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Death of The Great Badgers And Bovine TB Debate:- an inconvenient death, R.I.P. Jan. 2014 !

  1. Prologue :- Brock In The Dock Re-Trial, Not Guilty Verdict;
  2. Intermezzo:-
    • A. Historical reasons why badgers have been wrongly blamed for cattle tb problem; Figure 1
    • B. The hidden self-sustaining cattle TB reservoir ;
      1. Identifying TB Cases Figure 2;
      2. Hidden reservoir, Icebergs and Lakes Figure 3;
      3. Confusion over unconfirmeds Figure 4;
  3. Epilogue:- Badgers Cannot Possibly Be The Problem ; Figure 5 & 6.

  4. Darwin's Bulldog the great Thomas H Huxley famously remarked , "The great tragedy of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an "ugly fact". The whole four decades Badger TB controversy has Simply been over a case of mistaken identity, over a non-existent problem. There will be an awful lot of egg on very red faces out there IF / when farmers, vets and everyone else finally grasp the "ugly fact" that ALL the cattle TB herd breakdowns supposedly DUE to Badgers, have in fact merely been missed or mis-identified TB Cattle !

    1. Prologue:- RBCT/KREBS cull of 11,000 badgers had zero effect on cattle TB

    As any detective thriller afficionado knows, you cannot prove or disprove a negative, and unfortunately despite over four decades worth of " overwhelming evidence" of a badger/ cattle TB link, it is mostly by circumstantial association, and the last major review cautioned that "it is NOT known if, how, or to what extent badgers might realistically contribute to cattle TB (Krebs 1997). Epiphany ! :-having been on the old Badgers and TB Consultative Panel, with 25 years involvement, and recently casting a sceptical eye over the heated protests and debate over the long postponed Two Pilot Culls of 2013 the very simple flaws in the whole Badger TB debate and pointlessness of culls became apparent. With imminent decisions on future badger culls/ spring 2014 new TB eradication strategy ; these views in Appendix 7, were submitted variously to the Pilot cull scientific monitors, cull licencers ie. Natural England, EFRA Committee, Eradication Consultation ...... BUT of course no-one took any notice, : Everyone knows badgers are the main problem ; why, everyone has said so for the last 40 years, so it must be true !! ).

    A personal eureka moment on the road to Damascus arose in belatedly recognising via this somewhat disjointed web review of The alleged Badger problem, that :-

    1. no-one has realistically after 40 years shown how badgers might realistically give cows a respiratory lung infection;

    2. there is no widespread self-containing reservoir of badger TB, Old Brock has merely been a spillover host with a few TB badgers at the epicentre of herd breakdowns, with TB dying out as the affected few die out in the social group /clan (Figure 5 below);

    3. ALL the TB breakdowns Supposedly "Due to badgers" ; as regards BOTH :- A. in hotspot core area "problem herds" with ongoing or repeat incidents , AND; B. in the scatter of new breakdowns BOTH in the 1970s low point southwest hotspots , and in the current cattle TB explosion crisis spraying outwards into half of "middle England" .. Have in fact merely been a case of mistaken identity , they have ALL been part of the huge "hidden reservoir" of "Missed" cattle TB circulating below the radar within the cattle population; and so

    4. Badger culls simply dont work because these breakdowns are NOT "Due to badgers" after all :-

    Since the aim of the RBCT and other badger culls has been to stop the spread of TB they have clearly been a 100 % failure !. IF badgers cause c. 50 % of cattle herd TB breakdowns as alleged by both the ISG & DEFRA (or 75 % , Green 2008, Bieck 2012); then there should have been half the accumulated total of breakdowns in the cull versus the no cull areas. But in fact the total during the study period was almost identical, 1562 vs 1668, a surprisingly small statistical blip of just 106 representing just 10 per 300 triplet areas (NOT 1/2 = 834; or 75 % 417)..... And the accumulated total for these same areas, for the previous 3 years of "interim" culls was cull vs no-cull 517 vs 568, no foot & mouth distortion , so just 51 or a mere 5 per 300 triplet area (full statistics given in Appendix 7).

    Rather dramatic proof that the badger contribution to cattle TB was absolutely NIL, because the cause of all these new and problem herd breakdowns was NOT after all "due to badgers" but to variously mis-identified TB reactor cattle,(explained below, via Figures 2 , 3, & 4).... badgers cannot possibly be this "hidden reservoir" (Figure 5).

    2. Intermezzo; A. Historical - how badgers got the blame. Ever since the "first" TB badgers in 1971, Glos. & Glamorgan, over the last four decades, there has been an often heated debate as to whether badgers really are the hidden reservoir of TB preventing the eradication of cattle TB and the main cause of the explosive spread to an area now of half of GB (MAPS 2-4 BELOW); and so whether badger culls or vaccines might help. Usually described as a highly complex and emotive issue, in fact the difficulty all along has been that no-one really understands how TB works in cattle. A whole generation has grown up being told that badgers are the main problem, but the reason why farmers and vets are so certain of this is due to two very simple mistakes which became established as fact in the 1970s. A "picture paints a thousand words", so in order to explain how this entire debate has essentially been really over a case of mistaken identity, explaining how badgers wrongly got the blame can be seen via "A Birds-Eye skeleton Overview" , based of the following six figures . These arguments are then greatly expanded with references , in the several main sections of this website .

    Bovine TB in bovines/cattle is a textbook example in the co-adaptated evolutionary arms race between a parasitic disease and its obligate host. TB is infectious enough to spread within the cattle population, without killing off the host, so being a long lived social herd animal, TB spreads within herds, then new cases including the next young generation take TB to new herds , so the disease becomes self-sustaining, indeed expansionist , within the cattle population (see Introduction and TB cycle box figure). It takes about a year for the progressive lung infection to reach the more infectious stage with "Visible Lesions VL" in the lungs (Figures 2 & 3), so as shown below in Figure 1, annual skin testing of cattle, with movement restriction on infected herds (with removal of reactor animals) is the way to prevent this spread of TB within the population. GB's textbook Area Eradication scheme brought TB down from countrywide to tiny southwest TB hotspots.. maps 1 to 2 below. The actual function of intensive annual testing in preventing the spread of TB is Effectively to suppress this spread by arresting / regressing the disease progression in the individual cow back to the early No Visible lesion NVL stages ; BUT self-maintaining TB spread WAS STILL happening "below the radar" :- within herd spread via NVL infectious reactors, and new breakdowns caused by NVL "unconfirmed" reactors ( as shown in Figure 2).

