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Badger cull – ask DEFRA’s Chief Vet questions

September 12th, 2011 by

Lots of us have been discussing the government’s plans to cull badgers next year.  In July, 38 Degrees members voted to start a campaign to stop the plans from going ahead.

The government says that its plans will help tackle bovine TB, which is a serious problem for dairy farmers. Many of us think that it wouldn’t be right to cull badgers under any circumstances. Equally, lots of us think that if the government’s plans were backed by the science, and would really help solve the problem of bovine TB, then a badger cull might be acceptable.

But so far we’ve agreed on this – the scientific evidence from a decade of trials doesn’t support what the government is presently planning.  Oxford academic Lord John Krebs led a government inquiry into the link between badgers and cow tuberculosis. He says of the government’s plans: “I can’t understand how anybody who’s looked at the science would say this is a good idea.

The government’s Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs is responsible for tackling bovine TB and planning the pilot badger shoots.

They’ve sat up and taken notice of the 30,000-strong petition we’ve built so far – DEFRA’s Chief Vet, Prof Nigel Gibbens has offered to answer 38 Degrees member’s questions about the scientific evidence on which the government is basing it’s plans. This will be a great opportunity to quiz DEFRA on what they’re planning.

Do you have a question for Prof Gibbens about the science around badgers, culling, vaccines and bovine TB?

Add your questions below before 5pm on Tuesday 13th Sept, and the 38 Degrees office team will put together those that get to the heart of the issue and ask DEFRA for answers.

We’ll publish the questions and answers on our website on Thursday morning and 38 Degrees members will have a chance to ask follow-up questions by adding comments. DEFRA’s Professor Gibbens will answer as many of these follow-up questions as he can on Friday.

You can also sign the petition or ask your friends and family to sign it using our simple tool.  We’ll be handing in the petition to DEFRA on Tuesday 20th September, so please spread the word!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1584085139 Simon Wolfers

    And if the science is proved correct after a cull what will the Farmers blame then? is there any small furry creatures left that they could possibly demonise for their own money grabbing bad practice?
    Will they be allowed to go on polluting our only environment and food for their own greed?

  • Buxton1965

    I spoke to a dairy farmer about the proposed cull and in his oppinion this will not help at all . He has been a farmer for over forty year and he believe’ ‘s that rather than the badger’s spreading T . B it is really the imported cows  bringing T B into the UK which is then picked up by the bagers’s  . Any views on this ?

  • Georgia Davies

    Is there not an alternative course of action that will prevent the spreading of bovine TB yet doesn’t involve killing badgers (or any other animals possibly threatened)?

  • Maeve Lewtas

    Is it true that shooting badgers can cause any remaining family members of those killed to leave the set and go wandering far from their usual territory? So that if they were carrying TB this would be a possible way of spreading it further? 

  • Georgie

    Asking DeFRA’s chief vet for an unbiased response to a question is the equivalent of asking BritishAmerican Tobacco what they think about cancer.

    so i don’t think I’ll bother. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/MaryAlice.Pollard Mary Alice Pollard

    I have been following the ‘debate’ on the killing of badgers since 1978 when I first heard about it – that is a very long time ago. There has been no absolute proof that badgers are actually passing on TB to cattle. This debate goes on and on and on and no one can seem to get it right. There is only one suitable compromise for all concerned -  SHOOT VACCINES, NOT BADGERS ! Start protecting the cows with vaccination – as well as the badgers. Well I guess bullets cost less – but at the end of the day when you all find out this killing does not work – the cost will have been so much more, in lives – and in money. Another thing that will help is to stop moving our animals here there and everywhere … and stop importing animals from all over the world !  STOP THE LIVE TRANSPORTATION OF ANIMALS completely. During the tragic foot and mouth, I heard farmers say how they had to take their animals past sometimes over 100 slaughterhouses to take them to the ‘designated’ facility – oh yes, ruled by big supermarkets. Keep our animals local – raised locally and ( being a vegetarian always hard to talk about ) and killed locally. These animals pay a high price as it is being born into the ‘food industry’ and the badgers are paying the ultimate price – their lives. We have a lot of ‘cleaning up’ to do within this industry. Buxton1965, I agree as I also have spoken to many people in the farming industry about this – and the majority of the oppinion was the same.

  • Ian Donovan

    It seems to me that scientific evidence suggests that the culling of badgers merely disperses the problem further afield with surviving badgers moving on and occupying neighbouring sets. Have you not taken this evidence into account? Also, scientific research suggests that vaccination is the most likely solution to the problem of TB in cattle. The powers that be tell us that an effective vaccine is years in the future. Why has the research taken so long allowing the present situation to develop, in which you risk upsetting large sections of the British populace in going ahead with actions that have proved ineffective in past trials?

  • Ian Donovan

    In relation to my previous post, why won’t an improvement in bio-security in the welfare of cattle become a very big relating factor? This aspect should be given scope and the area designated to be more effective, surely?

  • Dacarlo

    I think our cute badger should be replaced with something that has a few more teeth.
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_W90V87w3sr8/TSC9_auThzI/AAAAAAAAAkc/Uc8Eh1tXkuE/s1600/badger.jpg

  • Robert Elliott

    Is there a higher instance of TB in dairy and housed cattle than stock that spend their lives in the open fields? Human TB was prevalent when people lived in cramped,slum and insanitary conditions breathing the same foul air. Why should cattle be any different? How have badgers changed their lifestyles so that they are now ‘the cause’ of such pestilence to the farmer? How does the rest of the world cope with bovine TB?….And finally,does any 21st. century vet seriously advocate such a primitive and unscientific action as a solution to the problem, surely not?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ray.allott Ray Allott

    I doubt that this government has the intelligence to understand even the most basic of scientific evidence.  A number of them probably have shares in the larger food manufacturers/retailers and are only interested in the short term profit gain slaughtering badgers will give.
    Why are they not putting their money where mouths are and invest in a vaccine programme for both badgers and cattle. 
    If as they say grazing cattle close to where badgers reside creates a risk to cattle, then move the herds somewhere else where badgers do not reside.  Or, is that too simplistic?

  • Mark Wilkinson

    Having read the proposals it seems an extremely destructive course of action to achieve a theoretical and minimal reduction in TB in cattle. There seems little evidence that it will work, Krebs who has researched the subject more extensively than anyone has come out against it and a species will potentially be eradicated from wide parts of the country, when the true cause may just as likely be poor husbandry or the spread of infection through animal transportation. Cattle and badgers have co-existed for thousands of years quite happily. Surely looking for the cause of the upsurge in infection and working on vaccinations is the best course of action.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cathy.greenall Catherine Greenall

    Why are we using public money to kill our native species in order to appease the animal farming lobby, the primary aim of which is also to kill animals and market their flesh, milk and eggs? Wild species should be protected and respected, not persecuted and blamed for a disease not of their making.
    Why are we not vaccinating against bTM when field trials prove that vaccination protects badgers from TB and can reduce the incidence of disease in both badgers and cattle?

  • Terry Gardener

    If Badgers are indigenous to the UK and have been around since the last ice age at least! how is it that modern cattle have only been affected in very recent times and who suggested that it is badgers that are responsible and not the ‘MODERN ‘ feed that is fed on the cows. Remember BSE !  which is held largely responsible for CJD in Humans. I believe this to be buck passing of the highest order.

  • Markandrews

    Many farmers find that cattle are most likely to get TB after being turned out in the spring. Modern cattle sheds are generally very well ventilated to reduce the risk of disease being spread.
     
    If you are thinking of the small stone barns that cattle were traditionally housed in, yes they had very poor ventilation.
     
    Badgers haven’t changed, they have always carried TB. The laws protecting badgers have changed though particularly following the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act and the increase in TB outbreaks has mirrored this
     
    http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/tb-erad091008.pdf
     
    The spread of TB doesn’t just correspond with the 1992 Act but in areas of the country with greater badger densities:-
     
    Badgers are widespread in Britain but are most common in the south west, rare in EastAnglia and only thinly distributed in Scotland.21st century vet’s (and government animal health officers) views were summarised in point 28 of a 2007/8 EFRA report21st century vet’s (and government animal health officers) views were summarised in point 28 of a 2007/8 EFRA report 
    “Animal Health and local vets in the West Country believe that 70% of breakdowns in that region are attributable to badger to cattle transmission.” 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sion-Jones/639598707 Siôn Jones

    What are the estimates for how many Badger would be culled, and how many cattle would be saved from culling if this was to go ahead? Are we as a nation more interested in saving Badgers than Cattle? If so, how can we exploit badgers in a way that will assign to them a commercial value that will compensate farmers who lose their livelihoods to TB? 

    How can you explain the fact that TB finds its way into closed herds where badgers are present, but not where there are no badgers? 

    Why are rats not given the same protection that Badgers are?

  • Digforwales

    Chicken farmers and free range egg producers have to keep foxes away from their stock – why can’t the money that would be wasted in slaughtering baders be used to help farmers design their cattle sheds and food stores in such a way as to keep the badgers out amd thus remove what they claim to be the biggest cause of contact between catttle and badgers?

    Vaccination has to be the best way forward, ultimately for the cattle and initially of the badgers. Are the farmers scared that if the badgers are removed from the frame, that they will no longer have a scapegoat?

  • Pauline Kidner

    1) How are they going to measure with any degree of accuracy, the population of badgers in the target cull areas so that the required 70% killed can be achieved?

    2) Will this methodology be used in every single cull area that is licensed?

    3) Monitoring :-

    a. How will they mitigate the welfare aspect of shooting when the wounded badgers are likely to go underground in their setts?

    b. How will they be able to monitor the impact of culling when it is to be carried out alongside new bio security measures, improved cattle testing and better cattle controls?

    4) If they abandon the trial as suggested by the Minister if the pilot ‘does not go well’ , what will they do to mitigate against the perturbation that the culling will have already started?

    Pauline Kidner

  • Macrob79

    Why does there appear to be no sense of urgency to get this cattle vaccination approved for immediate use?   

  • Nigel G Williams

    Four times the number of cattle are slaughtered each year well before their expected ‘economically productive’ life for preventable conditions such as lame foot, mastitis, poor milk yield etc.than are slaughtered for bovine TB.  Yet this situation is accepted as natural wastage.  As bovine TB very rarely leads to human ill health I would suggest that cattle slaughtered as a result of bovine TB be treated likewise. Discuss.
     
    Much is made of eliminating the reservoir in the wild of bovine TB.  It would seem that if 70% of badgers in an area are killed and over a period of 4 years the best scenario quoted is a 16% (the optimistic say 30%) reduction in TB.  This means that there is still a considerable reservoir remaining.  How can the killing of badgers be justified using these figures? Discuss.
     
    It would seem that killing badgers will not be operational until 2013 and that is after a trial to see if badgers can be humanely disposed. Discuss the use of the term ‘humanely’ in this context.
     
    While there is a reservoir bovine TB will continue to be an issue.  Killing badgers will not remove the reservoir so any area declared bovine TB free area is always under threat of further outbreaks.  Killing badgers is doomed to failure in eradicating or meaningfully decreasing the incidence of bovine TB.  Discuss.
     
    Is the extent of illegal moving of cattle known?  Is the extent of the practice of swapping ear tags known?  Is the extent of not adopting even basic bio security measures known?  All three could lead to outbreaks of bovine TB.
    Farmers are subsidised.  Should these subsidies only be granted after a suitable audit of good practice?  Discuss.
     
