Badgers and TB

How to tackle diseased badgers

Surely, killing tens of thousands of cattle a year because of bTB cannot continue. 

Something has to be done to help the financial and emotional survival of many farmers who produce the food we all eat.

In Wales last year more than 12,000  cattle were slaughtered because of bovine tuberculosis. 

Already this year (2009) between Jan and  the end of April more than 5,000 cattle have been killed as a result of the disease. 

Surely, the increase in infection year after year must not / cannot continue. 

Badger number used to be dealt with humanely.  There was a healthy badger population and no TB.

TB has wiped out large and small herds across Britain.

Some of these cattle were hardy, born on the farm and never housed.

One farmer had for years been champion of  Britains indigenous native breeds.  Then, because of TB,  he had to watch his prime cattle go off to slaughter.

Prime cattle going to slaughter because of catching TB.  Such waste.

Years of care and breeding go into having a herd of cattle.  Knowing this can be wiped out because of something out of your control – well how would you feel if your favourite pet could easily catch TB and have to be put down.

We are not self sufficient in food.  In fact we import nearly half the food we put on out kitchen tables. 

To waste any of our home grown food is, to me, a crying shame. 

  • Badgers have no natural predators. 
  • Badgers are now living on land laying between 1,800 and 2,000 feet – this has never happened before. 

What does a badger deliver for the countryside.

Cattle deliver

  • quality beef,
  • milk and
  • cream ,
  • leather shoes and
  • belts.

Badgers also hoover up the ground   – destroying habitats of ground nesting birds, their eggs and pollen carriers.  I have never seen this fact recorded anywhere, have you?

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Badgers and TB

  1. Mike Hughes

    Very disappointed to read your comments. Bovine TB is a highly infectious respiratory cattle disease readily spread within a herd. Decades of inadequate and infrequent testing are the root cause of the problem, not badgers. Too often farmers have bought and sold cattle that haven’t passed health checks. That’s why bTB jumped from the south west to the north west and to Scotland after foot and mouth restrictions were lifted. Badgers hadn’t trundled up the motorways; the disease had been taken there by the lorryload. You ask what badgers contribute to the countryside. Well, like birds they are great to watch, a reminder that some wonderful wildlife still manages to exist despite we humans. So let’s tackle the real cause of bTB on the farms, in the sheds where they live nose to tail for months on end. Brock, a welcome visitor to many gardens, along with the birds, isn’t the villain, whatever the NFU might claim.

  2. S Dudley

    Where did this vicious tirade come from? I thought this was a site for bird watchers, but Trish sounds as if she has been drip fed the usual poison by the NFU, the facts are that the current Tb testing for cattle is inefficient and it misses cattle which are positive and finds false negatives, leaving infected cattle in the herd to pass on the infection, alos the bio security in some farms leaves a lot to be desired, again leading to cross infection. After the foot and mouth outbreak the NFU bullied the government into allowing farmers to restock with untested cattle, which has given rise to cases of Tb occurring in parts of the country where it had never been before, badgers do not travel from one end of the country to the other, but cattle do.

    Also cattle in supposed “closed herds” come into contact with other cattle at shows, and when they are sent to market, if they are unsold they return to the farm after being in contact with the other cattle at auction, also some farmers have a bull brought onto the farm to service cows, and this bull will also have been in contact with other cattle, the milk lorry travels from farm to farm carrying slurry on it’s wheels, and neighbouring farmers may be spreading slurry on to their fields.

    In addition to all this damning evidence of cattle to cattle spread, of all the badgers slaughtered previously in the futile attempt to halt the spread of bovine Tb less than 10% actually proved positive for Tb, so thousands of badgers have been killed needlessly , as a placebo for farmers.

    I think Trish, you should stick to birds.

  3. katie

    I can’t believe this Trish. If you love wildlife, birds for example. It is interesting that you cannot see the intrinsic value of badgers to most people beyond the commercial one. Badgers were not dispatched humanely in the past. Gassing was used which has been shown to be extremely inhumane, along with snaring. Badgers are part of our native wildlife. They have increased in some parts of the country, but not everywhere, the UK has the main population of badgers in Europe. It was brought to such a low number by persecution and so called control that numbers were in danger of crashing and legal protection was necessary. Some farmers would like to go back to these old days and be able to kill them. Where I live, illegal killing has always gone on. We don’t all eat meat, dairy or wear leather. Many have reservations about dairy farming and cows that are intensively reared and milked with weakened immune systems. Even organic farms are now large enterprises with many heads of cattle. The main source of transmission is between cattle. Cattle are the infectious source for badgers. The numbers of badgers infected are less than 12% overall. Numbers of cases of TB soared after foot and mouth disease when many farmers moved cattle and replaced stock. Some farmers have continued to refuse to have their cattle tested and some have moved their animals illegally. The test is not entirely effective. If farming unions had put more effort into resolving the problems of their herds rather than concentrating on villifying badgers the numbers of infected cattle would not be at the current level. The risk to the public from the disease is minute given that milk is pausterised. DEFRA figures show you are more likely to be struck by lightning. Badger culling has been shown to be ineffective and expensive. Vaccination is the only sensible answer. The government needs to get a move on, and farming unions need to stop all the sometimes ludicrous propaganda about badgers.

