Given that badgers don’t generally travel by bus or lorry, and rarely cover long distances on foot, the widespread and frequent movement of cattle provides a much more convincing explanation for the spread of bTB in the UK. The map below shows the pattern over a 20-year period. The spread across the country mirrors exactly the increase in intensive farming. Just like humans, cattle under stress become sick, and crowded conditions make the spread of a disease common place.
The bTB skin test is simply not good enough and infected cattle continue to live and infect from within the herd. These latent carriers infect other cattle by nose to nose contact and within bodily fluids.. Intensive farming makes the condition right for bTB to spread easily. The problem of bTB lies mainly within intensive farming and the large chronic herds. The M.bovis bacterium, which is the causative agent of the disease, can remain latent and undetected for many years; just recently, a cow from a closed herd was found to be riddled with bTB at the time of slaughter, and had clearly been infected for a long time. A routine skin test on the animal had not identified the infection in the previous five years so she had continued to infect others throughout that time (13).
In Switzerland, the first outbreak in 40 years saw the entire herd slaughtered. It was shown that many of the cattle had been infected with bTB for several years showing that cattle had been infected yet undetected (46).
The cattle restocked after the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 did not require bTB testing. That was a mistake that undoubtedly added hugely to the resurgence in bovine TB cases.
In the 1970s, an outbreak of bTB in North West England was eliminated by the slaughter of cattle and restrictions to their movements (sound familiar?!). Had the disease been maintained by badgers, the problem could not have been solved without their removal. Badgers were not targeted, yet the area was soon declared free of infection.
Research from Durham University released in 2013 has confirmed that badgers are not major players in the transfer of bTB. Professor Peter Atkins of Durham University stated: “It is very probable that other animals did and do, carry TB, including badgers and deer, but the cattle-to-cattle transfer is likely also to be an important factor. For example, only one out of nearly 400 badgers killed in road accidents in Cheshire over two decades tested for the disease turned out to be positive. This goes against received wisdom that bTB would have stayed in badgers which obviously weren’t culled when the cattle were in previous decades, and they then reinfected cattle stocks. But this interspecies transference seems unlikely to have occurred on the necessary scale.”
“Furthermore, no one has yet proved definitively which direction the infection travels between species. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which ran from 1998 to 2006, indicated complex, interwoven patterns of infection, and concluded badger culling was unlikely to be effective for the future control of bTB” (21).
Prof. Atkins believes that bTB in badgers is a spill-over disease from cattle, rather than an endemic condition, and probably does not persist over lengthy periods. He contends that a cull could even exacerbate the problem (22). Prof. Atkins has also said: “Bovine tuberculosis was completely eliminated from Cheshire, and from the northwestern counties which do have badger populations. That elimination took place in the 1950s. And what you’d expect according to the traditional badger ecology is that bovine tuberculosis would have stayed in the badgers – which obviously weren’t culled at that time – if there is an association between the two species, but the road traffic accident data shows that that wasn’t the case; in fact only one animal out of I think it’s 400 that were collected over two decades in Cheshire was infected with the disease, which doesn’t suggest it was endemic in that particular county.”
He continued: “Farms needed to re-stock after foot-and-mouth with fresh animals, and very often they bought those animals from the southwest, which is a traditional cattle breeding area; so in County Durham, for instance, where quite a lot of cattle were slaughtered as a result of foot-and-mouth disease, cattle were brought in and it’s been shown that actually on several occasions, those cattle brought bovine tuberculosis with them into areas which previously hadn’t had it, so this was rather ironic. Almost certainly a proportion of the increase in bovine tuberculosis after 2001 is the result of that restocking after foot-and-mouth disease. I think that the ecology of the assumption that badgers are always responsible for the cattle disease has got to be reviewed.”
Our biosecurity is extremely poor. In 2011, the European Commission considered our biosecurity practices in farming so dismal that it threatened to withdraw the £32-million annual funding (12) to combat bTB. That move saw Jim Pace (the then minister) hot footing it to Brussels to plead our case. He promised more rigorous biosecurity in return for the funding, but very little has changed.
These maps show the density of farms and cattle in 2008. It’s clear from the distribution patterns that the areas of the UK in which farming is most intensive correspond to those where bTB is particularly widespread.
Badgers are widespread throughout the UK as the map clearly shows, yet bTB only appears an issue in areas of intensive farming.
