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Badger cull likely to start today despite scientist pleas and bullying allegations

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: October 15, 2012

  • Two pilot culls could start today

  • Steve Jones farms in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, and believes the cull will not help the situation - instead he thinks quality husbandry would help control TB in cattle

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A group of professors from leading universities and zoological institutions across the UK have urged the Government to reconsider controversial plans for a badger cull to tackle TB in cattle.

But the plea may fall on deaf ears today, as the pilot culls in West Somerset and Gloucestershire are likely to get under way in a bid to stop badgers transferring TB to cattle.

More than 30 of the UK’s leading animal disease experts, including the president of the Zoological Society of London, Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, and professors from Oxbridge and Imperial College London, have written a letter which argues culling badgers could increase the problem.

The letter states: “As scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife diseases, we believe the complexities of TB transmission mean that licensed culling risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it.”

It comes as farming leaders line up for a legal battle with the RSPCA over a “hypocritical” warning that a valued quality mark could be removed from food producers who support or allow the badger cull.

The NFU said its lawyers were combing through the details of a document sent by the animal welfare charity to producers around the pilot area in Somerset who belong to its Freedom Food scheme.

The wholly-owned subsidiary of the RSPCA is a benchmark of high welfare standards and in a letter to members says: “Based on the current science, welfare concerns and a realistic assessment of what is practical, a widespread cull of badgers is totally unacceptable to the RSPCA.”

Freedom Food says that it believes it is “unacceptable to use lethal methods of wild animal control as routine practice.

“As such Freedom Food would regard it as unacceptable for any of its members to voluntarily take part in a badger cull for the above reasons. To do so would also bring the scheme into disrepute and be a clear breach of the membership agreement, resulting in suspension.”

NFU Director of Policy Martin Haworth said the organisation took “this threat to its members very seriously” and the letter was being examined by its legal team.

Freedom Food’s move adds to the clouds gathering over the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, where threats have been alleged to have been made to farmers by animal rights campaigners. Those campaigners will be buoyed by the comments made by the scientists at the weekend, who added that they believe that culling badgers “is very unlikely to contribute to TB eradication” and they “urge the Government to reconsider its strategy”.

They said: “Unfortunately, the imminent pilot culls are too small and too short term to measure the impacts of licensed culling on cattle TB before a wider roll-out of the approach.

“The necessarily stringent licensing conditions mean that many TB-affected areas of England will remain ineligible for such culling.”

On Friday Somerton and Frome MP David Heath, minister of state for agriculture and food, said the badger cull would be a “contribution towards bearing down on the disease”.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 16 2012, 9:29PM

    @Muttley No one of any consequence can, or ever does ever challenge the views I present. If they did their careers in bacteriological pathogens would be over. The WIDE WORLD culls any vectors with self-sustaining infection of M.bovis. Nothing you or any badgerist can say will change that scientific fact, and the way these bacteria have and continue to evolve. The world is desperately awaiting a new vaccine, (and not just a BCG makeover, 'trying to block up holes') which is what most of the ones currently on trials are. There are many thousands of top Scientists around the world working on the problem. People like Professor Steven Porcelli and Professor John Chan, Department of Microbiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. And William R. Jacobs jr. Phd, by initiating work with mycobacteriophages, has developed novel genetic approaches to make mutations and transfer genes in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. You don't know the half of it. . Bacteriophages and phage therapy is the only real new hope on the horizon for treatment of tuberculosis at present. It's no coincidence that with the BCG now 90 years old, and HIV together with the M.tuberculosis genus posing such a growing threat, the world is getting jumpy. My denouncements have arisen because of what has been, and still is continually thrown at me. . Mostly I just ignore people. . I NEVER start, as I did not with you. . I am assertive and I know what I'm talking about. . Mostly they don't so they then start with the abuse.

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  • Hareymary  |  October 16 2012, 7:40PM

    @Muttley : Interesting ... Thank you; I never thought to research those 3 scientists you checked-out in order to verify their validity here. I'd rather look at current reports by distinguished scientists. And I certainly don't appreciate being hectored, lectured and insulted. I have been tempted to report some of the insulting comments directed at me full of !!!!! and ????? but I really can't be bothered. It's pointless trying to debate in a respectful manner when the other person in the conversation just blusters but offers nothing constructive.

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  • Muttley  |  October 16 2012, 3:42PM

    Charles, You appear to know more than the average person about bTB, but that doesn't explain the rude denouncements you make of everyone who disagrees with you. And slating of experts who know a lot more than you on the topic. Nobody here is denouncing your 3 scientists, but you are calling some of our best know researchers on bTB problem as "time-serving journeymen" & "nonentity Professors"; one of them not to be trusted "with a sick dog". Why also do you keep up the metaphorical kicking and intimidation of so many of those who comment? Why not try explaining your view without yelling 'badgerist"?! You might convert someone or (heaven forfend) learn something new. Paradoxically one of the (unintended?) consequences of your outpourings against "badgerists" is to discredit the pro-cull arguments. Are you trolling to block 'badgerists' or, perhaps ... you are a double agent and badgerist? On the only 3 scientists you cherry-pick, I'd be happy to be corrected, but this is what I found from a quick search: 1) Ueli Zellweger - a Swiss vet now living here, no published/ peer-reviewed paper. 2) J Gallagher - author on about 6 papers since 2000, but all of them appear to be bTB reviews & not primary research 3) Jerome S Harms - an american research scientist on pathogenesis of zoonotic diseases, with about 8 recent peer-reviewed papers found on brucella/brucellosis, bovine herpes virus and bovine leukemia virus (not bTB for a long while) With knowledge I'd have expected more referencing to support your views.

