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Pilot cull 'unacceptable' – former Defra badger expert

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 11, 2012

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A former adviser to Defra has claimed the Government's policy over a pilot cull of badgers is "unacceptable" ahead of a Court of Appeal hearing on the plans today.

Dr Chris Cheeseman, former head of wildlife diseases at the Central Science Laboratory, who carried out extensive research on badgers and who advised Defra on such matters, is supporting the Humane Society International UK's campaign to stop the culls in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset. The culls are part of the Government's campaign to stamp out bovine tuberculosis.

However, the Badger Trust will today seek to overturn a judge's decision to allow the cull to take place at a hearing at the Court of Appeal.

Ahead of the hearing, Dr Cheeseman said: "This Government claims that their policy is science-led, but I'm afraid it's not. It could lead to the deaths of up to 130,000 badgers over a few years to achieve an overall, at best, 16% reduction in cattle TB. Now there are those of us in the scientific community who actually think the cull will make it worse, and I suggest that's an unacceptable policy."

His statement is included in a video released by Humane Society International UK entitled "Kill the Cull, Not the Badgers".

But a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted the cull policy was science-led and quoted a document agreed by a group of scientists brought together by former Government Chief Scientist Bob Watson to show the level of scientific consensus.

"The science is clear, and experts agree that provided culling is done in the right way, it can lead to a reduction in TB in cattle," the spokesman said.

He added that no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife as well.

The trial culls were scheduled to start this month. About 30,000 cattle a year are slaughtered having tested positive to TB tests, costing tens of millions of pounds in compensation to the farming community. The Westcountry has been particularly hard hit.

But the Badger Trust challenged the Government's plans in the High Court in June, a challenge that was rejected. However, the Badger Trust has since been granted its appeal.

The pilot culls will involve shooting free-running badgers by trained marksmen, organised by supervised and licensed farmer groups. If the pilot culls are deemed satisfactory, the system will be rolled out to other bovine TB hot-spot areas.

Badger Trust spokesman Jack Reed said: "The decision to take further court action was not taken lightly. It underlines the trust's strong belief that the Government's proposals to kill badgers in England are likely to do more harm than good."

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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 14 2012, 10:49AM

    The 1981 Zuckerman Report is outdated, this was the reason the government commissioned the KREBS report which states "a badger cull would be INEFFECTIVE in tackling bTB in cattle". The report goes on to say that "vaccination would be a better solution" http://tinyurl.com/69sqykf http://tinyurl.com/9lmonj3

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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 14 2012, 10:49AM

    Lord Krebs said the trial evidence should be interpreted as an argument against culling. "You cull intensively for at least four years, you will have a net benefit of reducing TB in cattle of 12% to 16%. So you leave 85% of the problem still there, having gone to a huge amount of trouble to kill a huge number of badgers," he said. "It doesn't seem to be an effective way of controlling the disease." He said a better option would be to try to develop a vaccine in the long term, and in the short term to use better "biosecurity" measures to prevent cattle from coming into contact with badgers and other sources of the disease, and to prevent them passing it to each other. http://tinyurl.com/69sqykf http://tinyurl.com/9lmonj3

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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 14 2012, 10:49AM

    Badger culling is "ineffective", the expert behind the UK's biggest review of the links between badgers and tuberculosis in cattle, said on Monday. Professor Lord John Krebs was the government adviser responsible for the scientific review in the 1990s which found that badgers were a "reservoir" of bovine TB and could transmit the disease to cattle. He called for trial culls, which were then carried out. But he said on Monday the results of the trials showed that culling was "not an effective policy" and would be a mistake." http://tinyurl.com/69sqykf We need 100,000 people to sign now. Please share, tell your friends and sign. We need your help. There are 65,000 people who reach 1.5m friends so please share and sign NOW http://tinyurl.com/8odb3eg https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257/signature/new

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  • ssimples  |  September 13 2012, 7:54PM

    Seriously now, dodgethebullet.. What are your thoughts on what happened in Cumbria after so many cattle were transported into the county to replenish numbers which were killed due to Foot and Mouth? Cumbria was by far the worst affected county due to F & M. I see from ministry figures that half their cattle was killed due to F & M. It is clear that TB was introduced into the county from the South West because strains of TB specific to the South West started to appear in cattle which were slaughtered in Cumbria due to TB after 2001. Today in Cumbria most parishes are still only tested once every 4 years. In fact detected TB which peaked in 2004 reduced to levels close to pre 2001levels in just 3 years. Have you any thoughts on why cattle control measures have been so successful in Cumbria since F & M, whilst during the same years, TB levels in cattle in the South West and Wales have continued to rise? If TB levels could fall away in the South West and Wales like they did in Cumbria, that would be brilliant. In fact recovery from the horrendous situation which we are in now would be very rapid.

