feeding and watering sites and from infected wildlife, includingbadgers and deer and possibly from other farmed animals such as deer and camelids (llamas, alpacas etc). Therisk of disease spread is greatest in enclosed, poorly ventilated areas—notably over-wintering barns and shedswhere cattle spend months confined together—but any contact between cattle, at shows and markets, forexample, in livestock lorries or at single-fence farm boundaries where they can come into contact with othercattle are other obvious transmission points.On its website Defra says: “Cattle-to-cattle transmission is a serious cause of disease spread”. TheIndependent Scientific Group (ISG) in its final report describes cattle-to-cattle transmission as very importantin high incidence areas and “the main cause of disease spread to new areas”.That said it’s worth adding that despite years of research, transmission routes (for example cattle to badgerand badger to cattle) are still not properly understood.
  • 11. Q: How do badgers catch TB?A: From each other, from cattle (probably through infected urine and faeces) and possibly from otherinfected farm animals and wildlife. Badgers spend most of their life below ground sharing the same airspace, tunnels and chambers with other badgers, but decades of research at Woodchester Park (by whatwas the Central Science Laboratory, now part of Fera, the Food and Environment Research Agency) hasshown that infected badgers and TB-free badgers often share the same setts. This might be explained byacquired immunity in a proportion of badgers or simply that badgers do not easily infect each other.Q: So not all badgers are infected?A: Far from it. Most badgers are healthy. The Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) which form thebasis of the ISG’s final report and recommendations showed that even in bTB hotspots less than one inseven badgers were infected and when road-killed badgers from seven hotspot counties were examinedthe figures were almost the same (15 per cent infected).Q: What does TB do to badgers?A: The disease chiefly affects the lungs and kidneys. Infected animals lose weight and body condition andexperience breathing problems. Though debilitating, bTB in badgers is rarely fatal. Generally, infectedbadgers do not show any signs of illness. Badgers suffering from the advanced stages of bTB becomeseverely emaciated and as disease carriers are then described as excretors - this means they canpotentially shed live bacilli. Levels of bTB in badgers in hotspot areas jumped sharply immediatelyfollowing the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001-2002 when the routine bTB test and slaughterprogramme for cattle was stopped. So there’s good evidence to suggest controlling bTB in cattle willreduce bTB levels in badgers.Q: Why is so much attention focused on badgers in the bTB debate and so little onother wildlife, including deer?A: That’s really a question for Defra and farming interests to answer. Badger Trust has always taken theview that the near obsession with the alleged role of badgers has distracted attention away from moreimportant research and cattle management issues. As to the specific question: foxes, squirrels, rats anddeer are among wildlife known to suffer from TB. But in 2008 Defra said two research projects hadconcluded that except for two species of deer the likelihood of other mammals (excluding badgers) beinga significant source of infection to cattle was extremely low. It’s worth noting that all six species of deerin the UK suffer from TB.Q: Why do so many farmers want to cull badgers?A: They argue that bTB won’t be beaten until all significant sources of the disease are tackled and tothem that means killing wildlife, notably badgers. The National Farmers’ Union, a key source ofinformation for many farmers, has been especially aggressive in calling for a cull of badgers. Everyoneinvolved in the bTB debate, which has raged for decades, accepts that the disease can have a devastatingimpact on farmers. That’s not the issue. The debate is about the part played by badgers in spreading ormaintaining TB in cattle, and whether slaughtering badgers --“culling” is an inappropriate description—isnecessary to beat the disease. The Badger Trust has always argued that decisions must be based not onanecdotal evidence, certainly not on prejudice and rumour, but on science. The country invested the bestpart of £50 million in the culling trials conducted and analysed by the ISG. Its final report recommended aseries of cattle-based measures which it said were likely to reverse the increasing trend in cattle diseaseincidence…and which in addition might also reduce disease in badgers. Yes, the ISG did say that“…badgers do contribute significantly to the disease in cattle” but it went on to say: “…it is unfortunatethat agricultural and veterinary leaders continue to believe, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence tothe contrary, that the main approach to cattle TB control must involve some form of badger populationcontrol.” Crucially in its summary findings and recommendations the ISG said: ”Given its high costs and
  • 12. low benefits we therefore conclude that badger culling is unlikely to contribute usefully to the control ofcattle TB in Britain, and recommend that TB control efforts focus on measures other than badger culling.”Q: Farming Minister Jim Paice has said “there’s no country in the world that’s got ridof TB without addressing the problem in wildlife”.A: Let’s look at the facts. Here in the UK a bTB epidemic that began in the 1930s spiralled out of controland by 1960 was still infecting 16,000 of the UK’s cattle. It was brought under control and all buteradicated by the cattle-based controls. No badgers had been killed or implicated. Then in the lastdecades of the 20th century bTB began to increase again. The reasons were not clear. Farmingorganisations blamed badgers. But in fact the increase followed a marked relaxation of cattle testing,slaughter and movement controls introduced during the area-by-area eradication policy described above.The increase also coincided with the intensification of dairy farms and the growing trend towards largeherds and over wintering them in sheds and barns. So to try to answer whether badgers were to blamethe Government set up the Randomised Badger Culling Trial overseen by the ISG in the late 1990s.Thousands of badgers were killed in this project and as reported above the ISG concluded in 2007 thatculling badgers would have no meaningful effect on the control of bTB and that farmers shouldconcentrate on improved cattle controls. In the two years 2009 and 2010, there has been a 15%reduction in bTB due to improved testing of cattle, movement controls and improved cattle husbandry.This improvement has been achieved without any badgers being killed.Q: The farming Press reports that large numbers of diseased badgers are dying inagony and that “culling” would end that misery and lead to healthy badgers livingalongside healthy cattle.A: Pure fiction. It is just a bit of clumsy public relations to try to justify a “cull”. There’s absolutely noevidence to support the claim that bTB is killing large numbers of badgers. As we’ve already said, TB inbadgers is rarely fatal. Further, it is not possible to identify and kill only diseased badgers. Nor is itpossible to identify and take out “diseased setts”. PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), a technique basedon DNA, has been discounted as a tool which could do that. There are no other alternatives. A postmortem is required to reliably diagnose bTB in badgers. So a “cull” would be non-selective. Mostlyhealthy, non-infected badgers would die. How is that a route to “healthy badgers living alongside healthycattle”?Q: What about vaccination of badgers?A: An injectable vaccine for badgers has been licensed for use and development works is continuing toproduce an oral bait vaccine.Badger Trust now strongly believes that an injectable vaccine, and ultimately an oral vaccine, providesa very positive way forward in the long-term control of this disease. The “silver bullet” remains a cattlevaccine which will not only protect cattle from the disease but will also allow the UK farming industryto export cattle to EU countries. A test is being developed which will differentiate between avaccinated cow and an infected cow. This will require acceptance within the EU. These are the facts, we all now need to makedecisions based on these facts in a moralistic and responsible way and not choose any option because it is a cheaper alternative!!!