Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

An Embarassingly Simple Shock End to the Great Badger TB Debate

SHOCK Realisation : - The very few and only TB badgers "out there" have embarrarassingly simply just caught TB from the preceding bad herd breakdown, so are a dead-end spillover host which by definition are never going to pass a respiratory bronchopneumonia back to cattle, so there is absolutely no point in culling them; it cannot conceivably stop the spread of cattle TB by local cattle movements !

Former political pawn on the government's badger TB Panel, Martin Hancox , wryly comments of the "new light" on the Great Debate. Saddened to see the 21st December 2017 "end of term" outgoing Chief Vet's report on this years badger culls. Only 19,274 culled out of the original "necessary" target of 45,000 in 21 Pilot areas ! So around 40,000 culled in total since 2013, cost a mere £50 million including extra policing ! . And a resounding success in that no-one has been shot during this farcical annual Civil War in 21st century England's green and pleasant land .. neither protestors, stray dog walkers or indeed cull operatives !

The alleged politicised pseudoscientific success of these culls is attributed to a rather fake science review cited (Brunton 2017) on the first 2 years . Whereas in fact the APHA September 2017 Report on the fuller 4 years 2013-2016, plus the preceding 3 years pre-cull in fact found NIL Effect of the culls . But a steady decrease in cattle TB due to intensive cattle controls over 7 years. The 11, 000 RBCT Randomised Badger Culling Trial cull in fact found no effect on cattle TB either, because rather embarrassingly, the 1515 TB badgers were the very few and only TB badgers "out there" , which had in fact actually just caught TB from the preceding bad herd breakdown. Hence they only occurred in tiny temporary micro-pockets of spillover from cattle as a dead-end host, which by definition were never going to pass a respiratory lung bronchopneumonia infection back to cattle.

Even the long term spatiotemporal studies of badger TB at Woodchester Park, by Chris Cheeseman, Dez Delahay and others , found that TB in micro-pockets at the epicentre of the preceding herd breakdown died out quite rapidly. Rosie Woodroffe's 2017, and six other badger-cattle contact studies all found that badgers avoid cattle at pasture, and in farmyards and barns.

So, isn't it about time that DEAFRA scrapped any further meaningless politicised pseudoscientific badger cull or vaccination schemes for next year. It would be a major benefit for farmers, if such costly pointless culls were abandoned in Wales, Eire and Ulster too !

Pity the badger trust's press release does not fully appreciate how farcical the whole omnishambles has become ! The true outcome of the 11,000 RBCT £50 million cull, as noted in the ISG's own 2007 Final Report, was that there was no effect on accumulated herd breakdowns, between reactive cull versus no cull areas :- 356 vs 358 confirmed breakdowns, 175 vs 172 unconfirmeds, and 58 vs 59 repeat breakdowns. And few have noticed a U-turn, but Christl Donnelly in 2013 downgraded the badger contribution to cattle TB from 50 % to a mere 3.7 % , but critically with CI Confidence Intervals very generously of 0 - 100 : so badgers cannot absurdly be the entire factor in bovine TB, where bovines are the natural maintenance host of this respiratory bronchopneumonia; but are after all utterly irrelevant !

Sadly outgoing Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens, has overlooked such "confounding factors" in the TB debate, and has done a great deal of harm during his tenure. That includes increased cattle testing at 6 monthly intervals, and post-movement tests after Agricultural shows. All utterly pointless since it may take a year for newly infected cattle to become skin test reactors. Unfortunately the new Chief Vet Christine Middlemiss, from next February, having been brainwashed by a former post within DEFRA is quite likely to perpetuate such flawed policies.

And no-one seems to have realised , but the recent testing clear after 5 years of the Devon Gattiscombe chronic TB herd, using different tests is the simple way to remove culprit skin test non-reactors in chronic herds .. some 60 in Wales currently . The fast IDEXX antibody test plus PHAGE/RPA, now called Actiphage TB test. Or even just PCR for M. bovis on faecal swabs, a cow may shed 38 million bacilli in 30 lbs of faeces / day. No wonder badgers are bound to pick up TB turning over cow pats for worms and big Geotrupes Dor beetles . Alas poor Brock. None so blind as they that will not, or more accurately actually do not want to "see".

Sincerely, Martin Hancox MA Oxon, ex-member of government's Consultative Panel TB Panel.


  1. APHA Sept. 2017, Report on TB incidence 2013-16, pilot culls,
  4. Delahay R, 2000, Spatiotemporal TB in Woodchester badgers J. An. Ec. 69;428
  5. Donnelly C, 2013,
  6. Hancox M , Ecologist ; and see death of debate
  7. Woodroffe R, 2006, cattle pose TB risk to badgers, PNAS, 103;14713

Badgers are Merely a Dead-End Spilover Host After All!