  4. Mike Hughes

    Very disappointed to read your comments. Bovine TB is a highly infectious respiratory cattle disease readily spread within a herd. Decades of inadequate and infrequent testing are the root cause of the problem, not badgers. Too often farmers have bought and sold cattle that haven’t passed health checks. That’s why bTB jumped from the south west to the north west and to Scotland after foot and mouth restrictions were lifted. Badgers hadn’t trundled up the motorways; the disease had been taken there by the lorryload. You ask what badgers contribute to the countryside. Well, like birds they are great to watch, a reminder that some wonderful wildlife still manages to exist despite we humans. So let’s tackle the real cause of bTB on the farms, in the sheds where they live nose to tail for months on end. Brock, a welcome visitor to many gardens, along with the birds, isn’t the villain, whatever the NFU might claim

  5. Trish Post author

    This is not a vicious tirad. If it is true that the current Tb testing for cattle misses cattle that are positive and finds false negatives which means that infected cattle are in the herd then that needs to be altered. Have you any suggestings as to what can be done to rectify the testing. Farmers believe in this testing which is done by qualified Vets. Why don’t these qualified vets know that the testing is faulty. I can tell you that farmers would never want an animal to be killed needlessley – be it badger or cow

    Badgers do not travel from one end of the country to the other, but if their numbers increase is it possible they could infect cattle that they have not previously been in contact with.

    There is certainly a wide range of views about TB which all need to be looked at and I hope everything is being taken into account. Farmers have their livestock tested against Tb and do all that the Government rules and regulations tell them to do.

    Why are the Government not dealing with all these points you mention.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your views. I am really interested, it is a complicated subject which I am interested to learn more about.

    I don’t understand your last sentence where you say thousands of badgers have been killed needlessly as a placebo for farmers.

    Trisha

  6. Trish Post author

    Thank you for contacting me. I will reply fully later . Just wanted to say I do welcome these comments .

    No one wants Tb in any animal.

    I do agree with you that badgers are wonderful wildlife. But if they are spreading disease that is bad.

    I think everyone would agree that Tb in cattle needs to be stopped (and badgers also)

    Farmers act on Governement rules and regulations.

    I’d just like to say that we are one of the most densly populated countries in the world. About ten times more densly populated than America and France. We import 40% of our food. Farming is important to this country. Farmers are not villians.

    As we are an EU country I would be interested to see what other EU countries are doing – but maybe that will make things more complicated.

    We have had a fox take a few of our chickens lately. That is one of those things that happens. We saw the fox and we know which chickens he has taken. We won’t do anything against the fox. Tb is different. Tb is invisible when it spreads. It cannot be seen so it has to be tackled in a technical way. Farmers trust the way it is being tackled. I hope this paragraph makes sense.

    I don’t know if you watch Countryfile, but a farmer on there was so pleased when his Tb testing was clear and he could keep on farming as usual. He trusted the tests.

    I’m married to a stockman and if (heaven forbid) Tb was found on this farm he would do everything he was told to do by the Vets and follow the guidelines to the letter. As would any farmer.

    Thank you again for contacting me and opening up the debate . I think this debate needs a wider audience than here on birdtablenews – I will put my thinking hat on.

  7. Mike Hughes

    Bovine TB is a complex problem. The Government spent around £40 million of our (taxpayers’) money trying to decide what role badgers play in the transmission of TB–which, to repeat, is an infectious cattle disease. The outcome of the research, in essence, was that even a massive regionwide slaughter of badgers carried out for 4-5 years would have no significant impact on the level
    of bTB. The research team made many recommendations, most of them cattle control/testing/farm biosecurity measures. The live test traditionally used by vets (Defra not vets determine the testing method) is known to be only 70-80 per cent effective (ie it misses a lot of diseased cattle). To improve the detection rate the scientists recommended that gamma interferon testing should also be used alongside the live test. Until this double testing system has been given sufficient time to root out the reservoir of infection in the national herd, cattle will continue to pass the disease to other cattle. As your husband is a stockman he will know how many months cattle spend penned in together over winter. If some are diseased, more will be infected. Ask him how often cattle are moved from farm to market, to shows, to other areas owned by the same farmer or maybe hither and thither by cattle dealers. It runs into millions every year. If TB in an animal has been missed it is just another opportunity for the disease to spread, and in the past most of these these movements to different farms (or to shows) took place without any requirement that the cattle should be tested and shown to be bTB free. That was simply reckless. No wonder so many people are enraged that badgers are being blamed (no-one talks about the two million deer roaming the fields and hillsides, many of them TB carriers) when so much has been so wrong for so long in the cattle industry.Incidentally, all this research has still not demonstrated how badgers infect cattle. Lots of theories, a great deal of prejudice, but no scientific validation.

  8. Trish Post author

    Very interesting. As usual, all farmers can do is follow instructions passed to us from DEFRA. There would be problems for us if we didn’t.

    We have never heard of gammar interferon tests – either from the vets or from DEFRA.

    I believe farmers trusts the tests and rely on them heavily. They must do as farmers comply with the results believing they are helping eradicate Tb.

    You do agree that badgers do get TB along with other animals

    What is the answer?

    Thank you for replying. Sorry about the delay in getting back to you. Will ask other farmers and friends their opinions.

    The reason I mentioned it on birdtablenews is because I believe that a healthy countryside and healthy animals (and plants) in the countryside are vital to this Country.

    Trisha

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