    I would argue to eliminate bovine TB vaccination of both wildlife and cattle is essential.  With the advances of Science all governments have been guilty of not funding research to find and manufacture effective vaccines but have instead squandered money compensating the farmer that to our cost has not been the solution. 
    In other words pulling people out of the water instead of preventing them falling in.
    Discuss
     
    Thanks Nigel G Williams

  • Bettylee_uk

    What is the yearly cost of bTB compared to the yearly cost of all the other diseases cattle get?  Is it fair that the tax payer foots the bill rather than the shopper?  No freedom of choice!
    Please comment on the fact that bTB occurs in the Isle of Man but there are no badgers there.
    When do you envisage cattle being vaccinated now that there is a viable product ready for development?
    How can anyone claim that  ’closed’ herds exist when the current bTB test is so poor and that so many cattle movements occur within large landowners spread out fields?  
    Are badgers red herrings, diverting funds and efforts from the real causes embedded in the cattle industry?
    Is it a deliberate English policy to conduct the cull at the same time as tightening up on cattle anti bTB measures so that whatever the result, nothing will be proved about the effectiveness of killing badgers? This is the most outrageous, non scientific and unethical  programme I have ever heard of!
    Betty Lee

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_THSTG7XDCK54HA5JX2N4P55YII Sarah

    Anglesey has no badgers but an increasing bovine TB problem.

    An attempt by the Central Science Laboratory in 2002 to produce a study of closed herds in Britain found that there were so few genuinely closed herds that they could not produce a statistically significant sample. Many herds are claimed as ‘closed’ but in fact there are nearly always factors such as lack of double fencing where there are neighbouring herds, imported bulls for breeding purposes, taking cattle to shows, market etc. that mean a herd cannot be considered as genuinely ‘closed’ in the sense of no contact with other stock.

  • Anne Spiers

    Why is bTB not treated with anti-biotics as any other bacterial infection would be?

  • Flofflach

    Question: what is going to be done about the problem of cattle that do not react yet have the disease and stay in the herd passing it on. I don’t just mean the ones that get missed and have the full blown disease and therefore do not react to an antibody test, I mean where the test fails and the disease persists in the herd.

  • Judi Nowar

    Why is Defra still going ahead with an extremely cruel cull of badgers when everyone knows killing them will not stop cattle getting bTB and why is Defra not vaccinating? Why are we still subsidising animal farrmers? Why is Defra still ignoring the truth about bTB? The Tories are a bloodthirsty lot and I have no doubt they will rue the day!!.

  • Mefus

    Why are farmers paid a huge amount of money in compensation for a faulty good (infected animal), when other industries who have to recall faulty goods (cars, chocolate bars, toys), are not compensated? The evidence from Wales where tighter animal welfare regulations are in place (ie, the farmers having to look after the animals properly and abide by bio-security rules) shows that bovineTB rates FALL when farmers play by the rules. So why pay out loads of tax-payers money for a mostly self-created problem? In addition, farmers have been prosecuted for swapping the ID tags on cattle so that they can keep infected ones and get compensation for the weaker cattle who wouldn’t fetch much at market, but labelled as TB-infected the farmer gets paid loads for them. Why is this crazy financial reward system in place?

  • Michael Griffiths

     The Defra consultation last year  stated that a cattle Vaccine would be licenced in 2012. As you are aware cattle vaccination has already been successfully deployed in Ethiopia.
    Allowing for several years (why so long?) to obtain EU approval, a cattle vaccine will be deployable in the UK long before the hoped for,16% benefit over 9 years from a cull, may be realised.,
     So, why are you wasting farmers and taxpayers time and money on killling thousands of badgers (most  of which will be TB free) when you could start a cattle vaccination field trial in TB hot spots next year?

  • John Evans

    Dear Professor Gibbons,

    Do you want to be remembered as the Chief Veterinary Officer who put aside the extensive research, overwhelming scientific evidence, expert opinion and views of the majority of public opinion, and was one of the leading figures who implemented the senseless slaughter of wildlife in 21st century Britain? History will remember – and future generations will look back with horror that so many animals died needlessly when it was already evident that such an act had no real scientific basis and the reasons it was undertaken were purely political. A badgers life for a vote – a sop to the farming lobby and to satisfy those politicians affiliated directly or indirectly to this pressure group

    John Evans – Coordinator, Save The Badger

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B7V7VMKJCXIIZBWWBJYNXOXT54 IRENE

    I would just like to say we are at a crossroads, our impact on the planet and the inhabitants other than ourselves is at a critical point .
    We have to think about our wildlife and how to protect them, not culling, poisoning irradicating habitat , etc We have to use ways that will not upset the balance of our fragile world.
    If every dicission was  made in parlament to concider our wild life ,what a difference it would make.
    Really think abot this comment i have made, i think you will agree

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_THSTG7XDCK54HA5JX2N4P55YII Sarah

    Rosie Woodroffe (one of the RCBT trials team of scientists) has published data showing that when you cull badgers, the incidence of TB in the badger population goes up exponentially, but when you tackle the disease through cattle measures and leave badgers alone,  the incidence of TB drops quite dramatically in cattle and badgers alike. Could the Chief Vet explain why they have decided to ignore these findings – particularly in view of the fact that there is no reason to believe free shooting will reduce perturbation, (in fact, quite the reverse, it is likely to increase it?)

    Why have all( bar one) of the UK wide field trials of an injectable badger vaccine, and further research into an oral vaccine (currently already being trialled in Ireland) been suspended by the current Government?

  • Jbrooks

    Human use of dairy products is obviously unnatural.  How did native badgers get TB in the first place?  Was it from our farming practices?   Is it ethical to cull a native species in order to farm cows with the inevitable suffering  ( separation from calves when both mother and child as sentient creatures experience great distress, excessive painful milk production, early slaughter of the cows at the end of productive lives,  early slaughter or even worse live export of male calves) it causes?  Although dairy produce has been useful to us nutritionally, much of what is produced is for unnecessary luxury products, cream, milk chocolate confectionery, desserts..to say say nothing of its addition to unrelated products such as vegetable soups.   How can anyone with compassion and understanding of the process agree that it is OK to treat cows in this manner, and to cull badgers because they think they are spreading disease which causes a commercial problem?

  • Cheyne E

    Why does not DEFRA afford respect and protection to Britain’s badgers?  They are a protected species by law, yet they are about to be culled?  there has to be a more compassionate method in dealing with the issue.  I for one will boycott the dairy industry as will many others I am aware of.  Surely DEFRA should take into account the repulsion and disbelief of the British public in just why our badgers are being cruelly culled?  Britain isn’t just populated by dairy farmers who think only of their money making.  Thank you.

  • Dodges Unlimited Inc

    Why does the Government persist in ignoring Lord Krebs’ intensive scientific study? – Too close to the NFU and their ‘lobbying’ (aka bribery) to protect their interests. ‘Dairy Farming’ is fundamentally flawed and dairy ‘farmers’ seek to destroy more of our native wildlife in pursuit of more profit and/or more ‘hand-outs’ from the ‘government’. This is not ‘Rocket Science’ – The NFU and those that are willing to take their bribes are the very worst of Britain and make me ashamed to say I’m British. I do trust some farmers –  Some are very decent folk. I and an huge number of folk who care about our native wildlife will fight this to the bitter end. 

    Preserving our Green and Pleasant Land and all of God’s creatures comes before profit for most right thinking British people. 

    Dairy ‘Farming’ is exploiting gentle bovines to a disgusting extreme, for the continuation of profit for a hypocritical minority … 

  • Dodges Unlimited Inc

    Why does the Government persist in ignoring Lord Krebs’ intensive scientific study? – Too close to the NFU and their ‘lobbying’ (aka bribery) to protect their interests. ‘Dairy Farming’ is fundamentally flawed and dairy ‘farmers’ seek to destroy more of our native wildlife in pursuit of more profit and/or more ‘hand-outs’ from the ‘government’. This is not ‘Rocket Science’ – The NFU and those that are willing to take their bribes are the very worst of Britain and make me ashamed to say I’m British. I do trust some farmers –  Some are very decent folk. I and an huge number of folk who care about our native wildlife will fight this to the bitter end. 

    Preserving our Green and Pleasant Land and all of God’s creatures comes before profit for most right thinking British people. 

    Dairy ‘Farming’ is exploiting gentle bovines to a disgusting extreme, for the continuation of profit for a hypocritical minority … 

  • Steve Hawkes

    I’ve been watching a sett almost every night for the past three years and I am still not fully able to tell how many badgers there are in the social group.  So question 1 – Over the wide ranging proposed culling (slaughter) areas – how is anyone going to realistically show that 70% of the badgers have been ”slaughtered” to comply with the target set within the govt proposals.  If you don’t know how many there are to start with – then how can it possibly be shown that there has been a 70% reduction ?  (Estimates are usually inaccurate in my experience).

    Like DEFRA employees, as I am a fellow civil servant at the sharp end of spending cuts, will someone also please explain how proper and independent monitoring of the humane aspects of any slaughter by groups of farmers employing marksmen will happen in practice ?  I cannot see that “independent examiners” (be they vets or anyone else) will possibly be able to present at every “shooting party” that takes place after dusk in remote places.  The cost of this alone is likely to mean that the majority of shoots will not have any independent monitors present due to insufficient funding.  The government guidelines do provide for independent examination of carcases. But how many of those which have taken more than one shot to kill and including others which have also been found and finished off by a dog, (which under the propsals can be used to search for wounded badgers), would be presented for independent examination by the shooters involved ?

    Also how can reducing the incidence of bTB in cattle by the projected 16% figure within a 9 year period, by killing 70% of badgers over 4 years, possibly be considered worth doing ?  Simple mathematics and commonsense alone suggests that even if a 16% reduction were to be achieved by this ill conceived proposal – the effects of this would have to be negated within a relatively short period of time due to any bTB carrying creatures, badgers, deer, foxes, etc, (and those in which the disease started in the first place – CATTLE), being left in circulation.

    Why are the general public not being made aware that – in the previous 10 year random badger culling trial – approx 7 out of every 8 badgers shot were perfectly healthy.  And of the ones that were not less than one in seven of those were excreters or super excreters of bTB, (IE infectious).

    I am also aware that some farmers in the SW consider themselves expert enough to identify vast numbers of bTB infected badgers, staggering about their land and suffering immeasurably.  Indeed one I have heard suggests it is possible to identify a bTB infected badger by the way it scratches the earth.  Perhaps the head DEFRA vet can dispel these myths for what they are and confirm that only in very limited cases can a proper expert identify a badger with bTB.    

    Steve Hawkes
           

  • Steve Hawkes

    I’ve been watching a sett almost every night for the past three years and I am still not fully able to tell how many badgers there are in the social group.  So question 1 – Over the wide ranging proposed culling (slaughter) areas – how is anyone going to realistically show that 70% of the badgers have been ”slaughtered” to comply with the target set within the govt proposals.  If you don’t know how many there are to start with – then how can it possibly be shown that there has been a 70% reduction ?  (Estimates are usually inaccurate in my experience).

    Like DEFRA employees, as I am a fellow civil servant at the sharp end of spending cuts, will someone also please explain how proper and independent monitoring of the humane aspects of any slaughter by groups of farmers employing marksmen will happen in practice ?  I cannot see that “independent examiners” (be they vets or anyone else) will possibly be able to present at every “shooting party” that takes place after dusk in remote places.  The cost of this alone is likely to mean that the majority of shoots will not have any independent monitors present due to insufficient funding.  The government guidelines do provide for independent examination of carcases. But how many of those which have taken more than one shot to kill and including others which have also been found and finished off by a dog, (which under the propsals can be used to search for wounded badgers), would be presented for independent examination by the shooters involved ?

