Defra’s in the news again ….

Defra Admits Only 6% of New TB Outbreaks Caused By Badgers, While TB Rates Continue to Drop Outside Cull Zones

Continuing reductions in the rate of bovine TB (bTB) in the south west of England – outside the badger cull zones – have been revealed, alongside a bombshell from Defra’s Chief Scientist who admitted this week that research says only 6% of new bTB outbreaks come directly from badgers.

At a TB conference hosted by the National Farmers’ Union on Monday, Professor Ian Boyd told farmers in no uncertain terms that it is cattle, not badgers, which are the key cause of the spread of bovine TB. To a hostile audience, he quoted from Imperial College research that says only 5.7% of TB infections in cattle were as a result of direct infection from badgers.

He also stated that bovine TB will never be completely eradicated and that more regular testing, improved TB tests and tighter movement controls were key to reducing the spread of the disease.

Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said “We welcome the DEFRA Chief Scientist’s statements at the NFU TB conference. Despite the howls of protest from some in the audience, it was absolutely critical that he laid the finger of blame for a majority of TB transmissions at cattle and not badgers.

It’s a great shame it has taken Ian Boyd four and a half years to accept the inconvenient truth. For too long he was willing to put politics above science and play the badger blame game. This has resulted in tens of millions of pounds of public money being wasted on a disastrous badger cull which has failed on scientific and humaneness grounds. Hopefully this means that at last the Government is moving its focus to the livestock industry where the long term solution to bovine TB reduction lies, rather than the pointless destruction of our precious wildlife.”

New bTB figures are also showing evidence that a focus on cattle, not badgers, is the way to beat the disease. Most of the West region of England was moved to annual and pre-movement testing in 2010/11. This is a policy which tends to lead to an initial spike in the number of animals slaughtered for TB, as more are found to be carrying the disease due to increased testing, followed by a drop in the figures as the benefit of removing the sick animals kicks in.

Figures show:

• A drop of 12% in the number of bTB cattle slaughtered in the West Region from 2012 to 2013 (prior to the badger culls taking place)

• A drop of 14% in the same area between Jan and August 2014

The West Region covers the whole of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Avon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Hereford & Worcs, Warwickshire, West Midlands and the Isles of Scilly.

Meanwhile in Wales, where the focus has been on cattle measures, not badger culling, for five years, bTB rates continue to fall:

• The number of new herd incidents (39) reported this month is the lowest ever recorded in any month since 2008.

• The number of cattle slaughtered (264) this month is the lowest ever recorded in any month since 2008.

Dominic Dyer added: “These reductions clearly show that an increased testing intensity is working in removing infected animals and reducing the rate of onward transmission and new infections. While everyone has been focusing on badger culling, they’ve missed the fact that over the last 20 months there has been a steady decline of the disease in the West Region.

“The UK government seemed reluctant to bring in more frequent and better testing in England, but it’s clearly paying off. While we need to be careful of making short-term judgments based on statistics, the drop in bTB rates in the West is becoming clear, as it’s been happening for 20 months, not just this year as is being claimed. The focus on cattle, as is also being shown dramatically in Wales, is paying off, and that’s where we must continue to concentrate our effort.

“Any claim that the badger cull is having an impact on these figures cannot be taken seriously, as the cull zones are a tiny part of the whole area. The NFU has dismissed claims that the vaccination of badgers in Wales has had an impact on the reduction of TB rates there, because the area is too small, and it’s too soon for it to have had an effect. Exactly the same goes for the cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire – any impact on bTB will not be shown in these figures – this is a success of cattle-based measures, pure and simple.”

After Ian Boyd’s statement on Monday, the NFU have called for the management of bTB to be taken out of the political arena, with an independent body in charge of the policy. Dominic Dyer said:

“We agree that the UK’s bTB policy should be non-political, but it’s ironic that the NFU are calling for this now that the government seem to be disagreeing with them. We’ve said all along that beating bTB must be based on science, not on politics. But bTB policy impacts on a lot of people, not just farmers – a case in point is the £10 million price tag to the tax payer for the 2013 cull. So anyone making the decisions should be accountable to the British public.”

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

The suggestion of an ‘Independent body’, what a wonderful idea but one might be forgiven for asking why the Independent Expert Panel was ‘sacked’ or why the offer for a 2014 one was also declined by Defra?  A wider remit independent body might also be encouraged to look at lack lustre biosecurity measures which cause innumerable issues, the clean up of which is oft passed to the public purse rather than those actually responsible?  The idea of accountability to the public would also be a laudable ambition, but that would also need to apply to the politicians who are courted by capitalism and who sadly appear bereft of care or concern for the natural environment beyond its usefulness as a resource.

Greenblobpride

 

Defra has confirmed a case of avian flu in a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire.

On 16 November Defra confirmed a case of avian flu (bird flu) in a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire. The strain has now been confirmed as H5N8, which is a very low risk to human health and no risk to the food chain.

Reminiscences of Ministers eating burgers?  Images of politicians eating duck pate produced from these birds at agri-industry PR events then?

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