    Failure to understand this , with the apparent stalling of progress , so that seemingly these cattle control measures were no longer working, led to the idea gradually taking hold that there must be an alternative self-sustaining hidden reservoir of TB within the map 2 hotspot "islands".. soon "identified" as the high density badger population in the southwest.... and more explicitly responsible for the spread to new herd incidents and problem herds with ongoing or repeat TB incidents.

    Two Key Mistakes : - Cattle Ruled Out As Ongoing Source This is where the Two Key Mistakes /Errors crept in. Rather stupidly, cattle were ruled out as the hidden reservoir causing these new and problem herds.. it was assumed that:-

    1. Only cattle with Open Visible Lung lesions were capable of spreading TB, and these were so rare that both cattle-to-cattle, and cattle-to-badger spread were no Longer important; (Zuckerman 1980 p. 86, 94, Dunnet 1986, para. 60 ). Simply untrue; that cattle are infectious before they become reactors or develop VL lung lesions has been known for a century. Two recent studies of 105 standard reactors, found that all the 62 confirmed cases had lesions in the lymph nodes draining the lungs so transmission was 100 % via the respiratory route, some 70% did have micro-lung lesions, and 20 % were "sputum positive" or infectious (McIlroy 1986, Neill 1988; similarly recent VLA study , 100% respiratory Liebana 2008 ie. NOT from badgers ). Sadly forgotten ; But clearly understood in the classic text on "Bovine TB":- "ALL tuberculin positive reactors should be regarded as infectious; SINCE unlike in man , cattle lung lesions remain "Open"; and "If reactors with even very slight lesions are left in a herd there WILL be more or less rapid spread of TB" Francis 1947; and

    2. that all the early TB reactors which had No Visible Lesions in the lungs NVL, and too few M.bovis to be identified were hence so-called Unconfirmed Cases, and were WRONGLY assumed to be False Positives ie. Non-TB cases comparable to those due to avian TB. A tragic mistake, the skin test is 99.99 % accurate (specificity), so only 1 in a thousand are truly false positive and do not have TB. And so these herd breakdowns caused by Unconfirmed reactors have wrongly been assumed to be due to badgers , so establishing the myth that Badgers are the cause of up to 85 % of new breakdowns spreading both within hotspots and outwards to TB-Free clean areas as shown in maps 2 to 3 /4 below, plus Figure 4 below, and see cattle section Figure 5. Sadly, everyone has been overlooking the simple fact that under EC Directive 64/432, ALL Reactors should be regarded as infected.

    Badgers two-fold blame :- a. High density in southwest problem area & b. Current cattle TB crisis

    A. Old Brock originally got the blame as the hidden TB southwest TB source because population density was particularly high there, but if so why only patches in southwest in Map 2 below. In fact the highest prevalence level of TB in badgers was in the the lowest density Cornish population, and adjacent high density badgers in Glos 1, 2, 3 ranged from 7, 31, to 0 % (Figure 5 below; Krebs p. 46)... MAFFs data for 1972-96, simply show the worst cattle TB counties had the most spillover to badgers... so woolly models of minimum clan sizes/density links and badger fertility control schemes are complete nonsense ! ( TB badgers now found in some 26 counties, Leics & Hants next ; Plus All Irish Counties; Table in Badger section). Badgers and the southwest were NOT the hotspot in the 1940s, Map 1, northwest England was the worst TB area via Irish imports. Ironically the southwest only became a problem area via subtle historical changes :-success in nearly eradicating TB and brucellosis allowed for a doubling in cattle numbers 1960 to 1970, the new Common Market encouraged intensification of dairying with new milking parlours replacing hand milking permitting a jump from 50 to 150 strong herds, silage instead of hay, switch from channel island breeds to high production friesians then holsteins, EC milk quotas; so the southwest TB hotspots in England and Wales are merely highest density big dairy herds which are most likely to succumb to chronic infection (see Figs 2-4 hidden cattle reservoir below). Skin test only 80 % accurate so the bigger the herd the more likely a few cases to be missed ; dairy cows have longer working lives than beef cattle so are more prone to develop late TB unidentifiable non-reactor/anergic status ( see Figure 3 & 4 below).

    B. Farmers and vets amazingly continue (wrongly ) to blame badgers for the Cattle TB Crisis, BUT Alas, the explosion of TB has actually simply been spread within the cattle population from :- the tiny intractable southwest hotspots to an area now of half of GB Map 4, and a 1979 low of 89 herds and 600 reactors to up to 8000 herds and 40,000 reactors 2008 ; Figure 1 graph and corresponding maps . ALL very simply the result of relaxing cattle controls :- only 2 million tested / a 1988-94 was insufficient to suppress the recrudescence of TB (nearly ALL 9 million GB cattle tested annually in 1960s ), and no pre-movement tests to stop spread into 2 year test "Ring fence" then beyond to 3/4 year test areas (see Cattle section Fig. 2, and Fig 6 below) .This outwards spray of new mostly early TB unconfirmed incidents has been due to unconfirmed reactors ; since foot & mouth 2001, some 350,000 cattle removed of which c. 220,000 were "UNconfirmeds" .. a huge hidden cattle reservoir, contrast with a mere 1515 TB badgers out of 11,000 culled in the RBCT/Krebs culling trial. Back in the 1970s with only c. 100 breakdowns / yr there were plausibly 5-600 "problem" TB badgers out of 2-3000 culled / a; but the current crisis has magnified the real hidden cattle reservoir. This spray outwards from the southwest re-stocking after BSE/Mad Cow peak in 1993, is elegantly shown in maps in Krebs 1997 (online), as regards confirmed, unconfirmed, and problem breakdowns, pp. 57, 58, 91, 156; with clonal expansion of DNA Spoligotypes in cattle with spillover to badgers pp. 67, 173, 165.

