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Extract (nov 10 2004) from http://bovinetb.blogspot.com

More Questions than Answers - EU / Russia

See Post - 'Don't forget your Toothbrush', for list of questions that our man took to Brussels.
He has returned, with some answers and other questions have been shafted to the Tb ( non) Policy team.

We list the answers so far:

1. Define milk 'products'. (and animal products). How far does the cascade go down? e.g Milk Protein concentrate, lactose, whey powder, gelatin etc.?
"To help exporters, Defra is already seeking clarification to this point from the Commission. Once we have the answer, exporters will be made aware of the definition".

2. 4600 farms have been under restriction this year, with a 20 percent year on year increase forcast under current 'policies'. Will that lead to a two tier market in trade? Separate collections of milk? What are the consequences for those under restriction?
"Reply to be provided by Tb policy division".

3. When a farm is placed under restriction following a positive Tb test, what happens to milk / beef already in the chain of supply to EU orRussia?
" To export to Russia, a farm must have been free of Tb at the time of milk collection for the previous 12 months. As soon as Tb is confirmed, an Official Veterinarian cannot sign the Russian certificate"

4. We export a lot of animal products into the EU. do you condiser it would be risky for those importing our products to continue to do so if they wish to trade with Russia?
" Intra community trade will continue as normal, but trade with other Member States for onward shipment to Russia, will have to accompanied by 'pre-export certification' meeting the Russian conditions. (described above)

5. Commission press release (IP/04/1060 dated 2/9/04) describes 'regionalisation' so that a disease problem in any Member state can be 'isolated', so as not to affect the trade of the whole EU. Is there a danger because of our Tb status we may be so 'isolated'.
"Intra community trade will continue as normal.' Regionalisation' deals manily with 'List A' animal disease - not bovine Tb. Further information see OIE site. http://www.oie.int/eng/maladies/en/classification.htm

6. How can we certify herds free of Paratuberculosis (Johnnes) as we do not test for it?
"A test is available, but the Russian federation only requires absence of clinical signs"

7. What happens to products already in the supply chain?
"Retrospective certification of a manufactured product is not envisaged. Pre-planning will be necessary".

8. What is being done to inform those most affected; dairy companies, exporters and farmers?
" Defra is in contact with Trade Associations and information is available on the Defra web site."

9. Do the Russian dairies, recently cleared to export into the EU meet the same requirements with regard to Tb and other diseases as we have to if we are to export into Russia?
" The EU has model import conditions that all Third Countries have to comply with to import into the community. If the 3 Russian dairies meet these conditions they with be allowed to export to the EU"

10. Do the requirements of the certificate also cover cattle semen exports?
"Not yet".


So there you have it. The two big questions fudged or shafted. On 'cascade' products of both milk and beef, the question is passed back to the Commission. And that usually means - anything they want it to mean.
The two tier market (if indeed there is to be any market for Tb resticted herds?) passed back to the Tb (non) Policy Division, who it might be argued, have got us into this mess in the first place.

For onward export via a third EU country, the ethos of EU inter-community trading is broken, in that the new bi-lateral veterinary certificate accompanies the product from source, and product identity cannot be hidden behind 'added provenance' in another Member state. And 'regionalisation' was specifically referred to in the context of Tb by the Europa press releases, notwithstanding the answer decribing OIE site and 'A' category diseases.

When we receive further information, we will post it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Back to the Drawing Board - 1

Defra's new bovine Tb automated post system clanked into action last week, with the first run of 'instructions' for herds which fall into its various defined sections.

It is our understanding that this amazing bit of machinery is like an automated vending machine. Put a coin in and press the button for your choice of drink, only in this case press for category of 'official letter' to be dispatched about a herd's Tb status.

Farmers have contacted this site, puzzled and angry to have received a letter threatening a herd close down.
The button had been pressed on Defra's wondermachine, for a 42 day window when the farmer had to arrange for a whole herd TT test, and if he failed to do this he would have an immediate whole herd movement restriction imposed!

What should have been sent, was a letter indicating that a recent TT test had revealed an inconclusive reactor (IR), and in those circumstances that animal (or animals) should be isolated and would be re tested in 60 days!

A really good start then?
Ooops.


Back to the Drawing Board - 2

Hard on the heels of Defra's August 4th. revamp of Compulsory Purchase arrangements for Reactor cattle comes yet another change.

