Bovine TB policy in the US - as Owen Paterson discovered - makes use of PCR testing.http://www.warmwell.com/06jan18owen.html.
"Although no one is yet using PCR on live animals, new PCR kits, developed for the army in Iraq, are as small as a briefcase and there is absolutely no practical reason why tests could not be done on the environment from the back of a truck in less than two hours. A well equipped laboratory could do over 1000 a day. They believe that PCR would work on material around setts. ..."
The ChronologyMrs Sheilagh Kremers and her fight for her pedigree calf
April 23/24 2006 ~ Pedigree calf, Fern, did NOT "show typical signs of bovine TB at the post mortem" There were no open lesions at all - but the press were told there were.
In spite of press coverage at the time of the calf's death, the story from his owner about the aftermath of the killing of Fern raises some very serious questions. The calf had been in isolation for 3 months after he had reacted to the test. The SVS vet, Linda Farrant SVS, had said that the reaction in a young calf meant that the infection "would have spread rapidly through his system", he must be " very diseased", so he must be dealt with " very quickly". Mrs Kremers writes:
".... Four SVS personnel searched diligently for lesions. None were found in the lungs or stomach areas.Mr Kremers concludes " I used to believe that we lived in a democracy, but now I know better. Many thanks to everyone who has listened, helped, supported and cared. I only hope that I have given others the courage to stand up for their principles, their cattle, their valuations and their birds, should the time come to them.."
Eventually a small, calcified abcess was found in one of the throat glands. It was not an open lesion.... it had been there some time, and this would be sent to the laboratories to be cultured, to see if it was indeed bTB. The results would be known in six weeks. (ie the results would not be available until the middle of May) Imagine my shock when the Western Morning Newspaper phoned me on the Monday .... The journalist read out a stream of sentences which said Fern had shown typical signs of bTB at the post mortem. This validated their tests. Etc.etc.
If Mrs Kremers is right, it looks very much as though there has been lying and falsification on the part of DEFRA and the SVS in order to justify their actions and silence those who supported Mrs Kremers' stand.
April 11 2006 ~ BBC reports that post mortem test showed bovine TB in Fern
It is a very short report with no detail. BBC
The sorry saga of Fern and his distraught but determined owner can be read here.
March 30 2006 ~ " I don't feel like we have lost, because so many people come up to me when I go into town and shake my hand or give me a hug..."
Sheilagh Kremers' letter of thanks for the widespread support and loving concern she has received from those appalled by the present bovine TB policy. Even though at present "he is still with us" she dreads Fern's killing. This is of no concern to those for whom slaughter happens only on paper.
".... If I wanted to sell him, I would ask market value, but I dont want him to go. I cannot replace him, because of his breeding, but that does not seem to make a difference to DEFRA. So now they are going to appoint a rics valuer. They will be at my gate again soon. . .."
March 9 2006 ~ " the calf had only a 20 to 30% chance of having the disease"It is a sad day for Mrs Kremers and those who support her. The second test - won at such cost in determination and courage - has been returned as a positive. She has reluctantly and very sadly agreed that Fern be slaughtered. She told the BBC
"The result doesn't mean that Fern has TB. He is a reactor, according to the skin test. He has a perfectly healthy immune system and we are killing our strongest cattle. The skin reaction test is a test for immunity. Only about 20 to 30% of those killed are positively identified at post mortem with lesions."
5 Mar 2006 ~ Ben Bradshaw's statement re the Kremers case
ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRSBovine Tuberculosis
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I wish to inform the House about a case concerning the cattle herd of Mrs. Kremers of Newton Abbott in Devon.
On 15 December last year one of Mrs. Kremers' bull calves was disclosed during a routine test as a TB reactor. Since that time, Mrs. Kremers has raised with the State Veterinary Service concerns in relation to the Government's TB control policies generally and in relation to the testing of her herd specifically. As a result of these concerns she has specifically requested the retesting of the bull calf disclosed as a reactor on 15 December. To date, these requests have been declined. EU legislation requires the slaughter of reactors after the first positive result.
