See also DEFRA site for Government Veterinary Journal - Bovine TB special (Volume 16, no 1, September 2006)
................Extract from http://www.promedmail.org/pls/promed/f?p=2400:1001:6924824303586058208::NO::F2400_P1001_BACK_PAGE,F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1000,34814Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2006 02:45:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: ProMED-mail <email@example.com>
Subject: PRO/AH> Tuberculosis, bovine, badgers - UK (03)
TUBERCULOSIS, BOVINE, BADGERS - UK (03)
A ProMED-mail post
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International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Mon 9 Oct 2006 9:08 PM
From: Pat Bird <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In her paper released from America, Dr Rosie Woodroffe, formerly a member
of the ISG and responsible for the running of the Krebs RBCT (randomised
badger culling trial), made the following statement: "Repeated badger
culling (as attempted in the RBCT) in an area, is associated with
increasingly prevalence of _Mycobacterium bovis_ infection in badgers." She
continues: "Additionally, we show that suspension of cattle Tb controls
during the nationwide epidemic of FMD which substantially delayed the
removal of Tb infected cattle, was associated with a widespread increase in
the prevalence of _M. bovis_ infection in badgers".
Dr Woodroffe is also quoted on the BBC Science website: "This research has
2 important conclusions, the first is that it shows for the first time that
there is substantial transmission of TB from cattle to badgers, whereas in
the past it's been assumed that didn't happen. The 2nd conclusion is that
repeated culling increases the prevalence in badgers -- each time you cull,
it goes up and up. We saw across 7 study areas a rise in the badger TB
prevalence -- almost a doubling," said Dr Woodroffe. "No other explanation
fits the data." The FMD epidemic of 2001 is cited by Dr Woodroffe's paper
as the catalyst for the increase in badger TB which was observed, and which
the authors of the paper then attribute to cattle / badger spread as cattle
had not been tested, and reactors removed.
With respect, we would point out that not all cattle remained untested for
TB during FMD [in 2001]. Our own herd underwent 5 tests in 2001. And of
those herds which missed a routine test, and were subsequently found to
have reactors, would enough individuals have had open lesions to sustain
the level of increased infectivity disclosed by badger postmortems within
the RBCT areas?
If cattle movements and undisclosed infected cattle are to be blamed for
bTB, our herd should not have been under TB restriction at all. Our
pedigree Holsteins had MAFF-approved biosecurity, which meant no contact
with neighbouring cattle or delivery lorries and "No Bought-in Cattle"
appeared on BCMS's database. In June 2000, neighbours under Tb restriction
qualified for a Reactive badger clearance' a hit-and-run visit lasting a
week. Afterwards, our farm became a motorway of trails as the badgers the
RBCT had left behind fought for territory and spread bTB amongst themselves
- -- and to our cattle.
Our next TB test revealed a reactor and the comfort blanket of a closed
herd and high biosecurity disappeared. This homebred cow started a
breakdown lasting almost 5 years, 28 consecutive 60-day tests (including
through the FMD epidemic) -- and 43 dead cattle.
But for almost 3 years, conspicuous by their absence, were the RBCT
Reactive clearance team. It was May 2003 when they returned. During that
week's trapping, again interrupted by slashed fences and trashed traps, the
team caught 2 badgers which they described as "horrific". Defra abandoned
the Reactive part of the RBCT in October 2003, saying limited culling had
increased the disease. But in our bitter experience, the last thing the
RBCT did was cull badgers, but disperse them, it most certainly did. And
then abandon any attempt to 'react' for 3 years.
A senior member of the RBCT wildlife team, Paul Caruana said of this trial
in a submission to the EFRA committee: "The whole basis of Krebs was to
remove badgers off the ground. For the first 4 years, that effort was
farcical due to restrictions placed upon us. The trial had too many flaws
in it to be trusted to produce meaningful evidence. How much weight do we
give the latest ISG report, detailing their 'robust' findings to the
Minister? If it were down to me and my staff, very little."
