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Appendix 7: Black And White Politics :- Costly Badgers

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Both the Torys and LibDems promised badger culls "almost immediately" before the election in 2009 .. BUT the postponed 2 Pilot Culls finally happened very shambolically in summer / late 2013 .. and the Outcome has been subject to much political spin , as viewed in the following Comment :-

o, here we are in a Brave New Year and the flood of badger mythology / nonsense continues ...apparently Minister, the Hon. Owen Praterson recently told both Parliament and the Oxford Farming Conference, that the two (Politically "Science based" ) Pilot badger culls in Glos./Somerset were a "Roaring Success".. which rather proves Joe Ashton's blunt view that the key qualification for being a successful MP is "To master the art of peddling bullshit"!. Alice in Wonderland Rules.... it seems that since culls are "essential, humane, cost-effective, and science based", Ministers are "Minded" to role out a further 10 Pilot Culls in 2014.

In fact the farcical cull omnishambles with "civil war" in Englands green and pleasant land, between protestors/cullers, with extra policing cost £7 million, so £4000 per badger of the 1771 badgers culled. This was way below the magic 70 % out of a guestimated population of 3000 or 6000 (!) badgers, which apparently "moved the goalposts "as to numbers :- it was obvious even before the launch that the a cull of 70 % of in truth an unknown base population was rather daft. And on DEFRA's own data, only c. 10% would have been infected so 170 badgers, of which a mere dozen likely to have advanced TB and be "superexcretors" which Might pose a risk via an uncertain transmission route to other badgers or cows. Obviously this wont have made the slightest difference to controlling the spread of cattle TB which has been spread amongst cattle anyway . So, a very expensive way to Not control the spread of TB, and unsustainable given that the DEFRA budget must cut £200 Million over the next 4 years.

Since even some farmers recognised "shooting free running badgers" was/ is a pretty crass idea, the idea of alternative culling such as by gassing goes back to the 1970s, but it was hydrogen cyanide, not carbon monoxide, it was inhumane since even power gassing did not permeate in lethal concentrations in diffuse setts, and it did not cure TB in the Thornbury Avon study area .. there were yearly "unconfirmed" outbreaks after gassing ended, having wiped out the badger population, but these are the 85 % of New cattle herd breakdowns usually allegedly "Due to Badgers", but in fact are merely due to skin test reactors caught so early that they do not show TB lesions or identifiable M.bovis , but they are not false positive cases, they DO have TB !

The biggest farcical claim persisting is that Badger culls or vaccines will make any difference .. the True result of the RBCT/Krebs Cull (ISG 2007) has been widely misinterpreted :- since supposedly badgers cause 50 % of cattle herd breakdowns, there should have been half the number of breakdowns (834) in cull versus no cull areas , But the cull of 11,000 badgers at a cost of £50 million was absoluty ZERO effect on cattle TB, the accumulated number of breakdowns after 8 years was 1562 in cull areas versus 1668 in no cull areas , ie. a mere 106 herds, or 10 per 300 sq.km. triplet area .. the only surprise was the vagaries of cattle controls did not have a bigger differential inefficacy.

    NB . The logical conclusion from all this is that: -
  • A. the badger contribution to cattle TB was absolutely NIL, and
  • B. the whole "Perturbation idea", that culls might work or might make things worse by upsetting the badger population, so that badger vaccines might be the magic bullet (cost £640 / badger in Wales) is a wonderfully insane solution to a non-existent problem.

Sincerely, M.Hancox MA Oxon, ex-Government TB Panel , hancoxmartin@hotmail.co.uk

View 2 - The randomised badger culling trial or rbct/ krebs cull of 11,000 badgers had absolutely nil effect on cattle tb

Ever since the "First" TB Badger in 1971, the Actual contribution of badgers in genuinely causing cattle herd breakdowns has been in truth unknown, since no-one has realistically explained how transmission might occur (Only 1 truely Proven case in 4 decades, of badger to cow spread in a very artificial yard experiment, Little 1982, Vet Rec ). So default guestimates of the badger role in the alleged percentage Decreases OR Increases (via badger Perturbation) in new incidents have in fact been merely Assumptions for breakdowns which ""could not be traced to a confirmed cattle source"".

