Dee Finney's blog
start date July 20, 2011
today's date May 28, 2013
CULLING MAY START AGAIN IN 2014
IF YOU LIVE IN ENGLAND, PLEASE HELP PREVENT THE MURDERING OF THESE ANIMALS
MADAM - Your headline and Comment recently in
the Stroud News & Journal may give a sense of relief to those opposed to the
government’s badger cull.
But make no mistake, ministers are fully intending to resume the slaughter next year.
Both Mr Paterson and Mr Eustice have drawn reference to earlier trials, where some treatment areas were estimated to have a low culling efficiency, as justification for carrying on with the current culls.
As a co-author of the scientific paper they have referred to, I have to warn that this is an entirely unjustified, indeed dangerous, position to take.
The recent shambolic pilot culls have departed so far from the scientifically controlled conditions of the previous trial, that using past results as a model to predict a beneficial outcome of the current culls frankly beggars belief.
Expert opinion believes that the protracted, poorly conducted recent culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire will have actually helped spread TB in both badgers and cattle.
The latest research has estimated that just 5.7 per cent of cattle TB outbreaks are directly due to badgers.
The biggest problem is the spread of the disease among the cattle themselves.
There are sustainable options, such as rigorously improved cattle testing, better farm biosecurity and the development of vaccines.
Defra should focus on these and stop the misguided culling of badgers permanently.
People must lobby the government to make this happen. In this regard it should not be forgotten that Stroud’s own MP, Neil Carmichael, is a staunch supporter of badger culling. If we don’t act now thousands more badgers will be killed next year for no good at all.
Incidentally, the cost of policing the pilot culls alone could have paid for a badger vaccination programme.
Dr Chris Cheeseman Brownshill
© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media Group
TOPIC: BADGER CULLING ON AGAIN IN ENGLAND
THIS IS A TRAVESTY AGAINST INNOCENT BADGERS.
BADGERS ARE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES AND THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING.
VIDEO INTERVIEW 10-18-2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-3jdtH26Hg
QUESTION IS NOW: WHO IS EATING THE MEAT FROM THE COWS WITH TB?
TB Meat or Not TB, That Is the Question - The Answer? Who Knows...
Fresh from the horse meat scandal, DEFRA has found itself in a new
controversy, having again failed the
About 350 people packed Dorchester's Corn Exchange to hear about the forthcoming badger cull.
The controlled shooting of badgers, to control the spread of bovine TB,
is expected to begin in parts of Gloucestershire and
Somerset in June.
The cull will move to Dorset if it fails to go ahead in those counties.
At Friday's meeting, it was said that pro and anti-cull campaigners were fighting for the same thing - eradication of TB.
People who are against the cull, is encouraging
farmers to take part in a badger vaccination programme to prevent further
spread of the
Anne Brummer, CEO of Save Me, said: "We've had quite a few public meetings - all standing room only.
Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease, which can
affect most warm-blooded animals, including man. Cattle, goats and pigs are
the domestic livestock most susceptible to infection, while horses are relatively resistant. The disease is prevented and controlled in most
developed countries by regulations, due to its ability to infect humans and cause significant livestock production losses. This fact sheet has
quite detailed information on bovine TB.
Bovine TB is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis, and it probably has been causing disease in cattle even before they were
domesticated. Another bacteria within this family, Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the cause of what is commonly called human
tuberculosis. M. tuberculosis is a species more adapted to humans and may have initially developed from a strain of M. bovis, many
thousands of years ago, that humans were exposed to after they started herding cattle.
The regulatory efforts for controlling TB in Canadian domestic livestock are under the federal jurisdiction of the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency (CFIA). It is one of the "Reportable" diseases under their Health of Animals Act, making it an offense not to report the disease to
CFIA if it is suspected or identified in an animal. Once confirmed, CFIA initiates and manages a strict testing and eradication program. The
program includes the destruction of all infected animals as well as all the susceptible animals in contact with the diseased animals.
Before control programs were developed in Canada, TB was a common disease. Due to the scope of the problem many thought the
programs would fail. With the hard work and co-operation of many people, including livestock producers and veterinarians, the programs,
however, have been effective. For further information on regulatory efforts please see TB Time Line in Canada and Manitoba on the
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives website.
Bovine TB is usually a very slow disease to develop. Infected animals may not show any outward signs of illness, but many eventually
exhibit weight loss and a gradual decline in general health. TB lesions may be found in any organ or body cavity of diseased animals. What
signs an animal shows may depend on what organs are most affected. If the lungs are affected there may be a chronic intermittent cough
and labored breathing. The lesions usually show up as tubercles (nodules or knobby swellings) which is how tuberculosis received its
In the early stages the lesions may be hard to find while in later stages they are easier to detect and often found in the lungs and lymph
nodes in the chest, along the digestive tract, and within the head and upper neck. Lymph nodes are roundish bodies that help fight
infection by supplying a type of white blood cell (lymphocytes) and filtering lymph fluid for disease. If one of these lymph nodes is near the
surface of the body, such as around the head, it may show up as a firm swelling.
The tubercles are caused by the body trying to wall off the infection. They may be firm and tannish and sometimes gritty; in some types of
animals such as deer the tubercles are softer and look like more typical abscesses with a creamy center.
The site of initial infection usually does not heal and the disease slowly progresses by bacteria spreading through the blood and lymph.
The bacteria that causes bovine TB is harmed by direct
sunlight, high temperatures and dry conditions. Out in the field on a dry
day, in direct sunlight, it may last only a few days or less. If the bacteria is within a patty of manure in hot dry conditions, however, it is
more protected and could last approximately a week. If the bacteria get into a stagnant pool of water it could last approximately 18 days.
If it gets dropped onto a bale in the middle of winter it could last several months.
Experimentally under hot conditions, M. bovis was isolated for up to 4 weeks from shaded soil but could not be re-isolated from soil in
direct sunlight. Other reports on the length of survival of M. bovis vary from 18-332 days at temperatures ranging from 12-240C (54-750
F). Under laboratory conditions, M. bovis has been isolated for up to 8 weeks from various feeds kept at 240C (750 F) and 14 weeks from
various feeds kept at 00C (320 F). Under field conditions, however, it is generally difficult to isolate M. bovis from pastures grazed by
animals known to be infected with bovine TB.
Unfortunately these studies often do not reflect how infective contaminated material is for animals. The actual length of time the bacteria
can be isolated is longer then the material is infective for animals. This is because only a few bacteria need to be present to isolate the
organism while it usually takes many thousands of bacteria to infect an animal by ingestion.
Bovine TB is not a highly infectious disease. Spread usually
requires frequent and extended exposure. The greatest risk of spread is
through respiration (breathing). Invisible droplets (aerosols) containing TB bacteria may be exhaled or coughed out by infected animals
and then inhaled by other animals including humans. Animals who are in close contact with infected animals, especially within confined
areas such as barns, are at greatest risk for contracting TB. This is why in the early days, dairy TB was more of problem then beef TB.
Ingesting water or feed that has been contaminated with excretions (saliva, manure, etc) or discharges from infected animals can also
transmit the disease. This is more difficult to do, however, as the digestive tract has more defense mechanisms and has a thicker lining
then the airways. It may take approximately 5,000 to 10,000 times more M. bovis bacteria to infect an animal by ingestion then it does by
respiration. Animals and humans can also get bovine TB from drinking unpasteurized milk from infected cows or consuming raw
undercooked meat from infected animals.
Where TB is present in wild deer and elk, spillover into domestic livestock is thought to occur primarily during periods of cooler moister
weather at concentrated sites of feeding (hay stacks, round bales, etc) or possibly at stagnant pools. Normal grazing at pasture and free
flowing water is not thought to pose a significant risk.
Animals can be diagnosed after death when suspicious changes such as tubercles, abscesses and/or enlarged lymph nodes are found
that suggest TB may be present. Samples of the lesions are taken and tested at veterinary diagnostic laboratories to determine if TB is
present. All slaughtered cattle in Canadian federally inspected plants (>95% of cattle) are examined for this disease and it is the major
method for surveillance in the country.
Animals can also be diagnosed before death by taking biopsies and culturing suspicious lesions. Most commonly however they are tested
by measuring their immune response to the bacteria. This is done in Canada by injecting a small amount of purified killed TB bacteria
under the skin of the tail fold (caudal fold test or CFT) and checking the site after 72 hours for any swelling. If swelling does occur the
animal is labeled "suspicious", the herd is put under quarantine and further tests are done on the animal to determine if it is infected. For
more information on testing see the following websites:
There are a few drawbacks with the CFT test. A small number of infected cattle in the very early or late stages of the disease and cows
that have recently calved may test negative. Also approximately 5-7% of uninfected cattle will falsely test suspicious for TB and require
More accurate and faster tests for TB are being investigated and may be available in a few years or less.
There are no effective vaccines to prevent the infection or economical medications to treat livestock after they become infected.
In general, cattle brought onto the farm should come from herds established as free from TB. This can be done by bringing in animals only
from a recognized monitored TB free herd or from animals that have only been in "TB free" status areas. Individual TB testing of cattle can
be done before they are introduced into the herd but results are not as accurate as on whole herd tests.