Dear Drs. Boyd, Gibbens, Hewinson , Walport / Glossop / More, Corner, Gormley / Skuce , Allen .. and many others, 18th December 2017.

Embarassingly simple Shock Gaff ! Alas, with 20:20 hindsight, TB only occurs in a tiny number of badgers at the epicentre of previous bad herd breakdowns, so a spillover from cattle to a temporary transient micro-pocket of TB, and badgers are merely a dead-end spillover host, which by definition are never going to become infectious enough to pass a respiratory bronchopneumonia back to cattle. So I would hope the your advice to Agriculture Ministers ( amounting to a long overdue U-turn) is that any further badger cull or vaccination schemes in England, Wales, Eire, or Ulster are utterly meaningless... they do not stop the spread of TB by local cattle movements ! MAFF map Badger blame as "The main cause of the spread of TB" goes back to the mid-1970s, with the Zuckerman 1980, Dunnet 1986 and Wilesmith 1983 reports. In a very costly absurdly simple mistake, they wrongly assumed that NVL/Unconfirmed reactors were "false positive", did NOT have TB, so had not caught TB in the preceding herd breakdown, so with half the new breakdowns NVL, they must be "due to badgers . Progression of lung TB takes c. 1 year to metastasise to the more infectious VL reactor stage :- _________

___________________________________ .............ooooooooooooo >>00000000000000 No Visible Lesions, NVL >> Visible lesions VL Hence Unconfirmed >> hence Confirmed SKIN TEST xxxxxx/ + + + + + + + + + / xxxxxx ____________________________________________

No-one seems to have realised (apart from M'Fadyean 1910 !), but the newly infected reactors which hence lack "visible" lung tubercle lesions, are merely the precursor of Confirmed cases with VL lesions & detectable M. bovis. So with c. 3 reactors / breakdown, cattle-to-cattle spread has been happening all along, with dispersal of new cases to cause a scatter of new NVL/Unconfirmed breakdowns (which DO have TB; test specificity 99.99 % so only 1 in 5000 truly false positive). NEW breakdowns in herds with no TB in either badgers or cattle in the previous 18-36 months, can only be due to bought-in reactors, which caught TB in the normal way in the preceding herd breakdown. Skin test 49 % accurate (Godfray 2013), misses half the problem each time; and 20 million cattle movements per year. So this scatter of New NVL/Unconfirmed breakdowns are NOT after all "due to badgers". And the Skin test has always missed early and late cases, which are the usual cause of recrudescence in herds supposedly tested clear of TB (fig.). So in fact it was a small number of problem herds with recurrent or chronic TB which was the engine driving the production of new breakdowns in the last 1970s intractable hotspots (Richards 1972). And a critical reappraisal of the epidemiological patterns of TB in both cattle and badgers since then , emphatically dispels these myths :- CATTLE TB has spread from the last southwest intractable islets of TB to an area now of half of GB , entirely within the cattle population :-

ANGLESEY ............................CHESHIRE ..............DERBYSHIRE PEMBROKESHIRE........MONTGOMERYSHIRE......STAFFS CARMARTHENSHIRE...RADNORSHIRE.................HEREFORDSHIRE SWANSEA...................GWENT............................GLOS. CORNWALL.........................................................HAMPSHIRE ________________________________________________

Badger TB , no-one seems to have noticed but there was never any self-sustaining reservoir of badger TB in those 1970s southwest islands of intractable TB . In fact embedded like sparse twinkling stars in this ocean of cattle TB , the few and only TB badgers "out there" have occurred as tiny micro-pockets of TB , a spillover from bad herd breakdowns. Just 1-2 TB badgers/ clan, in 1-2 clans at the epicentre of the herd breakdown .. as in North Woodchester map shown above, 2 contiguous 1978-9 herd breakdowns. Just 14 TB badgers out of 65 culled, in 6 of the 14 clans there. So few infectious "superexcretor" badgers , 105 out of 1800 Woodchester badgers over 24 years, see Delahay 2000 "spatiotemporal TB" (just google it ) who found that even these micropockets were not self-sustaining but died out quite rapidly. N.B. Since 1975, not even 1 herd breakdown attributable to this textbook high density Badger "endemic" TB population.