In the light of further information received very recently concerning the test conducted on Mrs. Kremers' bull calf we have now taken steps to review Mrs. Kremers' case. It has become clear as a result that the Local Veterinary Inspector (LVI) who conducted the test had not carried out the test in full accordance with the instructions issued to LVIs by the State Veterinary Service (SVS).
Accordingly, the SVS is informing Mrs. Kremers of these developments, and will be granting her request for a retest. I very much regret the course of these events. We will be telling Mrs. Kremers that we will reimburse any legal costs she has incurred as a direct result of this case.
As hon. Members will be aware, in the light of the decision announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 16 February 2006 to defer the introduction of pre-movement testing of cattle for bovine TB, the Government have asked for an urgent independent survey of the preparations for introducing this policy. I am asking that this review be expanded to include the instructions and interpretative material and their use by LVIs. "
March 4 2006 ~ Bovine TB "The Ben Bradshaw statement on the Kremers' calf calls into question the entire bovine TB testing regime."
WMN "With tens of thousands of cattle slaughtered over the years, Westcountry livestock farmers are questioning if the tests on their animals were carried out correctly....... Both farmers and local vets agree that the pre-movement testing regime under the Government's TB strategy - now due to be introduced at the end of this month - is a waste of time and money, and that the Scottish system of cattle tracing would be vastly more satisfactory...." The Western Morning News has given several pages of coverage to the Kremers case
March 2 2006 ~ We learn today that Sheilagh Kremer's Dexter calf, Fern, has been granted a second TB test by Defra
. If the test is carried out competently and is positive she will accept the result. See BBC
".......Mr Bradshaw, who is also the MP for Exeter in Devon, said recent information concerning the test at Mrs Kremer's farm, had led to a review of the case. He said the Local Veterinary Inspector who conduced the test had not carried it out in full accordance with the instructions issued by the State Veterinary Service and Mrs Kremer's request to have the animal retested would be granted. Mr Bradshaw said in a Commons statement: "I very much regret the course of these events. We will be telling Mrs Kremers that we will reimburse any legal costs she has incurred as a direct result of this case." ...."Warmwell is very pleased at this development and are grateful to DEFRA and Mr Bradshaw.
Thursday 2nd February ~ Mrs Kremers has vowed to go to jail rather than allow her calf to be killed
BBC "...she is expected to refuse to allow vets to take the animal away on Thursday. Fern, a Dexter bull calf, owned by Sheilagh Kremers was found to be a bovine TB reactor during a routine annual test in December. Government vets are due at the East Ogwell farm near Newton Abbot on Thursday to remove the calf. But Mrs Kremers has vowed to go to jail rather than allow him to be killed. .."
January 12 2006 ~ Mrs Kremers continues to fight for her five-month-old TB reactor Dexter bull calf
Mrs Kremers says she is still planning on continuing her fight and is launching a petition to save Fern.
She told the WMN:
"They have forced me into choosing a valuer for the calf. They said that if I didn't decide on one they would come with the chartered surveyor's valuer, so I've chosen a local valuer. They will now inform me of a date when they will come to my gate and ask me to sign the form saying I accept the valuer which means I will accept the valuation. If I accept that I will be accepting the slaughter." Read in fullThe mindset of slaughtering farm animals as a "cure" seems to us as shameful an aspect of the UK policy today as was the needless killing of literally millions of healthy animals in 2001. But to do this while ignoring the wildlife reservoir of the disease is even more an affront to common sense. British veterinary authorities seem unable proactively to examine the advances of modern science for better ways of protecting animals in the UK. It seems that, instead of informing policy with an ethical and scientific understanding, they wait - as they waited in 2001- to be told what to do by those with no veterinary expertise, humanity or common sense. Modern technologies are being ignored in this cruel game of Blind Man's Buff in which the losers are the small stakeholders and the animals themselves.
January 9th 2006 ~ SVS refuses retest for Mrs Kremers' calf
Ministry vets are saying, apparently, they can "only be sure" of the existence or non-existence of bovine TB if the calf is dead. In view of the fact that in the Pensax case, the SVS spokesman said that "the disease could be present in the animal even if it was not detected at a postmortem examination," it would appear to be unlikely that there would ever be an admission that the calf was clear of disease.