    Also how can reducing the incidence of bTB in cattle by the projected 16% figure within a 9 year period, by killing 70% of badgers over 4 years, possibly be considered worth doing ?  Simple mathematics and commonsense alone suggests that even if a 16% reduction were to be achieved by this ill conceived proposal – the effects of this would have to be negated within a relatively short period of time due to any bTB carrying creatures, badgers, deer, foxes, etc, (and those in which the disease started in the first place – CATTLE), being left in circulation.

    Why are the general public not being made aware that – in the previous 10 year random badger culling trial – approx 7 out of every 8 badgers shot were perfectly healthy.  And of the ones that were not less than one in seven of those were excreters or super excreters of bTB, (IE infectious).

    I am also aware that some farmers in the SW consider themselves expert enough to identify vast numbers of bTB infected badgers, staggering about their land and suffering immeasurably.  Indeed one I have heard suggests it is possible to identify a bTB infected badger by the way it scratches the earth.  Perhaps the head DEFRA vet can dispel these myths for what they are and confirm that only in very limited cases can a proper expert identify a badger with bTB.    

    Steve Hawkes
           

  • Linda Griffiths

    A 16% reduction in bovine tb is anticipated based on the results of the RBCT. The suggested policy is using totally different parameters from those employed by RBCT. Controlled shooting vs cage trapping and shooting, 350 sq. km. and more, vs 100sq. km. culling area. 42 nights of activity vs 8-11 nights, no control area vs 100 sq. km. control areas. How can there be comparable reproducible results when the suggested policy has never been tried and tested previously ?   Can you explain the science on which this methodology is based?  

  • Hetwend

    Dear DEFRA Chief Vet
    Please explain why you do not accept the key findings of the ISG Final report.  As you will be aware, Prof Bourne said “killong badgers cannot make a meaningful contribution to eradicating TB in cattle”

  • Janeinstivichall

     ”Are we as a nation more interested in saving Badgers than Cattle? If so, how can we exploit badgers in a way that will assign to them a commercial value that will compensate farmers who lose their livelihoods to TB? ”  
    This is so difficult for the farmers, but they are in a profession causing suffering and cruelty to cattle and damage to our indigenous species, ie badgers.  Use of dairy at the level we demand, mainly for luxury products and so for pleasure,  is part of our selfish human nature, causing pain and suffering to cattle because of our demand for an unnatural product. The badgers are native.  The cattle  producing milk for us, rather than just to feed their own young are not.  Inseminate an animal so that it produces milk…kill its offspring to that we can use the milk ignoring the bond any sentient creature has with its young, do this to the same poor animal over and over again.   Invade the natural habitat our our native wild animals and kill them as we think they spread disease to the poor cattle.  Human beings have a lot to answer for!  

  • Michael Griffiths

    How many ear tags  need to be swapped to create a Btb hotspot?

  • Rachael Anderson

    Dear Chief Vet

    As a highly qualified scientist, could you please explain

    1.  The scientific grounds for ignoring the recommendations of a long-term, £50m culling trial, run by an independent scientific group including eminent scientists (the conclusions being that badger culling has no meaningful contribution to make in controlling bovine TB). And instead recommending not only a cull, but a cull conducted in far less rigorously controlled circumstances than the aforementioned trial? 

    2. What evidence exists that shooting free running badgers at night can be done in a humane manner?

    3. Given that cattle control measures are widely accepted as absolutely vital to bovine TB control, and given that in just one month alone this year, not one but two farmers in different parts of England were fined for moving cattle in breach of TB restrictions, is it not completely farcical to be killing badgers against the most rigorous scientific evidence we have when flouting of cattle control measures is clearly at the very least not rare and possibly even widespread?

    And finally, could the Chief Vet please make clear whether he believes that vaccination is a more humane and efficacious route to bTB control?

    Thank you

    Rachael Anderson

  • P Mcmurdie

    The first Badger found with Bovine TB was in 1971 (due to poor farming practices). TB was not prevalent in the badger population prior to that date and the spread of Bovine TB from cattle to badgers ensued thereafter.

     That being the case, I would like to ask Prof Gibbens if he thinks society has a moral duty to correct this man made problem without killing native wildlife?

     Or, does he think it is right to destroy a protected species even though ‘man’ is responsible in giving badgers the disease in the first place?

    Also, once the badgers have been killed, will the government embark on a killing spree of other native species that are known to carry the disease?

  • Gerald of Wales

    How can you even begin to think of killing Badgers while more and more proof that a number of farmers are not even bothering to take simple precautions to prevent the spread of bTB and others are breaking the law to assist in spreading it? More and more evidence of tag swapping, illegal movement and even avoiding disinfection in Marts show that they are ignorant or irresponsible towards their own industy. If it’s so bad then why not treat it like F&M? Why hold shows and open days on farms if it is so bad? I believe the only evidence here is that farmers want to blame anything but themselves for this tradegy. Let us see this evidence that Badgers are to blame and let us see majority democratic goverment in action instead of all this stastic manipulation,fabrication and spin. When we see vets falsifying tests we can only speculate how deep the deception goes.

  • Derekgb

    Will you be testing all the badgers slaughtered in this
    proposed culling for bovine TB?  Will you
    make the results of the testing, known to the public? Are you prepared to risk
    a public outcry when you find that you have killed many thousands of healthy
    badgers, I doubt very much you will. I would appreciate an answer.

     

  • Anonymous

    I am mystified as to why we are even attempting to eradicate bovine TB without the support of a vaccination program.

    As I understand it, the successful eradication of bovine brucellosis was achieved in this country in the late 80′s only by using a vaccination program to reduce the prevalence of the disease and then selective slaughter of cattle to complete the eradication.

    I am aware that EU Directive 78/52/EEC demands that we have a national plan for the accelerated eradication of brucellosis, tuberculosis and enzootic leucosis in cattle but that this very same directive requires us to ensure that “anti-tuberculosis vaccination” is prohibited.

    On the one hand we are obliged to attempt to eradicate bTB whilst, on the other, we are denied the very mechanism which would help us to succeed.

    My question – are you arguing the case for amendments to be made to EU directive 78/52/EEC to allow cattle vaccination? If not, why not?

  • Linda Griffiths

    Stringent cattle control measures introduced in North Pembs. a TB hotspot, two years ago have resulted in over a 50% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered due to Bovine tb. It would be more efficient both economically and practically to introduce the same cattle control mearures throughout England and Wales. Your proposed 16% reduction over nine years due to culling seems negligible compared with that achieved in N. Pembs in as little as two years.
    Please comment.

  • guest

    Is it true that most of the transmission of BTB is from cattle to cattle? Where is the scientific evidence that badgers pass on TB to cattle?

  • Michael Griffiths

    What is Defra’s planB if the cull fails to achieve its target?

  • Roniwadams

    Is it planned to test every culled badger for Bovine TB?
    If, very few of the badgers carry Bovine TB – will the Cull be suspended.
    What is the estimated cost of culling each badger. Over 10 years ago it cost over £1000 to cull one badger.

  • Adrian S

    The Government is happy to quote the cost of bovine TB to the tax-payer, but how much of this can be attributed to badgers and how much to poor animal husbandry or live-stock owners abusing the system?
    If the estimate is that over a four year badger cull the incidents of bovine TB will drop by 16% does that mean that despite the carnage and cruelty there will still be a cost of £55m to the tax-payer to make up for all the other variable factors involved in the spread of bovine TB?

    If the cost to the tax-payer of £63m was to be added as a duty to the price of meat and dairy, how much would that be per kilo?

    Bearing in mind that meat and dairy is one of the most damaging industries to the environment (in terms of greenhouse gas emmission and degradation of the environment), and a very energy inefficient way of feeding the population, why are we putting so much money into protecting it rather than finding more environmentally conscious and sustainable food production methods?

    Having worked on a wildlife reserve in South Africa, I have witnessed how difficult it can be for an ex-professional hunter (now dedicating his time to saving wildlife) to get a clean shot of a tranquiliser dart into the backside of a warthog from 6 feet. Does the Chef Vet really think that randomly licenced farmers of varying ability shooting at free running badgers at night are realistically going to get a ‘clean’ and humane shot every time? Or is it much more realistic to say that there will be widespread cruelty and injuries that will lead to slow painful deaths as wounded animals escape? How can a vet, dedicated to the wellbeing of animals, condone such a policy?

    And isn’t it true that no matter how much cruelty or corruption is involved, with cuts to the Police budget there simply won’t be the will-power or resource to ensure that landowners follow the Government terms and conditions?

  • Lynne

    What is the investment programme and plan to introduce an anti-TB vaccine for cattle. Why hasn’t the government encouraged the pharmaceutical industry to introduce a vaccine and hence save farmers the costs of culling?
    Is bovine TB transferable to humans?

  • wanderingstar

    There are many animals that come into contact with dairy cattle that can carry bovineTB. Examples are visiting stud bulls, cats, dogs, sheep. Why are badgers being singled out for culling?

  • David Sawers

    A question for Professor Gibbens

    Defra’s  cost benefit calculations on the  results of a badger cull assume that shooting free running badgers will have the same results as trapping and then shooting, as done in the randomised cull. The members of the Independent Scientific Group have said that this assumption is unjustified. Does Defra have evidence to support its assumption?

  • RTR

    Wouldn’t it be sensible for farmers with a TB problem to stop farming cattle and farm something else ?
    And if the answer is that they’ve done it for years, the miners mined coal for years and the steel makers made steel for years etc. Farming should be able to co-exist with nature otherwise we are getting it horribly wrong.

  • John Davenport

    Dear Professor Gibbons,
     
    Has the world truly gone mad?
     
     The statistics( which have no true scientific backing and beg the question if they are that bad when they are fictional, how truly idiotic are they!) speak for themselves. A 16% reduction over 9 years at a cost of 70% of any population, how can any sane intellectual person back such a ridiculous program? 
     
      This is obviously a simple political case, it is better to been seen to be doing something even though that something will not work!
     
    The cull will go against all serious scientific advice with a serious risk of making the situation worse.
     
     Why are strict regulations of bio safety, husbandry, pasture management and strict cattle management, with pre movement testing not enforced and regulated ? Farmers could be subsidised to achieve these measures reducing the overall cost of compensation.

    Vaccination is the proven way forward and has been inexcusably not developed to its potential. The only certain thing is that badgers are not the cause of this problem. As a leading figure you will be the face remembered for the outcome. We will all be judged on our acts and the people that accept or turn a blind eye are as guilty as those conducting the atrocities.  Please be part of a legacy remembered throughout the country for the right reasons. Yours sincerely John Davenport (Biomedical Scientist)

  • Pete

     How can you justify the slaughter of hundreds of wild animals when expert opinion tells you that the ends will not justify the means. Can you not accept that the plan to exterminate badgers is a disproportionate response to the problem of TB in cattle.
    When will you take steps to ensure that your inspectorate fulfills its obligations to us all and ensures that ear tags from slaughtered animals are destroyed to put an end to “ringing”, prosecutes those parties involved in bed-and-breakfasting of animals destined for slaughter and ensures that the concept of on-farm biosecurity is embraced enthusiastically by the farming community instead of being seen as a nuisance to be avoided

  • r*

    Dear Bro*,
                      A simple heart to heart question, the cattle introduced TB into their enforced environment, the Badgers & other indigenous species were affected &  infected, so let’s wipe out the indigenous population (Badgers being the last of our largest indigenous mammals surviving) to sustain this dis-eased mono-culture…..Q is this fair in any way? What does your heart say?

