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Labour 'has no problem with a science-backed badger cull', says Maria Eagle

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

Badger cull protesters on College Green, Bristol. Labour's environment spokesman Maria Eagle has said she could support a science-backed cull

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Labour has indicated it could back a cull of badgers if it won the next election, so long as it was part of “a proper scientific approach” to tackling tuberculosis in cows.

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle acknowledged bovine TB was a “hugely serious issue”, and that she was “not one of those people who says that no badgers should ever be culled”.

The comments by the MP for Garston and Halewood in Merseyside, who became the party’s environment spokesman last year, marks a shift in party policy after fiercely opposing the coalition's action on badger culling.

But Ms Eagle made clear she believed her counterpart, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was “not taking notice of the science”, and that his “prejudices” were dictating the bovine TB policy.

Two “pilot” badger culls have taken place in Somerset and Gloucestershire, with an independent panel expected to pronounce shortly whether up to 40 more culls should be rolled out, probably in hotspots in the South West.

Ms Eagle, speaking to The House magazine, said of the badger cull: “This is another example where he’s not taking notice of the science. This isn’t about being sentimental, I’m not one of those people who says that no badgers should ever be culled.

“There’s a hugely serious issue with TB in cattle that does have to be tackled. Thousands of cattle are being destroyed at a great cost.

“When we were in office we ordered a science-based culling trial that formed the basis of the evidence that there is for policy-making in this area. It’s not that I have a problem with culling if that’s where the science leads you.

“But the evidence, and every bit of expert advice he received, said that culling alone, and mass culling in one area that failed to remove enough badgers in a short space of time, would make things worse. His disinterest in that science-based approach, because he thinks he knows better, was very clear. He moved the goalposts, rather than the badgers.”

She added: “I say we need a comprehensive strategy that’s based on the science that may well include where necessary removing sickly badgers, but based on the science that has a chance to work, that looks at vaccinating badgers, vaccinating cattle, more restrictions on livestock movements, a proper scientific approach to dealing with this very serious issue. We are just seeing his prejudices driving policy.”

The former minister renewed her party’s support for a ban on fox hunting amid Tory backbench calls for a vote on repeal – but appeared open to discussing amendments called for by farmers over pest control.

She said: “I think ministers are kidding themselves if they think there’s any cross-party consensus in Parliament for changing the Hunting Act.

“They don’t have the votes in Parliament, if they were to try they would discover that. I know that there are some arguments being made about some alleged unintended consequences about how it works and there are differences in jurisdictions about precisely what is allowed. My approach is led by evidence and science. So I’m perfectly happy to engage with people making these allegations but you have to have full scrutiny, a proper consultation, I don’t think that can happen in this Parliament.”

She added: “There’s no change in my position on the principle of a ban.”

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  • Charlespk  |  January 16 2014, 8:15AM

    You just won't learn or be told any of you.

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  • Charlespk  |  January 16 2014, 8:10AM

    No; you and all badgerists are just denying the real science and keep producing fanciful notions why badgers should be allowed to keep incubating and spreading it whilst all other mammals either die or have to be culled. Badgers and bovine TB. This is the REAL science. The INDISPUTABLE, historically accurate, scientific facts. http://tinyurl.com/bw7jpxy (open in a new window) New Strategy. https://http://tinyurl.com/oh6sbo2

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  • blackwhite1  |  January 15 2014, 11:18PM

    Maria Eagle has simply said that Labour will 'follow the science'; surely that is all that we were asking Owen Paterson to do? The scientists said 'don't cull'. Why ignore a scientific trial which took nigh on a decade and cost £50M of taxpayers' money and 11,000 badgers their lives? bTB should be eradicated, not badgers - an indigenous, ancient species which has been here since (or even before) the Ice Age. It's hardly the badgers' fault that we have over-bred our cattle, reducing the robustness of their immune systems & making them more susceptible to illness through our greed, is it.

  • Charlespk  |  January 13 2014, 8:56PM

    Reactors are not clinically sick or infective. .They have just met the disease. . But we still slaughter then to prevent the disease taking hold!! . . "We have to know where the disease begins, and where it ends." . . . . Dr Paul Gillet, a former senior medical microbiologist.

