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A Bovines -Eye View Of The "Badger TB Crisis"

Stop press ! ... Parliament has now debated the proposed pilot badger culls twice now , October 2012, and 5th June 2013.. full minutes of the 3 1/2 hour debate in Hansard online. Labour's Opposition motion against culls was out-voted by a very skillfull "Politicised cull justification" statement by Ministers, ably aided by A.McIntosh Chair of EFRA Committee whose Vaccine Report was published but embargoed until 1 am on the day of the Debate ! ( see www.parliament.uk/efra.com for Report, Vol. ll has my full submission, with very clear advice to tackle the problem of Chronic Herds .. ignored by Committee, apart from one minor footnote !).

The Debates sadly were a very well meaning but wildly mis-informed discussion of the issues, but are very valuable in highlighting why everyone is so confused about the problem ! The whole idea of Pilot free shooting culls comes from the 2010 Consultation, which incorporates Very Selective "interpretations" of the findings of the RBCT/KREBS CULL as in the ISG 2007 Report.. outcome is policy-based evidence transmuted from evidence-based policy (Prof. May, or "A Crazy Scheme" Lord Krebs). The ISG Actually found culls had NIL Effect on cattle TB (p.96, 101, 103,249)... so it is disgraceful pseudoscience that "allowing" for the mythical "Perturbation" effect a 150 sq.km.cull MIGHT, after 9 years, prevent a mere 47 out of an expected 292 herd breakdowns.. the cost for this with extra-policing c. £3 Million.. completely irrelevant with some 7000 breakdowns a year in a TB Hotspot area of 1/2 GB..and a badger vaccine Might do half as well; although the Cirencester /Kilkenny trials give Nil evidence of any effect.

The most useful suggestion is paradoxically the completely daft idea from Prof.R Woodroffe (ex-ISG ) and MP A.George, for a badger vaccine 5 year pilot in 200 sq.km. of Lands End.The ISG Reports all state vaccines wont work unless badgers really ARE the Main hidden reservoir of TB. Decades of culls in these same intractable islands (SEE Maps below) of high density dairying have had NIL effect in curing TB .. the RBCT Triplet F cull found just 118 TB badgers out of 1614 culled from 200 sq.km.

A critical reappraisal of this infamous West Penwith/Lands End area is given in the l972 Richards (MAFF) " Inquiry into bovine TB in West Cornwall". Over 2 1/4 years there were 178 herd breakdowns, around half being caused by UNCONFIRMED reactors ( No visible lesions and no M.bovis demonstrable). These UNConfirmed cases hence regarded as of UNknown origin, middle map, but come 31 December 1978, ALL these became "Due to Badgers"... it has been unconfirmed cattle spreading TB countrywide .. up to 85 % of breakdowns in 1990s, and out of 340,000 cattle since foot & mouth, c. 200, 000 unconfirmed = a Huge Reservoir of Cattle TB , ironically 2 in 3 interim/reactive badger culls found NIL with TB !

Critically also, 3 non-reactor or Anergic cows in one Chronic herd caused 18 herd breakdowns in Madron parish ..so the whole Lands End area went clear with de-population of a dozen chronic herds in 1985 .. sadly cattle TB reintrodued in 1988-9.

Tragically, there are currently some 2000 Chronic herds in GB some under restriction up to 16 years . They Could be Cured very rapidly simply by using a different test :-

  1. ENFER Chemilucent Multiplex ELISA antibody blood test, routinely used in Ireland;
  2. The OIE have recently approved an IDEXX M.bovis Ab test;
  3. An Active Spreader Anergic cow may be shedding 38 million bacilli/ day; so PCR on faecal swabs could identify the culprit cow speedily.

It is scandalous that vets seem to have been unaware of these simple solutions years ago.... avoiding years of farmer stress and misery.

Figure 4