Sick animals should be separated from healthy ones. If you have an animal that does not respond to routine treatments you should contact
your veterinarian. If an animal dies it should be examined by a veterinarian if the cause is uncertain. As TB is a "Reportable" disease in
Canada, the local CFIA district office must be notified by the owner, veterinarian, transporter or other person in charge of the animal when
TB is suspected.
If you live in an area where bovine tuberculosis has been found in wild elk and deer, steps to limit direct livestock-to-elk/deer contact
include: · Moving harvested forage or other feed into storage sites before winter · Putting barrier fencing around feed storage sites and
feeding areas · Preventing access to stagnant water sources frequented by wild elk and deer
Steps should also be taken to decrease and eliminate the spread of TB between deer and elk and include: · Banning supplemental feeding
of deer and elk including its use for recreational and hunting purposes · Maintaining adequate natural habitat for wild elk and deer ·
Maintaining wild elk and deer populations at levels that should limit spread when TB has been diagnosed in the wild
Humans can reduce their personal risk by drinking only pasteurized milk and buying meat that has been federally inspected (e.g.
Meat from wild deer and elk and from on-farm slaughter of livestock should only be used if the animal is healthy, in good condition, and
has no changes that would make one suspect disease was present.
High temperatures will kill M. bovis; therefore cooking will destroy the organism. Please remember, in general, it is recommended meat
should be well cooked for a number of health reasons.
When animals are treated for any disease and after animals are slaughtered (including wild), hands and exposed clothing should be well
washed. Re-usable materials should be disinfected.
If exposure to bovine TB may have occurred, contact your physician.
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives
Public Health England do not collect data on the number of people in England .... Gassing of badger setts took place between 1975 and 1982. ... Cement, 133.71 ...
Mar 26, 2012 ... 'We will also look to speak to Natural England to get advice on the most appropriate way forward.' Badgers and their setts are protected under the 1992 Protection of ... Get a dachshund - they were orginaly bred to hunt badgers which is ... the holes with concrete / barbed wire / a flashing light etc and they'll ...
Rural workers' livelihoods are being devastated by TB. Labour should come to their defence.
Published 19 October 2012 9:16
"Dave" is not his real name. He’s too scared to tell me that. He’s been a farmer in Devon for over fifty years. He loves animals
and knows everything about cows. He knows their moods, their temperaments, their individual identities. His family works
fourteen hours a day seven days a week to serve and look after their dairy herd of 1,000, hand feeding them when they’re sick
and nursing them through birth. It’s work of blood and sweat. He doesn’t shoot badgers, but since the government’s new trials
started he’s been scared his family farm might be a target for animal rights activists.
"If I speak to you it will have to be anonymous because we’re terrified to speak up…." He says, "We’re attacked so easily right
out here. It’s very isolated in the countryside and no dairy farmer can afford extra security right now."
This autumn a new controversy has split British politics. It’s the biggest rural-urban divide since fox hunting. To deal with the huge
number of cattle being infected with TB, the government is piloting badger culls. Sites in the south west of the country will be
allowed to shoot these cute little black and white creatures on the grounds that they are spreading this devastating infection that
is killing cattle and crippling farmers. If the pilots are accepted and rolled out, some 100,000 badgers could be killed.
Parliament is set to debate the pilots on Thursday. To date, the argument has divided neatly along left and right lines. The new
Tory environment secretary, Owen Paterson, says that it’s "sad sentimentality" to worry about badgers when so much damage
is being done to the rural economy. On the other side, shadow environment minister for Labour, Mary Creagh, has called on the
government to abandon the trial, dismissing it as a "shot in the dark". Brian May isn’t happy and the radical left is advocating
the direct action that keeps farmers awake at night . As a self-declared lefty, I know where my team stands. But I disagree - I
think our values might be better served supporting farmers.
My worry is this. The left has always been the party of cities and urban areas, growing as it did out of the trade union movement.
It has never had enough to say to rural workers, as I’ve argued before. I’m worried that the countryside could be reduced to a
play park for urbanites. I’m concerned that it will become a place to protect fauna and fauna, rather than to cultivate jobs and
livelihoods. A place to visit at weekends, rather than strive through the weekdays. The Labour Party was supposed to be about
labour – the clue is in the name – but we seem to be prioritising the concerns of people without a working connection to the land.
How can Ed Miliband talk about being "one nation", when we have so little to offer these rural workers?
My friends say they are not against farmers, they just don’t believe there is any evidence that culling works. The evidence from
the Kreb trial – the most thorough and widely quoted research - demonstrated that culling could result in a 16 per cent reduction
in TB over nine years. It’s true that the methods used for the current pilots are slightly different – badgers are being shot
outright, rather than caught in cages - and there was evidence that TB could be spread further unless hard boundaries are put in
place. We can’t dismiss those concerns, but surely if the evidence is divided, the answer is more trials, not a complete lock
More research is urgent, because both sides agree that TB is devastating the countryside. We know that it has resulted in some
34,000 cattle being sent to the slaughter last year alone. That figure is worth reading again because it’s almost one death every
fifteen minutes. We know that it has cost us as a country some £500 million over ten years. We know that something has to be
NOTE: KEEP IN MIND THAT THE SLAUGHTERED CATTLE ARE FED TO THE PUBLIC. THE FARMERS NOT ONLY GET
90% OF THEIR NORMAL SLAUGHTER FEE BUT THEY ALSO GET COMPENSATED BY THEIR INSURANCE COMPANY, SO
THEY GET ALMOST TWICE THE NORMAL FEES AS THEY NORMALLY WOULD BY SENDING THEIR CATTLE TO
Farmers are paying for this pilot themselves because they say past experience shows that it works. When David started farming
fifty years ago, he used to shoot badgers, and his farm suffered no TB. When EU regulations made badgers a protected
species, he stopped culling out of respect for the law. Now there are badger sets everywhere and regular cases of TB are
driving them under. This picture has been replicated at a national level. In 1998 less than 6,000 cows were culled for TB, now
we’ve had 21,512 in the first half of this year alone.
"We don’t want to kill all badgers," says Dave, "It’s only when their numbers get out of control that they start causing infections.
Because they have no natural predators, it’s up to us to keep the numbers down or they take over."
Working so closely with infected animals means that Dave’s son-in-law came down with TB himself. His family stood by as he lay
in bed rapidly losing weight and coughing, but they still want to keep going.
"My family wish to carry on farming," says Dave, “My children have been to college and trained to do it. They love it and their
children love it. It’s in your blood. There are very few other occupations open to you around here in your 40s."
Animal rights groups and charities say that the answer is vaccines and increased biosecurity. But there is no credible vaccine for
cows, and the vaccine for badgers is extraordinarily difficult to implement. The NFU reports that you have to catch each badger in
a cage, and then vaccinate them once every year for four years for it to be effective. As for biosecurity, the idea that farmers
have enough money to invest in initiatives like full scale separate housing is naïve – and I’m not entirely sure that ending free
range farming is desirable anyway.
It’s difficult to explain how difficult life in the countryside already is. Back in Devon, one of Dave’s neighbours has recently gone
out of business. The price of milk paid to farmers has been slashed by 4p a litre this year, and supermarkets continue to sell
milk at barely the cost of production. It’s been too damp to graze outside, so fodder supplies have been used up and the price of
grain is biting. We’ve lost 40 per cent of our diary farms over the last ten years and TB is pushing more over the brink. And all
the left is talking about, is the badgers.U
Update: After this article was published, I was contacted by Labour's environment team, who wanted to highlight the work they
have been doing for rural communities. In particular, they recently pushed for a parliamentary debate about the government’s
decision to abolish wage protection for 152,000 low-paid farm workers, something they say will take £240 million out of rural
workers pockets over the next ten years. They say they have also supported dairy farmers' calls for more transparent contracts,
and tabled amendments in the Lords calling for the Supermarket Ombudsman's powers to be strengthened. They say they have
also highlighted how long-term youth unemployment has gone up faster in rural areas compared to cities in the first two years of
this government. Finally, they wanted to point out that this BBC poll found that opposition to the badger cull was fairly similar in
rural and urban communities.
Do we need a badger cull to control bovine TB?What is bovine TB? Britain's attempt to eradicate bovine TB What can we learn from this? The turn to (and away from) science How closely is bovine TB in cattle associated with bovine TB in badgers? How does bovine TB transmission occur each way? Descriptive studies on culling badgers Observational studies on culling badgers The randomized badger culling trial Bovine TB control or eradication Feedback & comments References
What is bovine TB?
Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic bacterial disease of cattle, found worldwide. The causative organism
(Mycobacterium bovis) can also infect humans, particularly through drinking milk from infected cows. In most
countries pasteurisation of milk, coupled with close inspection of cattle carcases at slaughterhouses, has eliminated
transmission to humans.
Most European and some Latin American countries claim to have
successfully controlled or eradicated bovine TB in the cattle
population through a 'test and cull' strategy.
Bovine TB is diagnosed with either the tuberculin skin test, or by
the gamma interferon blood test. Neither test can be relied upon
to detect all infections, and both give some false positives.
To remove rejected members or parts from (a herd, for example).
