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Licence is issued to farmers for badger cull in West Somerset

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 05, 2012

The badger cull will be carried out by marksmen over 70% of the 250 square kilometre pilot area, west of Taunton and stretching north to Exmoor

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A pilot cull of badgers is likely to take place soon, following the issuing of a licence to a farmers’ group in West Somerset.

The controversial cull, part of the Government’s programme to eliminate the spread of bovine tuberculosis, is likely to begin within a matter of weeks.

It will take place over a six-week period, which will have to be completed before the New Year, when the badger breeding season begins.

Last month a licence was issued for the other pilot cull in the test scheme, around Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, another TB hotspot.

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The culls have sparked massive opposition from animal rights activists, who are threatening to disrupt them, and from welfare organisations including the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports. The names and details of people organising the culls have been published on animal rights websites, sparking security concerns among farmers.

And a high-profile petition against the culls has attracted over 100,000 signatures.

The Government agency Natural England issued the licence for the cull, which will be carried out by marksmen over 70% of the 250 square kilometre pilot area, west of Taunton and stretching north to Exmoor. It said it was satisfied the application met the “strict criteria” set out in the Government’s TB policy guidance.

The licence has a four-year term and authorises control operations to be conducted within the West Somerset pilot area over a continuous six-week period each year over the next four years. But no control operations may be carried out during specified close seasons.

But the shooting can only start once Natural England has formally confirmed the specific dates when operations will take place, the people authorised to carry them out, confirmation that the necessary funds are in place, and the permitted number of badgers that will be subject to control operations. These formal confirmations are expected to be completed within the next few weeks.

The National Farmers’ Union has urged its members to stand up to “intimidation and harassment” from animal rights extremists.

Last year bovine TB caused the deaths of 34,000 cattle, causing chaos in beef and dairy herds.

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  • Hareymary  |  October 16 2012, 5:04PM

    @bodger @ntol2 Thank you for all that information - very useful.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 06 2012, 1:48PM

    Consumption (tuberculosis) "It happens then as it does to physicians in the treatment of Consumption, which in the commencement is easy to cure and difficult to understand; but when it has neither been discovered in due time nor treated upon a proper principle, it becomes easy to understand and difficult to cure. The same thing happens in state affairs; by foreseeing them at a distance, which is only done by men of talents, the evils which might arise from them are soon cured; but when, from want of foresight, they are suffered to increase to such a height that they are perceptible to everyone, there is no longer any remedy." . . Niccolo Machiavelli 1469-1527

  • Charlespk  |  October 06 2012, 1:35PM

    Quote:- "The BCG vaccine, sometimes used to control TB in man, has proved to be poor at protecting most animal species, and inoculation often provokes a severe local granulomatous reaction." This is likely to be a quite hurtful process and the vaccination site itself might well end up as an abscess. As seen in trials, one cannot trap more than 60% of all badgers roaming around. Therefore if 60 out of 100 badgers are vaccinated with a vaccine which is only efficient to a maximum of 50 - 80% (in healthy animals!) you end up with far less than 50 badgers with a rather dubious protection. It is well known and common practice that if you do not succeed to vaccinate up to 95% of all animals of a target species, the long term positive effects in an area are likely to be pretty close to zero. If BCG is used as planned by DEFRA there will be huge perturbation and stress for all badgers, high costs and risk that the whole project will backfire. In the hot spots some 50 % or more of all badgers might carry the TB infection already increasing the risk of TB spreading when being vaccinated and according DEFRAs plans all badgers should get a booster vaccination every 12 months making things even worse. Who will be liable when it all goes wrong? Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset

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  • ntol2  |  October 06 2012, 1:28PM

    Defra report December 2011. 3.6. The aim of badger vaccination is to reduce transmission of TB between badgers and between badgers and cattle, by reducing the severity of disease and the shedding of bacteria from infected individual badgers and reducing the prevalence of disease in badger populations. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that vaccinating badgers by injection with BCG significantly reduces the progression, severity and excretion of TB infection. The findings of the laboratory studies are supported by the results of a four-year safety field-study involving the vaccination of wild badgers. This demonstrated that BCG vaccination of wild badgers in a naturally infected population results in a statistically significant 73.8% reduction in the incidence of positive results to a badger antibody blood test for TB; this is consistent with a protective effect of vaccination as antibody production is positively correlated with the extent and severity of TB infection. 3.7. Defra has recently developed an injectable badger TB vaccine (BadgerBCG), which was licensed in March 2010 and has since been available for use on prescription, subject to a licence from Natural England to trap badgers for injection by vets or trained lay vaccinators. The vaccine is being used in a Defra-funded Badger Vaccine Deployment Project (BVDP) in Gloucestershire, which aims to build confidence in the principle and practicalities of vaccination, develop practical know-how for vaccinating badgers and provide the capacity to train lay badger vaccinators. The project is not a national vaccination programme, nor will it assess the effectiveness of the vaccine in tackling bovine TB. In 2010 more than 500 badgers were vaccinated in the 100km2 project area, and more than 600 were vaccinated in 2011. However, outside of this project only very limited vaccination has taken place, most notably by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, by the National Trust in Devon, and a joint project on a few farms by the National Farmers' Union and the Badger Trust. 3.8. The ultimate aim of a sustained vaccination campaign would be, over sufficient time, to achieve 'herd immunity' in a badger population – a state in which a large enough proportion of the badgers is protected such that transmission of disease is reduced and disease cannot be sustained. Herd immunity would take time to develop, particularly as the BCG vaccination (as with BCG vaccination in other species) is not 100% effective in preventing TB in badgers; the vaccine will not fully protect or prevent infection in all uninfected badgers that are vaccinated, and there is no scientific evidence that the vaccine will benefit badgers that are already infected. Additionally, not all badgers in an area will be trapped and vaccinated and, depending on the size of the area being vaccinated, badgers from neighbouring unvaccinated areas will act as a constant source of infection. 3.9. Benefits from vaccination would therefore be expected to accrue incrementally during a vaccination campaign, as the number of badgers immunised successfully increased and as infected badgers die off naturally. The larger the proportion of infected badgers within the population, the longer it would take to achieve herd immunity.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 06 2012, 1:28PM

