12 Jan 2014

Guest Blog: Martin Hancox on badgers

Graffiti in Stroud
This is a guest post from M.Hancox MA Oxon, ex-Government TB Panel, Stroud, Glos. Not views of Green Party but thought provoking:

So, here we are in a Brave New Year and the flood of badger mythology / nonsense continues... apparently Minister, the Hon. Owen Praterson recently told both Parliament and the Oxford Farming Conference, that the two (politically "science based") Pilot badger culls in Glos./Somerset were a "Roaring Success,". which rather proves Joe Ashton's blunt view that the key qualification for being a successful MP is "To master the art of peddling bullshit"!. Alice in Wonderland Rules...

it seems that since culls are "essential, humane, cost-effective, and science based", Ministers are "Minded" to role out a further 10 Pilot Culls in 2014.

In fact the farcical cull omnishambles with "civil war" in England’s green and pleasant land, between protestors/cullers, with extra policing cost £7 million, so £4000 per badger of the 1771 badgers culled. This was way below the magic 70 % out of a guestimated population of 3000 or 6000 (!) badgers, which apparently "moved the goalposts "as to numbers:- it was obvious even before the launch that the a cull of 70 % of in truth an unknown base population was rather daft. And on DEFRA's own data, only about 10% would have been infected so 170 badgers, of which a mere dozen likely to have advanced TB and be "superexcretors" which might pose a risk via an uncertain transmission route to other badgers or cows. Obviously this won’t have made the slightest difference to controlling the spread of cattle TB which has been spread amongst cattle anyway (seewww.badgersandtb.com). So, a very expensive way to not control the spread of TB, and unsustainable given that the DEFRA budget must cut £200 Million over the next 4 years.

Even some farmers recognised "shooting free running badgers" was/ is a pretty crass idea. The idea of alternative culling such as by gassing goes back to the 1970s, but it was hydrogen cyanide, not carbon monoxide, it was inhumane since even power gassing did not permeate in lethal concentrations in diffuse setts, and it did not cure TB in the Thornbury Avon study area. There were yearly "unconfirmed" outbreaks after gassing ended, having wiped out the badger population, but these are the 85 % of New cattle herd breakdowns usually allegedly "due to badgers", but in fact are merely due to skin test reactors caught so early that they do not show TB lesions or identifiable M.bovis, but they are not false positive cases, they DO have TB !

The biggest farcical claim persisting is that Badger culls or vaccines will make any difference. The true result of the RBCT/Krebs Cull (ISG 2007) has been widely misinterpreted:- since supposedly badgers cause 50 % of cattle herd breakdowns, there should have been half the number of breakdowns (834) in cull versus no cull areas , But the cull of 11,000 badgers at a cost of £50 million was absolutely ZERO effect on cattle TB, the accumulated number of breakdowns after 8 years was 1562 in cull areas versus 1668 in no cull areas, i.e.. a mere 106 herds, or 10 per 300 sq.km. triplet area. The only surprise was the vagaries of cattle controls did not have a bigger differential inefficacy.

The logical conclusion from all this is that: -
A. the badger contribution to cattle TB was absolutely NIL, and
B. the whole "Perturbation idea", that culls might work or might make things worse by upsetting the badger population, so that badger vaccines might be the magic bullet (cost £640 / badger in Wales) is a wonderfully insane solution to a non-existent problem.

Sincerely, M.Hancox MA Oxon, ex-Government TB Panel , Stroud, Glos.

1 comment:

Docrichie said...

Martin has vast experience and his words should be listened to very carefully.