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Email (in full) received February 16 2010 from Paul Caruana ex-Defra Field Manager(Polwhere Wildlife Unit)
IDENTIFYING DISEASED BADGER SETTSHi Mary
I have read on several occasions that there are individuals out there who can differentiate between a healthy and a diseased badger sett. Having worked on Government badger control policies since 1994, together with other individuals with literally hundreds of years of knowledge and experience between them, I have to question that. I have never met anybody with the ability to look at a sett and state that there are diseased animals in it. The nearest you might get to it, is when a single hole sett appears, which often will contain a sick badger. I stress the "sick" bit because they could literally have any disease and have been kicked out of their main sett, not necessarily because of bTB.
I have attended meetings where such individuals profess to have the skill to identify a diseased sett. When questioned, their answers are rather vague to say the least ! Yes, I accept single holes might be "dirty" - how about the sett where it originally came from ? How do you identify that ? Long claw marks, excavated skulls, the distinctive badger smell - they are all an everyday event that shouldn't necessarily lead you to assume that a sett is diseased. Have any of these so called experts ever produced any evidence that the setts they have identified are indeed diseased ? The answer to that is - no!
Farmers attending these meetings are desperate for a way forward and are keen to latch onto anything they can to get on top of the disease. The only answer for them is to get rid of the source and you can get rid of the cattle problem. With that I fully agree. However, the way there isn't by using scare tactics and promises of a cure when one doesn't exist - yet!
I hope that you can print this, as it does put the full story to those who might not know better.
ex-Defra Field Manager(Polwhere Wildlife Unit)