    That the control measures needed for tuberculosis in wildlife have ever been allowed into the public domain, to be chewed over by people with absolutely no understanding of it, and then their distaste for any of the necessary control measures to be exploited by self-interested 'charitable' outfits like the Badger Trust, the RSPCA, Pop Stars and personalities is without doubt one of the most destabilising actions of democratic government of the last 50 years and will rank along side the Iraq war as a vehicle for mischief-makers when the history books are written.

  • Charlespk  |  October 06 2012, 12:54PM

    That email was sent by Dr Ueli Zellweger MRCVS GST TVL Somerset in 2009. Read it and try and understand it. DEFRA have been part of the problem because they are the arm of Government and not totally independent veterinary scientists and veterinarians.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 06 2012, 12:50PM

    Of course if you vaccinate clean cattle it will give a good result. But the BCG Is only 50 to 75% at best in any mammal. Email received December 30 2009 . DEFRA and bovine TB After some 30 years as a country vet for cattle mainly I feel entitled to comment. When a vet surgeon is called out to treat a cow or a whole herd of cattle it is vital that he finds the real cause of the trouble. Quite often this is an infection by a species of bacterium, virus, a mycosis or when there are parasites involved. It is common that there is a mix or environmental influences e.g. a draught in the calf shed. It is the skill and experience of a successful vet to find the real diagnose and to treat or eliminate the very cause. . Infections by bacteria are normally treated with antibiotics and disinfectants and subsequent preventing methods. If an infection is treated soon after starting success is most of the time quick and guaranteed. Not so easy to treat are chronic infections. Bovine Tuberculosis ( bTB ) is in 99% of all cases a very chronic disease, mainly because of the extremely slow multiplying of these bacteria. Apart from bTB there are quite a number of other strains causing Tuberculosis like the human strain, the strain causing leprosy, the avian strain, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis ( Johns disease ) and others which are even harmless. There are a lot of vaccines against all kind of infections on the market. They normally give quite reliable results if administered correctly and in healthy animals ( and humans ). For Tuberculosis the common vaccine is the BCG which was found some 80 years ago and has been used to vaccinate healthy babies mainly. . BCG does not prevent an infection like all other vaccines; it just keeps it from becoming generalized, thus reducing the risk that the bacteria are swept into various other organs followed by massive excretion (coughing, urine, faeces, milk etc). . There is scientific evidence that the efficiency of BCG is not more than 50 % and in a lot of countries it is therefore not used any longer. Any animal, group or herd of with bTB is a focus and as long as such a focus is not eliminated it is a high risk for further infections. It is outrageous that these aspects are widely ignored by DEFRA for years now with absolutely no end in sight. In 2008 over 40,000 head of cattle reacting to bTB were slaughtered (10 % annual increase to be expected) and nobody knows how many 10,000s of badgers and their setts are infected. Thus the infection within this most relevant wildlife reservoir is permanently growing including all its risks of infecting further cattle, other farm animals, pets and humans. Vaccinating badgers cannot be the solution for there are locally far too many badgers and setts infected and vaccinating cattle with BCG is in my view absolutely contraindicated for the only way of diagnosing bTB in cattle will be seriously compromised. DEFRA thinks to manage to develop a DIVA test thus being able to differentiate between a skin reaction caused by bTB and the one caused by BCG. It is unclear if such a test ever will reach permission or Europeanwide approbation; however there is a high risk that some countries will decide at some stage that they are not interested in any English beef products any longer when it cannot be guaranteed that there is no bTB. The routine bTB skin test alone in many cases is unreliable enough ( inconclusive or even false negative results ) and the Gamma Interferon bloodtest - apart from being expensive - is quite often hampered by some other influences. There definitely is no need of another uncertainty in this whole issue. It is horror for me to see how things are going the wrong way and every month some hundred more farms are starting suffering dramatically. It is not 5 minutes before noon to rethink this whole approach by DEFRA - politically steered as it is - NO it is half past noon and even with a quick U turn the future of battling bTB looks bleak.