WALES shows this re-colonisation of cattle TB from a near clean late 1970s to the 3 Maps in the Goodchild PDF .The 1934 Pembroke hotspot, a few big dairy herds with chronic TB, split off 2 new west kernel hotspots (fig. above), all Spoligotype 9;b. The 3 Welsh Marches new hotspots came from the english edge area, and were type 9;c, 17;a and 22;a. Secondary 17;a overlap hotspots in 2 west kernals; and 9;c in Gwent. And only 55 TB badgers out of 457 sampled, but exactly proportional to the donor cattle spoligotypes . Although MAFF claimed most of the 700 brief unconfirmed breakdowns 1971-1997 must be due to badgers .. there were only 46 TB badgers out of 2363 sampled.. and by 2016 a mere 154 TB badgers out of 3504 sampled .. a dead-end spillover host, which by definition are never going to return a respiratory broncho-pneumonia to cattle in the first place.

Badger culls do not work. Because badgers are not after all the cause of these new and chronic breakdowns. 1. The APHA 2017 assessment of the 2013-2016 Pilot culls of c. 4000 badgers found no effect on cattle TB ( via; 2. The true effect of the £50 million RBCT Actual cull of 11,000 badgers, only 1515 TB spillover badgers, from 1900, under 200 infectious ones, was in fact ZERO . ISG own Report 2007 ; no effect on unconfirmed breakdowns which ironically are the ones supposed to be caused by badgers, and no difference in accumulated breakdowns eg. (Lefevre 2005) reactive cull versus no cull areas :- 356 vs 358 Confirmed breakdowns, 175 vs 172 unconfirmeds, and 58 vs 59 recurrent breakdowns. 3. Eire. There were big decreases in cattle TB in the 3 main culls, due to cattle controls, but nothing to do with the removal of tiny numbers of TB badgers ; Offaly 141 from 560 ; Four Areas 286 from 960; and Laois 172 from 1780 BADGERS CANNOT BE GIVING COWS A RESPIRATORY BRONCHOPNEUMONIA:- As Darwin's bulldog the great Thomas Henry Huxley once remarked, "The great tragedy of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact ". No-one in 50 years has explained how badgers are supposed to give cows a respiratory lung infection , TB is a bronchopneumonia , lesions in the lungs or pulmonary lymph nodes (bronchials & mediastinals see REFS *). Cattle TB is spread readily by prolonged close aerosol contact within enclosed shared airspaces such as barns or milking parlours. Badger visits to English barns, of brief duration for a drink , mostly in summer when cattle out at pasture anyway, so won't create the highly infective aerosol droplet atmospheric "mist"... sharing an office with someone coughing and spluttering flu bugs around WILL pass it to fellow co-workers ! So it has never been caught from badgers.. just 1 proven case in 50 years in the very artificial yard experiment, which mimicked lengthy barn "contact" . Seven badger-cattle data recorder "Contact studies" found that badgers avoid cattle at pasture, in farmyards and barns, just 4 contacts within 1.4 m sneezing distance out of over a million "contacts" , SO Badgers CANNOT be the main cause of the spread of TB to cows after all :- Bohm 2009, Drewe 2012, Woodroffe 2016 (SEE PDF) & Ireland Sleeman 1993, O'Mahony 2014 *, 2 Mullens 2013 + 2015* . URINE ? a recurrent myth is that transmission is via "ingested" badger urine, but a dose of 3 cc of badger urine needed to achieve the minimum needed of 1 million bacilli by Ingestion, at 350,000 bacilli/ ml, Corners studies of 105 badger pathology found only 5 with kidney TB and under 100 cfu / ml . Sheep, 1 bacillus by aerosol, but 11 million needed by ingestion . Ironically , similarly to human TB from unpasteurised milk "scrofula" , lesions in badgers are in throat (submandibular) lymph nodes .. badgers sadly are bound to catch TB turning over cow pats and eating worms and the big Geotrupes Dor beetles.. a recent French study found worms to be the perfect vector of TB from cow pats. Cattle + deer ingest avian TB from pasture so throat/gut lesions. * sincerely, Martin Hancox MA Oxon, ex-government TB Panel * REFERENCES are given in Death of Debate WWW.BADGERSANDTB.COM & Cattle lesions McIlroy 1986 & Neil 1988 Vet.Rec ; Liebana 2009, Jubb Pathology of domestic animals . Little 1982 Vet. Rec. yard experiment. M'Fadyean 1910 dose needed via inhalation or ingestion. Barbier 2016 worms decompose cow pats. Corner 2011, 2012 badger lesions. Woodchester TB clans given in Krebs 1997 report p. 48, map above from Richard Meyer 2016 Fate of the badger. Woodroffe papers with RBCT Spillover cattle to badgers, 2005, 2006 PNAS, and 2006 TB and clan size , just 1-2 TB badgers /clan ; also Donnelly & Nouvellet 2013 badger contribution to cattle TB , Ploscurrrents... 3.7 %, but a generous C. I . of 0 to 100 .. ie. the problem is entirely badgers , or they are completely irrelevant !!!

This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF.

This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF.