Badgers, bTB and comment by Jack Reedy from yesterday's bTB debate at the Farmers Guardian
(See also Alistair Driver's summary at www.farmersguardian.com)
Jack Reedy is a lifelong journalist, former agricultural correspondent, newspaper editor, a former director of the Badger Trust and currently the chairman of the Warwickshire Badger Group.
He has had a lifelong interest in wildlife, particularly the evolution, social behaviour and sensory perception of mammals.
19th May 2012 ~ Chosen quotations from the contribution of Jack Reedy, chairman of the Warwickshire Badger Group (from yesterday's bTB debate at the Farmers Guardian)
I've been interested to see the comments about the ISG, the RBCT and the real world. Of course the findings are difficult to put into practice in real life, but that is no reason to go for badger culling. This has been discredited and declared risky, and the method currently advocated in England is completely untiried in any peer-reviewed study.
We have witnessed a growing tragedy for those farmers affected - not all farms, of course. And bovine TB is not the only cause of premature slaughter of cattle by a very long chalk. In fact ten times as many. One reliable survey by Kite Consulting revealed that 300,000 were being killed for other diseases and for economics in the case of inconvenient bull calves.
Jack, most of the other culling of cattle is part of the natural cycle of production and does not come with such restrictions. BTB culling can take a good cow out at any part of the lactation.
We recognise that the chief concern is that any farm under movement restrictions loses valuable business which is why the disease must be eradicated.
We know badgers are implicated..but we also know that killing them runs the serious risk of perpetuating the disease, and it is almost impossible to achieve the necessary requirements in the field. In addition we are challenging the legality of the Coalition Government's proposals for England.
The ISG's statement that 'while badgers are clearly a source of
cattle TB' was prominently reported in the Coalition's consultation briefing But the rest of the same sentence appeared 134 pages later. It said: . . . careful evaluation of our own and others' data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.' The paragraph continued: 'Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better. [Second], weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves 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. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone' .
This statement was been further quantified by the Coalition's own scientific review body of April last year  but only published four months later. It estimated a net benefit of 12 to 16 per cent after nine years. Hardly meaningful.
On vaccination, both Governments have a case except that culling has been shown not lead to a meaningful outcome, whereas the trials suggest vaccination is hardly likely to make matters worse, as culling could. And one thing it does not do is to stir up the population, which I am told is the last thiing to do in an epidemic.
I cannot see how farmers 'know' culling works. It made no overall difference in the southwest between 1970 and 1990 following the hugely successful Area Eradication Scheme which did not use culling. It brought the cattle toll down from over 40,000 in 1938 to about 1,000. Then, various culling programmes produced nothing but the assumption about TB badgers now turned into a prejudice: only bunny huggers were preventing culling and that nothing could be achieved without "addressing the wildlife situation". That is, killing badgers.
In the meantime movement restrictions and annual testing had been abandoned to ease trade in live animals and the TB total began to rise throughout the next 20 years. Unforgivably, restrictions on movements and other measures were resisted for 16 years until 2006 - a self- inflicted disaster for thousands of farm businesses.
And now, after 40 years, the prejudice continues while the discoveries made during that time are ignored or wilfully misinterpreted, and the Government has slid out of paying for a futile culling policy in England.
(Nick Fenwick commented:
Jack you are being disingenuous - badgers were nowhere near as numerous back then as you well know, so cattle controls worked on their own as they do everywhere else where there is no wildlife reservoir.
Jack Reedy countered with - How do you know how many badgers there were in the 1970s? The last survey was 15 years ago and there was nothing equivalent before that. Increasing road kills are often used as'evidence', but without setting them against modern road traffic, its speed and its prevalence at night on country roads
Michael Hart commented
Culling worked on my 1992/3 breakdown we and three other farms affected remained free for ten years. Jack Reedy neglects to point out that culling policy changed - that is what allowed numbers to rise again.
It is not good enough to rely on personal observation about badger numbers. That is not evidence. In any case population density is only one part of a complicated and serious agricultural crisis that deserves better than the political wrangling we see. The industry has been shooting at the wrong target in its preoccupation with badgers while the disease took hold - again!
The pilot culls are to see whether shooting at night is both effective and humane. They are not, as is often assumed, to see whether it does anything towards eradication.