Announced on the Defra website 31/10/04 under 'What's New' section is the draft of a Statutory Instrument which will revoke all previous SI's dealing with cattle compensatipon for Tb, brucellosis and EBL, and BSE.

Defra's explanantion notes are predictable:
"The trend is + 18 percent per year"
(But our Ben has told Parliament it was down 14 percent???)

"The Tb budget was 89 million in 2003 / 04"
(It didn't need to be, see Beneficial Crisis etc. on this site)

"Government is determined to tackle the problem..."
(When?)

So our Dan - Mr. Hackett the Compensation Accountant has come up with a cunning plan, now outlined on the Defra site and in the new draft SI.

Bog standard market value for ALL cattle + a few brownie points for 'enhancement banding'.

And that's it.

The site explains that a Reading University report has found that 23 percent of dairy farms and 35 percent of beef farms actually made a net profit from being under restriction. How they arrived at that little gem is not explained, and the state of farm accounts for the other 70 - 80 percent of farms in their survey, is not explored either. We've listed some of the 'benefits of restriction' on this site but obviously Reading did not take those into account.

As far as we (and the valuers) can see at the moment - and we will stand corrected should we be proved wrong - the new system will take Compulsory purcahse back to the days of the 1980's when this system operated and the farmer was expected to add insurance if he felt that his herd warranted 'enhancement'. No valuers.

The difference now of course is that our Minister for Doing Nothing, has made cattle farmers uninsurable - for Tb at least. "Exposure to risk is too great" as the man from the Pru said.

So bog standard market value it is folks. The average of cattle of that age, sold through local markets in the previous month. A few points ('s) for pedigree, more for age and state of pregnancy and extra for milk/beef recording schemes. And no valuers for high genetic merit pedigree stock.

And some seriously undervalued cattle.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bradshaw Treads Water - A Minister for 'Doing Nothing'?

Defra sent all registered cattle farms a booklet on bovine Tb this week.

One such' cattle' farm has had no cattle since 1999, but we digress.
Inside the package was a shiny booklet 'Tb in cattle', and a glossy coloured map of Great Britain. Compare and contrast with the same map in 1986, 1996 and currently, and you will see why we have entitled this post 'A Minister for Doing Nothing'.

"New measures" (the booklet informs us) "were first outlined during public consultation meetings in February 2004 and regional Stakeholder meetings were held to discuss".

We've 'discussed' stakeholder meetings, forums and quangos several times on this blog, and the Tb excercise has proved to be no different. Defra tell us what they want to do, hold a few meetings to ensure we've been 'consulted', and then - do it.

At those meetings Defra were 'informed' (politely of course) that a one sided policy leaving infected wildlife was a gross waste of time and taxpayers money, and any tighter restrictions on cattle had to go hand in hand with wildlife reservoir control. Did they listen? No.

But Bradshaw employed our Dan, 'Mr. Hack-it', the Compensation Accountant to make sure that the taxpayer paid less for his pound of (cow) flesh. And now he's nailed the cattle more firmly to the floor, by a series of Tb testing changes.
But will it halt the spread of bovineTb? No.

The measures are:
* A 'zero tolerance' policy for overdue tests.
* National review of testing intervals country wide.
* Spacing of tests more evenly within testing intervals.
* A new approach(!!) in England and Wales to prevent the development of hotspots. (We love this one)
* Amended testing schedule for new / reformed herds.

And the wildlife maintenance reservoir?
Nothing. Not a sausage, in fact the only mention of it is in the forward to the booklet.

"Bovine Tb is a serious cattle disease which can also affect humans, pets and some wildlife".

With that we would agree, in fact we'd go much further.
We would say 'will affect, has affected and will continue to spread due to endemic reservoirs of disease unchecked by Defra in some wildlife. The most successful host of the disease in GB's wildlife is the badger".

So in practise what will these 'new' measures achieve?

Zero tolerance on overdue tests, we would not argue with, but farmers will still trade stock right up to the day that test is due, and those stock will travel. A further gem from the leaflet explains that Defra will test areas where disease is established more regularly, and those without disease ' less often'.

So is what they are saying here "If we don't test your cattle for Tb, you haven't got it " ??

We thought this non-strategy was to prevent cattle establishing Tb in Defra's (assumed) 'clean' areas. But if the monitoring (Testing) is to be less frequent in those areas, the potential for an explosion when it is discovered is much greater. Remember the Furness Peninsula?

