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Senior MP calls for alternative plans to curb bovine TB after condemning pilot culls

By The Citizen  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

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Maria Eagle, Shadow Environment Secretary, with members of Hands Off Our Forest at Beechenhurst in the Forest of Dean

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BADGER culls are not working and effective measures must be put in place to protect farmers’ livelihoods, a senior MP said on her visit to Gloucestershire.

Labour’s Maria Eagle, shadow secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, said the number of animals killed across the county fell short of pilot targets which she says proves culling is ineffective in tackling bovine TB.

The cull in Gloucestershire ended three weeks early after marksmen failed to even meet reduced targets brought in midway through the pilot.

Mrs Eagle, during her visit to the county yesterday, said: “It seems very clear the culls have not been a success.

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“An independent expert panel said they did not manage to cull requisite numbers of badgers, so it was ineffective because of that.

“And it has been inhumane. About 23 per cent suffered needlessly by being alive for more than five minutes after they have been shot.

“But bovine TB needs to be cracked down on as it destroys farmers’ livelihoods and their herds which costs the Government a lot in compensation. We shouldn’t be pursuing ineffective policies; we must do something that works.”

The controversial cull ended in December. It was initially scheduled to last six weeks, aimed at reducing badger populations by 70 per cent to reduce the spread of tuberculosis to cattle.

During that period 30 per cent of badgers were killed, leading to an eight-week extension and a lowering of the target to 58 per cent.

Mrs Eagle also met Hands Off Our Forest campaigners at Beechenhurst.

Concerned that future Governments will pursue plans to sell off public forests, HOOF’s aims are to secure a guaranteed £22million from the Treasury each year for the English forests and to follow in full the independent panel for forestry’s recommendation of a board of ‘guardians’ with its members balanced between community, conservation and business representatives.

HOOF spokesman Rich Daniels said at the moment, the guardians “lack teeth” as they do not have statutory powers to make policy changes over the way the forests are managed.

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15 comments

  • Jake_Blake  |  April 14 2014, 8:02PM

    I will repeat again, this is not about badgers. Having a local badger population doesn't mean that you will get TB. The reason Scotland achieved TB free status with a weaker cattle testing regime is because they do not have an endemically infected local badger population. You might want to read that report again because it states; "No attempt has been made in this report to estimate the total number of individual badgers within Scotland. This was because the survey was not designed to quantify the sizes of badger social groups found or the number of individual badgers." Yes, they found active bader setts in cattle areas, but the numbers are tiny compared to that seen in the UK. So on both counts you are wrong. If you have evidence to support what you say then supply it. But, even the scientific reports that you try to quote contradict what you have said. You fail to mention one thing Wales does Nationally that England doesn't do in the HRA's. Whilst rolling out what happens in the HRA's nationally would be better for peace of mind, it would do little to improve the national TB situation, as I have repeated most TB in England is found in the HRA's and Edge Areas, all of these are on annual testing. Which is one of the reasons your new best friend when studying the issue wrote this; ""The results demonstrate close positive relationships between bovine TB in cattle herds and badgers infectious with M. bovis. The results indicate that TB in cattle herds could be substantially reduced, possibly even eliminated, in the absence of transmission from badgers to cattle. The results are based on observational data and a small data set so provide weaker inference than from a large experimental study."

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  • mmjames  |  April 13 2014, 8:40AM

    Free2opine | April 12 2014, 12:28PM Clueless.....check the RBCT report regarding whether badgers pass bTB to cattle, or not! .......... also read slowly and digest The Pathman Project wrt cattle to cattle transmission of disease. That should keep you too busy to post cr@p in the media.

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  • Free2opine  |  April 12 2014, 12:28PM

    Clueless.....check the RBCT report regarding whether badgers pass bTB to cattle, or not! There are other recent scientists in this country and veterinary scientists who are also saying that badgers ARE passing bTB to farmed animals. They have tested the cattle and the strain they are carrying has come FROM a known badger strain and not the other way round. It is all out there, on the internet, if you care to look it up for yourself. Look at other countries also.......There is plenty of information if you know where to look! Yes cattle to cattle is a problem, but, so is badger to cattle and cattle to badger. I do wish you wouldn't keep sticking your head in the sand. BADGERS are wild animals and that is it. Farmed animals are for food, not only in this country, but, for some of the poorer countries in the World. In fact if it hadn't been for all our dried milk powder being sent to Russia over the years, they also would be having trouble feeding their people.

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  • Clued-Up  |  April 12 2014, 12:09PM

    @Free2opine What matters is where those badgers are - and their proximity to cattle. There are huge areas of Scotland where there are very few badgers - and very few cattle either (eg on the grouse moors, on some islands, etc). What the Scottish Badger Distribution Survey showed was that where there is intensive grassland and agricultural land (ie exactly where cows would be) you find badgers. If badgers can spread bTB to cattle (something there's a question mark about), the Scots badgers are there in sufficient density to do so. Scotland has bTB free status, however, showing badgers can be plentiful around cattle and aren't a bTB disease risk over a huge geographical area.