Defra and the NFU currently offers this non-mandatory advice to farmers: “Cleansing and disinfection (C&D) is an important disease control measure and may help reduce the risk of infection spreading to other cattle or to other susceptible animals on your farm. Under certain conditions, M. bovis can survive in the environment for a long time, so it is good practice, and will be a requirement under notice, served by Animal Health, to cleanse and disinfect thoroughly all buildings where reactor cattle have been kept. It is particularly important to clean and disinfect any fittings or equipment that may have come into contact with sputum, faeces or milk from TB reactors.” (73)
It is not illegal to spread slurry from cattle that are under movement restrictions on a farmer’s own land. Defra tells farmers that they, “should consider the risk of spreading the disease to other stock or wildlife”. This means that slurry containing bTB bacterium is a vector for spreading the disease not only to badgers but other cattle. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years (74) & (75).
Bovine tb lives in the slurry and that slurry is spread on pastures and in fields where both cattle and wildlife find food and risk ingesting more btb. Watercourse spread btb further along streams and to neighbouring farms and btb is found in water troughs but the dna of that btb is not badger just cattle. Cattle troughs need steps to prevent other cattle from defecting in them and increasing the potency of the btb soup.
Research from Northern Ireland has suggested that excrement could aerosolise (i.e become dust particles) that could be breathed in by animals and further facilitate bTB spread (76). Slurry can also run off into waterways – and the bTB bacterium can remain active in water for up to 58 days (73) – meaning that cross contamination to neighbouring herds and wildlife could be a potential vector.
I think the picture is clear - Cattle cause the major spread of bTB. Intensive farming means intensive bTB. You can clear it in the herd without culling wildlife
1. Bovine TB Time Line. Bovine TB Overview and Timeline
3. Estimates of badger population sizes in the West Gloucestershire and West Somerset pilot areas. A report to Natural England - 22 February 2013. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130822084033/
4. Estimating the risk of cattle exposure to tuberculosis posed by wild deer relative to badgers in England and Wales. DOCUMENT HERE
5.Statement from the European Commission regarding an article in the Mail On Sunday on 21 October. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers.http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/press_releases/2012/pr1245_en.htm http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/press_releases/2012/pr1245_en.html
The European Commission was disappointed to see an article by Brian May in the Mail on Sunday on 21 October which quotes Georg Haeusler, chief adviser to the European Commissioner for Agriculture. Some of the quotes are out of context or inaccurate - and therefore misleading.
Vaccination of cattle against TB is forbidden under current EU rules agreed by all Member States, including the UK. This is because there is no effective test to tell the difference between vaccinated and infected animals, making it impossible to protect the food chain and identify which animals could be exported.
If such a test were to be developed and approved at EU and international levels – which would take time – the rules could be changed relatively quickly. But Mr Haeusler explained that this would be the responsibility of the Health Commissioner, who deals with vaccination issues, and who could also advise on the exact process and timing in this case.
The Commission provides substantial financial support to the approved UK bovine TB eradication programme. For 2012, EUR 31.2 million were allocated to implement a rapid eradication strategy. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers.
6.Parliamentary briefing paper - Science & Environment. www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05873.pdf
7. The Cattle Book 2008 Descriptive statistics of cattle numbers in Great Britain on 1 June 2008: Density Maps. http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13572-cattlebook-2008-090804.pdf
8. European Commission Audit - audit was carried out in the UK from 5-16th September 2011. TB Eradication Programme. READ HERE
9. Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive.Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive
10. Conversation in the House of Lords where Lord Krebs and Lord Knight of Weymouth – Hansard. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/121023-0001.htm
11. 'Bovine tuberculosis infection in wild mammals in the South-West region of England: A survey of prevalence and a semi-quantitative assessment of the relative risks to cattle'. READ HERE
12. Final report of an audit carried out in the United Kingdom from 5th-16th September 2011 In order to evaluate the operation of the Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Programme. READ HERE
13. TB skin test questioned after false results. http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/05/02/2013/137488/tb-skin-test-questioned-after-false-results.htm#.URD1fq2kidE
14. Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Bovine TB - Key conclusions from the meeting of scientific experts. Held at Defra on 4th April 2011. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf
15. Illegal in the US to feed deer and cattle together for risk of bovine Tb transfer. READ MORE
16. Scientist writes an open letter condemning the cull. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2012/oct/14/letters-observer
17. Despite no badgers having yet being killed under official sanction in Northern Ireland, as Ms O'Neill has acknowledged, the annual herd incidence has almost halved, from nearly 10% in 2002 to just over 5% on 30 September 2011. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ni/?id=2011-11-28.7.25