The last major review of the badger/cattle circumstantial evidence "link" Krebs 1997, unambiguously noted that it is NOT known, IF , HOW, OR TO WHAT EXTENT badgers might contribute to cattle TB. It recommended the RBCT culling trial to establish :-

  • a. the real contribution of badgers to cattle TB , and
  • b. whether localised or Reactive ..versus.. widespread or Proactive badger culls would actually prevent cattle herd breakdowns. Unfortunately, the ISG RBCT study assumed badgers DO pass TB to cows, that badgers ARE a major reservoir of TB, so culls WOULD have beneficial or detrimental effects (via Perturbed badgers). The RBCT trial design hence had 10 triplet areas, each consisting of 3 elements ; no cull or survey only, reactive cull, proactive cull areas, each with a 2 km wide buffer ring area outside these areas

SINCE Both the ISG & DEFRA assume c. 50 % of breakdowns are "Due to badgers" , then in that case the culls should have 50 % fewer breakdowns than no-cull areas in the RBCT (834 vs 1668 new breakdowns see below)... ALTHOUGH The Statistics ARE INCredibly complicated, since culls ran for different periods, 4- 7 culls in different triplet areas in trial, and figures span the pre- / post-foot & mouth cattle TB accumulated "no testing upsurge" after 2001 when reactors went from 8000/ a to 23,000 !(see web cattle section, historical).

The actual number of breakdowns accumulated during the cull period ( 1998-2005) in the isg final report 2007 .. ((the detailed numbers are given in tables 5.1, 5.2, and 5.4 -- 5.11 ( & lefevre 2005));

Reveal virtually nil difference between cull versus no-cull areas :-

OVERALL, A TOTAL OF 1562 vs 1668 breakdowns ie A MERE 106 fewer, out of 3000 sq.km. OR JUST 10 PER 300 sq.km. TRIPLET AFTER 8 YEARS (This total is for reactive , and proactive inside + outside ring... the proactives were 1206 vs 1310 ie JUST 104 fewer, from 1835 sq.km., of which there were 141 fewer inside and 37 more outside OF Which unconfirmeds = -31, -4 in/out ... the comparable total figures also given in Tables ie pre-FMD jump , for 3 previous "interim" cull years were 517 vs 568 ie. JUST 51 fewer... ie 18 fewer inside, and 33 fewer outside OF Which there were -22 and + 6 unconfirmeds) ; THE Most Remarkable fact here, is that given that the skin test is only 66 - 80 % accurate & cattle controls so imperfect, is that there was'nt a Far Greater difference in cattle control effectiveness !!

As regards the breakdown of this total , for the two different cull treatments...(proactive vs no cull)

A. Localised reactive culls (of a mere 311 TB badgers from 900 sq.km.), gave 356 VS 358 confirmed breakdowns, ..175 vs 172 unconfirmed breakdowns, 56 vs 59 repeat breakdowns;

B. Widespread proactive culls ( of a mere 1200 TB badgers) ... the number of baseline herds were almost identical ( Total proactive vs survey, 2182 /2199 or 17 fewer in grand total of 4381 proactive trial herds = inside areas 1221 /1276 ie 55 fewer; outside 961 / 923 ie 38 more);

Proactive vs no cull cumulative

  • A. during study period 1998-2005 ... AND,
  • B. in 3 previous years with "interim" culls:-

Inside Cull Area :-

  • A. 692 / 833 ie -141 confirmed/unconfirmed ..of which 472 /582 ie -110 confirmed; 220 / 251 ie -31 unconfirmed;
  • B. 345 / 363 ie -18 confirmed/unconfirmed .. of which 257 / 253 +4 confirmed, 88/110 ie -22 unconfirmed.
  • Outside ring cull area (2 km. Wide) :-

    • A. 514 /477 ie +37 confirmed /unconfirmed.. of which 362 /321 ie +41 confirmed; 152 /156 ie -4 unconfirmed;
    • B. 172 / 205 ie -33 confirmed/unconfirmed.. of which 115 / 154 ie -39 confirmed; 57 / 51 ie +6 unconfirmed.
    • NB. The ISG's own conclusion was that culls had NIL effect on Unconfirmed breakdowns ( simply because they were caused by unconfirmed reactors, ISG 2007, p. 96, 101... and ; strikingly, in the early 1990s, 2 in 3 breakdowns were due to unconfirmed reactors , ie. caught so early that there was no spread within the herd NOR spillover to badgers , so 2 in 3 badger culls produced zero TB Badgers !

      NB. NB. Overall conclusions logically :-

      1. The badger contribution to cattle TB has been zero;
      2. The "perturbation" idea that culls make things worse is a pure fantasy myth !
      3. Since RBCT culling of 11,000 badgers , only 1515 OF which had TB , and only 166 superexcretors (which Might have been a risk to other cattle or badgers )
      4. Had absolutely nil effect in preventing cattle tb breakdowns (not, "due to badgers" after all);

        Any badger vaccine programme will have nil effect either

        The pointlessness of badger vaccines is amply Confirmed in the Oct. 2013 .. Government Response to EFRA Vaccine Report please """click below""", SEE para. 10, 13-15 particularly ...NB . MY Ev W8 in Vol. ii of EFRACOM Report.