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Published in The Farmers Guardian 27th. January 2006.


It is ironic that those who attempt to exonerate badgers of being the reservoir of TB infection for cattle show such little concern for the suffering those badgers with TB undergo.

The usual route for the TB bacilli to enter the body is either by inhalation or by ingestion. They can enter through open wounds and bites. Either way, the bacilli pass through the throat before going down the trachea to the lungs and/or down the oesophagus to the intestinal tract.

The body`s first line of defence after a challenge from TB is the lymph glands, which become inflamed and then develop abscesses - lesions. Lymph glands are scattered throughout the body, with three pairs in the throat, five groups in the chest and many hundreds protecting the intestinal tract. Lesions in the chest glands can be the result of either inhalation or ingestion of the bacilli.

After a period of time - months or even years, shorter if the challenge was very high- then the bacilli will break out from the gland(s) into the bloodstream to settle in various organs particularly those with a filter system such as the lungs, liver and kidneys. Here, the body attempts to isolate the infection by walling it off to form other abscesses. It is at this stage that the animal begins to suffer and becomes infectious to others.

Except in an outbreak of many months or even years duration, when some cattle will be ill and have multiple lesions, the majority (90% plus) of reactor cattle will have no lesions when post-mortemed. This is because, although the animal has been challenged there has been insufficient time for them to develop. Lesions when found, are mainly in the glands of the throat and/or lungs with a few in the intestinal ones.

Martin Hancox`s explanation how cattle could transmit TB to badgers via the "cow pat" is plausible. However, since there would be only a very few cattle with advanced clinical disease involving the intestinal tract and therefore excreting the bacilli, his claim, his claim that it is cattle that are infecting the badgers is very weak. It is even further weakened when he acknowledges " a far higher challenge is needed to get past the lymphatic immune system of the gut"

Infected badgers on the other hand excrete 300,000 bacilli in a teaspoonful of their urine which they are continually drippling (sic) out. So when badgers "do visit barns briefly ( minutes, hours or days?) to access water or food supplies" it is hardly rocket science to understand how badgers transmit TB to cattle.

Is it hypocritical of Martin Hancox and his ilk to allow the suffering of the infected badgers, never mind the mass slaughter of cattle and the despair of the farmers concerned to be further prolonged?

It is a fact that badgers are both the villain and the victim.