A National review is historic.
No disease situation can be assessed correctly unless all areas are tested within a short space of time to confirm disease status.

We would not argue with more frequent testing on new, or reformed herds.

Prevention of hotspots.
This one we love. Excatly how a 'hotspot' can be prevented without action on the wildlife reservoir feeding it is not explained. We would agree with throwing a 'clean ring' cordon around surrounding farms and testing cattle to establish the cause of the breakdown. That is what used to happen.

But for those of us who have been nailed to floor by movement restrictions for several years, testing cattle every 60 days, and slaughtering reactors as they showed exposure to m.bovis, this booklet is a hollow sham. The exposure from badgers which our Minister for Doing Nothing, repeatedly warns us against touching or controlling, while his henchmen steadfastly refuse to collect dead ones for postmortem from farmland, is not even mentioned.

As readers will have read on this site, UK is now the pole position for incidence of Tb in cattle on the world stage. Top of the heap, the worst. And our trading status is once again at risk, with our EU 'partners' having given themselves the opportunity to protect Community trade with an OIE veterinary certificate which gives them the power to isolate any member state or region, that is causing problems.(see Russia - on this site)

Scotland has reproduced Defra's map in glorious technicolour, and advised farmers not to purchase stock from South West England or Wales. That map is a disgrace to everyone involved in Tb. It should be engraved on Bradshaw's heart - if he had one.

This non-strategy is classic spin of a Minister pretending to be 'pro-active' while doing - absolutely nothing.
At best it could be described as misleading - but we have heard the word 'lies'.



Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dan's 'Hacking' it - Defra's Compulsory Purchase in practise..

In one of his many appearances before the EFRA committee, this spring Ben Bradshaw gave his assurance that farmer Compulsory Purchase compensation for cattle slaughtered after reacting to exposure to Tb, would be pegged for at least 2 years at the amount paid in 2003. This despite his own prediction of an increase in cattle slaughtered of 20 percent per year.

We described how the Minister planned to do this in an earlier post, (New Kid on Defra's Block) and the appropriately named Dan Hackett, Defra's new Compensation Acountant has been so successful that we hear he has requested an assistant.

Under the 1978 Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Compensation Act, the Tuberculosis (England and Wales) Order 1984 and any subsequent amendments, farmers received 75 per cent of 'market value' for an animal which Defra wished to kill, and they insured their herds for any top ups that the value of their stock warranted.
This later changed to 100 per cent of 'market value' (as defined by prices achieved in the local markets, but excluding dispersal and specialist breed sales) with valuers being appointed to assess pedigree animals.

This continued until early August 2004 when the old BT1A (revised1995) form, was replaced by a very different animal, the BT 1 (Revised July 2004)

Under the previous scheme the animal was valued and a price agreed by both the owner and the valuer, (acting on behalf of Defra) and only then was the form signed by both parties.

With the new form, a signature is required first.
So what is the owner of the animal actually signing ?

Defra's form indicates that it verifies the method of valuation. That is, the valuation will be carried out by a 'valuer appointed by the department'- who is not necessarily one which the owner would have chosen. We've mentioned before the cases of 'valuers' who auction chickens, sheep and granny's dresser, but never deep pedigree beef or dairy cattle. Nevertheless, the new form MUST be signed BEFORE any valuation commences, and to make sure that this is understood, Defra have printed the note in Black BLOCK Capitals.

Several farmers have contacted the editors about Dan's new Hack-it job on cattle values and many are uncomfortable with this 'signature required' part prior to a valuation not yet received. One asked what would happen if no signature was given and the stark answer was "no signature - no valuation" .

Some SVS staff are under the impression that the signature merely confirms the method of valuation, and that is all. But a further note on the new form we quote below:

Note :"Valuations arising from any of the above methods are final and not subject to appeal"

Trading Standards are constantly telling us not to sign anything, until we have the goods in hand.
Doorstep selling is equally loaded with 'consumer protection'. But with this new form, farmers are instructed to sign a form agreeing to a value they do not yet know, made by a person who may not have the experience to do the job in which he claims to be competant. If they refuse to sign, there can be no valuation, and if they do then there is 'no appeal' if it all goes pear shaped.

