Badger cull will not solve bovine tuberculosis problem in cattle, Durham University study claims

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A WIDESPREAD badger cull will not solve the problem of tuberculosis in cattle, experts at Durham University claim.

But the university's research suggests that it may play a part in controlling infection levels in problem hotspots in the UK.

It has been claimed that controlling badger numbers would reduce the spread of TB in cattle and a cull is due to begin this summer.

The Northern Echo: Robert Fuller’s painting of a badger which can be seen at his new exhibition focusing on badgers.

But Professor Peter Atkins, from Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience has investigated the spread of bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in new research and believes this is too simplistic.

Prof Atkins said of the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection: “Badgers almost certainly play a part in spreading the disease, but my conclusion is that their impact over the decades has been far less than suggested.

"Very carefully arranged culling may have a part to play alongside other measures in areas of particular prevalence such as South West England and South Wales, but my research suggests that extending the policy elsewhere may neither be justified nor particularly effective.

"It certainly won’t be a panacea.

“bTB has been around for several hundred years and appears to have become more prevalent here in the UK because of the intensive cattle breeding and farming from the 18th century onwards.

"It is an airborne infection generally, so if cattle were confined without much ventilation, the disease inevitably spread.

"We think the peak of bTB probably was in the middle or late 19th century, with perhaps as much as 80 per cent of cattle then infected in some counties.”

Prof Atkins said that after World War Two, bTB fell dramatically because of a policy of slaughtering all cattle that tested positive and herds were free of the condition by 1960.

“It is very probable that other animals did and do carry TB including badgers and deer, but cattle-to-cattle transfer is likely also to be an important factor," he said. "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 1998-2006 indicated complex, interwoven patterns of infection and concluded badger culling was unlikely to be effective for the future control of bTB.”

Professor Atkins believes bTB in badgers is a spillover disease from cattle rather than an endemic condition and probably does not persist over lengthy periods.

And he believes a cull could even make the problem worse: “When badgers are disturbed, they seem to perceive they are being attacked and move from their original area by a kilometre or more and join other badger groups, which spreads the disease.”

 

Comments (4)

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6:55am Fri 15 Feb 13

jd6620 says...

Another "expert" with another theory, in the meantime this disease rumbles on & 30, 000 +cattle a year are killed.Ask people who live & work in the countryside if you want a simple answer to the TB problem.
Another "expert" with another theory, in the meantime this disease rumbles on & 30, 000 +cattle a year are killed.Ask people who live & work in the countryside if you want a simple answer to the TB problem. jd6620
  • Score: -9

3:55pm Fri 15 Feb 13

Spectrum says...

jd6620 doesn't like the theory because it doesn't fit in with his prejudices. No good asking people who live in the countryside unless--unlike him--they base their opinions on validated fact, not old wive's tales and head-in-the-sand attitudes of those who can't face up to the reality: eight and half million cattle (many of them with latent--ie undetected--bTB) constantly on the move spreading the disease countrywide; just 300,000 badgers which at best move a mile or so from their setts. Ineffective skin tests, frequent bTB regulation infringement, they are just a few of the factors some country folk like to ignore (and Secretary of State Owen Paterson is among them).Constantly farms are going down with bTB and very often they arfe the farms that have bought in new stock from bTB hotspots.
jd6620 doesn't like the theory because it doesn't fit in with his prejudices. No good asking people who live in the countryside unless--unlike him--they base their opinions on validated fact, not old wive's tales and head-in-the-sand attitudes of those who can't face up to the reality: eight and half million cattle (many of them with latent--ie undetected--bTB) constantly on the move spreading the disease countrywide; just 300,000 badgers which at best move a mile or so from their setts. Ineffective skin tests, frequent bTB regulation infringement, they are just a few of the factors some country folk like to ignore (and Secretary of State Owen Paterson is among them).Constantly farms are going down with bTB and very often they arfe the farms that have bought in new stock from bTB hotspots. Spectrum
  • Score: 7

6:00am Sat 16 Feb 13

jd6620 says...