  • Charlespk  |  January 13 2014, 8:53PM

    You still don't understand tuberculosis. . You just won't be told any of you. . Reactors are not infective. They have just met the disease. THE NATURE OF TB IN BADGERS 1.Tuberculosis has a different manifestation in most species . In the badger it is fundamentally different from TB in cattle essentially due to the lack of development of a hypersensitivity response which is a prime feature of infection in cattle. Thus small numbers of organisms infecting cattle produce a vigorous cellular response which results in extensive cell death and the development of large cold abscesses in the affected tissues usually the lung and respiratory lymph nodes . This is in fact the host immune reaction to TB. Whilst causing disease and disruption to the affected organs the changes inside these abscesses strongly inhibit the TB bacteria and kill many of them. The badger does not show such a vigorous destructive reaction but rather a slowly progressive proliferative reaction which eventually results in cell death as numbers of bacteria increase markedly. TB lesions are thus relatively much smaller but contain relatively vastly more bacteria than those of cattle. TB bacteria do not produce toxins but rather cause lesions as a result of their highly antigenic cell walls to which different hosts may respond with greater or lesser aggression. PROGRESSION OF INFECTION 2. Once a badger develops disease all the members of that social group are likely to become infected due to the confined living space in their underground tunnel systems, their highly gregarious nature and constant mutual grooming. But that seed of infection (the primary focus ) will usually only progress to produce disease and eventually death in a minority of cases. Latency is a feature of TB in many species and this is so in badgers and cattle. The bulk of infections in badgers, usually 70% or more will become latent or dormant. A small number of badgers may resolve the infection completely and self cure. But the latent infections remain fully viable and may breakdown under stress which may be of nutritional origin, intercurrent disease, senile deterioration or social disturbance and disruption. Some badgers may develop fulminating disease (Gallagher et al 1998). Badgers with terminal generalised tuberculosis can excrete vast numbers of bacteria particularly when the kidneys are infected. Counts of several million bacteria in a full urination have been recorded (Gallagher and Clifton-Hadley, 2000). When infection is acquired by a bite wound from the contaminated mouth of another badger, the bacteria are Inoculated either deeply subcutaneously or intramuscularly and rapid generalisation of infection usually occurs, causing progression to severe and often fatal tuberculosis which may develop in a matter of several months (Gallagher and Nelson, 1979). Respiratory origin infections have a longer duration and cases in an endemically infected population (Woodchester) have been monitored showing intermittent excretion of infection for a year, with the longest recorded case excreting for almost three years before death. The above ground mortality due to TB is estimated as about 2% of the population per annum. Thus in the South West alone with its now extensive endemically infected areas the annual deaths due to TB will be of the order of at least 1000 to 2000. Tuberculosis has an unfettered progress in the badger population and the cycle of infection and disease in the badger has long been known to be self sustaining (Zuckerman 1980). Over time the badger has become well adapted as a primary reservoir host of bovine TB infection. . . . Dr John Gallagher, a veterinary pathologist since 1972.

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  • Clued-Up  |  January 13 2014, 5:05PM

    Have alerted Maria Eagle to possible misreporting of her comments, hopefully she'll get back to us.

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  • twigcat  |  January 13 2014, 2:29PM

    No need to panic yet ( I hope ). The key is in the last paragraph - "There's no change in my position on the principle of a ban." Tory press stirring trouble, I think.

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  • docrichie  |  January 13 2014, 11:50AM

    The mode of transmission from badgers to cattle has never been scientifically demonstrated. All bTB in badgers is spill-over of the mycobacterium into the environment from infectious cattle, including progressively infectious beasts tested but showing up as false negatives. It is an agricultural problem, not a wildlife one whatever the NFU and land-owning Tories say. It seems to me they simply want to extend and exercise their traditional hold on controlling power in the countryside. Vaccination of cattle, as for humans, is the only sensible way forward, and the EU should be made to see this. Leave our wildlife alone, it has a hard enough job to survive as it is.

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  • groundnut  |  January 13 2014, 11:46AM

    There is No longer any Scientific base for the Culling of badgers as any way forward to the eradication of Bovine TB. Science has already moved forward from research to implementation and field trials. Given fast tracking and proper funding and direction, it already has the competence and expertise. A large part of the problem is clearly recognised as follows. "But Ms Eagle made clear she believed her counterpart, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was "not taking notice of the science", and that his "prejudices" were dictating the bovine TB policy. ------------------------------ ----------------------------------- Falling UK and Northern Irish bovine TB (bTB) rates have been proven to be a result of cattle management rather than culling, according to official statistics. (Global Meat news Nov 20130 --------------------- ---------------------- AGRI – Wales OCT. 2013 DEFRA has indicated it is open to the possibility of allowing a cattle vaccine to be used in the UK as soon as it is available on the basis that vaccinated animals could only be traded domestically. But Defra official Stephen Cane told a conference on TB vaccination, staged by the Zoological Society of London on Thursday (OCT 03), the option could be there to fast-track availability in the UK. The European Commission is open to the prospect of the UK, or parts of it, going it alone once the vaccine is approved. The condition would be that vaccinated cattle could only be traded domestically until new legislation is put in place allowing EU trade in these animals. Defra and the Welsh Government are preparing for large-scale field trials of the BCG cattle vaccine that could begin in England and Wales as early as next year. (2014) _____________________ _________________ I understand also that DIVA testing field trials could also commence at the same time (2014) Vaccination is already available for Badgers and is being used in Wales, NI and by some Government agencies and Wildlife Trusts in England.

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  • Barri  |  January 13 2014, 10:52AM

    There is NO science to support the murder of innocent Badgers. There is evidence that sloppy Farming practice is the cause of Bovine TB though. NFU is a Trade Union and thus attracts Labour/Communist sympathies.

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