Meanwhile courtesy of our Ben, who is prepared to spend 2 billion of taxpayer's money in the next 10 years NOT eradicating Tb, farmers are unable to protect their stock with insurance for TB. Such is the haemorrhage of the farm insurance budget through Tb claims, that those lucky enough to still have insurance will find their cover has halved and the premium increased ten fold. If there has been a claim, re-insurance is 'unlikely'. And for those who thought Tb insurance would be a good idea, forget it. The companies are not taking on new customers. "Exposure to risk is too great".

So what has our Minister of Fisheries and Conservation achieved?

2003 farmer compensation for a heap of dead cattle pegged at 31 million.
20 percent increase in that heap in 2004 forecast by our Ben.
Another 20 percent increase in 2005 forecast by our Ben .
Compounded, that is a 44 per cent increase in 2 years for which Ben promised the EFRA committee, he would be paying the same money. And it's Dan Hackett's job to make sure the promise is carried out.

Hack - To slash. To chop. To cut. (Oxford English Dictionary)


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tb Spill Over - The Cat's out of the Bag

In an answer to a Parliamentary Question concerning bovine tb in deer, Mr. Bradshaw - or whoever answered those 538 questions - replied that "they were considered a spill over" and not a primary host. Now if badgers can 'spill' tb over into cattle and deer, what else is at risk?

Amongst other things, cats.

At first it was thought that only Siamese and Burmese were 'at risk', but then the penny dropped. The owners of anything less valuable would bury the evidence rather than pay VLA the considerable sums needed to postmortem one very dead moggy.

But cats are susceptible. Postmortems have been done and results logged, from which we quote below.

Breakdowns on farm cats were well documented in USA in 1972, and also in New Zealand, but our story is one which involves badgers as a primary host, several dead cats and no cattle.

In March 1998, a dead badger found on a smallholding was submitted to VLA for postmortem.
It was described as 'generally emaciated', and subsequent post mortem revealed both lung and kidney lesions which were submitted for culture. (We're repeatedly told that badgers don't suffer when they have Tb. This one did, to starve to death in a garden.)

Three months later the carcass of an adult cat from the same smallholding was also submitted for postmortem, and the owner was worried because over the past month 4 other cats on her holding had died.

VLA did an exhumation of the 4 buried cats, and postmortemed the lot.

We won't go into the gory details but, the report describes: " Respiratory distress, weight loss, swelling on the neck glands which proved to be necrotic and oedematous. The lungs were filling with 'grape like lesions' , and the kidneys were affected too. One of the exhumed cats had a cervical swelling which was discharging thick yellow pus, another had had respiratory difficulties prior to death. All showed lung and/or kidney damage".
(But they 'didn't suffer'. Remember that little gem.)

Pooled tissue from the badger and each of 4 cats (the 5th carcass was too badly decomposed to use) was collected separately and tested for mycobacterium bovis. It was also spoligotyped for identification of the strain responsible.

All samples proved to be the same strain - GB spoligotype 20.

The smallholding on which the dead badger was found, and on which the cats died had been home to only horses and ponies for 10 years. There were no cattle. But the area had seen a significant increase in m-bovis infected badgers over the past few years, and the holding is in the centre of a square where recently 22 out of 119 badgers were confirmed with tb. Of those, a third had extensive infection including two individuals who were considered to have died from tb - including the one on the smallholding.

The author of the report, which was published in the Veterinary Record (April 2000 ) concluded :

"M bovis infection in cats, may pose a real zoonotic threat to their keepers".

We agree. As the countryside is plastered with more and more bacteria from an maintenance host who has acquired 'cult status', everything that is susceptible is also at risk. Cattle are only found because we test them. Other species at risk from Bradshaw's quaintly described 'spill over' are deer, camelids, cats and of course, human beings.
So why is mycbacterium bovis being allowed to thrive in the badger? 1 million received (with thanks) from the Political Animal Lobby for a start.
Keep focussed readers.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Curious Cows

The method of transmission of tuberculosis bacteria between badgers and cattle seems to be giving many 'scientists' indigestion. How does it happen?

Farmers have contacted the editors of this site with their experiences and we are again able to quote from the book written in 1981, by Robert W. Howard of the Avon Wildlife Trust, "Badgers Without Bias", who observed:

"The suggestion is that cattle at grass react to the presence of a badger in the same way as they commonly react to a dog, or people who enter pasture fields. They group around the intruder in an enquiring and excited manner to which the badger reacts by voiding urine in an uncontrolled spray, forming an aerosol. A badger cub has been seen to spit, rather like a cat, when confronted by cattle."