    Ethnic cleansing’s been  tried before, let’s learn from past mistakes, not blindly repeat them

  • Joykeith

    it wont work so why kill animals for no reason, it haver never been proved to work in fact from the things i have read it could make it worse ,

  • John Mac

    Dear Professor Gibbens.  Please would you and your colleagues give more postive and vocal support to the National Trust trial of badger vaccination using oral vaccine?  You know that the Krebs trial and other rational evidence means that culling won’t achieve the result intended.  The use of badger vaccine is a way forward that doers not involve killing very large numbers of native wild animals.

  • Anonymous

    No doubt, sadly, we will see the same response as we have with the Hunting Act 2004. Little policing and them doing what they want to – whatever that entails.

  • Derek Hector

    ‘In view of the fact that neither Catherine Spelman nor the NFU have responded to the concerns that the Badger Trust and others have raised over the BBC Report programme where a farmer was present at the gassing (an illegal act) of a badger set is there not a danger that the ‘authorities’ are seen as condoning the killing of badgers – an action that could increase the incidence of bovine TB.
    People are also posting on the net such incidents .  How widespread is this practice?

  • Rachael Fenton

    Dear Professor Gibbons
    I would be grateful for your answer to the following questions:

    1. Could you please explain the scientific evidence to support the fact that badgers pass TB to cattle.
    2. I understand that Scotland has remained free of bTB despite a population of badgers but the Isle of Man where there are no badgers has not.  If this is correct, could you please offer an explanation.
    3. Would you agree that intensive farming may have decreased immunity to disease, including TB.
    4. If 50,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2010 due to mastitis and 30,000 to bTB, would it not make economic sense to divert funds to the prevention and treatment of the former, particularly as the cull is predicted to only reduce infection by 16%?

    I look forward to your reply.

  • Michaeljohn Sharratt

    Dear Professor  Gibbens.
    Why is it that after a dramatic reduction in bovine TB in the national cattle herd from the 1930,s to the early 1970,s, 40% to less than 1% which was carried out by strict control on cattle movement and cattle testing seems to be reluctantly carried out by Defra now. It should be noted that that dramatic reduction was carried out without any badger cull being carried out. It should also be noted that in Wales in the last 2 years there has been large reduction of TB in cattle, again, without a badger cull being carried out. So when evidence from the past, and science  is laid out before you why are you so reluctant to concentrate on cattle testing and movement which is clearly the answer and not badger culling

  • Yodamyferret

    l worked for 7 years at the maff on bovine tb and the so called badger problem. it was proved beyond all doubt that a cull did not and could not work. it is still my opinion that cattle give the tb to the badgers and not the other way around. i say this primarily because of the eating habits of both animals, also the fact that statistically  speaking, moles carry the disease in the same numbers and coincidently the main diet of badgers and moles is earthworms. i am sure the tb is deposited onto the ground by the copious amounts of saliva from the cattle feeding overnight. this gives the spores plenty of time to impregnate the soil before sunrise. i distinctly remember a so called expert disregarding  evidence because it upset his theories and made his chart untidy. i will not embarrass the good doctor by naming him but i am sure you can buy his book. a little foot note to finish, any foxes that were accidentally caught in the badger traps were taken back to the office and stored in the cellar until  they could be taken to the duke of Beaufort’s estate. this was done because our boss rode with his hunt and they did not have enough foxes to kill. so much for the vicious beast whose numbers needed controlling.

  • http://twitter.com/Horsebutnohound Dr Jo

    My question for Prof Gibbens is this:

    Given the long time scale and no doubt considerable expense of the ISG’s work and also the clear conclusions that were drawn from that study, can you please explain why the government has decided to ignore the results? Doesn’t it undermine the credibility of scientific advisors to government if they chose to ignore science and support a political, rather than evidence based policy?

  • Mary Lynn

    Dear professor Gibbons,
      I would be grateful if you will answer the following questions.

    1.  Will you please give the exact number of cattle that tested positive following the bovineTB test in the past 12 months.?
    2.  Will you please supply the exact number of those cattle that actually proved positive upon post mortem?
    3.  Will you please supply the exact number of cattle carcuses that, once lesions were removed, were deemed fit for human consumption and passed into the food chain?
    4.  In view of my last question, will you please explain why cattle that have tested positive are put into the food chain?
    5.  Will you supply the exact amount of monies the government recouped through ‘Salvage’?
    6.  Why cannot this money raised from the sale of condemned meat go into providing a vaccine?
    7.  Given this practise, and given that following stricter measures re movement and hygeine practise, bTB numbers fell by 45% in Wales over a 12 month period, without a cull, will you please explain why it is that the government still insist on listening to farmers unions, instead of scientific evidence and the feelings of the public on this issue?

    If the government wish to continue with this reckless and needless action then I would ask that all slaughtered  cattle that tested  positive for bTB be destroyed completely, or that the true figures of compensation, including salavage are announced, instead of the lies that are being fed to the public and farmers, along with condemned meat.  Perhaps you in your position could see to this?

    Yours sincerely,
    Mary Lynn (Mrs)

  • Yodamyferret

    IF A CULL IS PERFORMED IT IS ALREADY KNOWN THAT IT WILL NOT ONLY FAIL BUT WILL INDEED MAKE MATTERS WORSE. BADGERS OUTSIDE OF THE AREA WILL MOVE IN AND THIS CREATES A SITUATION SIMILAR TO THE FARMERS MOVING LIVESTOCK. ALL OTHER COUNTRIES VACCINATE AND THE ONLY EXCUSE THE POLITICIANS COULD COME UP WITH FOR NOT DOING THE SAME WAS “BECAUSE WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO TEST FOR TB ONCE THE CATTLE HAD BEEN INOCULATED. THE HUGE SUM OF MONEY ALREADY WASTED ON THIS BUSINESS IS AN UTTER DISGRACE. MOLES CARRY BTB IN THE SAME NUMBER BUT MAFF REFUSED TO EVEN DISCUSS THAT FACT BACK IN THE 80′S. WHAT IS THE REAL REASON FOR THIS WANTON DESTRUCTION. SOME CONSPIRACY THEORIST THINK IT A GOOD COVER TO SYPHON OFF MILLIONS IF NOT MORE OF TAX PAYERS MONEY. STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED.

  • Justin Kerswell

    Dear Professor
    Gibbens

    My question
    is about biosecurity and the recent research done by FERA (Food and Environment Research
    Agency), that has now resulted in new guidelines about how to keep badgers and
    cattle apart on farms. Lord Krebs said that this would be more effective in
    controlling TB and more cost-effective than killing badgers. Anecdotally, the
    biosecurity measures seem to have worked – given the accounts on the DEFRA
    website by farmers. These were as cheap and simple as closing gaps under doors
    in feed stores. Have TB breakdowns been measured on the farms that took part in
    the trial – and if so what are the results? I would suggest that we would be
    better placed by making these improvements mandatory on all cattle farms (as
    part of strengthened cattle controls) than killing badgers. Do you agree?

    Justin
    Kerswell, Viva! campaigns manager

  • Fossn

    Everything I’ve found on this says it is widely BELIEVED that badgers spread bovine TB.
    Where is the ACTUAL SCIENTIFIC evidence. I can’t find any.

  • Kay

    Has any study been conducted on the water and feed areas of cattle in relation to TB in those cattle amd surrounding badger population?  ie natural water courses such as canals and rivers versus farm supplied contained water amd the container in fields etc.  Also the same in relation to feed in the fields and feed storage at the farm?  Has MUCH better husbandry been considered a factor in reducing TB infection in cattle and has large scale studies been conducted?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Eddy/100000852434626 Michael Eddy

    1)  If, as the RBCT
    showed, there is a possible benefit of between 12% and 16% reduction in bovine
    TB within a reactive cull zone, what accounts for the remaining 84% and 88% of
    cases – and why should this not be tackled first?

     

    2)  There are no
    badgers on Angelsey, yet there is bovine TB. 
    What is the cause of this?

     

    3)  Even if, after
    the recent review of the RBCT, there is a supposed drop in Bovine TB of up to
    27%( the highest possible figure that DEFRA have been able to conjure up), that
    still shows that there’s a vector out there responsible for another 73% of
    cases.  Why the reluctance to tackle
    this?

     

    4)  It seems far more
    likely that the over intensive farming of cattle in the UK is responsible for
    infecting the badger population with bovine TB; an indigenous animal infected
    by ill-managed farming.  Why has there
    been no movement to further protect an already protected species from such a
    disease?

     

    5)  There have been
    well documented cases recently of farmers who have healthy cattle – and badgers
    - in TB hotspots, simply by ensuring the animals on their farms have healthy
    nutrition, rather than the cheapest and most plentiful option.  Are there any plans to look at the negative
    effect of a maize based diet for cattle, and to counter the effects this might
    have on their immune systems and so leave them open to TB?

     

    Thanks for your time,

     

     

    Michael

  • MR. C. KINGSWELL

    1. How does the cost of culling the badgers compare to the cost of immunising them against TB?
    2. Are badgers the main cause of TB in cattle?
    3..Given that badgers are carriers of the disease TB and will continue to breed even after many of them are culled, will not the same situation occur in the years ahead when the badger population has increased once more? There have been previous culls, have there not, and have they made any significant change to the amount of cattle contracting TB over the long term? 
    4. Do you accept that to eradicate this disease in badgers purely by culling, you would have to wipe out the entire species?
    5. Do you agree that the way forward is to immunise badgers against TB?
    6. If badgers pose such a threat to society, why are they a protected species? 

  • Marianreader

    There is a vaccination available now.  Why arent you using it?   Is it all down to cost again? Culling is wrong!

  • L. Thomas

    I’d like to ask how the government propose to deal with the badger population that will inevitably infill back into vacant areas where a badger colony has been culled? Evidence proves (TV ‘Countryfile’ programme last week) that settled badger colonies  remain in the same area for life and fiercely defend their home territory. Thus a vaccinated badger colony on a farm acts as a protective barrier to stop spread of Bovine TB onto farmland. The alternative is the mass slaughter of wildlife ad infinitum, with ongoing financial commitment for the farmer.

  • Michael

    ·        
    Why has the Government abandoned its promise that its badger cull be
    will be science led? It is backing an entirely untried culling method. This is
    guesswork, not science.

    ·        
    The Government has used results from one form of culling (cage trapping)
    to postulate results from a previously untried method (free shooting). This
    surely invalidates all its forecasts? Science-based projects are based not on
    assumptions but on known outcomes.

    ·        
    The Government’s justification for the proposed slaughter of tens of
    thousands of badgers is that something has to be done urgently to bring bTB
    under control. Why, then, has it chosen to concentrate on a method that will
    bring (on its own optimistic forecasts) only a 12-16 per cent reduction over
    NINE years?

    ·        
    It claims it has put forward a balanced package of measures. But, badger
    killing apart, none of its proposals are rigorous, original, and likely to
    impact in any significant way on bTB (the other 84 per cent of the problem left
    untouched after badger culling has been taken into account). Explain how in
    your view they will m,ake a difference and why they have not been tried before.

    ·        
    The Government claims it will assess the impact of its measures after
    four or five years. How can it do so? How can it possibly assess the impact of
    badger culling when (unlike the RBCT) it has no way of measuring and comparing
    effectiveness? This is just another empty promise, surely?