Definition by the Free Online Dictionary
Movement restrictions are imposed on herds which have a reactor, and reactors and animals in close contact with
the reactor are isolated from the rest of the herd and removed to slaughter. Affected herds are re-tested
periodically and restriction is only lifted after the herd has one or two clear tests. Diagnosis is confirmed (or
otherwise) post mortem by laboratory techniques.
Jersey cattle at the milking yard on an East Sussex farm
(Photo: InfluentialPoints )
In a few countries 'test and cull' has failed
to 'eradicate' the disease in cattle. This
has been ascribed to the the involvement
of a wildlife reservoir: white tailed deer in
the USA, possums in New Zealand and
badgers in Ireland and Great Britain.
These countries have therefore included
wildlife culls in an attempt to eliminate the
disease, but with varying degrees of
Permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by a specific agent as a result of deliberate efforts.
Definition by Dowdle (1999)
Note: this term is frequently misused to apply only within a specified geographic area - which is correctly termed disease elimination.
Possibly the least successful attempts have been made in Great Britain, where badger culling as become a highly
contentious issue which arouses passions on all sides.
Most farmers believe badgers are the major source of bovine TB outbreaks in cattle, and want a badger cull,
especially in areas where disease incidence is high.
Many wildlife experts oppose such a cull arguing that it may make the problem worse and is anyway
Opinion polls also suggest most of the public are strongly opposed to a cull.
What is the history of Britain's attempt to 'eradicate' the disease?
Efforts have been made to eliminate the disease in UK since 1935 when voluntary tuberculin testing and culling of
cattle was introduced. A compulsory testing programme began in the 1950s.
Areas were declared to be attested after all animals with a positive tuberculin skin test reaction (so-
called reactors) had been removed for slaughter, and two successive tests of each animal had shown that all
herds in the area were TB free.
By 1960, the whole of the UK had been declared
attested. The disease had not been eliminated, but it
had been effectively controlled - yearly herd incidence
had been reduced to about 2%. A continuing cattle
testing and cull programme further reduced this to well
below 1% in most of Great Britain, but in south-west
England it appeared to level off at about 1.5%.
The reduction of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity or mortality to a locally acceptable level as a result of deliberate efforts; continued intervention measures are required to maintain the reduction.
Definition by Dowdle (1999)
The UK Ministry of Agriculture concluded in 1973 that this was because wild badgers were providing a reservoir of
infection. Since the policy in Britain was (and still is) to 'eradicate' rather than control animal diseases, the
government embarked on a badger cull policy that was to extend on-and-off to the present time. The initial removal
method was to permit affected farmers to kill (all) badgers on their own farms by shooting (the method to which the
UK government now proposes we return).
Concern about the welfare implications of these methods led to the government taking over control operations.
Once infection in cattle had been attributed to badgers, populations were sampled up to one kilometre from the farm
boundary to identify infection status. Setts (dens) of infected social groups, and other social groups in contact with
them, were then gassed with hydrogen cyanide.
Gassing operations began in August 1975. These measures appeared to be successful in further reducing the cattle
TB infection rate, with prevalence in 1979 in the south-west dropping to 0.5%, and the rest of the country to 0.1%.
However, from 1980 the number of herd breakdowns started to increase again in the south-west, whilst temporarily
remaining fairly stable at around 0.1% in the rest of the country.
Figure reproduced here for critical appraisal is from Krebs (1997)
Between 1982 and 1985, a clean ring strategy was introduced to replace the gassing strategy. Under this strategy
social groups were identified by bait marking - an improved method to identify groups since one group can use
several different setts. Those groups, found on laboratory examination to be infected, were culled, extending out to
successive social groups until a clean ring of uninfected social groups was found. During this period, the proportion
of affected herds slowly increased in the south-west (where most of the culling was going on), but remained steady
In 1986 the situation was reviewed by the Dunnet Committee and the so-called interim strategy was introduced.
This was intended to offer a means of controlling badgers on infected farms, pending the development of the live
test, when only infected badgers would be killed (in other words true culling rather than removal of all badgers). All
badgers on the breakdown farm were removed by cage-trapping and shooting, but no removal was carried out on
neighbouring farms. This new strategy failed to stop the increase and the proportion of herd breakdowns increased
five fold in the south-west, to reach about 2.5% by the mid 1990s. In the rest of the country asimilar increase
started and by 1996 had reached 0.6%.
The obvious question to ask is why did a method (cattle test and culling
only) that had worked so well up to 1975 (and in many other European
countries) become so inneffective post-1980, even when used in conjunction
with badger culling.
What can we learn from these descriptive data?
One should be able to learn something about how to control bovine TB from examining these time trend data - but
there are two very major constraints on this.
Firstly just because B follows A does not necessarily mean B is caused by A. (Wakefield made the disastrous
error of concluding that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism in children because the
MMR vaccine is given at around 12-15 months of age and autism in a child tends to become evident at
about 18-19 months.) Regarding badgers and bovine TB, we could argue that the proportion of cattle infected
dropped sharply in 1975 because killing of badgers was allowed. But we could similarly argue that the steady
increase in proportion of TB infected cattle from 1980 onwards was a result of culling badgers.
- The second constraint is that this sort of routinely collected data is often of very poor quality. If we are to
understand what is going on, we need measures of the population sizes and proportion infected for both cattle
- The cattle data are relatively good, but even here the proportion infected with bovine TB only applies to herds, not to individual cattle. In addition the test is certainly not 100% accurate and we may be missing low grade infections.
There is much less information available on badger population sizes. Cresswell et al. (1990) surveyed 2455 1-km squares throughout Britain for badger setts and signs of badger activity, and estimated (making some very dubious assumptions) that the overall population of badgers in the UK was about 250,000. Wilson et al. (1997) did a repeat survey mostly of the same squares which suggested that the density of badger setts had increased significantly in two areas in south-west England and the west midlands.
On badger infection rate, a small study in 1979 on just two farms that had recently experienced disease outbreaks, revealed very different prevalences in badgers of 11.1% and and 31.6% (Barrow & Gallager, 1981 ). However, sample sizes were very small. Samples obtained during cull operations were similarly small and unrepresentative. Once the government was involved in gassing, samples became much larger, but remained unrepresentative. Samples from road accidents were regarded as the least biased, but sick badgers may well be more likely to get killed than healthy badgers.
A dead badger (Meles meles) by the side of the road
(Photo: InfluentialPoints )
The only reliable data on badger infection rate were from very restricted areas. For example Delahay et al.
(2000) found that prevalence from 1982 to 1996 varied between 10 - 17% in one site in south-west
England. There was some evidence of an increase in prevalence in the late 1980s, but temporal trends in
disease were not synchronized amongst neighbouring groups. By the time the Krebs trial was initiated
(1988-2002), average prevalence in badgers in the ten trial areas was 11.3%, although it varied between
areas from 1.6% to 37.2%. (Bourne, 2007a ).
In other words we know that cattle infection rate reached its lowest level in
1979 - but why it then increased again despite all the control measures is
unclear. Badger numbers may have increased over the period, but there are
insufficient data to draw any conclusions about trends in badger infection
The turn to (and away from) science
As the number of disease outbreaks in cattle continued to climb, something clearly had to be done - but what? In
1996 the then Conservative government set up an independent scientific review under the chairmanship of Professor
John Krebs to review and make recommendations on government policy on badgers and bovine tuberculosis. Krebs
(1997) concluded that it was not possible to state quantitatively what contribution badgers made to cattle
infection, because the relevant data had not been collected. The main recommendation was to set up a randomized
trial to directly compare the effects of three 'treatments' on the number of disease outbreaks. Those treatments
It was recommended that in both reactive and proactive removal areas there should be "total removal of complete
proactive badger removal irrespective of whether there were cattle infections or not,
reactive culling where culls were only carried out when tuberculosis was found in the cattle (the current policy at
that time), and
no badger culling.
badger social groups" from the specified areas (that is extermination). All three treatments included regular cattle
testing, and culling of infected cattle. An Independent Scientific Group (ISG) led by Professor Bourne was set up to
oversee the trial.
Despite serious problems in its execution (see below), the trial was eventually completed in 2005, albeit without
total removal of badgers from culling areas. Donnelly et al. (2007) concluded from the trial that badger culling
was only likely to be beneficial if conducted systematically over large areas, and sustained over several years.
Reactive culling had overall detrimental effects because of the perturbation effect on badgers where they
dispersed and spread the infection outside the original affected area. The ISG in their final report to
government (Bourne et al., 2007a ) concluded that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to bovine
TB control in Britain, and that some policies under consideration (those similar to reactive culling) were likely to
make matters worse rather than better.
The Chief Scientific Adviser (King, 2007 ) did not accept these conclusions, in particular the negative effects of
reactive culling. He instead stated that removal of badgers should take place alongside the continued
application of controls on cattle. The ISG responded (Bourne et al., 2007b ) that King's remit from government
did not include economic [and] practical issues, which were absolutely critical in determining whether culling
would reduce or increase the incidence of bovine TB. In addition King's report contained fundamental flaws in
interpretation of the data. Hence the ISG maintained its previous position.