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  • ntol2  |  October 06 2012, 12:03PM

    Ok some some facts, not from Brian May, not from the RSPCA, from Defra. It is estimated that if you cull 70% of Badgers bTB in cattle will be lowered by 16% . Vaccination in a controlled test areas gave a 73.6% reduction in cattle. Source Defra scientific test results 2011. The government spent £5 million on expert scientific reports, the conclusion in all was vaccination was the answer. The government will not follow the recommendations because it does not want to spend money on a vaccination program, it would rather have a cull and let the farmers pay.

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  • Charlespk  |  October 06 2012, 8:26AM

    @bodger You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about bodger. . Sorry. It seems it doesn't matter how often the science and facts are put before you, you just remain in denial. Prior to 1935 up to 40% of cattle were infected with bovine TB, humans were at risk, and as many as 3,000 people died each year. An intradermal skin test for TB in cattle was introduced in order to clear TB infection to protect human health and improve animal welfare. The skin was injected with a TB extract, if the injection site became inflamed and swollen the animal was 'positive', showing it had had contact with bTB and that animal was slaughtered in an effort to get rid of the infection. Each animal was tested twice in a week. It became compulsory in 1950 and this cattle test and slaughter policy remains the main control for bovine TB. 1971 TB was found in badgers for the first time when bTB had been eliminated in cattle by rigorous testing and slaughter regime over most of the UK, but remained in a few areas in the South West. A badger culling trial around Thornbury (Nr.Bristol), Hartland Devon) and Steeple Leaze (Dorset) proved that badgers were spreading TB. 1975-1981 In heavily infected areas, in the South West, bTB was cleared by culling both infected cattle and infected badgers. Early 1980s bTB was almost eradicated from the UK. Only 100 new outbreaks were being recorded and in 1984 only 400 cattle were slaughtered. 1981 The Zuckerman Report stated that badgers were a source of TB and culling was necessary. However, gassing in the sett with cyanide, then used, was banned as it was thought to be inhumane. Many experts believe that if gassing been allowed for two more years bTB would have been eradicated. Many more badgers have been infected with bTB since gassing stopped, and they suffer a slow, painful and distressing death. 1986 Interim Reactive Culling a new policy of minimal badger culling was introduced; badgers were only removed from the farm with bTB even if the infected badges were located on the farm or woods next door. Cases of cattle TB rose by 18% each year. Three independent reports for the Minister of Agriculture - 1981 The Zuckerman Report, 1986 The Dunnet Report and 1997 and The Krebs Report confirmed that there was evidence that badgers are a source of bovine TB in cattle. 1997 Badger Survey showed a 70% increase in the badger population, then well in excess of 300,000. By 2009 their numbers were estimated to be in excess of half a million. There are more badgers in the wild now that at any time in the recent past Badgers are most prolific in areas where there is the highest incidence of bovine TB. 1998 Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) overseen by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) set up by the DEFRA to investigate the best method of reducing the spread of bTB. All badger culling ceased, except in Trial areas located in bTB hotspots, which compared three different methods of badger removal. Designed to last 5 years the Trial eventually took ten years to complete. Trial sites were sabotaged by animal rights activists, there was insufficient culling and at the wrong time of year with the result that insufficient badgers being removed. The Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak of 2001 interrupted the Trial. Perturbation was created which there hadn't been with gassing. The rest is HISTORY. There WILL be a cull of badgers, and the longer you manage to delay it, the more severe that cull will have to be. Get used to it.

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  • bodger  |  October 05 2012, 11:52PM

    It is cattle, not badgers, that are the main transmitters of bovine TB so it is utterly outrageous for badgers to pay the price for farmers' failure to abide by proper biosecurity measures. Cattle in England must be regularly tested for TB, and those found to have the disease must be quickly isolated and then removed. But an EC report, based on inspections made in September 2011, found numerous "shortcomings", including missed targets on both the rapid removal of cattle with TB and the follow-up of missed tests, and "weaknesses in cleaning and disinfection at farm, vehicle, market and slaughterhouse levels, exacerbated by lack of adequate supervision". All these problems increase the risk of TB spreading between cattle. The EC gave the UK €23m in 2011 for bovine TB control measures. Its inspectors found that the removal of cattle with TB was below the target of 90% in 10 days, and that in the first half of 2011 more than 1,000 cattle had not been removed after 30 days. They found that there were 3,300 overdue TB tests as of May 2011 and that "many" calf passports – used to track movements – were incomplete. They also found that only 56% disease report forms had been completed on time, with the authorities blaming lack of resources. Funding cuts were cited as the reason for the failure of local authorities to update central databases systematically. The EC report stated: "Local authority surveys provided evidence that some cattle farmers may have been illegally swapping cattle ear tags, ie retaining TB-positive animals in their herds and sending less productive animals to slaughter in their place." There are 8.5 million cattle in Great Britain on 81,000 holdings, with 2.4m movements a year. In 2011, about 7% of herds were under restriction due to TB and 26,000 cattle were destroyed.

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