    Killer ""fact"" (wrong key-stone /corner-stone assumption) ruling out any further cattle source, has been The Killer FACT, justifying farmer/vet/MAFF-DEFRA three-fold ""certainty"" that badgers are the main problem:-

    1. overlooking the true hidden cattle source, then finding TB badgers after herd breakdowns which supposedly have not just caught TB from the cattle, means they must be part of a hypothetical widespread self-sustaining badger TB reservoir. This killer logic has persisted for the last 4 decades, and will be as "true" in 20 years time...since cow to badger spillover is quite efficient, such TB badgers will continue to exist until TB disappears amongst cattle.

    2.Transmission, in addition, Since cattle are supposedly no Longer the infectious source, farmers are sure cattle must be catching TB from badgers... because cattle test TB clear before spring turnout to pasture, then meet those terrible badgers and are almost overnight "riddled" with TB, whilst in truth, TB was acquired from other cows aerogenously over-wintering in barns, but new cases do not become reactors until disease progresses 6 or more months later .

    3.Closed Herds, are often cited as proof of badger guilt, but as John Bourne of ISG said there is "no such thing" as a truly "Closed herd", even if there never are any bought-in stock, there may be hire bulls and borrowed vehicles, double fencing must include gateways in tracks to outlying pasture, shared watercourses, visits to shows or summer grazings, and as clear from foot & mouth restrictions/disinfections , possible brought in infectivity via relief milker clothing, post vans go from farm yard to farm yard 6 days a week so may inadvertently carry slurry, and rats can spread avian TB between poultry/pig units and carry hidden bovine TB too (Yersins phenomenon, no visible lesions). Up to 70 % of Ulster breakdowns due to contiguous spread, but since most do not show clear way this happens, simpler to assume theyre all due to badgers !

    Darwin remarked :- "False facts are highly injurious to the progression of science for they often endure long "(Descent of Man 1871):-Ruling out cattle as the ongoing hidden reservoir was a bizarre and very silly idea, since in effect this claimed cattle TB was no longer self-maintaining, but now become a spillover from the hypothetical self-sustaining badger TB reservoir.

    B. The hidden self-sustaining TB reservoir has been "missed" cattle all along ; not badgers; As explained via FIGURES 2; 3 , 4; and 6 below

    Britains textbook Area Eradication scheme shrank cattle TB from nationwide down to tiny southwest intractable hotspots by the 1970s (Figure 1, Maps 1 to 2 above ). Since there did not SEEM to be a cattle reservoir by that stage, the blame fell on the high density badger population as a self-sustaining hidden reservoir responsible for the persistent problem. However, it was not understood that the True self-maintaining reservoir was actually a cattle one composed of cases Missed by current identification methods. As shown in Figure 2, lower section, there is a huge hidden reservoir of early and late TB cases missed by tests altogether; so at the low point spread of TB within the cattle population continued "Below the Radar" ... Problem herds continued to produce new cases by within herd spread, and most new breakdowns were caused by so called Unconfirmed early TB cases ; without Visible lung Lesions (NVL), so mistakenly assumed to be "Due to badgers".

    To explain this in greater detail it is useful to consider Firstly how tests Miss actual TB cattle (FIGURE 2); then secondly how these unidentified TB cattle constitute the true hidden self-sustaining reservoir (FIGURES 3 & 4):-

    1. Finding and correctly identifying TB cattle (figure 2)

    Obviously any policy can only succeed if the problem to be cured has been correctly identified....and this has been the problem in trying to eradicate TB from amongst the cattle population all along. The basic skin test in both cattle and humans is only 80 % accurate, so 2 in 10 cases are missed every time ( On TB herd retests it is only 68 % accurate, so 1 in 3 missed). TB is a respiratory "consumption" of the lungs, and as shown below, the disease progression simply entails the unckecked multiplication of M.bovis bacilli, as outwardly reflected after roughly 1 year, in:- 1. an increase in the size and number of lung "tubercle" lesions; 2. shedding of bacilli in aerosolised "sputum" droplet infectiousness; 3. becoming a reactor to the skin test.

    Truly identifying TB cattle is a 2 step process, since confirmation of TB in reactors must reveal either Visible TB lesions (at abattoir inspection, or by x-ray in humans); and/or demonstrable M.bovis in samples. So, there has always been a difficulty in that reactors are either early NVL No Visible Lesion or UNConfirmed cases, or VL Visible Lesion Confirmed cases. Unfortunately, as shown in Figure, only roughly 1 in 3 reactors turn out to be confirmed TB cattle .. so bottom of figure many actual TB cases are missed entirely by skin testing... 2 different tests can complement routine skin testing :- The gamma interferon IFN test which identifies the chemical cytokine which mobilises killer macrophage white blood cells is better at finding early cases. Whereas in late TB when the immune system is swamped by TB bacilli, so the skin test does not work, cattle become non-reactor or anergic cases, then fast blood antibody test/s must be used to find active spreader cows which are the critical hidden culprit in chronic TB herds.. Ireland routinely use a Chemiluminescent ENFER ELISA antibody test; the O.I.E. have recently approved the IDEXX Ab test.

    2. The hidden reservoir of cattle TB :- problem herds & unconfirmeds are caused by cattle not brocks

    Farmers leaders are unbelievably still justifying ""the absolute need for badger culls to stop the spread of TB"" ; Because they still believe cattle-to-cattle spread is unimportant (as explained in first Intermezzo section above). SO, why dont they understand that the current cattle TB crisis has arisen simply by explosive spread within the cattle population !? It is all due to a simple misunderstanding as to how cattle controls work : - it takes about a year for cattle to reach the more infectious VL Visible Lesion stage (Figure 2)., so intensive annual testing rapidly suppresses spread amongst cattle. In effect it progressively removes the three layers of TB types within the population, as shown in the Iceberg & Reservoir Lake figures below.

