Extract from email from Dr Ruth Watkins re Shambo - July 16 2007The option Skanda Vale have chosen is the difficult long and expensive path. This is in contrast to culling and taking the money.
Further testing for infection in Shambo, and perhaps in some at least of the other bovines, must be done in the USA if not also in the UK, and paid for. Treatment will cost at least £5000 (treating an elephant was $40000 in 2005) Treatment will require the supervision of experienced vets, perhaps distantly from the elephant and other zoo treatment schemes, as well as a vet in the UK.
Selection of drugs (at least three different antibiotics) will need to be carefully made and Shambo monitored for drug toxicity and drug levels. Treatment will probably have to be for 9 months.
Shambo will be kept in isolation, more remote than his current temple, and require the attention of the monks every day for drug dosing, and general care.
After treatment he should be able to rejoin his herd fellows, the bachelor group.
What is the source of his infection? Are there other cases in the cattle herd at the monastery? These questions may need an answer.
Provided testing does not harm Shambo the monks I understand would be willing to allow testing to benefit science, and continue testing for TB on Shambo throughout his treatment which is likely to be recommended anyway based on the model of treating elephants.
I believe finally whenever Shambo dies a detailed post mortem and specimens for culture should be done, as on elephants, to determine the success of treatment.
As a small farmer myself on annual TB skin testing in my parish (the occurrence of TB in this part of Carmarthenshire is recent in the last few years) if my favourite and glorious bull Arthur was skin test positive I could not afford or accomplish the above. He would have to be culled. Indeed as a trading farmer and one who receives the single farm payment (unlike the monks who have never received any state payments) I must abide by the current rules even if I think the policy could and should be improved (as most other farmers feel as well) Reprieving Shambo does not give a licence for treating commercial farm animals.
Really the monastery is a hospice for animals, just as it provides hospice care for humans. Any animal on the monastery is not in contact with other farm animals ever again and no animal products are given or sold to the public.
The risk of being infected from bovine TB being shed on the breath of an infected and shedding bovine is very small- exactly how small is not known. But the government (medical service) does nothing about this at all in any farm outbreak. Their only advice is to recommend that drinking unpasteurised milk ceases. The animals culled because of a positive test for bovine TB go into the human food chain if under 30 months and no lesions are seen on the routine meat inspection.
Removing Shambo will have no impact on bovine TB infection. Indeed the infected badgers, deer, other animals and undisclosed bovine animals on farms continue to live, move about freely - or not quite so freely if farm animals. Our problem with bovine TB in the UK remains as bad as ever despite our testing and culling of cattle (largely by the skin test). We need some fresh thinking on the issue and a more holistic solution.
Finally just because I had a miserable time as a junior hospital doctor working 120 hours a week doesn't mean to say that such practices should continue if the job can be improved with shorter hours for others. Real progress needs to be made.