Eventually a common position was cobbled together (House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee,
2007 ) based on the argument that Sir David King's group of experts did not include the practicalities or costs of
culling in its considerations. The government of the time then accepted that culling would not be helpful (House of
Commons statement by Hillary Benn (2008) ) and provided increased funding to a research programme to develop a
vaccination approach, including a series of vaccine trials.
The coalition government which took power in 2009 also proposed a 'science-led' policy, but its first move was to
scrap all but one of the planned Badger Vaccine Deployment trials (DEFRA, 2010a ). The following year the
recommendations made by the ISG following the Krebs trial were abandoned (House of Commons statement by
Caroline Spelman, 2011 ) and it was decided to reintroduce badger culls, this time by free-shooting badgers as they
emerge from their setts in the evening. Cost issues were settled (supposedly) by farmers and landowners having to
pay for the cull themselves.
Without going into the whole sorry story in any more detail, we step back a little to look at the evidence. First we
ask how close is the association between infection in cattle and badgers. Then we ask how transmission each way
occurs. Lastly we ask whether reducing the number of badgers does actually reduce disease in cattle.
If at this stage, you loose interest and say 'well its obvious isn't it' - consider
the disturbing case of hormone replacement therapy (HRT):
By 2001 millions of women in Europe and America were taking HRT,
based on results from over 30 observational studies that suggested
a 44% reduction in coronary heart disease.
Yet within a few years a large-scale randomized trial demonstrated
that, far from reducing the risk of heart disease, HRT slightly increased
the risk (Petitti, 2004 ).
When looking at descriptive and observational studies Petiti concluded:
Do not turn a blind eye to contradiction.
Do not be seduced by mechanism.
How close is the association between infection in cattle and badgers?
Observing A is spatially associated with B does not, of
itself, prove A causes B, any more than observing that A
Nevertheless, if badgers are the primary source of bovine
TB in cattle (or vice versa) their infection should be
strongly and positively associated.
Since the fallacy is commonplace, a concrete example may help:
Observing the number of churches in UK cities is associated or correlated with the number of bars does not imply one causes the other.
- Past evidence was reviewed by Krebs (1997).
Bovine TB infections in both badgers and cattle are highly clustered, and these regional clusters
(sometimes termed hotspots) are geographically associated in the two species.
Another line of evidence is that the prevalence of bovine TB infection among badgers culled following
bovine TB outbreaks in cattle is higher than among those killed in road traffic accidents.
Results from Northern Ireland also suggested there was a positive association between the the number of
active main setts and the risk of a bovine TB breakdown.
From these and other data, Krebs concluded that there was strong evidence for an association between bovine
TB in badgers and cattle, but noted that there were many problems with how the data had been gathered, and
recommended that more data be collected to properly assess the risk.
More recent evidence has been mostly obtained via the randomized trial (described below). Woodroffe et al.
(2005) looked at nearest neighbour distances between infected and uninfected badgers and cattle. This d
emonstrated that smaller scale patterns of infection in the two species were spatially correlated, and also that
there were close linkages in the distribution of M. bovis strain types in the two species. Jenkins et al. (2007)
investigated the impact of badger culling on the spatial distribution of bovine TB infection in badger and cattle
populations. Bovine TB infection was significantly clustered within badger populations, but clustering was
reduced when culls were repeated across wide areas. There was significant spatial association between
bovine TB infections in badgers and cattle herds across successive culls, but this became non-significant when
the initial observation was excluded. These patterns are consistent with the idea that badgers are less territorial
and range more widely in culled areas, allowing disease transmission to occur over greater distances.
Continued clustering of bovine TB infection in cattle, even where badgers were repeatedly culled over wide
areas, was thought to reflect cattle-to-cattle transmission.
Probably the best information available on this is from Hone & Donnelly (2008) and Donnelly & Hone (2010).
They reported that they had analysed data from the 10 sites randomly selected to be proactive culling sites in
the UK Randomized Badger Culling Trial. The authors stressed that the data were observational (not
experimental) with the badger data only from the initial cull and the cattle TB incidence data for the year prior to
the cull. They developed a priori two-host mathematical models of relationships between bovine TB infection in
cattle and badger populations, and then evaluated the predictions of such models relative to the data.
Their model prediction with the most support (based on Akaike's Information criterion) was a positive linear
relationship through the origin between the density of infectious cattle and the density index of infectious
badgers (shown below). Several of their models - namely those with density-dependent transmission within and
between species, and/or environmental transmission - predicted such a relationship. The figure below shows
how closely the data fitted that relationship. The coefficient of determination was quite high at R2 = 0.869. This
could be taken to suggest that a high proportion of the variation was thus explained, but since it was assumed
that the line passed through the origin, R2 no longer has its usual simple meaning ( Kvålseth, 1985 )
Modified figure reproduced here for critical appraisal is from Hone & Donnelly (2008)
Whilst recognising that their results were based on observational data, a small data set and two clusters of
data points (shown orange and green in our graph), Hone & Donnelly argued that this graph demonstrated a close
positive relationship between bovine TB in cattle herds and badgers infectious with M. bovis - with infection
passing in both directions. They suggested that this meant that bovine TB in cattle herds could be substantially
reduced, possibly even eliminated, in the absence of transmission from badgers to cattle, providing there was
no change in the situation during the process of reducing transmission.
Clearly there is a relationship here - but describing it as 'close' is questionable.
In the right hand cluster, the initial proactive culling of badgers was delayed until after the foot and mouth
disease (FMD) epidemic in 2001. Over this period all testing for bovine TB ceased. These triplets showed
markedly higher levels of bovine TB in both cattle and badgers, interpreted by Bourne et al. (2007) as
evidence of cattle to badger transmission when cattle testing and culling was interrupted by the FMD
epidemic. Hone & Donnelly felt that a more uniform spread of data across the range of density of infectious
badgers would have been desirable. This is true, but what is more important is that the same relationship
should hold within each of the two clusters.
- Examination of the data shows that there was no evidence of a positive relationship within each cluster -
separate regressions gave non-significant negative slopes. Of course, if there is lot of measurement error,
this would not be surprising. But then as the authors themselves point out, the regression model assumes
that the independent variables are estimated without error. This is not a serious problem if that error is
small, but then we have just had to assume there is a high level of measurement error to make sense of
the within cluster relationships...
We have some further points of concern:
- The statement that 'sites were randomly
selected to be proactive culling sites' is
misleading. The sites for proactive badger
culling (at least 9 out of 10 of them) were
randomly allocated to this treatment from a
total of 30 sites - but those 30 sites appear to
have been convenience selected. Hence any
bias in the selection of the 30 original areas will
still affect the 9 sites randomly allocated to
- We suspect that there is a high risk of spatial
autocorrelation in these data which would result
in an overestimate of the strength of any
Convenience sampling is where study units are chosen because they are most accessible or convenient, and no attempt is made to obtain a representative sample.
A good example is journalists doing 'person in the street' interviews to assess public opinion.
Here bias is inevitable, and it is impossible to extend any conclusions beyond the actual samples taken.
In conclusion, there seems to be a relationship between the density of
infectious cattle and the density index of infectious badgers, probably
resulting from transmission between and within both hosts. But that
relationship is not very close, even when the best available data are used,
and may not be linear.
It is especially worrying that there is no relationship within each of those
clusters. This could be because the data are still not very good (high levels
of measurement error) or it could be because one or more major
explanatory variables and/or confounding factors are not being considered.
How does transmission each way occur?
This section is unfortunately very short, because we still have very little understanding of how bovine TB is
transmitted from badgers to cattle, or vice-versa. The International Scientific Group (Bourne et al., 2007 )
concluded, and King (2007) agreed, that the most likely means of transmission are inhalation of infected droplets
from the lungs of other infected animals, or oral ingestion of mycobacteria from farm environments. The only direct
experimental evidence comes from the work of Little et al. (1982). They demonstrated that bovine TB infected
badgers can transmit M. bovis to cattle, but only under unnatural experimental conditions - cattle & badgers were
kept together in a concrete-lined yard where the badgers slept in a metal pig sty.
Badger in a farm building
(Photo: InfluentialPoints )
So one is left with asking how frequently badgers may encounter cattle under natural
It is potentially much easier to prevent contact between housed cattle and badgers than when they are out at
- Benham & Broom (1989) concluded that the normal behaviour of badgers would
not result in direct transmission of tuberculosis from badgers to cattle via air
expired by badgers or via bodily contact. Similarly Benham & Broom (1991)
found that nearly all cattle strongly avoided herbage contaminated with badger
faeces or urine.
- More recently Böhm et al. (2009) used novel proximity logging devices to show
that badgers and cattle came within 4 m of each other on pasture infrequently,
but it was not as rare as previously thought. Tolhurst et al. (2008) used remote surveillance, radio-tracking and
faecal analysis to show that badgers do sometimes exhibit close, investigative 'nose-to-nose' contact with
housed cattle and also excreted/scent-marked on and around feed.
pasture, but until we know the relative risks of contact in housing versus pasture, it is difficult to predict how
effective increased biosecurity measures around housing and feed stations will be.
Does reducing number of badgers reduce disease in cattle?