Sheilagh Kremers has refused to let DEFRA officials on to her land. The Defra letter, which curtly informs Mrs Kremers that Fern will not be tested a second time for bovine TB, has the unpleasant tone of a bullying bureaucracy entirely out of touch with the feelings of welfare-conscious farmers:
"I am confirming that no re-test will be carried out. After informing the District Veterinary Network of the facts of this case I again confirm there will be no change in this decision."Mrs Kremers is as determined to save the pedigree calf from slaughter as ever. She is not interested in compensation and does not want to break the law. All she wants is some sensible, humane and sound science-based treatment for her calf; the second test to confirm or deny the disease.
The Western Morning News says
" Ultimately she could face six months in prison, a #5,000 fine, or both. ...."The WMN article also has details of the petition that Mrs Kremers hopes will be widely supported.
January 4th 2006 ~ Anthony Gibson - support for farmer's fight for her calf
"I've applied to the divisional veterinary manager for Mrs Kremers' animal to get a second test. If we get a 'no', there will have to be further discussions " Anthony Gibson.
Farming Today was told by the SVS that there was "no retest available at all" for the pedigree calf, Fern. (They had not informed Mrs Kremers, however.) The BBC also reports today that Mrs Kremers "forced a stay of execution for the calf Fern on Tuesday by refusing to let officials on to her land near Newton Abbot. Anthony Gibson, regional director of the National Farmers Union said as long as Mrs Kremers was not breaking the law, it would support her. " See also below Mrs Kremers now faces being issued with a slaughter warrant and legal action if she continues to defy the authorities. (See also transcript)
January 3rd 2006 ~ "The potential advantages of the PCR cycler over the gamma interferon test..
..is that it should be able to differentiate between bovine TB and avian TB in blood and can be used on farm and give a result within 30 minutes. In the case of cattle this would save the wait of 3 days to read the skin test and the further wait of 6 to 12 weeks for confirmation of TB by culture test.
However the PCR cycle seems potentially to be of even more use in identifying bovine TB in badgers - which no other test can currently do satisfactorily. ..." ( From the National Beef Association's 18 point Paper for Discussion on Bovine TB control in Great Britain which made 18 recommendations, including "the obvious potential of a portable PCR cycler machine" )
The speed, efficiency and proximity to disease source of the rapid on-site diagnosis tests now available makes the UK's reluctance to use them for diseases such as bovine TB and foot and mouth disease incomprehensible. The Countess of Mar made this very point to Lord Bach in December.
In 2003, California state officials used rapid diagnostic tools to test animals for exotic Newcastle disease and reported to the GAO (see pdf) that the tools used at the time allowed diagnostic results within 6 hours and enabled them to test up to 1,500 samples per day, many more samples than traditional testing methods. The GAO report continues:
"....Once a sample is taken, it is inserted into a tube containing reagents that inactivate the virus if it is present. The tube, as well as the person who collected the sample, can then be decontaminated using a common solution, such as acetic acid in the case of FMD, and the sample can be tested using the rapid diagnostic tool in a mobile unit at, for example, the entrance to the farm...."
January 3rd 2006 ~ The pedigree calf "might" have TB - so it must be shot, says DEFRA
Today, the BBC has reported the case of Sheilagh Kreamers from Oxwell near Newton Abbot who has been told her pedigree calf has to be culled, because it might have TB.
"...Defra policy is to shoot the animal before carrying out a post-mortem tests to find out if it is infected..."......" It's absolutely breaking my heart.... It's ruined my Christmas, we've cancelled Christmas totally because it's just so sad." (BBC)Another case is that of Emma Booton and Samantha Qureshi. Eight of their cows have been in quarantine since testing positive at their farm in Pensax, Worcestershire, last November. Their owners refuse to have them slaughtered because, they say, the test is flawed. BBC December 23rd 2005
In February 2005, the National Beef Association's 18 point Paper for Discussion on Bovine TB control in Great Britain made 18 recommendations, including "the obvious potential of a portable PCR cycler machine"
Mrs Kreamers and the farmers at Pensax are not alone. Several farmers are prepared to fight for their animals in the face of a policy that seems to them illogical, unsound and, in view of the newest technology, out-of-date.