    1. First to go are, clinical cases with advanced TB, showing tubercular cough, emaciation, and often udder TB which is a potent way TB can affect a whole batch of calves via bulk milk tanks.. such cases are rare now (Monies 2006 Cornwall, Trioni herd Wales, and a recent outbreak in Eire).

    2. Secondly, early on in TB schemes most reactors are VL Visible Lesion cases, but after some years most are NVL No Visible Lesion reactors... it was wrongly assumed only Open VL cases are infectious (Zuckerman 1980); but in fact c. 20 % of NVL lung reactors ARE Infectious (McIlroy 1986, Neill 1988). And as Francis 1947 noted, "IF tuberculin reactors with even very slight lesions are left in a herd, TB spread will be more or less rapid " (Blood 1989 too) .. slippage to 2 year tests due to FMD led to many bad herd breakdowns with 1/2 or 3/4 of the herd affected , which even farmers ought to realise IS cattle-to-cattle spread. Many of these became "Problem herds" with persistent chronic TB, often with skin test non-reactor or anergic active spreader cows(Fig. 2). In the 1960s it was recognised that such herds would be doomed to years of repeat testing, so if 1/2 or even 1/4 of a herd affected pragmatically the best answer was to depopulate/disinfect thoroughly , and start again . AS Ive been pointing out for at least 5 years (Appendix 1), Late TB blood antibody ENFER or IDEXX tests can find such culprit cows rapidly, but no-one seems interested, since everyone "Knows these Problem Herds are (supposedly) DUE to badgers". Such problem/chronic herds ARE the major impediment to clearing an area of TB, out of all proportion to their being few in number : - a dozen or so in the Lands End intractable hotspot in 1970 (see Figure 4, and 6 ); a third of Gopals (2006) northeast breakdowns came from 1 Cheshire herd which should have been under movement restriction; the Steeple Leaze cluster also had chronic infection ( see Badger section, culls, Little 1982). Reviews which demonstrated low cattle-to cattle spread overlook the obvious fact that the whole point of annual testing is to Minimise such within herd spread (Griffin 1995; Goodchild 2001; Neil 2001).

    3. Thirdly, where intensive annual testing & movement restrictions have been in force for some years, self-sustaining spread of TB within the cattle population has been suppressed to spread below the "test confirmed" radar :- the NVL reactors within herds; plus the scatter gun spray of new herds caused by NVL = UNConfirmed reactors... SINCE ALL these problem herds and Unconfirmeds have no obvious cattle source THEY all erroneously become "due to badgers" .... hence farmers mistaken belief that badgers are the main cause of TB Spread !

    Rather strikingly, New Zealand made this same mistake in the 1970s .. breakdowns due to Unconfirmeds all became due to Possums (Crews). Sadly, on the Continent the experts are making the same mistake over Wild Boar, cases found with TB in Spain, Italy, Corsica (and in feral escapes in southern England too !).. but they are merely "dirty feeding" dead end spillover hosts, just like badgers, with Nil evidence they can return TB to cattle (see Introduction).

    Figure 3 :- As explained above, via the previous Figure 2; and in the left hand parts of both parts of Figure 3 below:- Two Pyramids, or the Hidden lake of TB .... there has always been a huge hidden reservoir of actual TB cattle which are not identified by routine skin testing. It looks incredibly complicated , but in fact as was pointed out in Blood's Veterinary Medicine 1989, it is simply the early or late missed TB cases which are the usual cause of recrudescence of TB in herds which have supposedly been tested as "clear" of TB..... it is these "MISSED" TB cattle which are the real cause of persistent TB in BOTH "Problem herds" with ongoing or repeat breakdowns; and the scatter of new breakdowns (NOT Badgers after all).

    1. Two pyramids top figure ...... the hidden cattle TB reservoir can be envisaged as the Missed cattle in an Iceberg :- "below sea = c = confirmed level"; right hand column, 1994 85 % of breakdowns were due to unconfirmed reactors , so wrongly assumed to be due to badgers. NB. Two thirds of Iceberg below sea level; two thirds of reactors unconfirmeds !

    2. Hidden lake, lower figure, the hidden cattle TB reservoir is that in the lower levels Or hidden depths of the cattle population TB Lake.

    The varied types of hidden TB is explained more fully in the Cattle Section ........but is briefly overviewed here:- Since it takes about a year for the lung disease progression to reach the more infectious VL stage, annual testing catches TB cases before they can spread TB within the herd . This has been so effective that c. half of new TB breakdowns consist of just the 1 index case (GB, Ireland north & south), or only 2-3 reactors/breakdown. Allowing an active spreader case to remain in the herd results simply in more spread .. if testing slips to 2 yearly then twice the number of reactors ie. 6 or more / incident shown by ;

    A. dramatically with no testing during foot & mouth 2001 (incidents with 6 + reactors rose from 23 % in 2000, to 42 % in 2002, the dropped back to 17 % by 2005 as rigorous testing restored) ; as well,

    B. as when the "2 year ring fence" around annual hotspot core was recruited back to annual testing (Cattle section Figure 2 and several "Jumps" in reactor numbers). This is why the majority of new TB case herds (c. 85-90 %) are found and tested "clear" of TB within a year via 1 or 2 "60 day herd re-tests" following finding an initial reactor. Slippage to longer tests means unfortunately that , at any one stage in an eradication scheme, some 5- 15 % of "problem herds" take longer to go clear on retests ..a minority of cattle develop latent TB, so may be non-reactors for anything up to a lifetime (a dozen to over 20 years ). Often young cattle may be non-reactors until puberty at c. 2 years old stirs up the hormonal/immune physiological balance so they "rise to the surface" as late reactors. A dozen or so IR Inconclusive Reactors, took 4 or more years to re-surface as full reactors. Or on the other hand pregnancy may suppress the immune system ( including TB) so that the 1/2 "foreign" protein calf is not rejected.. c. a third of cows are temporarily non-reactors post-calving(Blood 1989). The obvious answer is to test spring or autumn calver herds outside this problem window ! Indeed, "A third" seems to be a magic number.......the skin test is only c. 68 % accurate in 60 day re-tests (SO 1 in 3 missed); and about 1 in 3 major herd breakdowns have a repeat breakdown after 1- 3 years or so ( ISG 2007 p. 239; DEFRA 2013 TB Eradication consultation highlights Conlan 2013, Karolomeas 2011).