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  • Free2opine  |  April 12 2014, 5:50AM

    Clueless.....there are approx 25k badgers in Scotland,35k Wales and 38k N Ireland. England in comparison has approx 190k with the greatest % being in the SW of England. In other words, England has double the amount of badgers than Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland combined and the greater majority concentrated in the S West. .....and if you don't believe me, perhaps you will believe the Badger Trust.!!!!!!! The European badger (Meles meles) belongs to the family ... http://tinyurl.com/q8qn59r

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  • Clued-Up  |  April 11 2014, 8:12PM

    @Jake_Blake Firstly, thank you for a rational argument about the evidence. I was in direct contact briefly with Prof Donnelly and she told me she doesn't - and didn't - support the badger cull because it won't reduce cattle bTB. I accept that's hearsay evidence from your point of view. Scotland HAS got plenty of badgers, especially on intensive grassland (ie the land most likely to be grazed by cattle) and on agricultural land generally (please see the most recent Scottish Badger Distribution Survey covering the period 2007 - 2009). Scotland has plenty of badgers in the same locations as the cattle and Scotland has bTB free status; those facts add weight to the argument that badgers and badger culling are largely irrelevant in the fight against cattle bTB. I've seen the bTB trend graphs for the Northern Ireland and RoI; I'd question your figures. I think Wales' 4 years of a dramatic amount of improvement in its bTB results shows very clearly its bTB strategy works and is something England should copy (in all parts of the country, low risk areas included). It seems to me the same high anti bTB protections should be in place in all regions where cattle are likely mingle (eg when moved or traded), though it's understandable that Scots farmers may not agree.

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  • Jake_Blake  |  April 11 2014, 3:01PM

    "Scotland's got bTB free status - and plenty of badgers." Scotland has less badgers compared with the the rest of the UK. They also use a TB testing regime weaker than that in England. This is not about badgers, this is about diseased badgers. Scotland is the proof that cattle controls work in the absence of great numbers of diseased badgers. "Northern Ireland's cattle bTB rates are, I think, now lower than Eire's - Northern Ireland hasn't had a cull whereas in parts of Eire badgers are now extinct. " Nope, try again on that one. Incidence levels in ROI for herd and animals are 40% and 64% lower than Northern Ireland respectively. "The Welsh have achieved that 48% drop in the number of bTB cattle slaughtered without killing a single badger. I'd agree with you that Wales was a hotspot for bTB (as the West Country is) and that's one reason why the Welsh results are so impressive. Their poor starting point is no reason to ignore the Welsh success in achieving this huge and rapid improvement in rooting out bTB from the Welsh cattle herds." TB is still historically high in Wales, whilst the results are pleasing I would urge caution into reading too much into this. The same groups cheering Wales now were declaring TB solved in 2006 and then again in 2009. They've declared the end is neigh more than doomsday prophesiers. "The cattle measures throughout Wales are much more rigorous than throughout England - the Welsh insist on all cattle being tested at least once a year whereas in the English system they only need to be tested once every 4 years in areas deemed low risk," Wales does nothing nationally that England does not do in the HRA's or Edge Areas. Most of the Englsih cases are in the HRA's. The cattle controls in the LRA's are the same to stronger than that applied in Scotland, a country you praised. TB levels are low in the LRA's or are you trying to blame Yorkshire for the problems in the South West?

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  • Jake_Blake  |  April 11 2014, 3:01PM