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  • Emwye  |  October 15 2012, 10:44PM

    If the 'badgerists' are winning the debate the we are must be a nation of badgerists because only a tiny minority any longer think this cull is the best way of tackling bTb.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 15 2012, 8:39PM

    3 below should read, "because THEY have NEVER had a real job."

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  • Charlespk  |  October 15 2012, 8:31PM

    I just can't wait for a few of these time-serving university journeymen, to be brought before the courts to explain their incompetence and justify their pay cheques when this is all over. At least Tony Blair had the bottle to sack Professor David Nutt. . Its just a pity he ever picked a vegetarian to be Agriculture minister. . This could have been solved by now. . They've put UK agriculture back 20 years, just at the time when food prices are rocketing and we have to import 30% of our requirement.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 15 2012, 7:56PM

    XDR M.bovis picked up on his working around the world holiday. . Quite possibly in Argentina. http://tinyurl.com/6ddk4pb

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  • Charlespk  |  October 15 2012, 7:49PM

    When the problem is eventually solved which it will be, these badgerists will all go to ground never ever to be heard of again. And the list of nonentity Professors who can never offer any 'science', but just parrot Krebs 'it will only make it worse' (perturbation argument) will disappear into the comfort of state employment, because have had a real job. And do you notice they don't say what they are Professors of because you can guarantee their opinions would be totaly demolished by anyone with real knowledge of the M.tuberculosis genus. . That's why there are still 2million still dying from it every year And the threat from XDR strains M.bovis is growing year on year. http://tinyurl.com/bwxembw If this comes to get you, it won't do you any good talking to any of them.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 15 2012, 7:48PM

    When the problem is eventually solved which it will be, these badgerists will all go to ground never ever to be heard of again. And the list of nonentity Professors who can never offer any 'science', but just parrot Krebs 'it will only make it worse' (perturbation argument) will disappear into the comfort of state employment, because have had a real job. And do you notice they don't say what they are Professors of because you can guarantee their opinions would be totaly demolished by anyone with real knowledge of the M.tuberculosis genus. . That's why there are still 2million still dying from it every year And the threat from XDR strains M.bovis is growing year on year. http://tinyurl.com/bwxembw If this comes to get you, it won't do you any good talking to any of them.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  October 15 2012, 6:22PM

    Extract Taken from Bovine TB Blog. Monday, October 15, 2012 Inconsistent? There was a lot of froth over the week end with a letter opposing the proposed badger cull, signed by several scientists. They conclude: We recognise the importance of eradicating bovine TB and agree that this will require tackling the disease in badgers. Unfortunately, culling badgers as planned is very unlikely to contribute to TB eradication. We therefore urge the government to reconsider its strategy. "Culling badgers as planned ... " Planned? Planned by whom? We would refer readers back to the Defra Consultation Document, page 43. It's conclusion and thus the spin steer was: Our preferred approach is option 6: to issue licences under the PoBA for industry to cull badgers, subject to a specific set of licence criteria. Under existing arrangements farmers and landowners will also be able to apply for licences to vaccinate badgers either on its own or for use in combination with culling. This approach will allow farmers to manage their own situations and use all the control measures available. It also means that taxpayers will not be paying for significant additional disease control measures. We consulted further on the implementation of this option, as articulated in draft Guidance to Natural England from July-September 2011 The research published and / or establishments occupied by many of the names on this letter are mentioned in these Defra documents. They would have been instrumental in constructing the protocols, the 'preferred option' of those on offer, was the one now being roundly trashed. And we seem to have heard something like the phraseology of the protest before. Indeed, some of the signatories to this letter were in the magic circle which conceived the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial, which cage trapped into an infected population on 8 nights only, annually if you were lucky, with a couple of years off for FMD. And about which, their chairman and lead wizard was proud to tell any audience (in this case the EFRA committee in 2007) how 'his' trial was conceived and why it was carried out in such a way. At that meeting, Geoffrey Cox, MP asked Professor Bourne to clarify the ISG's report's conclusions in the light of his statement describing a political steer in what should have been a scientific exercise. Professor Bourne replied thus: "We repeatedly say "culling, as conducted in the trial." It is important [that] we do say that. Those limitations were not imposed by ourselves. They were imposed by politicians." and he concluded: "Whatever has driven that I do not know but the fact is that a price has been put on the badger in this country which related to the way we were able to carry out our scientific work. That is exactly what we report". Fast forward and the much quoted 16 per cent success projection for the current proposal. This was culled from the RBCT data, mathematically modeled figures taken over its whole politically rigged length. Why? But to back to this current letter, now backed up by the lead wizard, himself. Yup, the very man who gave this statement (above) to support his 'political science' to his masters. A salient point we think, is that many of the signatories to the Observer / Guardian letter appeared more than comfortable with the RBCT, when they were employed by it. We heard no shrieks of disapproval. But this was 'the science' - or pensions? Take your pick..But the RBCT debacle, which, having been involved in it, we have criticised, and will continue to criticise, mapped areas one third smaller than these proposals, used a different operating protocol and had a 'limitations imposed by politicians'. Work that one out.

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