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A second simplified overview of the great badgers and bovine TB debate

A Century ago, During The Great Heyday of Empire, and the best Amateur Naturalists in Britain, it is amusing to recall The Great Piltdown Man Hoax . With Darwinism at a peak, everyone was eagerly seeking a "Missing Link" between man and apes, and so with the discovery of the the bogus fossils in Sussex, there was a Eureka moment. The perpetrator of this fraud must have been a skilled "zoologist" since the stained human skull plus orang jaw with filed "tooth wear" carefully lacked the articulation parts which would not have matched, and the too good to be true selection of stone implements, fossil deer, mammoth, etc from north africa and europe allowed everyone to "See what they needed to Believe". Dozens of learned studies attempted unsuccessfully to fit Piltdown man into the new Neanderthal, Peking Man , and Australopithecine sequence; and it took over 40 years, before new fossil dating methods revealed the hoax. Various suspects as to perpetrator, Dawson from Lewes , Teilhard de Chardin, Natural History Musem staff, and even Conan Doyle who lived nearby, and who was recounting the intrepid adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Rather ironically, in a long neglected contemporaneous manuscript, Sherlock Holmes solved The Great Badgers and TB Debate, with a few ounces of shag, as a Three Pipe Problem , in what became known as "The Curious Conundrum of the Badgers, the Bovines, and The Tubercle Bacilli". From the same era, Darwin's Bulldog, the great Thomas Henry Huxley remarked "The great tragedy of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact". Darwin himself in "Descent of Man" sadly noted that "False facts are highly injurious to the progression of science, and often endure long "; and in "The Origin", he reflected "on the blindness of preconceived opinion"..and apparently, he too measured the complexity of a problem, with up to 3 pebble markers on thinking circuits of his Sandwalk path at Down House. Indeed, the perpetrators of The Great Badger TB Hoax launched this Great Debate, with the discovery of the "first" TB badger in 1971, with the bizarre , surreal "FALSE FACT" but absolute "Killer" Assumption , that cattle were no longer the source of TB spread either to other cattle or to badgers ; so TB badgers found after herd breakdowns must be a widespread self-sustaining major TB reservoir and cause of the intractable cattle TB problem (map 2 Above).

Cattle IE. bovines, are the natural host of Bovine TB (Mycobacterium bovis), and evolutionarily have become beautifully co-adapted, cattle are unable to halt the proliferation of bacilli to the infectious stage, but it seldom affects the health of the afflicted; and being long-lived social herd animals there is ample opportunity for spread to several cows within a herd, then these trigger a random scatter of new breakdowns when sold on , so TB is self-maintaining , and indeed expansionist within the cattle population. It takes about a year for a cow to reach the skin test reactor stage coinciding with more infectious active shedding of bacilli from Visible Lesions in the lungs (abattoir inspection or x-ray in humans) SEE Two pyramid figure above , plus Figure 3 in Cattle Section.

So, annual testing is the gold standard way to eradicate TB , removing cases before they can spread TB within the herd, and herd movement restriction preventing export of the problem. GB 's textbook Area Eradication Scheme hence shrank TB from countrywide to tiny intractable southwest hotspots : - Maps 1 to 2 above (See Cattle C1 Section). The dozen or so problem hotspots in this residual archipelago of TB "islands" became "Due to a self-maintaining" TB high density badger population". HOWEVER, as Sherlock Holmes pointed out, "Elementary my Dear Watson", it was all a rather silly case of mistaken identity:- the True Hidden self-sustaining reservoir problem has been a cattle one all along , with badgers merely an accidental spillover host with TB dying out when not topped up from cattle. (full details in cattle and badger sections).

Figure 3