Spectrum wrote:
jd6620 doesn't like the theory because it doesn't fit in with his prejudices. No good asking people who live in the countryside unless--unlike him--they base their opinions on validated fact, not old wive's tales and head-in-the-sand attitudes of those who can't face up to the reality: eight and half million cattle (many of them with latent--ie undetected--bTB) constantly on the move spreading the disease countrywide; just 300,000 badgers which at best move a mile or so from their setts. Ineffective skin tests, frequent bTB regulation infringement, they are just a few of the factors some country folk like to ignore (and Secretary of State Owen Paterson is among them).Constantly farms are going down with bTB and very often they arfe the farms that have bought in new stock from bTB hotspots.
Can you give me an example of one of the frequent btb regulation infringement ? Have you observed personally a skin test, and explain how they are ineffective,& the we might see whose opinion is validated fact & didnt Dr Brian May once make the ludicrous suggestion that farmers in TB hotspots should upsticks & farm somewhere else, stick to playing the guitar Brian.
[quote][p][bold]Spectrum[/bold] wrote: jd6620 doesn't like the theory because it doesn't fit in with his prejudices. No good asking people who live in the countryside unless--unlike him--they base their opinions on validated fact, not old wive's tales and head-in-the-sand attitudes of those who can't face up to the reality: eight and half million cattle (many of them with latent--ie undetected--bTB) constantly on the move spreading the disease countrywide; just 300,000 badgers which at best move a mile or so from their setts. Ineffective skin tests, frequent bTB regulation infringement, they are just a few of the factors some country folk like to ignore (and Secretary of State Owen Paterson is among them).Constantly farms are going down with bTB and very often they arfe the farms that have bought in new stock from bTB hotspots.[/p][/quote]Can you give me an example of one of the frequent btb regulation infringement ? Have you observed personally a skin test, and explain how they are ineffective,& the we might see whose opinion is validated fact & didnt Dr Brian May once make the ludicrous suggestion that farmers in TB hotspots should upsticks & farm somewhere else, stick to playing the guitar Brian. jd6620
  • Score: -4

9:38pm Sat 16 Feb 13

Spectrum says...

jd6620 should do his homework: a glance at the websites of Defra, the NFU or the BVA will show that the skin test is unreliable, typically 80 per cent effective. It finds TB in herds but not all. In a 100-strong herd it might miss 20 infected animals. To quote a recent example, reported in detail in Farmer's Weekly: a fifth-lactation animal, part of Gelli Aur College’s dairy herd, was culled at the end of its productive life and it was only after it was slaughtered that, in the words of farm manager John Owen, it was found to be “riddled with TB”. He asked the question: could the failure of the skin test account for repeated herd breakdowns on his farm? Scientists have long argued that the much more sensitive gamma interferon test should be used more widely to make testing more effective.. As for regulation infringement here are just three from last year: a Gloucestershire farmer was heavily fined for swapping ear tags (instead of sending to slaughter high quality animals that had tested positive he sent lower quality lower value animals--and pocketed the difference in comensation); a Cheshire farmer admitted 87 offences of breaching bTB regulations; the owners of a very well known south west herd sent animals to a prestigious cattle show while its herd was under movement restrictions.Sadly, there are many others.The farming industry is no different from most others: you'll find in it the the good, the bad and the indifferent. The best farms are being put at risk by the worst, the reckless, the rogues in the pack. Those who flout regulations increase bTB spread and often blame the badger.
jd6620 should do his homework: a glance at the websites of Defra, the NFU or the BVA will show that the skin test is unreliable, typically 80 per cent effective. It finds TB in herds but not all. In a 100-strong herd it might miss 20 infected animals. To quote a recent example, reported in detail in Farmer's Weekly: a fifth-lactation animal, part of Gelli Aur College’s dairy herd, was culled at the end of its productive life and it was only after it was slaughtered that, in the words of farm manager John Owen, it was found to be “riddled with TB”. He asked the question: could the failure of the skin test account for repeated herd breakdowns on his farm? Scientists have long argued that the much more sensitive gamma interferon test should be used more widely to make testing more effective.. As for regulation infringement here are just three from last year: a Gloucestershire farmer was heavily fined for swapping ear tags (instead of sending to slaughter high quality animals that had tested positive he sent lower quality lower value animals--and pocketed the difference in comensation); a Cheshire farmer admitted 87 offences of breaching bTB regulations; the owners of a very well known south west herd sent animals to a prestigious cattle show while its herd was under movement restrictions.Sadly, there are many others.The farming industry is no different from most others: you'll find in it the the good, the bad and the indifferent. The best farms are being put at risk by the worst, the reckless, the rogues in the pack. Those who flout regulations increase bTB spread and often blame the badger. Spectrum
  • Score: 4

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