    3. Confusion Over "Unconfirmed" TB Reactors (Figure 4)

    As explained via Figures 2 & 3 Above : - Correctly identifying early TB cases in particular has always been problematic; and "unfortunately" intensive cattle testing is so effective that it "suppresses or arrests TB progression in the population" so soon resulting in most reactors being caught in the early unconfirmed stage of TB.... no visible lesions or detectable M.bovis... hence, unsurprisingly , the random scatter of most new incidents are caused by these early NVL Unconfirmed cases.

    Confusion hence arose at the low point of near Area Eradication in the 1970s... with an archipelago of southwest TB Hotspot islands ( bottom map 1970s-1992 in figure 4 below) ; and a random scatter of TB herds exported to the "non-southwest " or rest of GB. In up to 75 % of these there was no obvious cattle or other source, so they were correctly deemed to be of "Unknown" origin ( but could only have been due to bought-in cattle since there was no background TB in either cattle or badgers ( Gopal's NE re-stocking study gave same result). Hence, the middle 1972- map too concluded most southwest breakdowns were "open circle" unknowns.

    In the detailed study of the Cornish intractable "island TB hotspot" the Richards 1972 Report on Lands End/ or infamously the West Penwith problem area ; in fact found c. 1/2 of the breakdowns were confirmed, 1/2 with no confirmatory evidence ; and critically, 3 non-reactor (anergic) cows caused 18 herd breakdowns in Madron parish below ie. 10 % of the total over 2 1/4 years, so depopulating a dozen or so such problem chronic herds allowed the whole W.Penwith area to go clear in 1985, and it stayed clear several years until bought-in cattle reintroduced TB, any TB badgers left behind DID NOT Immediately re-start TB herds !! A rather glaring piece of UNnoticed Logical Absurdity is that some 85 % of new breakdowns go clear within a year with 1-2 retests, so if these TB badgers are so important, WHY dont they immedately re-infect theseherds !? Decades of intensive badger culls have'nt had the slightest effect either , because the TB problem continues to circulate from a few high density dairy "problem "herds (bottom map).. the latest Lands End cull in this 200 area, by the RBCT found a mere 118 TB badgers out of 1614 culled....hardly a major hidden self-sustaining reservoir .. and a pity a brave new cutting edge £2 million "scientific" 7 year study to vaccinate Lands End badgers is going ahead ; its Guaranteed TO Fail !

    Unfortunately, finding a few TB badgers associated with these south-west herd breakdowns gave rise to the idea that these "Unknown" source incidents were "Thought to be linked to badgers".. which is a bit long winded, much simpler :- A "Miraculous" Road to Damascus conversion happened at midnight on the 31st of December 1978, in the 1979 - map ALL These open circle unknown/unconfirmeds BECAME closed circles = ""DUE TO BADGERS !!"". Hence the traditional pattern of an archipelago of island "Badger Parish" hotspots in bottom map 1970s - 1992. It is always reassuring when the experts have a Eureka Revelation, like Archbishop Ussher proving the creation of All life forms on earth in the 6 days from 9 am of the 23rd of October 4004... never mind fossil life going back 3-4 billion years ! SO, an epiphany revelation from Possible, to Probable, to Proven; without ANY new evidence that badgers Can actually give cows TB !

    Sadly, there has always been confused /muddled thinking on the true relevance of NVL = no-visible lesion /unconfirmed reactors ..even though a close study found 70-80 % DID have M.bovis (Wilesmith 1987, Dunnet 1986 para 38; Francis 1947, Myers 1969). The general mistaken interpretation was that they were false positive cases ie. did NOT have TB.. in an inappropriate comparison with the 12-14 % of false positive "TB herds" with avian TB; hence GB & Irelands derogation to use the comparative skin test (Wilesmith 1987 , 1983, ISG 2007 pp. 59, 140, 179, 233).The official statistics in chief vet and MAFF Reports (1-2) were given as no visible lesion / visible lesion breakdowns, then unconfirmed / confirmed; and now under EU terminology these have become OTF , Officially TB Free, OFTW free status withdrawn, and OFTS free status suspended.. these " posh" new categories do not unfortunately state that OFTS cases under EC 64/432 ALL DO HAVE TB, so the recommendation that they should require like OFTW two retests to go clear, and IR Inconculsives should be removed at first positive retest.

    Cattle TB schemes only succeed when these Unconfirmeds are taken seriously ! Australias final Tb strategy had the NGSP National Granuloma Submissions Programme aimed at correctly identifying all Unconfirmeds. New Zealand too has draconian measures for finding such cases, which with tight movement restrictions is why they are at last nearing total eradication (DEFRA 2013).

    Badgers with the same DNA spoligotype TB are still being found within 3 - 5 km of TB herds , both in England and Eire, so (scientifically ) "there must be a hidden badger causal source" (EVEN though badgers do not roam 3-5 km away from home territory).. rather ironic that there may be up to 3 different DNA types within one Irish badger clan ie. spillover leftover from several prior herd breakdowns , OR some herds may have up to 5 different DNA types eg. if a farmer buys a miscellany of cheap youngster cattle to rear on in any spare grazing (ISG 2007, Costello, Krebs ).