    ·        
    The cull proposals have been widely criticised by, among others, Lord
    Krebs, and the ISG. Natural England has also expressed doubts. Do these
    proposals have any independent scientific backing at all? Names, please.

    ·        
    The Government proposes that an independent panel will examine carcases
    to judge whether shooting is humane. Does it really believe that shooters will present
    for examination all the badgers they kill, or only the ones cleanly killed?
    Unless independent monitors are present in numbers these pilot culls will be
    rigged, won’t they?

  • Polmaccana

    As someone who has researched bTB, my questions are:

    Where and when has all the cattle data been statistically interrogated by independent neutral scientists?  I would suggest this data be outsourced for interrogation to statistisians in a neutral state (i.e. not UK, RoI nor NZ – but to statisticans in a country with little bTB).  Where have such analyses been openly presented to the public and scientists?  Could you please detail the analyses of factors of:  herd size; herd breed; herd husbandry (e.g. number of months in sheds overwintering extensiveness of grazing; enforcement of strip grazing); herd composition; degree of pedigree (i.e. inbreeding, and thus susceptibility); sward composition (e.g. perennial rye-grass dominant versus biodiverse sward); stress levels in herds; presence of other diseases in the herd and in the area; level of movement of calves that have not been tested prior to movement; level of anergy in cattle (i.e. non-reacting reservoirs of the disease not detected by the TB-testing regime).

    When will the single-skin test of the continent be implemented to have a one strike and you’re out testing system here, instead of the loop-hole of the double skin test that we tax-payers are dealing with – which allows bTB cattle to remain in the herd to re-infect other cattle in the future; and aides in letting others loose focus on where the disease resides?  We undersatnd the concepts of sensitivity and specificty and of the trade-off with avain TB, but the stakes have changed and this needs to be revised immediately.  When will there be an open public debate on this?  Us tax-payers have taken on the sins of the investment bankers.  So, of course, we will take on the extra duress the single-skin test would put onto the ‘small-farmer’ if it helps the farming community in the long run, and saves us tax-payers in the long run as well. 

    Cattle husbandry has changed dramatically in all regions of the Celtic Islands since the German wars.  How have you analysed this in an honest, systematic and effective manner?  Irrelevent of a badger contribution to the disease; the cattle-to-cattle lateral spread, and immunosuppression in cattle must be remedied to save us as tax-payers from unnecessary costs, and to increase our understanding of the animals under ‘our service’.  You have the data to analyse the cattle factor of the disease equation to a very high level.  When will you do it and do it properly and report it openly using data from all regions of these islands, i.e. to study all components from England-Wales-Cornwall region, from Scotland, from the north of Ireland region and from the south of Ireland region, where different regimes give different clues?  When will you glue all this data together for analysis in a neutral state by verifiably non-biased mathematicans?  

  • Anonymous

    Why is there not more emphasis on cattle vaccination. Slaughter policies eventually have to be abandoned because of the cost and distress, for example Newcastle Disease in Poultry used to be subject to a slaughter policy which never eradicated the threat because of the nature of modern society and international trade and travel. Now, flocks are routinely vaccinated.

  • Davesanders

    WHEN DEFRA HAVE WIPED OUT ALL THE BADGERS AND THERE IS STILL BTB,( AS THERE WILL BE ) WHAT WILL BE THE NEXT TARGET ? I THINK OF VETS AS BEING INTELLIGENT PEOPLE WHO HAVE FOLLOWED A LONG AND INTENSIVE TRAINING TO BECOME PROFESSIONALS, TRAINED TO PUT THE WELFARE OF ANIMALS AS A PRIORITY. YOU ARE NOT ACTING IN THE INTEREST OF ” ALL ” ANIMALS, AS YOU ARE IGNORING MEDICAL AND HISTORICAL SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE .IT HAS BEEN EXPOSED THAT THERE IS BLATANT BIOSECURITY FAILURE ON FARMS,LIVESTOCK MARKETS AND CRIMINAL SWAPPING OF EAR TAGS AND MOVEMENT RECORDS. DOCTORS TAKE A HIPPOCRATIC OATH TO BE MEDICALY ETHICAL, SHOULDN’T YOU BE QUESTIONING YOUR ” MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC ETHICS ” AND NOT JUST BE FOLLOWING THE CALL OF HYSTERICAL FARMING UNIONS AND STUPID POLITICIANS , WHO ARE LEARNING AS TIME GOES ON THAT THEY DO NOT SPEAK FOR THE PUBLIC. I WOULD EXPECT A DOCTOR TO PROMOTE IMMUNISATION AGAINST INFECTION, IN THE SAME WAY I WOULD EXPECT A VET TO PROMOTE VACCINATION, NOT UNJUSTIFIED GENOCIDE. 

  • Yodamyferret

    shooting is not an untried method. it was tried and it failed, miserably. cage trapping was tried extensively and failed, miserably. lactating sows were taken leaving cubs to die. any cull will fail. how can i be so sure? i was one of those out night after night trying to shoot the badgers ( and i am a good shot and tracker) and i was the one using cage traps AND SNARES to catch badgers. even IF all the badgers could be removed from a given area, IT WILL NOT WORK. the reason for this is, other creatures carry btb not least cattle that are illegally transported (and yes it does happen, mainly because the struggling farmers feel they have no other viable option because of the penny pinching bureaucrats)  please do not condemn me for the admission above, people change, strict vegetarian now for 25 years. this madness must cease and for goodness sakes get someone on the job that knows what they are doing. make sure that person is not an egotistical, book writing failure and a vet that has the guts to stand up for the right decision as opposed to being dictated to by government thugs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.popham Dave Popham

    Why is the scientific evidence (apparently) being ignored please ?

  • Charliemasonfz

    4 questions:
    i) We know that BTB can be passed from badger to badger, cow to cow, badger to cow and cow to badger. So what scientific evidence is there that the badger is the main cause of BTB in cattle ?
    ii) I know organic dairy farms who have closed herds, don’t allow ‘low grazing’, have badgers on their land but no cases of BTB. What is the incidence of BTB in large herds that are kept on sheds 24/7 365 days a year?
    iii) Why are dairy cows slaughtered on the basis of a (unreliable?) TB test when they are still productive and the milk they produce  in no threat to human health?  Is it not possible to ‘isolate’ these cows?
    iv) Is slurry management (slurry contains TB bacteria a cause for concern) when slurry storage (lagoon leakage) and applications, (spraying, etc) enables bacteria to be spread around and to contaminate the land and wildlife?    .

  • Concerned farmer

    1. With live cattle exports so much reduced now, why can we not get a derogation from the EU and start a vaccination programme for cattle now? Recent studies in cattle and wildlife have demonstrated the practicality and effectiveness of vaccinating animals against tuberculosis (17th September 2010 the ‘Field evaluation of the efficacy of Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guerin against bovine tuberculosis in neonatal calves in Ethiopia’ and the more recent ‘update on vaccination of cattle and wildlife populations against tuberculosis’ by BM Buddle, DN Wedlock et al; July 2011).

    Back in 2005 Defra’s own research project final report (SE3212 ‘Testing TB Vaccines in Cattle’) from 1999 – 2005 confirmed that ‘Cows receiving prior BCG vaccination develop markedly fewer visible lesions, and fewer bacteria can be recovered from their lymph nodes’. 

    2. Bearing in mind that bTB is not a significant risk to human health and the bacteria is so widespread, why not learn to live with the disease and have, instead, adequate control based mainly on vaccination with testing where relevant? 

    3. It is accepted that cattle movement is the main  cause of spread of the bacteria so, bearing in mind the current obsession for badger culling, why are there STILL loopholes to get over the movement restrictions, even in the so called hot spot areas? 

    4. Why is Defra taking no notice of the overwhelming opposition of the public to the badger culling proposal, as also evidenced from last year’s consultation exercise which has been ignored.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annabella.laws Annabella Blackfox Laws

    Why are we not vaccinating like the rest of the EU?
    You would rather go gun hoe and destroy our ENDANGERED wildlife for a short term fix that wont work, and you REFUSE to vaccinate which would SOLVE the issue.
     Also why are we not looking at the living condtions of the cows? many that get BTB live in awful conditions in their own bodily waist that’s never cleared out. That is a KNOWN breeding ground for TB. your ment to be VETS you should KNOW this stuff!

  • Pshughes

    Why is there not a full programme of Badger vaccinations, following the lead of National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust taking place NOW?
     How can the shooting of free running Badgers possibly discriminate between healthy and Tb infected Badgers?
    How can the shooting of free running Badgers not lead to anything but long and drawn out deaths for many Badgers,as the chances of an instant ‘kill’ are very remote?
     Why are the findings of a ten year multi million pound study that rejected a Badger cull being ignored?
    Why is the overwhelming public opposition to the cull(see BBC poll in the summer, plus DEFRAs own consultation),plus every animal welfare and conservation groups advice,in addition to many scientists including Lord Krebs and Sir David Attenborough’s rejection of the policy being ignored?
    Why are not far far tighter rules and procedures being put in place on reducing cattle to cattle transmission?

  • Malcolmwhitmore

    The badger /TB  issue fallacies are clearly identified by fellow contributors in their comments. It is crystal clear that our government is being pushed by farming and business interests to a politically expedient decision.
    Please stand up and stick to your  principles for  a scientific approach to the problem which clearly is not to cull badgers for unrealisable fantasies of reducing cattle slaughters.
    A new approach to the issue is needed looking at accurate data obtained so far and a review of all practical ways of dealing with the issue. 

  • concerned conservationist

    The proposed cull involves shooting free running badgers at night. The research which had equivocal results as to the benefits of culling involved trapping and then killing badgers. There is therefore no evidence available to show that this type of cull will work. Does the chief vet think:
    1. Will such a cull endanger human life?
    2. will such a cull mean that there will be significant numbers of wounded badgers rather than dead badgers?
    3. Will such a cull increase perturbation of badger populations more than one involving trapping?
    4. Presumably the reason for a free shooting cull is that it is cheaper than a trapping cull. How would costs compare for a trapping cull and a badger vaccination programme which involved trapping?

  • Derek Hector

    A request for the 38 Degree Team. (We met in Cardiff recently).
    When you have drawn up your list of questions, can a copy be sent to the Expert Committee looking into Bovine TB in Wales via John Griffiths AM, The Welsh Assembly, The Bay, Cardiff.  John Griffiths AM set up this Committee.
    Bovine TB is not unique to England and I’d hate it to be thought that the Committeee is acting in isolation here in Wales.
    Thanks
    Derek

  • Lesley Dance

    Why is there a delay in producing a cattle vaccine and an oral vaccine for badgers ?
    Why can it not be predicted with any certainty when these vaccines might be ready to deploy ?
    Why not divert funds from culling into more research/employment of specialists to speed up the development of these vaccines ?

    Please don’t say ‘lack of funds’ when we all know that when it is the Government’s will, the money suddenly appears. How much money has been wasted already when it could have gone straight into the research needed to bring about the vaccines ? 

  • M Norrington

    Emininent scientists and wildlife experts, including Sir David Attenborough strenuously advise that the proposed cull is not a solution to the spread of Bovine TB.
    It is not actually known that badgers pass the disease to cattle. It is not actually known that deer pass the disease to cattle.
    And more particularly, it is not actually known that the reverse may be the case, that cattle pass the disease to  indigenous wildlife.

    May I ask why you appear to persistently ignore the above.

  • Sion

    Are the government’s proposals ref. culling badgers linked to the government’s proposals to sell off land for housing? With badgers totally eliminated from their land, farmers could supplement their income by selling off  the odd field to developers, who would then be free to build wherever they want to. At present, badger protection legislation prohibits this.