It was our experience that the RBCT failure to cull many badgers on their
1st (very short) visit caused enormous social upheaval amongst the groups,
compounded by a failure to return in any meaningful time scale to complete
the job. Hansard recorded Defra's comments on the delays to Reactive
culling thus: 10 Dec 2003: Column 524W  "It has been difficult at
times to carry out reactive culling in response to a herd breakdown as
quickly as the ISG anticipated in its first report. The reasons given
include "resource limitations,recruitment and retention of skilled staff."
But after FMD, when 2 years' worth of culling alongside servicing proactive
culls were stacked up, ISG then moved the goalposts, and Defra were able to
comply. They "assisted with priorities, making pragmatic decisions and
setting more realistic targets". Three years?
But another effect of the FMD epidemic appears not to have been considered
by the authors of the paper at all. That badgers are totally and utterly
dependent on cattle 'habitat richness', as has been spoken of many times by
Dr Cheeseman. "Where you farm cattle," he said, "you are effectively
farming badgers". So what happened to the badgers when 11 million cattle
and sheep -- mainly grazing animals -- were slaughtered out in the spring
of 2001, very quickly and at a time of premium activity and growth (Feb --
Aug) and consequently their dung, placentas and even stillborn offspring
were then unavailable for use by other animals and insects within the wider
The agricultural practises which supported those 11 million dead cattle,
sheep and pigs also went into a state of suspended animation for over 12
months, and the ecological balance of thousands of acres changed.
English Nature recognised the paradigm and half way through the carnage,
they tried to assess the effects of the lack of grazing livestock, coupled
with over-grazing and poaching in other areas, on the British country side.
They comment: "Changes in the structure of livestock farming, for instance
changes in stocking levels or type of livestock, and changes in land use
where livestock farming ceases as a result of the FMD outbreak are likely
to be the major long term and most complex influences on biodiversity"
Without livestock, and in particular cattle dung pats, the whole pyramid of
'ecological life' changes. Beetles, flies and worms are not there, so their
predators including bats, songbirds and badgers, have nothing to eat, and
are forced to forage elsewhere -- or die.
Another change occurred where animals on short-term grazing were impounded,
and their pasture land became overgrazed at best, and a mud bath at worst.
This too affected the insect life, and thus levels of wildlife predatory on
'normal' farming practise.
Dr Woodroffe's 'no other explanation fits the data" plays down the social
disruption (perturbation) which we experienced first-hand, after the RBCT
attempts to "cull all badgers" -- as Professor Bourne's introduction to
participating farmers explained. But it totally ignores the ecological
consequences on the badger population both inside the RBCT and outside it,
of FMD -- as it affected the farms culled out and on the edge of cull areas.
We experienced phenomenal social upheaval of this area's badgers after the
first visit of the RBCT, and the same scenario was repeated as Britain's
countryside was systematically de-populated of the very animals on which
badgers are parasitic for their survival -- cattle and sheep, and the
husbandry which surrounds them. To survive, the badgers had to move out and
find cattle and dungpats, maize and root crops. But cattle on the edge of
FMD areas had indigenous badgers and the same territorial fighting which we
saw in the RBCT, occurred here as well.
The influence of FMD was certainly important, but in our experience, in a
totally different way from one conclusion of Dr Woodroffe's paper.
Pat Bird (Mrs)
'Keills' Pedigree Holstein / Aberdeen Angus cattle
Middle Crackington Farm
EX 23 0JW
[In a covering note, Mrs Bird commented: "All the farmers to whom I've
spoken agreed, that when the cattle were slaughtered out in FMD, the
badgers moved as well. And the songbirds. Death valley in more ways than
one. The only thing that stayed around were herds of deer. Unhindered by
humans, uncompetitive grazing opportunity and no culling management, either
for sport or venison. On the A 30 dual carriageway between Cornwall and
Exeter M.5, they were the only animal to be seen in summer 2001." As I say
to my students, "Be very careful what you write. Nature is illiterate and
therefore does her own thing, regardless of what is published." - Mod.MHJ]
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