Mr. Howard described this as a "fright reaction".
There are up to 300,000 units of m.bovis in just 1ml of urine from a badger with kidney lesions in that aerosol spray, a point we are most grateful to Mr. Bradshaw for confirming.

This behaviour was witnessed by a Devon farmer, very early in the morning while checking cattle. He saw several badgers trundling about as his cows began to graze at dawn. As a mouthful of grass was torn up by the cow, the badger dived into the void she'd left to grab beetles and worms near the surface of the newly shorn pasture. And for a few seconds the two shared the same airspace.

The farmer stood very still, trying to photograph the encounter and a badger came right up to his boots.
He moved his foot and it jumped backwards about a yard, making just such a 'fright reaction' .
He describes this as a coughing, barking grunt of exhaled air - and spit.

His wellies were covered in an aerosol of badger spit.

A case of curiosity killing the cow?

Bio Security and the SFP

Farmers visiting this site have asked the editors to point out that by adhering to one set of advice from Mr. Bradshaw, our Minister for Conservation and Fisheries, on badger bio security, they may be in breach of an EU directive being rigorously enforced by another Defra department.

Fences, electric variety. Or to be more precise their maintenance.

Our Ben thinks that farmers should keep badgers out of cattle farms with electric fences. The editors are curious about this assertion, given a complete Ministerial failure in the gardens of Saltdean over a period of 3 months. The great and the good with the help of badger 'experts' tried to secure 4 back gardens (see Saltdean Badgers - on this site) but in a Colditz operation, the badgers in question dug, tunnelled, parachuted, jumped on each others' shoulders and got back in. But farmers are confidently expected to succeed (in starving their badgers?) where these 'experts' failed.

But back to electric fences.

Farmers could put fences around their fields and / or farms but to remain effective any vegetation growing underneath has to be kept clear of the live wire - constantly. This to prevent the wire earthing and losing power.
But in either spraying vegetation under the fence, or strimming the briers, grass and nettles for miles of his boundary, the farmer in question would be in breach of the 2m set aside rule for Single Farm Payment which says: "Thou shalt not spray, neither shall thou mow said 2m strip".

And if he moves his 'badger' fence to the edge of the original 2m strip, he may have created a 'new' boundary which would also need a 2m margin.

Oh dear Ben, what a muddle.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Missing the point

The Russian saga continues to baffle most of the trade and civil servants charged with the operation of the new bi-lateral veterinary certificate.

The editors of this site have received conflicting accounts of its impact.

From a senior civil servant. "Your fears are unfounded"

From a representative of the dairy trade. " All ingredients used in products destined for the Russian market would be certified in the processing country, and I see no reason why this would prevent our products being exported to the EU for onward processing"

From an investigative journalist, when he'd talked to the EU Commission. "You're absolutely right"

This new veterinary certificate as described in the Europa press release (on this site) breaks the principle of EU community trade in a very important respect. It allows the Commission to 'isolate any Member State or region within a Member State", whose products - (in this instance Animals and Animal Products) - put at risk Community trade as a whole. We cannot hide behind onward processing, because this veterinary certificate will follow products from source, and they will only be taken if exporters can certify that the product in question has come from herds free of tuberculosis, para-tuberculosis (Johnnes disease) and brucellosis for a minimum of 12 months.

This certificate has nothing at all to do with bovine Tb or pasteurisation. It has everything to do with market management by Russia of its own industries - and good luck to them, at least they are still able to do that.
It is all about the protection by the EU Commission of a 1 billion euro community export market with Russia, which the Commission is not going to jeopardise because we will not control the wildlife maintenance vector of bovine tb.

We are unlikely to hear much more for a week or two, as the UK is hosting a Russian trade fair and woe betide anyone who rocks that particular boat.



Herding Cats

Forgive the exasperation in this post.

Herding cats would be easy compared with trying to get politicians to work together - even those (supposedly) of the same political persuasion.

