10 Apr 2009

Badger vaccine: not the answer?

Local badger campaigner Martin Hancox sends me this letter below following news of research into vaccines - I am by no means an expert in this topic but have spent many hours reading papers, talking to farmers, vets and campaigners - I also helped write the Glos Green party submission to the Government consultation - see here. Indeed it is me in that badger costume in the photos...

I have long expressed concerns about the impact all this is having on farmers and I believe the Government has let them down badly. The announcement re vaccines is in my view not to be dismissed as readily as Martin does below but clearly on the basis of the info to date it does seem a fairly futile study - we have still failed to look at the issues raised by this letter like that bovine TB continues to be spread by cattle because the TB testing regime is inadequately
enforced by Animal Health. Why is more research not being done into that?

The challenge remains to get tough on TB testing so that the real cause of this epidemic - cattle to cattle transmission - can be put into reverse. The science shows it can be done, but it requires real political will to deliver that objective.

The whole badgers and TB saga has now after nearly 40 years entered a new realm of virtual reality Alice in Wonderland. A few MAFF vets decided way back during the low point in cattle tb in the 1970-1980s , that cattle were not the infectious source of TB to other cattle (or badgers). Indeed annual testing found cases so early that often a herd outbreak WAS only 1-2 cattle. No testing during foot and mouth 2001 meant a lot more cattle reached the infectious stage and so the present crisis has been a direct result of spread within the cattle population :- spread from the low hotspots of c. 1500 sq.km to now some 30,000 sq.km and heading for 40,000 TBcattle / year. It seems TOTALLY Beyond belief, but farmers and vets are still trying to account for this spread as due to badgers .... even though the 2007 ISG Report found a mere 1500 TB badgers out of 11,000 culled from 2000 sq.km.

Badger1Captain H Benn aboard the good ship SS Barking Badger, has been under immense pressure ever since he refused to allow badger culls last summer for a rethink . His appearance before the EFRA Committee last November was pure pantomime . He failed to grasp that the huge rise in cattle TB is amongst cattle, nothing to do with badgers, and in fact it is merely that hotspot testing took in an extra 1000 parishes in late 2006 .. so merely catching up with post FMD spread . In truth TB is coming down fast where testing has been longest on annual testing (the 30 trial areas).

And so the announcement today (19th march) of a 5 year badger injectable vaccine study from next year in 6 times 100 sq km areas will be totally meaningless (out of 30,000). It will be completely impractical to catch badgers, and there are so few with TB its mindless. So rather sad that farmers and badger trust folk give it a cautious welcome .. a political exercise in PURE FUTILITY.

Martin Hancox, Nouncells Cross, Stroud

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