  • Pat Scoffield

    What  up to date evidence is there that Badgers are infected with bTB and if they are have they not caught it from cattle, in view of the amount urine and excrement that cattle deposit on the fields.
    How will you know how many badgers are in an area so that you will know when you have killed seventy percent of them?
    Some have quoted that only thirty percent of badgers are infected with bTB and if this is the case could you not end up killing the seventy percent of badger who are healthy and leaving the thirty percent that are infected?
    As there is little risk to human health from bTB and that the majority of cattle are killed before the disease  has chance to develop to cause them any suffering are we not tackling this issue from the wrong direction we are already killing thousand of cattle and now looking to kill thousands of badgers for no benefit to humans.  

  • L. Thomas

    Vaccination of cattle and badgers has been scientifically proved to be the most effective method to control Bovine TB. Why is the government not immediately implementing a mass badger/cattle vaccination programme?

  • Michael Griffiths

    Name and shame the b……d

  • Ken Golding

    Dear Professor Gibbons,
                                        If this ill conceived plan to cull Badgers proceeds and is then proved to be a failure ( as it will be ) Who will be held responsible for the waste of public funds and resources and will they be duly held to account ?

  • HANCOXM

    As a former member of the govmt.tb panel, with 25 years involovement

    NEITHER THE ISG NOR ANYONE ELSE HAVE SHOWN HOW BADGERS MIGHT REALISTICALLY GIVE COWS A RESPIRATORY LUNG INFECTION
    MARTIN HANCOX (HANCOXM@LIVE.CO.UK)

  • Anonymous

    Questions for Prof Gibbens:

    1. Why is it still possible,  for a farmer to link a Cumbrian field to a field in Gloucestershire (a btb hotspot), as a single holding (SOA), and thus get round the necessity for pre-movement testing? Also, why is the standstill period (time in which a cattle cannot be moved after being moved onto a holding), only 6 days and not applicable if moving between SOA holdings? This allows farmers to buy in cattle from a hotspot area, hold them for only six days and then sell them on at market (where only the last holding is shown) as though they came from a clear area or indeed simply move them between holdings listed on one SOA.
    2. If a herd experiences a breakdown in the US, either the whole herd is depopulated and they are not allowed to restock for at least a year or the full herd is tested, infected animals removed and the rest quarantined for 4 years. When btb has been shown to remain in the soil for up to 15 months, why are these measures not employed here?3. I’d like to know why we are using a test designed as a herd test, to identify individual animals with btb (with sensitivity between 75 and 95%, ie missing up to ¼ of infected cattle). These animals only are removed from a herd, when in other European countries and indeed the US, and New Zealand, depopulation of the full herd is carried out to ensure that tb cannot remain.

  • http://twitter.com/___Jo___ Jo Bates

    Q.1. I’d like to know why only a handful of the 30 or so cattle based measures have been implemented since they were recommended in the ISG report, and why it is that we are moving straight to a cull when we have not properly (and compulsorily) implemented all these first? Some of the measures have been implemented, by these are only a minority (pre-movement testing only recently, and only very recently before movement to agricultural shows). We are using New Zealand as a case study on which to base our claims that we need to eradicate wildlife reservoirs or we will be unsuccessful, but New Zealand has not only used poison (causing near eradication in some areas of the possum but also widespread deaths of other species) but there are many differences both between the hosts and the ecology of the area. The two situations are not comparable.
    Q.2. Given that it is likely to be 6 years before the efficacy of free-shooting has been tested (albeit without any form of control area with which to compare), and the vaccination in its injectable form is already being used on badgers, why can we not use those five years instead to trial badger vaccination?  According to the ISG final report “there is a good case for starting a vaccination programme even though a proportion of animals are infected. The key objective is to reduce transmission risks – between badgers and from badgers to cattle. Although desirable, there is no need to vaccinate all badgers or stop them becoming infected to have an impact on transmission.” and “when used in conjunction with cattle control measures. Bovine TB is unlikely to be eradicated from the UK unless the secondary wildlife reservoir is addressed and badger vaccines currently offer the best prospect for tackling this”.
    Q.3. Are infected cattle that are missed during the skin test procedure showing anergic response? What is known about the anergic reaction to the skin test and how many cattle are anergic at various times in their lives?

  • Julie

    Acording to my MP, “the Government is working hard to develop both a cattle vaccine and an oral badger vaccine against bovine TB, and it has committed to investing in this work”. But it is only investing £20 million over the next five years, ie a tiny fraction of the one billion pounds that they estimate it might cost the economy to deal with BTB over the next decade. I have a number of questions: (1) Why is the government only committing a measly £4 million per year over 5 years to vaccine development, while at the same time committing taxpayers resources to a method of culling badgers they say will have to be continued for 9 years in order to achieve a reduction in bovine TB of only 16 per cent?  (2) What scientific evidence do they have that their chosen method of killing badgers (free shooting) will lead to this level of reduction in TB, and over this particular time period?  (3) What percentage reduction in cattle TB rates is expected to have been achieved after 5 years of culling badgers, ie at the point when the current commitment to funding vaccine research expires? (4) how much money will have been spent on culling badgers during this same five year period? (5) How likely is it that effective vaccines will be ready in 5 years? (6) How much vaccine research and development can be achieved with £4 million per year?

  • William Howard

    Very good clear questions for the vets. Thankyou!  Just hope they will listen.
    If only our government would act in a logical way for once!

  • Jo Bates-Keegan

    Q.4. Why do we not have post-movement testing as Scotland has? 

    Q.5. Why are DEFRA still not using gamma interferon (blood) test along with the skin test in all high-incidence areas across England and Wales, when we know the skin test used alone works at around 80% accuracy and produces false negatives?

  • Jo Bates-Keegan

    I’d like to ask Professor Gibbens also (and finally!) Science has shown that culling badgers actually increases the % of badgers carrying btb in the remaining badger population. Therefore, not only is it possible that we have been making the situation worse over the last 50 years on a national as well as a local scale, but there is a possibility that culling will eventually mean that once the badger population recovers, it will recover with a higher level of btb.  This is not something we have had time to evaluate (from the RBCT) as it takes at least ten years for badgers to repopulate an area. Has this been taken into account in the development of this ‘pilot’? Clearly this is not to the benefit of the badgers.

    (Or would it be cynical to assume badgers will be exterminated from those areas and remain so, since there is no-one able to check badger numbers without landowner permission.)

  • Milesy

    To Defra’s Chief Vet. One of the issues to be monitored is humaneness of shooting.Monitors in this trial, and any extended shooting scheme later, cannot be everywhere at once. How will you know how many wounded or inhumanely killed badgers have got away, or been found later and just buried, in order to make shooting look humane. Those doing the shooting have a vested interest in hiding the wounding of badgers.

  • Milesy

    Defra’s reply to a frined of mine said how you were looking seriously at vaccination but it would take time. Why then did the Govt cancel all but one of the previous government’s planned vaccination trials, and then concentrate on this shooting trial instead?

  • Hilary

    These are not questions but potential answers to the severity of the problems; may I refer you to http://www.rethinkbtb.org 

  • Michael Ritchie

    In your capacity as a
    veterinary surgeon, guided only by the ethical standards required of your
    profession towards both animals and clients rather than the legal restrictions
    emanating from the test and cull policy, can you see any reason or any argument
    for not vaccinating cattle in your care against BTB.

  • Margaret Trigg

    I would like to put the following comments and question to Prof Gibbens
     
    I am an Agricultural Scientist with a Master of Science in Animal Production and Health.

    I whole heartedly agree that bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a serious and costly animal health problem in the UK.
     
    I am unclear however as to why you state that we are at a point where cattle measures alone will not prevent the spread of the disease in the worst affected areas.  The figures which on the DEFRA website  show a reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered in West Wales as part of controlling disease of 44% in 2010 compared to 2008.  This improvement has been brought about by the introduction in 2008 of a stricter testing regime and subsequently, improved cattle control measures. These figures illustrate that improved ‘cattle focused’ measures alone can have a positive and dramatic impact on bTB reduction.  No Badgers were killed to achieve this result.
     
    The new and more robust approach to the cattle based measures which you deem insufficient is in fact delivering results and there is scope for further disease control from these methods alone
     
    Why then do you give any consideration to the reintroduction of the culling of badgers as a means of control of bTB at this time?   The culling of badgers as a sustainable method of control of bTB has been proven time and again to be ineffective.
     
    You state that your long term aim is to introduce a vaccine for cattle and for badgers as a means of bTB control.  You also state that developing an oral vaccine for badgers remains a top priority for the government.  However, in direct contradiction to these statements I understand that the programme of research into a vaccine for badgers has been the victim of the recent government cuts.  I cannot understand how this equates with a rating of ‘Top Priority’.  Please reassure me that this information is incorrect and that full funding is still in place.
     
    My greatest concern is your reference to the Randomised Badger Culling Trail (RBCT) as your evidence for the current proposed policy of a localised culling trial.  You state most specifically that the policy which it is proposed to trial is one of targeted local reductions in badger numbers.
     
    The emphatic conclusions of the RBCT, which represented nearly ten years of work (1998 – 2007) and nearly £50 million of taxpayer investment and was conducted by independent scientists, was that badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the control of bTB in Britain!   Culling in localised areas particularly did not work; it caused infection to spread to adjoining areas through perturbation, that is the disruption to the organisation of the social groups, which caused surviving badgers to roam more widely.   
     
    The view is further supported by evidence from the so called ‘Four Counties Trial’ in Ireland which concluded that the culling of badgers may show results in the control of bTB if 100% of badgers are removed.  To embark on a programme which in order to achieve any success would require the local extinction of badgers would be in stark contravention of the will of parliament which is the protection of the badger.
     
    You state that the culling method will be piloted in two areas to confirm the effectiveness of controlled shooting.  Is it the effectiveness of this method as a means of control of bTB?  If so surely you would need to conduct a randomised controlled and replicated experiment?  Or by effectiveness do you mean how effectively badgers are killed by shooting when free running?
     
    I understand that the cost of culling will be met by the farmer however, who will monitor the behaviour of licensed culling groups? Who will be present to ensure their behaviour is in accordance with their licence?  Who will gather the necessary information in a scientifically relevant manner in order that meaningful conclusions can be drawn?
    I also ask who will ensure the safety of the public in the pilot areas where this shooting of badgers while free running is to be practised? 
     
    I must conclude that this proposal is ill thought out and driven by politics, not science.  It is simply not evidence based.
     
    I urge you most strongly to have the courage to concentrate on those evidence based methods which will deliver a sustainable result and by so doing you will serve all  interested parties, that is  lovers of the British countryside, livestock farmers and all taxpayers.
     
    I feel most strongly that the badger is a member of British wildlife to be enjoyed by all.  The badger does not belong to the farming community alone.
     

  • http://www.naturama.co.uk Endymion

    I would like to ask why it isn’t currently European Legislation to vaccinate Cattle from bTB? I do understand all cattle are registered ‘from sperm to table’ and that vaccination could devalue meat. Yet, bTB is killed in the cooking process and if vaccination removes the problem this should make it completely safe especially to slaughterers since bTB is airbourne. Shouldn’t this make the produce more  valuable? Badgers are not the only animal that spreads the disease, rats, deer and other wildlife spread it too so wiping badgers from the face of the planet will not help. So why won’t Europe accept cattle vaccination as the answer? Surely that’s where public money should be going – to a positive remedy.