Last November, Owen Paterson MP, a member of the Conservative Shadow Agriculture team, in the face of an exponential rise in cattle tb, set himself a fact finding mission concerning all aspects of bovine tb, the results of which are archived on this site. He has asked 538 Parliamentary questions which delve into cattle, badgers and other hosts: vaccination, skin tests and gamma interferon: Krebs and other trials and the effect of tb on badgers' health and welfare. Mr. Bradshaw's answers, for which we are most grateful, are archived as well.

But now is the run up to general election, and MP's - particularly heavyweights - are being wheeled out to constituencies for a vote catching exercise. Anywhere from Cumbria to Cornwall, they will encounter rural concern about bovine tb, and on this site which has s its base the 538 PQs and answers, they have the opportunity to research and obtain solid information about the problem.

Do they look? No.
Have they consulted the author of the 538 PQ's? No.
Will they jump in with wild statements and make a bad situatiuon worse? Absolutely.

Shadow Minister Jim Paice was reported in the Western Morning News last week, with banner headlines;

"Shadow Minister's Call for Badger Cull".

Well done Jim. This site is calling for 'wildlife management' on all bovine tb vectors, because by now the problem has spilled from the endemically infected badgers (Ben's words in PQ's - not mine) to deer, foxes, domestic cats and even to human beings.(see comment archived on this site). Our aim is a sustainable, balanced ecology with healthy badgers and healthy cattle. It's Tb we want to 'eradicate' not any particular species. (Politicians? - now there's a thought.)

That headline was a cheap soundbite - but it gets worse.

"We need" says Jim, " to bring forward the use of the Gamma Interferon test for Tb in cattle. It is more accurate than the current (skin) test and would reduce the number of cattle slaughtered".

The hell it would.
Cattle in Wales and the West have had so much exposure to m.bovis in their environment from badgers, that almost 70 percent would show positive antibodies say VLA - and that's without the avian and skin tb that the test will also flag up.
But Jim Paice MP, the new Shadow Minister is questioning the intradermal skin test, and proposing to kill less cattle with gamma interferon? In your dreams Jim.
Your 'soundbite solution' has already been covered in PQ's from your colleague Mr. Paterson, answers to which are confirmed by Mr. Bradshaw, and which we quote in full below;

8 Dec 2003 Col 218W (141968)
Mr. Paterson. To ask how long the current Tb skin test has been in use?
Mr. Bradshaw. The tuberculin skin test has been compulsory since 1950. This is the test prescribed by the OIE (Office of International Epizootics) for international trade, as well as under EU directive 64/432/EEC.

30th Jan 2004 Col 540W (150492)
Mr. Paterson. How many countries use the current skin test and how many have reported problems with it?
Mr. Bradshaw. All countries that have either eradicated or have programmes to control bovine tb use one or more forms of the current skin test.

8th December 2003 Col 218W (141969)
Mr. Paterson. Has the Secretary of State any plans to replace the current Tb skin test with a more accurate and sensitive test?
Mr. Bradshaw. The gamma interferon test was officially recognised by the EU in July 2002, but only as a supplement to the SICCT (skin test). The (gamma interferon) test is considered more sensitive but is less specific, meaning that it results in a higher probability of FALSE POSITIVES.

23rd March 2004. col 697 W (158363)
Mr. Paterson. What assessment has been made of why the gamma interferon test achieves sensitivity of 60 -65 percent in UK trials, compared with Australia?
Mr.Bradshaw. The gamma interferon pilot currently running, has not been designed to assess the sensitivity of the test, and no comparisons can be be drawn with trials run in other countries.

25th March 2004 col 989W ( 159061)
Mr. Paterson. What assessment has been made of the need for a) vaccination of i) cattle and ii) badgers and b) other measures to control the incidence of Tb in cattle herds?
Mr. Bradshaw. Evidence from other countries shows that in the absence of a significant wildlife reservoir, cattle controls based on regular testing and slaughter, inspection at slaughterhouses and movement restrictions can be effective at controlling bovine tb without vaccination (or gamma interferon? )

Owen Paterson has teased all these points out of reluctant Minister, only to have his colleague in the Shadow Agriculture team stumble through the lot, on a vote catching excercise for a new Tory-Boy in North Cornwall.

Did I say herding cats? That's simple compared with getting politicians to talk to each other.
Cheap sound bites are so much easier than solid research. But long term they are destructive, demoralising and of little value to those of us trying to block the rat holes down which our current Minister of Conservation and Fisheries would like to keep scuttling. Well done Jim - and welcome to the team.