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February 18 2009
 
Dear Mary,
 
 
Yes, it is all pretty grim isn't it?
 
I think the underlying figures in that detailed page of stats and links I sent is telling.
http://www.clearstats.co.uk/badgersandbovinetb.php
 
 The Government are strapped for cash, hence tabular valuation.
 
But without action on the maintenance source of TB in this country, the cost of testing and sampling as incidence ratchets up has now outweighed the farmer compulsory purchase bit. They ( Defra) can bear down on that as hard as they like, but with the sheer weight of numbers, the government add-ons are bound to rise - with no reduction in cost to vets, transport, VLA and associated fellow 'research' travellers.
 
Also the underlying rump of herds not cleared by test/ slaughter is up to 39% in Cornwall, and I suspect as much in other counties. (Devon / Cornwall alone, are slaughtering 400 cattle / week in February 2009) 
 
Biosecurity is a great buzz word and works well with cattle inputs,  but is extremely difficult to enforce in a farm / grazing animal situation, against a strong, versatile and determined animal like a badger. See: 
  • Video of a badger gaining access to a bin when searching for food (YouTube)
  •  
    For several years we followed MAFF advice and kept a 'closed herd'.  High health status (EBL before the country declared itself EBL free! - hence boundaries checked and approved) We suffered a TB breakdown in Feb 2001.
     
    BCMS confirm herd status:
     
    From:          British Cattle Movement Service

    I have checked on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) and can confirm that no ‘bought in’ cattle moved ON to your holding between 1 July 1996 and 18 January 2005.

    Kind regards

    BCMS Customer Services

    1 March 2005

    We lost about 47 cattle over 4 and half years from that 'closed herd', 2001 - 2005. Only 3 had lesions or were culture positive. The test was doing its job, picking up continuous exposure from infected badgers.

    The spoligotype found in the only 3 cattle capable of culture was:

    Spoligotype database (March 2007).  The genotype of M. bovis recovered from the cattle is given below 
     
    Spoligotype 9 VNTR type 6-5-5-4*-3-3.1
     
    During their two (only) visits of 8 nights cage trapping, in 6 years in our 'Reactive' area, the Badger Dispersal teams caught two absolute horrors (their words) in May 2004. The results of the spoligotyping on their carcasses were as follows;
     
    Apparently there were three badgers from your land taken in the RBCT
     
    The badgers, and there were 3 positives, not 2, were of type 9, vntr 6-5-5-4*-3-3.1
     
    Not unexpectedly the badger genotypes matched the cattle genotypes."
     
     
    This info was dragged out of a very reluctant Defra (VLA).
     
    As regards the cost to UK plc - the country - immense, as most of these cattle were in calf, so two lives lost not one. And their milk potential all of which has to be replaced by imports. Ditto with beef cattle slaughtered.
     
    But shooting the messenger is counter productive as numerous cat, dog, domestic pig, camelid, alpaca and goat owners are finding to their cost. The environmental contamination from free roaming infectious badgers (as opposed to tested, slaughtered sentinel cattle) should not be underestimated. And this is a risk human beings have not faced before. M.bovis is a zoonosis, it is not easily cured, and it does readily transmit between human beings.
     
    Three recent cases in humans (Bristol, Glos and Cornwall) have all traced back to an identified environmental spoligotype, with the Cornish case identifying 'badgers known to inhabit a sett in the garden' as a prime risk. Are they still there? Probably. 
     
    The Bristol and Cornish cases involved human onward transmission and in Bristol, the death of the index case.
     
    I understand that only when culture samples are recorded, is a human case of m.bovis logged. Numerous cats have now been diagnosed (and strain typed) - 42 as of last summer - and their owners received the offer of a complementary screen test. Those that have proved positive have received medical intervention, but are not recorded as tuberculosis cases - which is misleading to say the least.
     
    If culling 39,000 sentinel tested cattle in 2008 would have solved the problem, there might have been a point to the excercise, but without action on badgers it is a total waste of money, and holds enormous risk for other mammalian species.
     
    The minister has hung all his hats and £20 million on vaccination, but leaving aside the not inconsiderable problems of delivery and efficacy, particularly to an endemically infected population of badgers, the Defra website records the following gem re legality: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/pdf/vaccine_badger.pdf
     
    Options for the use of badger vaccines for the control of bovine TB

    6.2 Annex 2 - Legal requirements
    6.2.1 Prohibition of the use of TB vaccine
    282. The introduction of vaccination needs to be done in accordance with the requirements of Council Directive
    78/52/EEC (as amended by Directive 82/400) which requires all Member States to have a TB eradication plan which
    complies with the criteria set out in Council Directive 78/52.
    Article 13 requires member states to ensure "anti-tuberculosis vaccination" is prohibited under
    their eradication plans. The drafting of the Directive is unclear as to whether this applies just to cattle or all
    uses of vaccine including badgers.
    The possible grounds on which we might argue that they do not require Member States to prohibit
    vaccination of badgers - separate from any arguments for cattle vaccination - is that Article 13 only requires a
    prohibition on the vaccination of cattle, even though it is not expressly so limited, on the basis that a reading
    of the Directive as a whole indicates that its obligations are only intended to relate to cattle.
    However there is no certainty that this argument could successfully be relied upon as a basis for
    introducing a badger vaccination policy and we would run the risk of being infracted by the EU Commission if we did so.
    As a minimum, and to mitigate against the risk outlined above, we will discuss our proposed
    intentions with the Commission to seek their views as to whether or not it would be a breach of the Directive for the UK to allow vaccination of badgers and seek amendments accordingly
    .
    http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/pdf/vaccine_badger.pdf

    The 'seek and discuss' the legality bit, would be after the doling out of £20 million one assumes? Job creation.

    Up to date, this bio secure (for cattle) farm has lost around 50 cattle. The latest two, one is a home bred angus steer, the other was purchased as a calf. (After the sale of the dairy herd in 2005, we purchased 60 angus x heifer calves from one farm and some pedigree mums to help restock with beef cattle) Both these stirks had had clear tests here. Both had pharangeal lymph node lesions.

    After the test interpretation is ratcheted back, we lose another 4 young cows, three of which are heavily in calf. One would have calved six weeks after she is shot, which pretty obscene - to be polite - which I am not.

    Meanwhile the infected setts along the coast, and in scrubland belonging to others, continue to spill their contents over our land and that of our neighbours with devastatingly predictable and costly results.

    The only agency with 'Right of Entry' to such areas is  Defra, who seem remarkably reluctant to use it.

     (Name and address supplied)