    The final irony in this misinterpretation assuming badgers are the culprit for this scatter of unconfirmed herds, both in the intractable southwest TB hotspot, and in the current outwards explosion into the midlands is that in the majority there were NO TB badgers "out there " anyway. The dramatic shrinkage from countrywide down to tiny southwest hotspots, (Maps 1-2), did not leave a widspread reservoir of badger TB behind, since TB rapidly dies out in badgers when not topped up from cattle (GB, Krebs p.62; Ireland Four Areas 2005 Report, Abernethy RTAs). MAFFS own data 1972-1996 (see Badger section Table), found almost no TB badgers outside the worst cattle TB areas. And, because Unconfirmed cattle are caught before they become very infectious there is little or no spread within these unconfirmed herds, and so NO spillover to badgers either : in the early 1990s 2 in 3 herds unconfirmed, so 2 in 3 interim strategy badger culls produced NIL TB badgers. And in Wales, 1972-1996, there were some 700 herd breakdowns, "mostly due to badgers" according to MAFF , but their own sample of 2362 badgers (RTAs + culls) found a MERE 46 with TB ! The Thornbury cull eradicated badgers by gassing, but did not stop 1-2 unconfirmed breakdowns / a in succeeding years.

    3. Epilogue :- Badgers Cannot Possibly Be The Problem ; Five Unanswerable Reasons. Figures 5 above & 6 below.

    The great badgers and TB debate has now run for over four decades , with rather curiously badgers getting the blame for both the low point 1970s intractable TB island hotspots , and the explosive spread in the current cattle TB crisis (Maps 2 and 3-4 below). However, "certainty" that badgers are the problem is based on the remarkably silly and totally false idea that cattle were/ are NOT the source of infection .. so badgers found after herd breakdowns have NOT just caught TB from the cattle but must constitute a self-sustaining hidden reservoir of TB, giving cattle TB in both problem herds and new breakdowns. Amazingly, after all this time, no-one has noticed that in fact cattle have been the source all along, with modest spillover to badgers as a dead end host, with TB dying out in these micro-pockets ;

    Badgers cannot possibly be the hidden reservoir and cause of either the 1970s intractable cattle TB southwest hotspots, nor the cause of spread outwards to an area now of 1/2 GB ( Badgers are not marching across the length and breadth of GB, and there is no background badger reservoir until micro-pockets of TB occur as spillover from re-introduced cattle TB eg. in Staffs/Derby after BSE, and in Powys after FMD Restockings) .

    Five Main Irrefutable Reasons Why Badgers Are Not The Hidden TB Reservoir "Problem" :-


    For over a century there has always been a great deal of confusion over how TB transmission works (see Introduction). But a critical reappraisal would suggest that :-

    Cattle TB " consumption " is a respiratory lung infection like human "Consumption or Phthisis"; caught from other cows , but not from badgers (100 % respiratory, with lesions in all confirmed reactors in the pulmonary lymph nodes draining from usually micro- or non-visible lung lesions, McIlroy 1986, Neill 1988, Liebana 2008);

    Badger TB "scrofula" is in fact acquired by ingestion, so is like human "Scrofula" in the throat lymph nodes acquired from unpasteurised milk (70 % of badger TB starts in the submandibular lymph nodes under tongue).. so badgers are almost guaranteed to get TB turning over point source cow pats infectious for up to a year, seeking worms and insects (they can also catch avian TB , Johnes disease or paratb, and M. microti, as well as salmonella ). And TB spreads secondarily to the lungs and kidneys, so badger -to- badger spread is not after all mainly via inhalation or bite wounding.

    Looked at in more detail, cattle TB is a respiratory lung infection caught from other cows in barns or milking parlours, it is merely a broncho-pneumonia, so comparable to winter calf pneumonias (viral, bacterial, and mycoplasmal). Breathing heavily onto a cold window or mirror condenses the fine spray of aerosolised lung exudates as "droplet nuclei" ( think swine flu !; NOT in fact "sputum" but evident in sputum positivity). Prolonged "close contact" exposure required (like sharing an office with someone with a bad dose of flu, and c. 130 hours of shared classes needed to spread TB in one school study). So a brief badger visit to barns for a drink and snack of cattle nuts wont work , indeed in the only single proven case of badgers giving calves TB, in a very artificial yard experiment, 4 calves exposed for under 1 month apparently did not catch TB from these badgers (Little 1982). Strikingly also, Chris Cheeseman found that even when a badger "lung TB cougher" was present in a clan/social group, there was little evidence of spread amongst clan even though they sleep in close huddles underground ! (It seems lung tubercles may self-heal and become "closed" inactive cases as in man, but not cattle, Gallagher 1998). It has frequently been suggested that badgers give cows TB via faecal or urine excretion on contaminated pasture; but cattle rarely catch TB by ingestion even via pasture heavily contaminated by slurry or manure ( Francis 1947; Maddocks 1936, 1938, Schellner 1959). Where cattle TB is clearly by ingestion,eg. avian TB then the lesions are in lymph nodes around the gut (retropharyngeals , mesenterics; Jubb ). And cow would need to drink 3 cc of badger urine to acquire minimum dose of 1 million bacilli ( assuming 300,000 bacilli / ml )... in truth 99 % of badger urine would drain straight into the soil, the rest is disinfected by UV within days. Effectively Nil risk to cattle from badger urine :- over a decade in the Woodchester textbook "endemic TB" population of c. 350 badgers in 9, there were only 18 with TB+ urine, and Corner found only 5 urine+ badgers amongst 57 confirmed with TB , all with under 100 cfu/ ml !

    So, No-one has realistically explained how badgers are supposed to give cows a respiratory lung infection. Indeed , Krebs 1997, last major review noted explicitly "It is not known if, how, or to what extent Badgers might give cows TB .. ISG 2007 didnt answer this p. 121, 173; Tim Roper's Badger 2010, p. 335, " we do not know how badgers transmit TB to cows"; and EVEN the DEFRA /government latest Oct. 2013 Response to EFRA Vaccine report admits, a lack of this key data para . 13 !

    Rather strikingly , Despite the dozens of papers on the supposedly textbook badger TB endemic Woodchester study area, since 1975 .. there has NOT BEEN A SINGLE case of a herd breakdown "Due to Badgers " !!