18. Cattle movements the most significant factor in spread of bovine TB.
19. Stress prevents immune systems from working. A 3rd more females (in buffalo adult females stressed out the yearling females) and links with human stats. http://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-2-21-buffalo-tb-21399.html
20. Bovine tuberculosis in Europe from the perspective of an officially tuberculosis free country: trade, surveillance and diagnostics. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21439740
21. Durham University Paper. READ HERE
22. Recording of Professor Atkins from Durham University http://ihrrblog.org/2013/02/14/bovine-tb-risk-in-britain-past-and-present/
23. Police don’t want to police this, too expensive. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article3706318.ece
24. Herd size is a known risk factor for bTB (Denny and Wilesmith 1999, Olea-Popelka and others 2004, Reilly and Courtenay 2007); accordingly, direct standardisation was used to adjust for varying herd size (Dohoo et al., 2003). (Abernethy et al., 2013)
25. Slaughter Detection and pre movement Testing in Oreland. http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/biennial%20report%20200809%20bovine%20tuberculosis.pdf
26.Four Area Project. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113914/
27. Where is this?
28 . History of bTB – Defra. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/abouttb/index.htm
29. HOUSE OF COMMONS. ORAL EVIDENCE TAKEN BEFORE THE ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, BOVINE TB VACCINATION, TUESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2013, BERNARD VAN GOETHEM, FRANCISCO REVIRIEGO, KOEN VAN DYCK AND JACQUELINE MINOR. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenvfru/uc981-ii/uc98101.htm
30. Incidents of M. bovis infection in non-bovine domestic animals & wild deer in GB confirmed by laboratory culture. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/tb-otherspecies.pdf
31. Lord Krebs, who ran a ten-year review into whether culling could control bovine tuberculosis, said that the Government’s estimates had varied so wildly that under the previous target farmers would have been asked to shoot 144 per cent of the badgers in Gloucestershire. He said “To me what it says is that the practicality of killing 70 per cent is one question but the real question is how do they know what their starting number is?” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article3703610.ece
32. Professor Robbie McDonald, an author of the paper and now at the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute, said: "This striking result in cubs shows a protective effect at the social group level and is important evidence that vaccination not only has a direct benefit to vaccinated badgers, but can also reduce the infectivity of TB within a badger social group that has been vaccinated."
33. World Health Organisation description of TB and how it is transmitted.
34. Neigbouring farms have different bTB.
35. End ban on hunting with dogs, urges Tory Environment Minister: Paterson makes his views clear on controversial subject.
36. In Wales the government have caged, trapped and vaccinated over 1,400 badgers. Evidence from a four year field study (9) shows that BCG vaccinations in badgers reduces the risk of infection to cubs. It is possible to vaccinate. It will not make matters worse and evidence to date suggest it has a positive effect. Myself and Brian May met with Christianne Glossop (Chief Vet of Wales) in London last month to discuss successes and failures of the vaccination program and how we may work with them on this project to improve and support it to its conclusion.