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  • ssimples  |  September 13 2012, 7:53PM

    dodgethebullet.. Is it even necessary to cull badgers? Do they spread TB? When farmers moved untested cattle around the country to replenish stock after Foot and Mouth, strains of TB in the South West started to appear in counties such as Cumbria. This admirably illustrates how cattle-to-cattle transmission is so influential. Cumbria was by far the worst affected county by Foot and Mouth. In fact as a result of Foot and Mouth, cattle numbers in Cumbria in 2001 were half what they were in 2000. Untested, TB-carrying cattle from various parts of the country were moved into Cumbria to fill this void. As expected, this has caused levels of TB to absolutely rocket up in Cumbria as a result of cattle-to-cattle transmission. In fact, levels of TB in Cumbria are now comparable to what they are in the South West. Errr, well no, actually they are not. Although disease levels did start to rise after so many TB-carrying cattle were moved around the country, they have now largely recovered. As a result of this, cattle in the vast majority of parishes in Cumbria are still only tested once every 4 years whereas in Devon all cattle are tested once every year. I am now really confused. Perhaps we need to drop this argument and find another one. There is no doubt that cattle-to-cattle transmission is the major factor for transmitting TB over long distances but it would be absolutely brilliant if we could find a plausible argument for why cattle-to-cattle transmission is dominant in counties such as Gloucestershire where levels of bovine TB have been the highest in the country for decades. Does anyone know an argument which would apply to Gloucestershire and to Devon, Dyfed, Hereford and Worcester for that matter? It does not have to be a good explanation just so long as it is half convincing and takes the heat off of our poor badgers which are being scapegoated in these areas. Most of us lead busy lives and we just have not got the time to look into why such an explanation may not apply so we are easily convinced. Anyway we do not need to justify this on scientific terms at all because badger culling is morally wrong and just has to be stopped. The only important criteria is that the arguments must support our view and sound sufficiently convincing to swing the opinion of others. PS. I think we also need to take the spotlight off what is happening in the Irish Republic - either that or ignore the last 4 years. In fact why not continue to emphasis what happened back in 2007 when bovine TB levels increased in the republic and dropped in the north. It goes without saying that we should also ignore the continuing benefits of reduced cattle TB over the last 6 years due to the culling performed in the RBCT. Obviously we very much want to continue to broadcast the very powerful statements made in FJ Bourne's covering letter when the RBCT final report was submitted in 2007. For anyone who is unaware of them they are as follows. Badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. and Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone. Although these statements take no account of the continuing benefits from the RBCT and offer no explanation for why TB levels have not recovered in the South West whilst they have in Cumbria, that does not matter, because they support our cause so well.

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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 13 2012, 7:19PM

    ssimples.. The cessation of TB testing in 2001 during the Foot & Mouth outbreak has been shown to have led to an rapidd increase in reactors in following years. Increased TB testing (eg pre-movement testing), and the 'zero tolerance' rule for overdue tests introduced in 2005 will have had an dramatic effect on reactor numbers, as will an increase in the sensitivity of new tests used such as the gamma interferon test which was introduced in 2002. More testing equals more reactors identified suggesting an increase in herd size is considered a risk factor. http://tinyurl.com/9lmonj3

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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 13 2012, 7:01PM

    The 1981 Zuckerman Report is outdated, this was the reason the government commissioned the KREBS report which states "a badger cull would be INEFFECTIVE in tackling bTB in cattle". The report goes on to say that "vaccination would be a better solution" http://tinyurl.com/69sqykf http://tinyurl.com/9lmonj3

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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 13 2012, 7:01PM

    Lord Krebs said the trial evidence should be interpreted as an argument against culling. "You cull intensively for at least four years, you will have a net benefit of reducing TB in cattle of 12% to 16%. So you leave 85% of the problem still there, having gone to a huge amount of trouble to kill a huge number of badgers," he said. "It doesn't seem to be an effective way of controlling the disease." He said a better option would be to try to develop a vaccine in the long term, and in the short term to use better "biosecurity" measures to prevent cattle from coming into contact with badgers and other sources of the disease, and to prevent them passing it to each other. http://tinyurl.com/69sqykf http://tinyurl.com/9lmonj3

    Rate   11
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  • dodgethebulle  |  September 13 2012, 7:01PM

    Badger culling is "ineffective", the expert behind the UK's biggest review of the links between badgers and tuberculosis in cattle, said on Monday. Professor Lord John Krebs was the government adviser responsible for the scientific review in the 1990s which found that badgers were a "reservoir" of bovine TB and could transmit the disease to cattle. He called for trial culls, which were then carried out. But he said on Monday the results of the trials showed that culling was "not an effective policy" and would be a mistake." http://tinyurl.com/69sqykf We need 100,000 people to sign now. Please share, tell your friends and sign. We need your help. There are 65,000 people who reach 1.5m friends so please share and sign NOW http://tinyurl.com/8odb3eg https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257/signature/new

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  • ssimples  |  September 13 2012, 5:02PM

    In terms of TB control GB has gone from being world leading from 1997 to 1986 to one today which is a national disgrace. What happened to GB to cause this massive change around? Is it because in 1986 farmers in GB started to behave very differently to farmers abroad where countries are either TB free or have TB under control? From comments in many forums many people believe farming practices are the cause. Perhaps farmers in GB need to act like farmers abroad. Of course this is rubbish. In just 25 years the incidence of TB in cattle in GB has increased by more than 40 times as seen by these figures which were taken from the Chief Veterinary Officer's Annual Reports and were supplied to me by DEFRA. Year....Number of cattle slaughtered 1977....764 1978....668 1979....633 1980....873 1981....784 1982....569 1983....621 1984....660 1985....699 1986....513 Now let's look at the next 10 years. Year......Number of cattle slaughtered 1987.....810 1988.....688 1989.....901 1990....1048 1991....1124 1992....1244 1993....1965 1994....2304 1995....2896 1996....3253 This represents a four-fold increase in 10 years. In 2011 in GB, the number of cattle slaughtered (not including cases detected in slaughter houses or direct contacts) had reached 22,437. This is over a 40-fold increase from the number in 1986. If anyone is interested to know what went wrong, Google "1986-1997 Interim strategy". This will also give a clue as to what needs to be done.

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