    2. SELF-SUSTAINING RESERVOIR :- Badger Or Cattle Or Other Species ? Patterns, Numbers, Culls .

    A. Patterns

    1. Badger :- It was established early on that , having (wrongly) ruled out a cattle source, there must be a self-sustaining reservoir of badger TB "Out there" . But looking at the pattern of interlocked "tiles" (tessellation) of amoeboid shaped badger territories in Figure 5 Above, most if not all of these should have had TB badgers, TB spreading freely within the badger population by both within and between clan spread . But that is simply Not the case; as was shown by the 1984-6 "clean ring culls", as well as the badger population epidemiological studies in Avon (Thornbury), Cornwall, ( probably Dorset, Steeple Leaze, although no published maps), Glos., Staffs., Sussex, Wilts. etc.(Cheeseman 1981). It occurs in incredibly small micro-pockets as a spillover from cows to 1-2 TB badgers /clan, in 1 -to - a few clans at the epicentre of the herd/s breakdown, and dies out when not topped up from cows (See Detail in Badger section).

    2. Cattle :- The above Figure can also be seen as the corresponding "interlocked amoeboid cattle farm areas", with isolated single or clusters of adjacent=contiguous breakdown herds... a similar pattern is shown in figure 6 Below, but the key difference from badgers, is that TB cattle DO move to distant farms in maintaining TB within the population, some 20 million farm-farm moves / a; some 40 % under 20 km , hence the cattle crisis outwards spread by c. 10 miles a year (Mitchell 2006).

    3. Other Species. It is simply not true that "no other country has eradicated cattle TB without tackling the wildlife reservoir" (See Introduction). Deer, Wild Boar, and probably even N. Zealand Possums too, are merely dead end spillover hosts, and there is no (or very little) evidence that they can re-infect cattle. "Odd" Cattle such as Cape Buffalo, water buffalo, and bison of course are social herd animals so TB spreads similarly to amongst cattle.

    B. Numbers : Very few badgers with TB, Even fewer infectious "super-excretors"

    1. Numbers.Surprisingly no-one seems to have distinguished the wood from the trees ; amidst these very complicated epidemiological studies. But there have always been incredibly few TB badgers present, and even fewer which might be infectious enough ("super-excretors") to pose a risk to other badgers or cattle ! MAFF found 1972-1996, a mere 4608 TB Badgers out of 42,130 sampled for the whole of GB; the 4 worst cattle TB counties having the most spillover tuberculous badgers (see Table in Badger section); an improbably self-maintaining reservoir. According to farmers, the big increase in badger numbers was due to the extra protection accorded by the Badgers Act (1973, 1992), so of course led (improbably) to the dramatic explosion in cattle TB !

    2. Culls, amazingly few TB badgers culled and supposedly "responsible" for the reductions (or increase in RBCT), in cattle TB.. these differences are in fact simply due to the variable efficacy of cattle controls (see Badger section more detail):- East Offaly just 141 TB badgers from 600 3 times the cattle nos. control vs cull area so drop half as effective; Four Areas just 286 TB badgers from 960 twice background cattle TB reference vs cull areas; RBCT just 1515 TB badgers from 1900

    3.These very detailed Glos. population/epidemiological studies; A. at Woodchester Park since 1975 (See Badger Section); found incredibly few infectious badgers within this population of 350 badgers in 9 ; over 14-18 years , there were a mere 17 (or 25 ) "Super-excretor" badgers which might have been a risk to other badgers or cattle;, and only 7 of these moved between badger clans. So unsurprisingly, with 20:20 hindsight, there was almost NIL evidence of TB spread either within or between clans; and "endemic" TB died out in these clans, as the initial TB badgers died , and where TB was not topped up from fresh herd breakdowns. A few clans had TB for a bit longer, so perhaps there was limited sow to cub spread eg. in weaning by regurgitation of semi-digested worm soup flavoured with coughedup/swallowed TB bacilli . Some Irish clans retained up to 3 different DNA Spoligotypes within the clan, presumably caught from several preceeding breakdowns (Costello 2006)... some human patients may even carry several DNA types due to repeated infections ! Whilst TB did spread to all badgers within the 3 very artificial experimental clans (Little 1982, MAFF Brocktest trials); and the whole clan was infected by spillover from bad herd breakdowns eg. Cornwall 1981, Jacks Mirey (Newell 1987 ); the vast majority of natural clans had just 1-2 TB badgers, so apparently no within clan spread ..excretors may only be infectious transiently, self-healing may even result as in humans (BUT Not cattle) in closed tubercle lesions (Gallagher 1998). Similarly ; B. the Cirencester VES vaccine study amongst 844 badgers in 55, there were only c. 18-33 consistent excretors.

    4. Density. The original idea was that the TB problem was particularly due to high density badger populations, but as explained earlier (Intermezzo), the prevalence level of badger TB bears no relation to density or minimum clan size, but is simpy a reflection of the worst cattle TB areas with most spillover to innocent Brocks (see Badger section Table). The island hotspots in the southwest were the most intensive high density dairying areas.

    3. Culls Work Or Make Things Worse (Perturbation ?)

    Culls do not make the slightest difference to cattle TB ......... the RBCT cull of 11,000 badgers, just 1515 with TB and only 166 supposedly infectious ones (ISG pp. 96, 101, 103, 249 & Tables in Section 5)........... there should have been fewer herd TB breakdowns accumulated in cull versus no-cull areas ( after the culls 1998-2005) ..whereas, in fact, in the localised or reactive areas there were 356 vs 358 breakdowns ; and in the widespread or proactive cull areas , 1206 vs 1310 breakdowns a mere 104 fewer, or 10 / Triplet area (141 fewer inside vs 37 extra outside.. Fuller details in Prologue above , & Appendix 7). A critical review of other badger culls which supposedly worked in reducing cattle TB (see Badger section); in fact were very selective mis-interpretations of the "facts". Nearly all TB reactors removed so herds "clear" Before the gassing in Thornbury, Steeple Leaze. Hartland went clear in 1970s, without badger culls , re-emergence of TB due to longer ( 2 year) testing was again cured by synchronised intensive testing, culling a few badgers irrelevant, TB reintroduced in High density dairying and persists to today; as shown in Figure 4 same southwest island hotspot areas despite decades of badger culls.