  • 4FoxandHare

    Scientific studies have conclusively shown cattle on  farmland with properly maintained hedgerows and wildlife areas and secure storage of food to have significantly less incidences of bTB. So why is the government not putting in place more measures to replace lost hedgerows, etc, and to repair degraded ones. 

    Why is the government so hell-bent on subjecting the tax payer to the enormous bill of £1bn over the next ten years in the ill-conceived and muddled effort to combat bTB, when they have only allocated £20m over five years to investigating vaccines.  And why has it not put hygiene on cattle farms the very top priority?

    We know that  bTB is endemic in many wild animals, including birds and feral cats. Why then is the badger being used as a scapegoat?

  • M.Griffiths

    Dear Prof. Gibbens
    There is a very interesting document circulating in the farming industry http://www.rethinkbtb.org
    which has the following proposal:
    Why not work towards this common sense policy instead of continuing with the failed “test and cull policy ?

    “An acceptance that Bovine TB is not a significant human health risk in the UK and that farmers know best what will work in their circumstances:

     Farms would be free to choose to vaccinate cattle* and/or various degrees of compulsory vaccination could be introduced.

     Milk would continue to be pasteurised.

     Inspection at abattoirs would continue.

     Farms would be free to continue routine testing and acquire herd TB free status or to choose vaccinated status, in response to market demand or farm preference.

     Any animal showing actual symptoms of Bovine TB would be tested and either slaughtered, or in appropriate cases, could be isolated and treated.

     Farmers would have the freedom to choose (within guidelines) the most suitable means for Bovine TB control in their circumstances. This is how most animal health problems are successfully managed.”

    *Cattle Vaccination using BCG is currently being deployed in Ethiopia and could be introduced quickly into England and Wales (with a Diva test) if there is the political will.

  • http://www.naturama.co.uk Endymion

    I’d also like to ask whether bTB can be bred out of cattle? I realise this is a long term process and there are different strains of bTB, but could it be done?

  • Former cattle owner

    1. Why is bovine TB treated any differently to other diseases? I realise it is a zoonosis but whilst there is widespread pasteurisation the risk to humans is negligible?

    2. If bTB free status is so important to Defra why has the skin test not been used as it was designed  - as a herd test where herds are depopulated and restocking delayed if any reactors are found?  This is the procedure in other countries where the disease has allegedly been ‘eradicated’. There are also more stringent movement restrictions for cattle. Here there are loopholes so cattle can still be moved around, even from and to hot spot areas.

  • Former cattle owner

    Why does Defra continue to mislead farmers and the public about this disease? In the cattle owner handbook it states that bovine TB is not treatable. It is. There are also several unsubstantiated claims regarding the effectiveness of the tests, which were highlighted in the recent court case re Boxster and in the Bovine TB Rethink document at http://www.rethinkbtb.org  It is implied throughout that all reactors (and IRs) are diseased animals yet the skin test only indicates the animal has been exposed to Mycobacteria and most cattle so diagnosed would continue to lead a healthy life as their immune systems would deal with the challenge.

  • Norma Angove

    How can you say your plan to kill free running badgers at night with high powered rifles is science-led?  when there are no control areas designated or monitored with the shooting of free running badgers to compare with? 

    Since it is recognised the highest transmission of bTB is during transportation (cow to cow transmission) Why has there never been a mandatory ruling that all herds are tested prior to movement?

    The cattle based controls recently introduced in South Wales (although not as strictly carried out as recommended) has shown a reduction of a least 54% less cattle slaughtered due to bTB in the intensive areas.  This shows a greater reduction, constantly reducing year on year proving  cattle based measures work far better than any other.  Your best estimates for reducing bTB by killing badgers gives very low percentages, therefore, we ask WHY do you persist in this old, failed method of culling badgers?  when our best scientists, Lord Krebs, Professor John Bourne and their top teams of scientists, including Sir David Attenborough state culling badgers will not stop bTB in cattle.  WHY don’t you take their advice?    

  • Anonymous

    Many farmers want the badger’s protected status removed so that they can control numbers of badgers as they wish and cite their supposed and anecdotal increase in numbers as well as disease carriers. Isn’t this what culling badgers is really about?

  • E Stirling

    Bovine TB could be controlled and eliminated by vaccinating cattle (together with simple measures to inprove cattle husbandry). This would be easy, effective and less costly than the current repeated veterinary testing regime. Why does the government not proceed to press for changes to the EU food imports legislation - or simply deem that all exported meat be home-killed and frozen for export?
     

  • Frances

    There are people within the community who simply enjoy shooting wildlife, regarding many species as pests.  How is the government going to monitor that it is only the licensed shooters using the firearms?  What safeguards are in place to prevent unlicensed individuals taking advantage of the cull to practise their own aim?
    What is to prevent the dumping of carcasses as ‘road kill’, as already happens in some areas, to skew the figures of ‘humane’ killing?
    Many footpaths abut or cross private land where culling will take place and there a lot of people who walk at night in the countryside.  What safeguards are in place to ensure public safety?  How can public safety be guaranteed?

  • Cynic

    Previous culling trials have already proved that culling has limited success and projections for this cull are a 16% reduction in bovine TB. This is simply another ploy by the Coalition Government to save the money it spends on compensation for cattle killed. By passing the onus to farmers it takes responsibility and costs of action away from Defra and badgers are another casualty of spending cuts.

  • Steve Hawkes

    No criticism intended - and good on you for having the bravery to say that you were one who was previously involved in using cage traps as part of an earlier “killing” exercise, to try and shoot badgers !!!.  However it seems you may in part have misunderstood Michael’s message. He only actually refers to ”free shooting” being a previously untried method. The rest of your sentiments are excellent.

    Steve Hawkes

  • Richardangove

    Why is the policy so narrowly focussed on killing badgers and not taking into account there has been a 54% fall in slaughtered cattle through bTB in the south Wales intensive action area since this was introduced recently?

    Is DEFRA planning to hand out licences to farmers with limited shooting experience or to professional marksmen who have said themselves it would be difficult for them as professionals to get a single clean kill shot due to the badgers low profile and body structure.  Also taking into consideration the time of night, the light levels, and a moving cautious target?

    Why not put our taxpayers money into the Vaccination programmes that YOU KNOW WILL STOP bTB? 

    Why waste our money on out of date, failed measures that you know will never stop bTB in cattle? Why not put our money into the vaccinations you KNOW WILL STOP bTB. Even if we have to wait a little while for these to be perfected, it won’t take our scientists long to do that now.  Much sooner than the 9yrs. you say it will take to see any positive results from culling and then only to discover further bTB increases as before, and in 4yrs it will be back as bad as ever.  

  • David Maunder

    Why have more logical alternatives not been fully considered?

  • Jane

    Vaccinations sounds like the best way to go….what is the proof that badgers spread the disease?

  • Libby Anderson

    If the government does decide to go ahead with allowing farmers to kill badgers, despite the widespread public opposition to this approach and the disagreement of experts like Lord Krebs, what welfare protocols will you put in place to try to ensure that badgers do not suffer unnecessarily? 

  • Yodamyferret

    i agree with all that you have stated and my apologies if my post seemed to be aimed at Michael, it was not. i simply picked up on the ‘shooting not tried’ sentence. bearing in mind the secrecy that  surrounded us in those days i am not surprised few people knew of the trial. my most sincere apologies to Michael if he thought i was being rude and picking on him, i was not. indeed i agree with most of that which he had written. i simply used a small part of his post as a launch pad for my post. just as a matter of interest, out of the hundreds of badgers that i have seen spread over at least 4 counties, i have only ever seen two erythristic badgers (ginger), they are absolutely stunning. if this ridiculous notion of a cull gets the go ahead it could well mean the extinction of this particular form of a much loved british mammal. when i joined MAFF in the 70′s i signed the official secrets act. when i left their employ i refused to sign it again as i was then disgusted with the way they behaved and disgusted with myself for being part of it.

  • de

    I had this link to me by a friend, it’s a video of Peter
    Smith, Chief Executive of Wildwood Trust’s talking about badgers and the
    British Farming Industry: Peter holds a 1st degree in
    biochemistry so is very qualified within his profession to summarise on the
    proposed badger cull and the reasons behind the proposal. Although I cant say I
    agree with all that he says, most of it  makes perfect sense to me. if you are
    interested click on the link and look at  

    The Great Badger Swindle – Why industrial farming
    wants to blame the badger for Bovine TB

    Why industrial farming wants to blame the badger for
    Bovine TB

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYuf-h9XWpY&feature=related

  • June

    Question:  What degree of bad husbandry – and there is is a lot of that –  is responsible for any virus to be consumed by cattle? All viruses lurk in dirt and mold – air or water-borne will attack where possible, so transport and cattle markets are all suspect. Last week-end there was a letter printed in the FT from the Editor of Practical Farm Ideas about the off-hand comments he has noted from some farmers about something as basic as clean drinking water for cattle. Dirty water, badly stored fodder and general bad conditions are as much to blame, in my opinion. If infected cattle are sold the whole shed full of cattle  at the next farm wi,ll be infected. And so it goes on.

  • Roger Cottis

    Would you agree that intensive farming is the source of many
    if not all of farm related diseases?

    Why might you agree that culling badgers is the best option
    when all of the peer reviewed science indicates that it would be counter
    productive?

    Would you agree with the majority of informed scientists
    that the only viable solution is to concentrate all efforts on a vaccine, not
    only for badgers but also for cattle? 

    Will you please verify that there is a marker available for the
    cattle BCG vaccine to enable a reactor to be recognised? 

    Will you suggest to the appropriate Westminster minister
    that to let Europe prevent the use of a cattle vaccine is only going to exacerbate
    a problem which is solvable by the use of a traceable vaccine?

  • Maureen

    When humans were living in overcrowded conditions TB was rife, farmers keep lots of cattle in confined indoor space wich is unnatural and a sorce for TB to spread with stress and filth being the main factor, why are DEFRA not doing more to test cattle under these conditions to establish good husbandry to rid our cattle of this disease.
    Also what is being done to stop farmers with a breakdown of TB on their farms from taking Cattle to exhibit at agricultural shows and other events as done recently, and what are you going to do with the farmres that take the law into their own hands and kill Badgers unlawfully as we have recently seen in the press and on TV.

  • Bryan Griffiths

    Why do humans think we have the right to slaughter one species to save another, just because we have a vested financial interest.  Are we not all occupants of this planet?  As the so called top of the tree species, should we not be trying to achieve amicable solutions to all living creatures based on science instead of reaction? Are we human because we can rationalise and solve these problems, or do we just give in to what others refer to as survival of the fittest?

  • Yodamyferret

    to even contemplate shooting badgers at night on this scale is shear
    lunacy.kindly tell me defra  what type of weapon you intend to use and
    what type of person for that matter. i know when i worked for you that
    you employed people that were known to be badger baiters and were also
    involved in dog fighting so the humane part is straight out of the
    window. back to the weapon used, a shotgun with large bore shot at close
    range might do the job, then again the amount of wounding only would be
    enormous. if you want to use a rifle then it has to be at least 222 as a
    standard 22 is too small. the potential danger range is in excess of a
    mile for both these weapons. one could always go to a full bore rifle,
    762 or worse, that way you could blast your way through peoples houses
    and into there living rooms with ease. i have had a few ciders whilst
    typing this and yet i can still see the dangers in this mad plan. how
    much have you had to drink to even think about it. for all our sakes,
    vaccinate. 

