Time to stop badgering Old Brock over Bovine TB
IN response to the letter by B Lundy, there are those of us who have an interest in all animals, and we are sick and tired of badgers being blamed for Bovine TB, when evidence suggests otherwise.
B Lundy, while I am sure you do not know what academic qualifications Pat Wickham has in agriculture, I am confident people who have an interest in this controversial subject are quite capable of research and reading the evidence of scientists who perhaps know better than you and me.
Bovine TB was almost eradicated in 1970 when cases only totalled around 1,000.
Eleven years of localised testing failed to reduce the number. The end of cattle testing in the mid 1980s and the horrendous effects of BSE and foot and mouth disease, when testing was stopped entirely, meant many farms lost thousands of animals, leading to a need to restock. Consequently, regulations were relaxed and the movement of cattle all over the country meant Bovine TB resurfaced.
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If badgers were to blame, please explain how cattle have remained free of TB in Scotland? While you are at it please enlighten us all to why they have TB in the Isle of Man, where there are no badgers?
Please also inform us as to why Bovine TB rates are twice as high in Ireland, where so many badgers have been culled that they are extinct in many areas?
Is it a possibility that it is, in fact, cattle that are infecting badgers?
With the intensity of factory farming and the stress the animals are undoubtedly under, it is known stress is a factor in Bovine TB.
Other factors include the bloodlines of cattle. Cattle largely free of the disease in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly British have been replaced by continental breeds. Cattle fed on maize have a diet lacking in selenium which is necessary for a strong immune system.
Statistics of the number of cattle slaughtered every year because of TB and the amount it costs is widely reported in the media, but a failure to report other causes of premature slaughter makes the findings flawed. In 2008, 75,000 were slaughtered because they were not in calf; 50,000 because of mastitis; 25,000 due to lameness and 7,000 because of low yield. In 2009, 120,000 were slaughtered because of infertility. Add to this the male dairy calves of no use, and compare it to the 30,000 with Bovine TB, and well, you do the maths.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence you should be aware of is that of The Krebs Trial. A huge pilot cull of badgers between 1997 and 2007, overseen by The Independent Scientific Group (ISG). This demonstrated that Bovine TB in the culling area was reduced only slightly. Outside of the culling area it rose. This was caused by perturbation, where badgers who have survived a cull spread out to escape danger. Behaviour which does not occur in any other species.
The result of this trial was, culling made no significant contribution to the reduction of Bovine TB.
Lord Krebs, who conceived the trial, and six other members of the ISG wrote a letter to The Times, opposing the cull and stating there was no empirical data on the cost, or effectiveness, of controlling badgers. Lord Krebs said: "The trial evidence should be interpreted as an argument against culling. You cull intensively for four years, you will have a net benefit of reducing TB in cattle of 12-16 per cent so you leave 85 per cent of the problem there."
Bovine TB is actually in decline, the Government will not admit this, no doubt in an attempt to secure the farmer's vote. The public have made their views known. In a Guardian poll, 90.9 per cent were against a cull. Even a recent poll by Countryfile, which has a largely farming audience, 60 per cent were against it. The badger cull has just been postponed to at least next year. Show your opposition to it by writing to your MP, or by signing one of the online petitions www.badger.org.uk or www.rspca.org.uk.
So next time B Lundy sits down to eat his plate of flesh I hope he spares a thought to the cruel and disgusting way cattle are treated and kept in their short, miserable lives, and the way wildlife are blamed and killed for the wrongdoing of humans.
S Steer (address supplied).
The Telegraph says
While this letter includes strong arguments against the cull, the government states it is committed to it, but has delayed it until 2013 because the farmers charged with carrying out the cull were now unable to carry out the scheme before the start of winter, in part due to the higher than expected badger numbers.