We tried above to interpret the descriptive data on changes over time in the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle herds
in England and Wales, and found it difficult to reach any firm conclusions. We can instead compare trends in disease
incidence (% reactors of total cattle population) between different countries which differed in their use of badger
culling for TB control.
How much illegal culling has been carried out is difficult to assess, but it is certainly widespread in Great Britain and
- Northern Ireland has not been culling badgers at all.
- The Irish Republic has culled an increasing number of badgers each year from around 2000 per year in the mid
1990s to around 6000 per year in the late 2000s each year.
Great Britain culled badgers up to the mid 1990s, but then it was (officially) restricted to the proactive culling
areas in the randomized trial.
the Irish Republic.
Figure reproduced here for critical appraisal is from TBInfo.com et al. (2005a).
The trends in each country are very different.
- In Northern Ireland the percentage of cattle found to be reactors was around 0.5% in 1999, but it then
increased sharply in 2002. This probably resulted from the breakdown of the bovine TB testing system following
the 2001 FMD outbreak. This resulted in both increased local cases, and import of untested animals to replace
animals culled. Once testing was re-established, TB declined again to its previous level up till 2010.
- In the Irish Republic the percentage of reactors declined slightly from around 0.6% in 1999 to around 0.4%
where it has stayed ever since.
In Great Britain it was low in 1999, but increased sharply in 2002 (as in Northern Ireland) following the FMD
outbreak. However, unlike Northern Ireland, the rate did not drop again, but instead continued to increase,
especially in the south-west of the country.
Certainly one would be hard pushed to reach a clear conclusion on the
advisability or otherwise of badger culling from these descriptive data.
All one can say is that after very different histories, each country seems to
have ended up with roughly the same bovine TB prevalence (albeit with
great within-country variation)!
Observational badger removal projects
We now consider badger removal projects. These were intended as experiments, but there was no random
allocation of treatment to area, sometimes no reference (without culling) area, and sometimes no replication. As
such they do not meet the basic requirements for a scientific experiment, and are correctly classified as
Three such studies were carried out in Great Britain - at Thornbury in Avon, at Steeple Leaze in Dorset, and at
Hartland in North Devon. In the Thornbury trial badgers appear to have been completely removed (at least
temporarily) and no new infected herds were recorded for over ten years (Clifton-Hadley et al., 1995; Gallagher et al.,
2008 ) A similar result was obtained at Steeple Leaze. However, documentation of the studies seems to have
been rather poor and there were no survey-only areas.
Two studies were carried out in the Republic of Ireland. In the east-Offally project proactive badger took place in
one area from 1989 to 1995. Máirtín et al. (1998) compared the proportion of new confirmed tuberculous herd
restrictions in that area with cattle from an area where only reactive removal was practiced. The incidence of bovine
TB in cattle fell markedly in the removal area and less markedly in the neighbouring reactive culling reference area.
The study was expanded post 1995 over a somewhat larger area. By 2004, Kelly et al. (2008) observed a
significant decreases in herd restrictions of 22% in the entire proactive removal area and 37% in the inner proactive
Another non-randomized trial, the Four Areas Study, was carried out in Ireland from September 1997 to August
2000 (Griffin et al., 2005a ). Matched removal and reference areas (average area of 245 km2) were convenience
selected in each of four counties of Ireland: Cork, Donegal, Kilkenny and Monaghan. In the removal areas badger
culling was intensive and proactive throughout the study period, with 0.57 badgers /km2 removed. In reference
areas it was instead reactive, with badgers culled only in response to severe tuberculosis outbreaks in cattle, with
0.07 badgers /km2 removed. The response variable was restriction of cattle herds where tuberculous lesions were
detected in one or more animals.
Figure reproduced here for critical appraisal is modified from Griffin et al. (2005a).
In the final year of the study, the odds of a confirmed herd restriction in the removal compared to the reference
areas were 0.25 in Cork, 0.04 in Donegal, 0.26 in Kilkenny and 0.43 in Monaghan. At first sight, this trial does
appear to provide fairly decisive evidence that relatively intensive culling with minimal reinvasion does reduce the
incidence of bovine TB in cattle.
Against that it has to be said that using reactive removal as the control may well have increased the bovine TB rate
in the reference areas, so that the effect was overestimated. Griffin et al. (2005a) rejected this arguing that there
was no significant increase in levels of tuberculosis in cattle in response to reactive badger removal in the reference
areas. Whilst this is true, the graphs in Griffin et al. (2005b) (not shown here) do show a marked peak in 1998-1990
(higher than any previous levels) in three of the four (reactive culling) reference areas.
Griffin et al. also argued that the intensity of badger removal in the reference areas was very low - too low to result in
any perturbation of badger populations. But this is only the case when averaged across the whole area - in the
affected areas the intensity of removal was very high. The authors concluded by saying that although feasible,
widespread badger removal was not a viable strategy for the long-term control of tuberculosis in the Irish cattle
population, and therefore there was a need to develop an effective vaccine for badgers.
- These observational studies certainly strongly suggested that badgers
were involved in the transmission of bovine TB.
- Where badger removal was near complete, there were no new TB
cases for several years.
- But in other areas the level of tuberculosis reduction did not seem to
match the level of badger reduction.
- And, as we should have learnt from medical trials, observational studies
using non-random allocation are almost invariably biased and unreliable.
The randomized badger culling trial (RBCT)
Lastly we come to the Krebs randomized trial. This was the first properly designed trial with randomized allocation
of treatment to experimental units (in this case areas). We nowadays expect very high standards of randomization in
medical trials, simply because we know that any other approach tends to give the wrong answer. But the Krebs trial
was the first (and so far only) instance where the approach has been used to compare methods of controlling
Thirty trial areas, each about 100 km2, were selected as ten matched triplets, all in areas of high cattle TB
incidence. Where possible, they followed geographic barriers likely to impede badger movement. Neighboring
trial areas were separated by buffer zones at least 3 km wide.
All trial areas were surveyed for badger activity and then (most) were randomly allocated to treatments.
Allocation was done such that each treatment - proactive culling, reactive culling, or survey only (no culling) -
was repeated ten times, once within each triplet. Consent was sought from landholders before areas were
surveyed for badger activity and culling treatments allocated. The proportion of inaccessible land within
proactive treatment areas varied from 15% to 50% (30% overall).
Following treatment allocation, initial badger culls were conducted on all land in the proactive areas for which
consent was given. Culling treatment area boundaries were defined beyond trial area boundaries where
necessary to ensure that all badgers likely to use land inside the trial areas were targeted. Badgers were
captured in cage traps placed primarily at setts. No culling took place in February - April each year to avoid
killing mothers with dependent cubs. No attempt was made to remove all badgers in an area, but instead
trapping operations were conducted over a fixed number of nights (initially 11 and then 8).
Initial badger culls for each proactive trial area were completed between December 1998 and December 2002,
and 'follow-up' culls were repeated approximately annually with longer delays in 2001 because of the FMD
epidemic. As soon as the initial proactive cull was complete, data were collected on bovine TB incidence in
cattle in and around trial areas, using established veterinary surveillance. Primary analyses were based on the
incidence of confirmed breakdowns.
The first results published from the trial were not as expected. An interim analysis carried out before the planned
completion of the trial (Donnelly et al., 2003 ) suggested that localised reactive badger had not reduced bovine TB
incidence in cattle, but may well have increased it. The reactive treatment was associated with a 27% increase in
the incidence of cattle herd breakdowns when compared with no culling areas. The 95% confidence interval to this
was a 2.4% decrease to 65% increase. Hence, whilst the increase was not quite significant at P = 0.05, it seemed
very unlikely that this treatment would reduce TB incidence. As a result, the government discontinued the reactive
culling treatment, and the trial continued with just two treatments - proactive culling and survey only.
Woodroffe (2008) reported that the proactive cull had been effective in reducing the number of badgers. There was
a 73% reduction in the density of badger latrines, a 69% reduction in the density of active burrows and a 73%
reduction in the density of road-killed badgers. Localized 'reactive' culling caused reductions of 10 - 32% in the
'signs' of badger populations.
Donnelly et al. (2007) reported on the impact of the culling on the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. During the trial
period, bovine TB incidence in cattle was significantly lower by an average 23.2% inside culled areas (red points
below), but non-significantly higher by an average 24.5% on land within 2 km of the culled area (green points below)
, relative to matched unculled areas.
Figure reproduced under a Creative Commons licence from Jenkins et al. (2010).
Subsequent analysis by Vial & Donnelly (2011) using a case-control study design supports the conclusion that
localized reactive culling increased the risk of bovine tuberculosis in nearby cattle herds.
Inside the culling area the beneficial effect of culling tended to increase on successive annual culls giving a 35%
decrease in bovine TB by the end of the culling period. After culling ended, the positive effects inside proactive
culled areas initially became more pronounced to give a 50% decrease in bovine TB. The positive effects declined
thereafter, although the sudden increase at months 31-36 resulted from use of incomplete data (see below); the full
data indicate a more gradual reversion to the previous TB level.