    Perturbation . The ISGs RBCT/KREBS cull in fact had nil effect on cattle TB .. SO the mis-interpretation myth that culls make things worse via perturbed badgers meeting/infecting more cattle is tragically now firmly established as "Fact" , and the basis of current cull/vaccine policies. But as is often the case during the death throes of outdated hypotheses, as to badger guilt, this is one of the greatest Pseudoscientific Hoaxes of all time ; now run even longer than the Piltdown Fraud ! Badger experts failed to understand that the failure to finally eradicate Cattle TB in the 1970s southwest hotspots (Map 2 below) was simply because of residual hidden TB amongst cattle .. but, assuming badgers were this major reservoir, the reason why badger culls did not achieve eradication might be because of Perturbed badgers. But the whole idea is riddled with Logical Absurdities in "Seeing what you want to believe". The RBCT is the only cull made during a cattle TB upsurge, due to FMD, no other culls showed any Perturbation effects and the national TB decrease was interpreted in the cull areas as due to badger culls.

    The RBCT comprised 10 triplets areas, each with contrasting no Cull / localised Reactive culls / widespread Proactive culls as shown in above Figure 5. But the ISGs own data show :- 1. the TB rise was not just in reactive & outside proactive rings, but actually happened in all areas , including inside proactive cull areas, in no cull areas , and beyond the triplet areas. 2. The rise was Before the culls in reactive/proactive areas, so daft to claim it was due to the cull (ISG 2007, p.109), with another 2008 rise long after culls ended. Only the "first" -(actually 1998-2002 in different triplet start dates)- proactive rise was statistically significant anyway. Daft to claim cull effect "visible" within a few months, it takes cattle c. 1 year to become TB reactors. 3. It was via brought-in cattle with different DNA Spoligotype to local badgers (Report SE 3108). 4. the doubling of badger TB levels, significantly in "Unperturbed" RTAs too, was twice the spillover from the doubled cattle TB (ISGs own data, although interpreted as due to more badger-badger "contact"). 5. As in Fig.5, how on earth were badgers immigrating into cull areas supposed to cause the rise in outside ring, and first 500 m. showed a drop anyway. 6. As to the supposed reductions in TB due to the culls, they were in fact due to the cattle controls, so in Figure 5 above , in the cull consultation graph, these were more effective in the outside ring no cull area than inside the proactive areas :- drop of 70 vs 49 % A to B, and 42 vs 4 % C to E; and both areas returned to Zero in 2009 ie. culls/no culls had NIL effect overall.

    4. Cattle reservoir :- a case of mistaken identity . as explained above, and as shown in the Figure 6 Below (and see web Appendix 5 & 6), ..Badgers have wrongly been blamed for both the random scatter of new breakdowns.... and problem herds with ongoing or repeat breakdowns BUT all the breakdowns of "Obscure/Unknown "origin, are actually caused by reactors caught so early they dont have lesions, so are "Unconfirmed" cases , but they are NOT False positive reactors, they do have TB... NB. 1. Some 85 % of new breakdowns due to unconfirmed reactors, and out of 340, 000 "TB"cattle since foot & mouth 2001, some 220, 000 were unconfirmeds ! and 2. Problem herds usually have 1 or more active TB spreader elderly cows which have gone beyond being skin test reactors ie. are anergic... Appendix 6, there were 3 such cows causing 18 herd breakdowns in the intractable Lands End hotspot, so depopulating a dozen or so herds allowed the area to go clear in 1985. (A huge hidden cattle TB reservoir see Figure 3).

    5. Badger culls totally unnecessary .. Areas with TB badgers cleared by cattle measures ALONE ;- Switzerland, Scotland, and almost in Wales 1970s ( see Cattle section Fig.2), Ulster only 174 reactors in 1971; similarly Lands End above, Isle of Wight, Anglesey . With 20 :20 hindsight, the persistence of TB in some "textbook badger problem areas", was actually due to residual TB in these problem herds :- Lands End/ West Penwith (Richards 1972); Steeple Leaze, Dorset (Little 1982); the 3 last non-southwest Parishes to go clear in Staffs. (Hewson 1987).

    Quo vadis .........tragically ; continuing to blame badgers for the persistent TB problem; has meant that 2 tried and tested cattle measures, which work, have been and still are being ignored : Both the 2013 Vaccines Report by EFRA Committee (Appendix 1), and The 2014 "New TB Eradication Strategy Consultation have as usual ignored my suggestion that all they need to do to stop the spread of cattle TB IS:-

    1. Pre & post-movement cattle tests from hotspot to other areas. The "non-southwest" had c. 40 % of breakdowns due to imported Irish cattle in the 1970s (Dunnet 1986); but the north-east of England /Scotland has stayed clear of TB (and brucellosis) from imported Irish cattle due to pre-/post import tests; routinely used in Scotland too since becoming OFT free, with 4 yearly testing. Sadly, the outwards spread from tiny southwest hotspots (c. 1000 to an area now of 1/2 of GB , was not due to badgers, and could have been stopped in its tracks in the 1980s, IF SUCH Movement testing had been in place

    2. Use either the ENFER or IDEXX rapid blood antibody tests to find the culprit non-reactor cows (as routinely in Eire ).

    3. Cattle vaccine .. tragic, VLA could have started BCG / DIVA trials in GB a decade ago.

    Figure 6 below :-- Cattle TB IS an infectious disease so the Cattle TB Crisis has merely been an explosion of TB within the cattle population Maps 2-4; farmers /vets dont understand this since some 75 % of spread is in "hidden cattle reservoir " (Green 2008, Biek 2012.... not hidden badgers after all... victim not villain.