    Mathematically speaking she should have stated the whole range. The IEP state in their report about these uncertainties that I have talked about. Nothing I have stated contradicts the IEP!!!! The whole issue of humaneness hangs in the balance of Category C uncertainties. "The IEP considered, most carefully, the field observations, the uncertainties surrounding the times to death and the potential for marked pain in the 10 badgers included in Category C. Three of these non-retrieved badgers were observed to be wounded; the other seven were shot at and escaped but uncertainty exists as to whether they were wounded." "When considering estimates of the proportion of badgers hit but not retrieved, we take the view that humaneness concerns are correctly addressed by taking a pessimistic view of the likelihood of suffering. " "Only 1.7% badgers ever "suffer" from TB - ie they reach the stage of TB where they're infectious and chronically ill. It's ridiculous to suggest that killing almost ALL badgers - and killing them inhumanely at that - is acceptable because it willprevent less than 2% these animals suffering from TB." You're playing fast and loose with the statistics again. The RBCT took a snapshot of the badger species which means at any one time we're looking at around 1.7% of badgers being super excreters. Super excreters are so named because they are excreting vast quantities of the bacterium. These are badgers at the end stage of the disease development and wont last very long. Considering the hindrance and debilitation associated with TB and it's development it is wrong to assume that these are the only badgers suffering inhumaneness. It is also wrong to suggest that only 1.7% of the local endemically infected badger species will reach this stage. Unfortunately most of the infected will reach this stage, just like most pupils of a secondary school will achieve 5 A*-C`s, not all will achieve it in the same year. I have never suggested to kill almost all badgers, I have said we need action to control TB in the badgers in the areas where TB is endemic in the badger species. "Animal health experts' estimate that 94% bTB is spread cattle to cattle means exactly what it says. It's got nothing to do with " the minimum possible transactions of badgers to cattle", that's your "spin" on what the animal health experts have said. In contradiction of what you said about cattle bTB being possibly eradicated if badgers were culled, what is clear from the Welsh, Northern Ireland and Scottish cattle bTB figures is how irrelevant badgers are to the amount of bTB in cattle." I have not said anything about TB being possibly eradicated. I have quoted a Professor of Statistical Epidemiology, funnily enough the same Professor of Statistical Epidemiology that wrote the paper you misquoted which just demonstrates the complete hypocrisy of your argument. The paper was a MODELLING exercise based on the RBCT. It is not sett in stone and has certainly not been proven in the field, but even then; Research leader Prof Christl Donnelly told the BBC: "The results show that both badgers and cattle are important in this transmission system - that we're getting introductions from badgers and they're being amplified spreading from herd to herd. The report even states; "substantial reductions in badger-to-cattle transmission over large areas would reduce onward transmission from cattle to other cattle " So you have been contradicted by the very same paper and the very same scientist you are trying to quote. Just for the record Prof Christl Donnelly's views on badger culling is that if farmers and landowners can organise themselves to meet the conditions of the cull licence then they should have the choice as to whether they want to cull or not.

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  • Clued-Up  |  April 11 2014, 11:17AM

    @jake_blake Most of us would rather trust the Independent Experts Panel's rigorous analysis of the length of the suffering before death of badgers mis-shot in the cull than that of someone who's unlikely to have the relevant qualifications and experience the Panel's statistician has. It is perfectly proper, mathematically speaking, to round up a 22.8% figure to 23% ( Maria Eagle used the phrase "about 23%"). Only 1.7% badgers ever "suffer" from TB - ie they reach the stage of TB where they're infectious and chronically ill. It's ridiculous to suggest that killing almost ALL badgers - and killing them inhumanely at that - is acceptable because it will prevent less than 2% these animals suffering from TB. Killing badgers to try to control a disease spread by cattle to other cattle 94 times in every 100 really IS a stupid idea. Animal health experts' estimate that 94% bTB is spread cattle to cattle means exactly what it says. It's got nothing to do with " the minimum possible transactions of badgers to cattle", that's your "spin" on what the animal health experts have said. In contradiction of what you said about cattle bTB being possibly eradicated if badgers were culled, what is clear from the Welsh, Northern Ireland and Scottish cattle bTB figures is how irrelevant badgers are to the amount of bTB in cattle. Scotland's got bTB free status - and plenty of badgers. Northern Ireland's cattle bTB rates are, I think, now lower than Eire's - Northern Ireland hasn't had a cull whereas in parts of Eire badgers are now extinct. The Welsh have achieved that 48% drop in the number of bTB cattle slaughtered without killing a single badger. I'd agree with you that Wales was a hotspot for bTB (as the West Country is) and that's one reason why the Welsh results are so impressive. Their poor starting point is no reason to ignore the Welsh success in achieving this huge and rapid improvement in rooting out bTB from the Welsh cattle herds. The cattle measures throughout Wales are much more rigorous than throughout England - the Welsh insist on all cattle being tested at least once a year whereas in the English system they only need to be tested once every 4 years in areas deemed low risk, the Welsh have offered their farmers on-farm advice in improving their bio-security and (I think) the Welsh restrict cattle movements more effectively.

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  • GlosAnarchy  |  April 11 2014, 9:10AM

    Well put Jake, I would like to add one point here and that is that bio security has a massive affect on all wildlife. In an ideal world install fences on all boundaries that will stop badgers, lower gates and install mesh so badgers can't get through! Vaccinate all the badgers on site and continue every year. As any badgers on the farm will be effectively a captive population then there is a good chance that the infection can be eradicated, there is only one small problem "inbreeding depression" this will have a devastating effect on the health and wellbeing of the population as a dominant male is most likely to breed and the population is normally not that large. Inbreeding depression is caused by ****zygosity of genes that have slight deleterious effects, one of the effects is high infant mortality and this can allready be seen as only one in three infants makes it to twelve months old (unless there are other reasons). It's a sad fact but there is a massive increase in mortality between generations 18 and 24 that could lead to the extinction of populations. Biosecurity should also be applies to all domestic populations of animals that can carry bovine TB; llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep and pigs etc. It may also be possible that a ban on taking domestic animals onto any farm land or other place where any of the previously mentioned animals are put out to pasture or are housed.

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