The detrimental effect in adjoining areas was ascribed to the perturbation effect (Carter et al., 2007 ). Culling of
badgers results in immigration into culled areas, disruption of territoriality, increased ranging and mixing between
social groups. The increased contact rates between social groups are thought to exacerbate bovine TB
transmission. The detrimental effect tended to diminish on successive annual culls and were no longer apparent by
the end of the trial.
A cost-benefit analysis suggested that benefits in terms of reduction of bovine TB in the culling zones did not offset
the costs of culling and of the increase in bovine TB in adjoining areas.
One might think that being the 'best' trial so far would lead to general acceptance of the results - but far from it!
Ecologists and wildlife conservationists have generally accepted the results.
But the response from most of the farming community has been negative, as it has from much of the veterinary
Even the implementing body DEFRA noted that: "The large number of biases inherent in any field trial makes
interpretation of the results generated from them difficult." This may seem an odd comment to make about the
only randomized trial that has been carried out on this issue. But it is important to acknowledge that there were
many problems both in the design and implementation of this trial.
Our own criticisms would focus on the following:
- Too few replications
The number of replications was very small, at 10 for each of two (originally three) treatments. This level of
replication was set purely by power considerations, which are concerned with demonstrating statistical
significance for a given effect size - not with obtaining a result which can be extrapolated to a larger area
(unless the original experimental units are randomly selected). If this had been a medical trial, it would be
regarded as an (excessively) small matched-cluster randomised trial.
More trials would have to be run in different areas to obtain generalizability, followed by a meta-analysis to
estimate the overall effect size. But the chances of being able to run any more randomized trials on this topic
seem vanishingly small. The enormous cost of the trial (estimated at £50 million) seems likely to doom this
approach - at least run by a goverment department - to the history books. As it is these are the results of just
one trial carried out at 30 convenience-selected sites in south-west England at one point in time - extrapolation
is therefore highly speculative.
- Non-random treatment allocation
Treatment was only allocated randomly in 9 of the 10 triplets for undefined 'security' reasons. The inconvenient
fact that 10% of allocations were done non-randomly, rather than in a (stratified) random manner was
completely ignored in all analyses. Results should have been analyzed with and without that triplet so that
any bias could be assessed.
- Implementation problems
Some landowners refused access for badger culling, and (no doubt) some illegal culling continued in 'non-culling'
areas. Treatment and monitoring schedules were severely disrupted by demonstrators and especially by the
FMD outbreak. This meant that badger culling could not be carried out at annual intervals, and the routine cattle
TB test and cull programme fell apart.
Others have also commented on the implementation problems.
One of the Field Managers (Caruana, 2006 ) felt that compulsory entry on to farms was essential, and that
eight days per year was totally inadequate to trap-out the badger. He concluded that 'the trial has far too
many flaws in it to be trusted to produce meaningful answers'.
Gallagher et al. (2008) also noted that serious questions remained concerning the efficiency of culling in the
RBCT. They stressed that past badger removal projects had been much more successful because
complete social groups had been removed.
Whilst accepting that the trial had 'problems', this does not invalidate the results providing we treat it as
a pragmatic trial. In the real world there are likely to be even more implementation problems than was the case
here. In medical trials it is usual analyze results by intention to treat - in other words all experimental units
randomized to treatment are subjected to analysis, irrespective of errors in treatment assignment, breakdown
in blinding and withdrawals. If we treat the badger trial as a pragmatic trial, then the numerous implementation
problems (in particular the failure to kill all badgers in the cull areas) are simply included as representative of
the sort of the problems there would be if the approach was used in practice.
- Reactive culling treatment should not have been terminated.
This decision was highly questionable given that it was made just before the treatment effect reached statical
'significance'. Reactive culling was the method of control that had been used to date, and would be the only
method of control that could realistically be used in future. The early termination of this treatment means that
some (for example More et al., 2007 ) can still argue that the data do not provide sufficient evidence for adverse
effects of reactive culling. Perhaps the treatment was only terminated for political reasons - although it must be
said that the researchers lost credibility by going along with it post hoc.
- Cost-benefit analysis was simplistic
The cost-benefit analysis has been widely criticised for initially using the costs of cage-trapping rather than the
cheaper methods of 'free shooting' or snaring. However, Jenkins et al. (2010) did consider alternate methods,
including licenced culling, but concluded this approach would almost certainly be patchy and unsustained, and
hence most likely prompt increases, rather than reductions, in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. Our own
criticism of the cost-benefit analysis is more serious, in that no value was assigned to badgers - an issue we
- Premature publication of incomplete analyses
Some of the analyses (including some economic analyses) were published prematurely, with incomplete data
for some time periods. Whilst this is understandable, given the pressure from government for 'answers', it was
still unwise since it means that graphs in one scientific paper suddenly change in the next paper - leading to
criticism and loss of credibility (bovinetb.info, 2011 ).
Given the fact that we only have one small randomized trial, we have to
draw conclusions from all studies, but give the result of the randomized trial
- Complete removal of all badgers (and in some areas deer) from an
area, coupled with rigourous test and cull of cattle and elimination of
reinvading wildlife, would reduce bovine TB to a low level, and may in
the long run eliminate the disease in the area concerned.
- Removing most badgers (say 70%) over small areas in response to
outbreaks (reactive culling) is counter-productive and may increase
- Removing most badgers (say 70%) over a large area will reduce cattle
infection rates by 20-50%, but is probably not cost effective, even if the
wildlife resource is assumed to have no value.
Disease eradication or control
The official policy in Britain (and the rest of the European Union) is to eradicate bovine TB from cattle. This is laid
out in 'The Bovine TB Eradication Programme For England' (DEFRA 2011b ). It is true that disease eradication has
been achieved for smallpox in humans, and has recently been claimed for rinderpest in cattle. These diseases,
however, have single maintenance hosts and hence eradication is a meaninful objective (CFSPH, 2008 ). But no
disease with multiple maintenance hosts has ever been eradicated - and may never be. Moreover global eradication
programmes are extremely expensive and can have very adverse side-effects, especially in relation to diverting
resources from effective control methods (see Caplan, 2009 on 'Is eradication ethical?').
Even disease elimination - namely reduction to zero in the incidence of infection within a specified geographical area
- is impractical when you have several wild maintenance hosts as with bovine TB. TB infected cattle can be removed
using the 'test and cull' approach, with affected herds put under movement restriction and re-tested periodically to
eliminate cattle that may shed the organism. But this approach cannot be used for wildlife reservoir species, which
in Britain means badgers and fallow deer. Because sick badgers are more likely to get culled, large scale pro-active
culls (actually a misuse of the term 'cull') may sometimes reduce the disease prevalence in badgers (Corner et al.,
2008 ), but cannot possibly eliminate infections in a wild population.
We have no reliable diagnostic test for an individual
badger, and no way to keep 'contacts' under observation.
Hence, if one is really trying to eliminate all infections, the
only culling option is the total elimination of badger &
Observant readers may note the definition of cull has expanded from its earlier meaning of selective removal of infected individuals, to encompass area-wide extermination of badgers.
Let us be grateful similar methods are not applied to human disease.
This of course brings vehement protestations from farmers, veterinarians and politicians that killing all badgers is
unthinkable, and that they only want to reduce the number of badgers. If that is the case, then perhaps it would be
better all round if the European Union, the British government and the veterinary establishment finally stopped talking
about disease eradication and thought rationally about disease control.
In fact, as we have seen, the only reduction that would have much effect upon the bovine TB infection rate in cattle
is a massive reduction in badger numbers, a point apparently accepted by the government scientific establishment.
Sir David King told a Parliamentary Committee that, in his opinion, a reduction by 70 to 80% would be perfectly
acceptable and would be within the terms of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and
Natural Habitats (House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, 2007 ). His statement is
frighteningly reminiscent of the drive to eradicate tsetse flies from southern Africa, where for many years game-
elimination was viewed as a viable strategy to achieve that end. Between the 1920's and 1960, 1.3 million game
animals were killed, including many species (such as rhino) which are now endangered.
The classic quote was given by John Ford:
"[The failure of game shooting operations
to eradicate tsetse in the Sabi Valley]
does not imply any intrinsic failure of the
method, but indicates only that to achieve
control much more intensive killing would
have been required."
Ford, J. 'Control by destruction of the
larger fauna' in The African
Trypanosomiasis (Ed. C. H. W. Mulligan),
Allen and Unwin, London, p. 563.
The mass killing of wildlife that went on in Africa is now regarded as an appalling waste of resources - as would be the widescale elimination of Britains largest remining wild predator.
African governments are now well aware their wildlife resources have a value, and allow for this when comparing the cost-effectiveness of disease control strategies.
Perhaps the British and Irish governments could do the same.
So do badgers have any value?
Perhaps the most common response to this from advocates of badger culling is that badgers are not endangered in
Britain, with a population size of over 300,000. But this implies that a species has no value unless it is close to
extinction. The British badger population has high value in international conservation of the species, simply because
it is the largest most stable population in Europe not adversely affected by hunting.
Its importance is recognised by the the Bern Convention on Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats
(1979). It is even accepted by the UK government that mammals such as badgers, otters and seals have great
cultural significance (DEFRA, 2011a ). As Sir Gordon Conway pointed out, in a talk at Imperial College in 1975, we
have to assign a value to our natural resources - or we will undoubtedly loose them for ever.