37. Defra graphs on bTB showing increase after foot and mouth http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/files/defra-stats-foodfarm-landuselivestock-tb-statsnotice-120403.pdf
38. Conservative Animal Welfare - Statement on bTB. http://www.conservativeanimalwelfare.co.uk/page/20/
40. Deep divisions in the badger cull. http://catbrainsite.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/deep-divisions-in-british-society-over-badger-cull/
41. ORAL VACCINE TELEGRAPH. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7996663/Oral-TB-vaccine-may-prevent-need-for-badger-cull.html
42. British cattle are moved annually; with over 13 million cattle movements. http://rpa.defra.gov.uk/rpa/index.nsf/UIMenu/C2268E828EFED0B280256FE300347A0C?Opendocument
43. Closely mirroring the historical rise in bTB cases is the rise in cattle movements, with 480,294 more cattle moved in 2010 than 2009 Cattle movements have more than quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294) and have involved over 127million animals since 1998. http://rpa.defra.gov.uk/rpa/index.nsf/vContentByTaxonomy/BCMS**Statistics**2010%20Statistics**?OpenDocument
44. Oral vaccine Eamonn Gormley. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7996663/Oral-TB-vaccine-may-prevent-need-for-badger-cull.html
45. Details on Eamonn Gormley. http://www.ucd.ie/research/people/veterinarymedicine/dreamonngormley/
46. Swiss herd shown that BTB was endemic in herd and had been present for several years. http://worldradio.ch/wrs/news/wrsnews/cows-infected-with-bovine-tb-culled.shtml?35284
47. Byrne, A. W., Sleeman, D. P., O’Keeffe, J. & John, D., (2012a). The Ecology of the European Badger (Meles meles) in Ireland, a review. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 112B(1), pp. 105-132. http://www.academia.edu/671427/The_Ecology_of_the_European_badger_Meles_meles_in_Ireland_-_a_review
48. Man shot while hunting rabbits . Fell on his gun SHROPSHIRE. http://news.sky.com/story/1075232/rabbit-hunter-shot-dead-in-tragic-accident
49. Byrne, A. W. et al., (2012b). Impact of culling on relative abundance of the European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland. European Journal of Wildlife Research, pp. DOI 10.1007/s10344-012-0643-1.
50. More, S. J., (2005). Towards eradication of Bovine Tuberculosis in Ireland A critical review of progress, Dublin: Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis.
51. Griffin, J. M. et al., (2005). The impact of badger removal on the control of tuberculosis in cattle herds in Ireland. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, Volume 67, pp. 237-266.
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54. Eves, J.A., (1999). Impact of badger removal on bovine tuberculosis in east county Offaly. Irish Veterinary Journal 52, 199–203.
55. Eves, J.A., (1993). The East Offaly Badger Research project: an interim report. The Badger Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin (1993), pp. 166–173
56. Cheeseman, C. L., Jones, G. W., Gallagher, J. & Mallinson, P. J. (1981). The population structure, density and prevalence of tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) in badgers (Meles meles) from four areas in south-west England. J. Appl. Ecol. 18, 795–804.
57. Cheeseman, C. L., Mallinson, P. J., Ryan, J. & Wilesmith, J. W. (1993). Recolonisation by badgers in Gloucestershire. In The badger (ed. T. J. Hayden), pp. 78–93. Dublin, Ireland: Royal Irish Academy.
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64. Woodroffe, R. et al., (2006). Effects of Culling on Badger Meles meles Spatial Organization: Implications for the Control of Bovine Tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 43(1), pp. 1-10.
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66. Roper, T. J., (2010). Badger. 1st ed. London : Harper Collins.
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69. O’Flaherty, J., (2008). Value for Money and Policy Review Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Programme. 1996–2006. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/publications/2008/valueformoneyandpolicyreviewbovinetuberculosiseradicationprogramme1996-2006/
70. Farming after foot and Mouth. http://www.tbfreeengland.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/RP01-67.pdf
71. 81%of the population are against the proposed culling of Badgers (Bow Group research 2012). http://www.bowgroup.org/policy/bow-group-urges-government-scrap-badger-cull-plans
72. The Citizen newspaper poll found 90.2% were against the cull (4 Oct 2012).
73. Control of Bovine (bTB ) Cattle Biosecurity - Part 5 NFU Southwest http://www.southwest-tbadvice.co.uk/uploads/TB_Bulletin_5-Cattle_Bio-security_30_11_10.pdf
74. BTB remains in slurry for up to two years. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2710499/
75. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2710499/#R61
76. Bovine TB : a review of badger to cattle transmission. http://www.dardni.gov.uk/afbi-literature-review-tb-review-badger-to-cattle-transmission.pdf
77. 22% of new bTB cattle detected at slaughter. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/oct/05/badger-cull-tb-cattle
78. TB Vaccination of Badgers www.bacvi.org.uk
79. The use of dogs and Defra. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69586/pb13716-shooting-guidance.pd
80 .Cattle bTB and ferrets, 4 out of 80 foxes had btB. http://www.bovinetb.info/docs/johngallt_b_review9-04.pd
81. Paul R. Torgerson and David J. Torgerson stated in their paper ‘Public health and bovine tuberculosis: what’s all the fuss about?' READ HERE