  • Yodamyferret

    hear hear. our arrogance will be our undoing…….. for all our sakes, vaccinate. 

  • Yodamyferret

    sorry folks meant sheer not shear. i did warn you about the scrump lol

  • Yodamyferret

    spot on. i strongly believe that the old methods of farming such as strict cleanliness and plenty of whitewash (lime kills all the germs) can do more to combat tb than anything.  one farmer who complained about the mess the badgers were making had a damned cheek, when i arrived at the sett the small stream behind it was a stream of slurry from his farm instead of water.

  • Frankie

    Badgers have been persecuted in these islands since earliest recorded history. Then it was undisguised brutality with dogs and primitive weapons. Now it is dressed up in spurious political argument and false science but the basic mind set is the same. The countryside is full of people for whom tradition is more important than truth and who seek to justify their prejudices with lies and half truths. Some farmers are always seeking scapegoats amongst the animal kingdom to hide their own inadequacies. Some have been breaking the law by illegally killing badgers and by fiddling the books regarding their ear tagged cattle. These same farmers are now to be trusted to conduct a dangerous and sensitive activity and report back truthfully to the authorities. My question for Defra scientist is How can any honest scientist ignore the truth of what will happen if the proposed trial cull goes ahead? Scientifically it is unjustified – and you know it – and morally it is reprehensible, it outrages all decent people. Do you really want to be part of the most recent badger persecution in a centuries old history of this mindlessness?

  • Yodamyferret

    add something that smells like socks to the opposite of woman

  • Lucie_byrne

    Why not try investigating the research that Dick Roper conducted in Devon into the link between low Selenium levels in maize and TB. Badgers love to eat maize but it has low levels of Selenium, cattle receive supplemets to compensate for this definency. So Mr Rope placed blocks of molasses laced with high doses of selenium near the four badger setts on his farm and hasn’t had a case of TB since. Why is this not being investigated instead of an inhumane and controversial cull?

  • Pete

    why is vacination not being considered??

  • Zan

    Culling does not work, this method has been tried and failed before……See below comment for interesting research Dick Roper/Devon…..There is always another way instead of the all too familiar Kill now, Regret later…they are of the few indigenous species left in the U

  • Tjwbrooke

    in reply to zan, im afraid he`s totally wrong, culling does work if done efficiently, a trial cull done properly was carried out in a place near thornbury in south west gloucestershire in the 70`s. the area in question is surrounded by natural boundaries, ie the severn estuary, the m4 and the m5. every effort was made to remove at least 95% of badgers from the area ,the results are that 40 years on thios area is virtually tb free,because no badgers have repopulated that area, a similar result was achieved in offelly in southern ireland. the results are recorded and im sure are still available. read them for yourselves. the truth is that tb will never be beasten if a wildlife resevoir is left to reinfect our cattle herds.

  • Yodamyferret

    WHAT A PACK OF CODSWOLLOP. WERE YOU THERE AT THE TIME TJ, BECAUSE I WAS AND I CAN TELL YOU FOR A CERTAIN FACT THAT THOSE NUMBERS YOU HAVE QUOTED WERE NEVER ACHIEVED OR ANY WHERE NEAR IT COME TO THAT. I REMEMBER HOW MANY CAGES WERE STILL VISITED AND SET OFF WITHOUT A CATCH AND YOU ONLY NEED TO LOOK AT THE ROAD KILL (ONE OF MY TASKS TO PICK UP ROAD KILLED BADGERS) TO HAVE SEEN THET THERE WERE STILL PLENTY OF BADGERS IN THE AREA.    WHO DO YOU WORK FOR TJ? NOT A CERTAIN GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT BY ANY CHANCE IS IT?

  • Yodamyferret

    PS. GO AND CHECK THE MAP AND YOU WILL SEE THAT THE BOUNDARIES YOU QUOTED ARE FULL OF HOLES. TO THE NORTH IS COMPLETELY OPEN AND THE M5 IS NOT THE LOCAL VERSION OF THE BERLIN WALL. THERE ARE NUMEROUS A AND B ROADS CROSSING UNDER AND OVER THE M4 M5 AND M48 MOTORWAYS CREATING AMPLE HOLES FOR BADGER CROSSING AS WELL AS AMPLE HOLES IN YOUR ARGUMENT.

  • John Davenport

    In reply to Tjwbrooke culling has been proven NOT to work in iradicating TB. It is impossible, look at the figures, a cull of 70% badger population over 9 years will produce at best a 16% reduction in TB. Even if Badgers were completely wiped out TB would still be rife, as proven by many culls where TB actually rose. This is because it is a COW disease that is passed on from COW to COW .Perhaps the estuary,M4 and M5 stopped cows being moved into and out of the area or they were all shot along with the badgers!!!!!  
    Take some time and read all the scientific studies including the the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB which was set up by the Government in 1998 to conduct the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT). This is one of the largest studies to date spanning over nearly a decade. The ISG concluded that badger culling can make NO meaningful contribution to the control of cattle TB in Britain and may make it worse. They also concluded that weakness in cattle testing regimes contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease, in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. If like the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, you want to look like a complete fool you could always try to dispute their findings. Oh and if you are not aware of what the ISG stated regarding the Governments chief scientific advisor on his take of the ISG report here it is :
     
    The ISG’s analysis shows that Sir David King made fundamental scientific errors in his use and interpretation of the information in the ISG’s final report on bovine TB.  The ISG reveals that Sir David:- incorrectly interpreted the significance of statistical confidence intervals;- excluded important data without justification;- failed to consider ecological data which supported the ISG’s conclusions; and- misunderstood mathematical modelling of TB and consequently under-estimated the benefits of cattle-based TB control measures;- called for badger culling in areas that are too small to be beneficial, without providing scientific evidence to support his advice.
    Sir David King’s report is ‘inexpert and unbalanced’ because his group lacked the necessary expertise in ‘complex statistical modelling and data analysis’.  Professor Mollison illustrates with ‘a little bit of mathematics’ how the Chief Scientist’s conclusions are ‘one-sided’, ‘muddled’, ‘wrong’, ‘untrue’ and inadequate ‘as a basis for government action’.

     IN ESSENCE CULLING HAS BEEN PROVEN NOT WORK !!”"

  • Judi Nowar

    I think TJ might be the same guy (who calls himself NEWT) who appears on Brian May’s SAVE ME forum. He keeps repeating the same tired old rubbish all the time. Likes to think he knows it all but really he knows diddly!!

  • John Davenport

    In reply to Tjwbrooke culling has been proven NOT to work in iradicating TB. It is impossible, look at the figures, a cull of 70% badger population over 9 years will produce at best a 16% reduction in TB. Even if Badgers were completely wiped out, TB would still be rife as proven by many culls, where TB actually rose. This is because it is a COW disease that is passed on from COW to COW .Perhaps the estuary,M4 and M5 stopped cows being moved into and out of the area or they were all shot along with the badgers!!!!!  
    Take some time and read all the scientific studies including the the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB which was set up by the Government in 1998 to conduct the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT). This is one of the largest studies to date spanning over nearly a decade. The ISG concluded that badger culling can make NO meaningful contribution to the control of cattle TB in Britain and may make it worse. They also concluded that weakness in cattle testing regimes contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease, in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. If like the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, you want to look like a complete fool you could always try to dispute their findings. Oh and if you are not aware of what the ISG stated regarding the Governments chief scientific advisor on his take of the ISG report here it is :
     
    The ISG’s analysis shows that Sir David King made fundamental scientific errors in his use and interpretation of the information in the ISG’s final report on bovine TB.  The ISG reveals that Sir David:- incorrectly interpreted the significance of statistical confidence intervals;- excluded important data without justification;- failed to consider ecological data which supported the ISG’s conclusions; and- misunderstood mathematical modelling of TB and consequently under-estimated the benefits of cattle-based TB control measures;- called for badger culling in areas that are too small to be beneficial, without providing scientific evidence to support his advice.
    Sir David King’s report is ‘inexpert and unbalanced’ because his group lacked the necessary expertise in ‘complex statistical modelling and data analysis’.  Professor Mollison illustrates with ‘a little bit of mathematics’ how the Chief Scientist’s conclusions are ‘one-sided’, ‘muddled’, ‘wrong’, ‘untrue’ and inadequate ‘as a basis for government action’.
     
    IN ESSENCE CULLING HAS BEEN PROVEN AND WILL NOT NOT WORK !!”"

  • Judi Nowar

    Killing badgers seems to be the only answer some like TJ or is it NEWT can come up with. They ignore the science that says killing these poor animals will not work. 

  • Yodamyferret

    IN AN EARLIER POST I STATED THAT A CERTAIN PERSON DID NOT WORK IN A PROPER SCIENTIFIC MANNER BACK IN THE 80′S. I STAND BY WHAT I SAID AS A FACT IS A FACT. HOWEVER, I ALSO STATED THAT PEOPLE CHANGE AND THIS WOULD SEEM TO BE THE CASE HERE. PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE AND YOU WILL SEE WHAT HAS CHANGED MY MIND.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/8525522.stm   MY APOLOGIES TO YOU SIR AND I AM GLADDENED TO SEE THAT LIFE CHANGED YOU AS IT DID ME.  JUST A SMALL POINT OF INTEREST. HOW BIASED IS THE BBC (BIASED BROADCASTING CORPORATION) COULD THEY HAVE PICKED A MORE EVIL LOOKING PHOTOGRAPH OF A BADGER?

  • dbadgdorm

    Jim paiceOn countryfile Jim Paice stated on countryfile, that 70% of the badgers must be killed in 6 weeks to make it work, what will be the target in the second, third and fouth  year.
    dave

    On countryfile Jim Paice stated on countryfile, that 70% of the badgers must be killed in 6 weeks to make it work, what will be the target in the second, third and fouth  year.
    dave

  • A Baabaa

    if tb is caused by cow to cow contact, how do you explain an outbreak of tb in cattle that have NO neighbouring cattle and do not buy in any cattle off other farms ?

  • Jamesoriordan

     mary ;; how was it that your commont was put at the very end ;;  the only one that was worth reading  ;;you are on the ball but you are not aware  of the real scandal and conspiricy and lies  behind the scene for over sixty years.. ther e is no way id lower my status  to gibbons asking a crook of his callabour to answer questions ;; cattle  tb is about three things ;; money ; employment;;;; and trade ;;;  can you emagin people eating this so called deseased  meat   ; when doctors and the public at large believe that all these reactors are insinurated;; mary i say to you  could you convey this message to jim  paice or the prime minister to have to have this scheme  scrapped  for good and glory  .. from james oriordan limerick ireland 003536398271

  • Carl Holmes

    are we really gona sit back and allow the goverment to cull badgers come on people lets force the goverment into another embarrising u turn we can make 2012 a massive year

  • Inga Buckley

    to be asking for defras vet approval is like asking a pregnant women does she want child support! 7million-likely more. of course someone in the business to gain will want that business or they wont get paid the 110 or so grand a year much longer! makes me sick

  • http://www.englandonashoestring.com/?p=7293 A Cure for Badger TB?

    [...] the petitions at 38 Degrees (here’s another one) and Brian May’s website, to ask the environment secretary to look [...]

  • http://hilaryburrage.com/2012/09/19/the-problem-isnt-badgers-its-politically-led-bad-science/ The Problem Isn’t Badgers, It’s (Politically Led?) Bad Science « Hilary Burrage

    [...] of scientists have been in a grossly expensive huddle on bTB for several years; the cost (whether justified or not) by now must be incredible.   And for a while it looked as though progress might be made.  [...]