Young badger found poisoned near badger sett
(Photo: InfluentialPoints )
Bennett & Willis (2007) carried out a choice experiment survey in England and Wales to assess what value the '
public' placed on badgers. Whilst people gave a relatively low value to modest reductions in the size of badger
populations to control bovine TB, they had a relatively high willingness to pay for a policy that did not involve
intentionally killing large numbers of badgers.
Certainly if 'free shooting' of badgers leads to major disruption of the countryside by protesters, it seems likely that
the economic consequences for the tourism and recreation components of the rural economy will be severe. This
mistake was made during the FMD epidemic in 2002, when huge economic losses were sustained as a result of
'shutting down the countryside' (Blake et al., 2003 ). We now expect - and pay - farmers to play an important role in
the maintenance of biodiversity, which implies that we value both the wildlife and the farming.
So where does that leave us? If both badgers and cattle have value, it takes us firmly to the vaccination option for
both cattle and badgers. Corner et al. (2002) argued that vaccination is useful "wherever animals of high economic,
social or conservation value are involved and test and slaughter or culling programs are not applicable". The badger
is about as good a candidate as you can get for having high social and conservation value. A licensed injectable
vaccine for badgers is already available for use in 2010, and an oral formulation of the vaccine could be available
from 2012. Whilst nearly all the planned trials of badger vaccination in Britain were scrapped in 2010 by the
incoming government - one of the most retrogressive and anti-science actions of any new government - a major
badger vaccination trial is planned in Ireland (Corner et al., 2009 ).
As for cattle vaccination, research is continuing on a new vaccine, but a strong case can be made to use the current
BCG vaccine in cattle now (see also bovinetb and Torgerson & Torgerson (2009) ). Derogation from EU regulations
would have to be sought, but the price for this would be small compared to the gains, and other countries would
soon follow suit. The Small Farms Association also now supports vaccination of cattle with the current BCG vaccine
on the basis that endless prevarication will only further depress the British farming industry. Combining vaccination
with cage-trapping of badgers - with a cull only of those with infectious lesions of tuberculosis - may help give
speedier disease control in disease hotspots.
- We are not saying here that vaccination is the silver
bullet to eradicate bovine TB - it is not. But, if
we want feasible cost-effective control of bovine
TB, we need to vaccinate both badgers and cattle
- The proposed reactive (and no doubt very patchy)
badger cull makes no sense scientifically, and
may well worsen the situation.
- Given these facts, could it be the UK government
has adopted a dysfunctional disease control policy merely to placate wealthy livestock farmers and avoid spending money?
If so, it is almost as unfair to farmers as it is to the badgers...
If you are interested in an evidence-based approach to the science of disease control see part 1 of 'Stats with Attitude'
Robert D. Dransfield (Senior Partner, InfluentialPoints.LLP)
Feedback & comments
We would be delighted to receive feedback and comments at info@InfluentialPoints.com
Comments (whether positive or negative) are displayed here, in the order received.
- David Major Bovinetb.info Nov 2011
I have just read [Badger culling and bovine TB (tuberculosis)] and found it to be very readable and well researched. You put much effort into making it interesting and did a good job of carrying the reader along. I am not even a statistician and you only completely lost me in a couple of paragraphs! My other general comment is that the content would have been more rounded and perhaps viewed as being more informative if further information had been put into the difficulties and practicalities of vaccination for both badgers and cattle. Anyone looking for information without a preconceived agenda would for example want to know the technical reasons for why vaccination is not being implemented now and what is still outstanding which needs to be achieved. Providing this would improve the value of your page as a source of information.
- Bob Dransfield InfluentialPoints.com 18 Nov 2011
Re the technical reasons for why vaccination is not being implemented now, the key point is whether you are using it control the disease or whether one is into 'eradication' (or at least elimination of the disease in Britain). If you are content with the much more realistic goal of control, then there are no technical reasons why we should not use the BCG vaccine in cattle now as recommended by the Small Farms Association.
- David Major
Bovinetb.info 18 Nov 2011
REF: BCG vaccine in cattle I earlier today emailed the EU and asked the following question.
"If you can, I would be grateful if you could give me your understanding of what the potential adverse consequences would be if the EU were to change legislation today which would allow the UK to vaccinate cattle against bovine tuberculosis and continue exporting cattle products to other member states."
I understand from DEFRA that the value of this export was about 375 million pounds in 2010 (Live trade is now neglible). I also understand that Intra-Community trade of bovine animals and products is harmonized across the European Union, so any ban would be expected to apply to trade with all other Member states.
- Bob Dransfield InfluentialPoints.com 24 Nov 2011
As regards your webpage 'Bovine TB Time for a Rethink' I would only make the following points: 1. Although the idea of leaving disease control decisions to farmers is appealing, it means we would miss out on one of the big advantages of vaccination - herd immunity (as you note in Section 7). Vaccination should be compulsory. 2. As we point out we also need to vaccinate the badger population using an oral vaccine - this has been done very successfully in Europe against rabies in wild fox populations.
- Sally Hall Rethink TB 24 Nov 2011
Your points about compulsory vaccination are interesting and we did consider this but felt it important to get responsibility for disease control back with the farmers. We felt it important to keep niche markets, such as raw milk, where the test and cull policy may still need to be implemented. With regards to wildlife reservoirs we took the view that it is a disease of cattle and not any worse than other diseases that are not given the same attention/resources bTB is. For example, we understand that 70% of cattle herds have leptospirosis....this is a nasty zoonoses that kills. In fact Andy Holmes - double olympic gold medalist in rowing was one of the more famous victims of this disease. In view of the negligible risks to humans from the disease (because most mile is now pasteurised) we therefore considered vaccination of wildlife to be disproportionate and not cost effective. Have you seen the Torgerson paper. If not you should find it very interesting as they argue pasturisation of milk is sufficient to safeguard public health regardless of incidence in cattle....people contracted bTB in the 30's due to unpasteurized milk... the eradication programme has a devastating effect on the cattle industry....
- Bob Dransfield InfluentialPoints.com
The Torgerson paper is now referred to - thanks Sally.
- Jane Brown
Thank you for your very informative article on bTB and badgers. As history in Ireland and the UK can confirm, the TB bacteria enjoys the conditions and climate of these islands, as evidenced by the magnitude of the human TB problem found here, prior to the advent of the human vaccine. It is a naturally occurring bacteria that can thrive for long periods of time in such climactic conditions. Aside from transmission from cattle and the consequent introduction of pasteurization to reduce these events, it was also ascertained that overcrowding, lack of hygiene, etc., contributed to the vast numbers of human TB sufferers.
Presumably, it is similar with cattle, wherein herds currently are of a much greater magnitude than pre-1980, farmers are now often 'part time' and unable to devote as much time to farming practices, cattle are now housed in winter in often questionable conditions, etc.
Scientifically, it has been ascertained that the evidence of bTB in cattle dramatically increases during early spring months, just after cattle are once again put out to pasture. Logically it would appear then, that cattle housing in some way exacerbates this problem. I often wonder if, during culling trials when bTB allegedly was reduced, farming practices were not themselves radically improved due to the possibility of government scrutiny. And certainly, government regulations that now oversee cattle movement, etc., must play a part in any statistical reduction of disease found. While many officials, farmers and vets deem the badger to be inconsequential as it is not an 'income producing animal', it would be interesting to project future agricultural concerns when, with a diminished badger population, the larvae, grubs, etc., that the badger consumes and controls, are left unchecked. The balance of nature must always be respected.
The issue of bTB is not a human health issue, but one of farming economy. There is no viable reason that cattle vaccination, particularly with the advent of DIVA testing, should not be legislatively acceptable. It is truly the only rational way forward.
- Bob Dransfield InfluentialPoints.com
Many thanks for your comments on our article on bTB and badgers on our website.
Am I correct in thinking that you have published several articles on the topic (e.g. Studies on the spread of bovine tuberculosis from badgers to cattle). If so, I would much appreciate receiving pdf copies of your papers.
I would like to post your comments on our website, but one question first. We are a little dubious about the implication that our climate is especially suitable for TB bacteria. Every part of the world has had tuberculosis, and nearly every part of the world has the disease now. Moreover the disease is more virulent in warm climates than in cold. I worked in the Rift Valley in Kenya for some years and human TB is still a huge problem there.
Anyway, 'tis but a small point. The main thing as you say is that there is no viable reason why we should not control bovine tb with cattle vaccination.
- Jane Brown
Thank you for your email. I am not a scientist, nor have I published any articles with respect to TB. My interest lay solely upon the occurrence of culling in my area last year, and, frankly, a pet badger that I wished to protect. At that time, I did a whirlwind of research on this topic - at least as much as the internet would provide - and was under the impression that a moderate climate, damp and unhygienic conditions, overcrowding and stress, can allow the bacteria to exist outside a host for a considerable amount of time. I was also under the impression that the TB bacteria found in Africa is a different strain than m. bovis, however, again, this information is just what I have gleaned from third-party research.
I do believe that cattle vaccination is the only goal in this entire issue, and frankly, feel that the public have been somewhat misled by the inference that this is a human health issue, when in essence, it is solely economic to the cattle industry.
In any event, you are certainly more than welcome to post any of my comments on your website, although now that you understand I am solely a lay person, you may not be quite as interested in doing so!
- Thomas P. Kelly, MVB, MRCVS, Republic of Ireland
I wrote the following to an Irish politician yesterday.
As it largely concerns the covering up of our problems with badger perturbation and its adverse effects on cattle TB in Ireland, I thought it might interest you, too:
Please find attached a critique of a very significant press release by the then minister for agriculture etc., Mary Coughlan, in which she and DAFF repeatedly shoot themselves so often in the feet and legs that they hardly have a leg left to stand on, a fact I am ashamed to say my profession has so far failed to bring to the Irish public's attention.
I can write you a brief background to our bovine TB "eradication"/elimination/control efforts and to how ego and greed etc. have sabotaged our attempts to rid staunch a fifty-year+ long haemorrhage of national resources if you wish? Or I could talk you through it over the phone?
As long as we
then incalculable harm must continue to be done not only financially to the most vulnerable among Irish society, but also to the national psyche itself.
- continue to deny that "culling" badgers in Ireland has any adverse effect on bovine TB,
- continue to be preoccupied with covering up this deceit,
- continue to intimidate any who would think to blow a whistle on this,
- continue to therefore undermine or even make a large scale mockery of state-run veterinary epidemiology in Ireland,
- continue to attempt to mislead Britain, the EU and the world in this regard and, offence no doubt being deemed the greatest form of defence, continue to suggest to the British that they have greatly overestimated the adverse effects of culling badgers in Britain, (please see attached article from the Veterinary Record by Professor Simon More (also an author, and perhaps the most significant one - young Francisco Olea-Popelka having been "parachuted in" from abroad to do the slagging - off http://www.veterinaryirelandjournal.com/Links/PDFs/Peer/Peer_December_06.pdf ), and continue, by so doing, to falsify the true economics of badger "culling" to control bovine TB so that any attempts to vaccinate badgers and/or cattle, instead, may seem less feasible, less economic or even prohibitively expensive by comparison,
- Bob Dransfield InfluentialPoints.com
Thanks Tom. It's good to know that in Ireland at least some vets are prepared to speak out!
- Prof John McInerney, emeritus professor of agricultural policy at the University of Exeter,
Having just discovered your web page dealing with the above topic I congratulate you on a comprehensive, balanced and very informative presentation across the breadth of this complex issue. At a time when the badger culling discussion amounts to little more than competing personal opinion and selective reference to the technical facts, this is a highly valuable contribution.
However, I must pick you up on one point. One of your criticisms of the RBCT was that the "cost benefit analysis was simplistic". This is an entirely empty criticism because a cost benefit analysis was not actually conducted! Paragraph 9.16 of the ISG Final Report points out that the economic weakness of culling strategies could be seen from simple accounting without recourse to a CBA, and again in para 9.20 it is stated that the broad cost and benefit estimates demonstrate why there was no point in undertaking a CBA. The financial calculations the ISG reported were indeed simple ("simplistic" has unnecessarily pejorative overtones) but nevertheless highlighted the economic imbalance in the culling operations quite accurately and unambiguously.
And that conclusion is in no way affected by your criticism, which you describe as "more serious, in that no value was assigned to badgers". If an additional cost element relating to the value of the badgers culled had been included it would merely have increased the total cost associated with culling and exacerbated even further the already obvious benefit-cost imbalance. In addition, any attempt to include such aspects beyond the direct (culling operations) costs and direct (disease reduction) benefits would have started to lead towards undertaking what would be recognised as a cost-benefit analysis, and thereby require consideration of a far wider constellation of impacts (benefits of reduced badger population, veterinary income and employment effects of reduced cattle TB, etc, etc). as well as wider social and economic implications. The ISG were well advised not to go there.
In general, I would criticise your final section on "So do badgers have any value" of falling into the trap (as, understandably, non-economists are prone to) of failing to distinguish between the total value of a stock of something (e.g. a wildlife population) and the marginal value of a change in the size of that stock. A reduction in the size of the total badger population from 300,000 to 275,000 may not be considered in value terms to be as significant as a reduction from 30,000 to 5,000 - though both represent the loss of 25,000 badgers. So it is not a sensible question to ask "what is the value of a badger"!
- Bob Dransfield InfluentialPoints.com
Very many thanks for your generally complimentary and very constructive comments on our web page on the badger culling discussion.
We fully accept that we should have been more specific in our criticism of the 'cost-benefit analysis'. We were referring not only to final report of the ISG (2007) (where I agree entirely with the points made), but also to subsequent publications (e.g. Jenkins et al (2010) in PLoS ONE) where we encounter comments such as "the total cost of licensed culling (would be) slightly lower than the potential benefits projected from RBCT results."
Although such conclusions were hedged with caveats, the impression was given that the 'benefit-cost imbalance' was not quite so clear cut, and that with a bit more effort at reducing costs it might make financial sense. Such comments tend to get pounced upon by people who wish to support culling.
As for our final section, although we entitled it "so do badgers have any value", I don't think we in any way suggested that you can put a value on a 'per animal' basis. We started that section by pointing out that the British badger population has a high conservation value because it is the largest most stable population in Europe currently not adversely affected by hunting. Hence it is the population that has value, and we have to consider how best to conserve that population in the context of a biodiverse countryside.
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GOOD NEWS FOR SOME BADGERS
Borders Rail line: Badgers get £10k new home
By David O’Leary
Published on 22/05/2013 12:00
THOUSANDS of pounds are to be spent relocating hundreds of residents living in the path of the new Borders Railway – but the answer isn’t as black and white as you may think.
Several badger setts have been identified by wildlife experts along the 35-mile route and a £10,000 pot has been set aside to provide the nocturnal hunters with alternative accommodation due to the threat the works pose to their habitat.
Artificial setts are to be created in order to move them to safety, which is a legal requirement surrounding the protected carnivores.
A full-time badger expert has now been drafted in to oversee the project which will see identical but roomier setts, comprising numerous chambers and tunnels, constructed and then covered in soil up to a metre deep to hide them from view.
Tasty treats will be used to encourage the animals to visit the new setts, and once the entire clan has moved in access to their previous home will be blocked.
Network Rail, in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), is also providing alternative nesting spots for owls and has plans in place to limit the impact on other species along the route, such as bats and otters.
SNH licensing manager Ben Ross said: “Each sett can vary in size and the number of badgers it contains so depending on factors such as these, each artificial sett could cost between £200-£300 and £1000 to construct.
“Relocations such as this are quite common when large capital projects are being built. It basically involves digging a large hole and then constructing a series of tunnels and chambers using railway sleepers and large pipes.
“Badgers are creatures of habit and use the same paths to get about at night so the likelihood is that if you build a new sett, they will inevitably investigate it.
“You’d think that they would reject the idea and look to return to their own original sett, but if the sett is built correctly and offers more room, then the badgers seem very happy to take up residence.”
Under laws protecting badgers, work cannot be carried out within 30 metres of a known sett and approval has to be gained from SNH for its removal.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are committed to delivering the new railway with the minimum of disturbance to wildlife along the line of route.
“We have plans in place for a range of environmental factors, including the temporary rehoming of badgers, and are liaising with Scottish Natural Heritage to make sure we work around important habitats and protected species or plants as sensitively as possible.”
The £300 million scheme is the largest rail reopening project in modern UK history and the line is due to open in summer 2015.
Seven new stations are being created at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.
In 2006, we revealed £320,000 was spent on 11,000 metres of badger fencing along the Capital’s tram line.
Underground overground, badgering free
Badgers are a large and instantly recognisable member of the weasel family and are the UK’s largest canrivore.
There are thought to be approximately 288,000 badgers in the UK, but an estimated 45,000 are killed in road accidents every year. They are a secretive and nocturnal animal, with a distinctive black-and-white striped face, which breeds in winter and gives birth in February.
Each night when they emerge from their setts they scent where worms will be emerging from the soil.
Their supposed ferocity has led to the sport of badger baiting in which they are dug out to have dogs set on them. If convicted, badger baiters may face a up to six months in jail.
4.3.4 Permanently reinforcing badger setts 4.4 Watching at badger setts ... As a general rule, English Nature require a licence if the work is to be carried out within .... In addition the barrels can be cemented into place or covered with flints and ...
Feb 27, 2012 ... BADGERS are being persecuted out of existence in areas of the North-East by ... A sett entrance was sealed with concrete at Easington Lane, and a badger was killed ... Alternatively, email email@example.com ...
I checked all of our badger setts for signs of water logging and cave in, but apart from ... (just before dawn) this morning it is the earliest I have ever seen one hunting. ..... life we have per acre in the uk compared to anywhere else that we travelled. ... and have dug along the side of the concrete path one meter from the Mobile ...
We (www.badgerland.co.uk) are a web-site aimed at helping the badger in the UK. ... this is what tells an observer that a fox is holed up in a badger sett. ... like to stay on the warm badger rather than your cold stone or concrete patio). .... (this probably explains why like-minded members of the hunt ride miles and miles ...
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