1) To DAIRY FARMERS EVERYWHERE – you should know we are on your side, because we, like you, are battling the deadly mycobacterium M Bovis - a highly intelligent organism. And we’re winning, where current government policy is FAILING.
2) THE CURRENT Government STRATEGY is “test and remove infected cattle using the skin test - and kill badgers”. Badgers are accused of being the main vector - the main carrier of the disease. It sounds plausible - it’s a model - a theory - but it’s based on outdated beliefs, and in practice DOES NOT WORK. We have the statistics to prove it. Why doesn’t it work ? I can tell you why later. (The skin test is only 45 per cent effective - so the infected animal is left in the herd - and badgers are NOT the primary cause of reinfection)
If killing badgers would solve the problem, we would be in a good situation right now. But after 6 years of the current policy we actually have increases in incidence of bTB IN some of the ORIGINAL CULL ZONES - a 130 per cent rise in one zone - Gloucestershire. How do you feel ? Still have faith in the government policy ?
3) We have a developed a strategy which DOES WORK. The Gatcombe method - developed by vet Dick Sibley - uses much more accurate testing to identify the organism itself in cows - rather that the indirect method of detecting antibodies in the infected animals, which is always TOO LATE anyway – because by the time the cow has ‘reacted’ there’s a high probability it has already infected others in the herd. Even more crucially, The Gatcombe strategy introduces ways to cut off routes of infection within the herd. Dick has cleaned up the birthing of calves, cleaned up the excrement as soon as it it’s dropped - and stopped pumping the contents of the slurry out back on top of the feed fields. Plus many other strategies — which have given our farmer ROBERT an officially TB free herd after 3 years. That’s a very happy farmer. But he had the courage to make the jump - and step out of the badger-cull-and-test-and-remove strategy.
Additional crucial facts :
4) Bovine TB has traditionally been treated as a respiratory disease - like human TB. And it’s been assumed it’s somehow passed on by sniffing. Current papers from vets doing the POST MORTEM in cattle are indicating that this is actually not the case. They often fail, on a quick look, to find lesions in the lungs. So in most cases the cow would be declared healthy. But our source tells us if the operative spends another couple of hours on the post mortem he will find lesions in OTHER organs. This tells us TB is a disease which affects every organ in the body - and its transmitted not by breathing but by ingestion. This a a game-changer - a bombshell. Very comparable with the famous Victorian discovery that Cholera was not transmitted by breathing but by contaminated water (John Snow, 1854) (Dick Sibley says: The oral infection route has been known for years, but basically ignored not least because oral infection often does not produce visible lesions and so was thought to be insignificant. Out work has shown that cows can shed even without visible lesions.)
5) So now we know how the transmission takes place - through the mouth. Which can happen so easily in a shed which contains maybe 100 cows in close proximity. It’s a no-brainer really. Farmers have been told to increase biosecurity - keeping badgers out - looking at the possibility of badgers bringing in infection, when right in front of us, cows are paddling around in Poo.
6) So - simple - yes -in the short term vaccinate badgers to protect them and make their symptoms less severe - but don’t imagine you’re helping the cows any more than culling will - and in the long term - just eradicate TB in cows and the badgers will be fine.
7) Theories of transmission
WITHIN THE HERD : One gram of cow SLURRY has enough TB organisms in it to bring down a cow. A typical slurry pit holds 400 million grams. This is an open sewer - pumped back out on to the land. It infects the feed fields - where crops are being grown to feed the cows and people too. It infects the insect life and slugs and snails - all the creatures that the badgers feed on, so of course they are infected. It gets into the water courses and so infects neighbouring farms. Recently TB has been found in run-off water and of course in the slurry pit itself. It’s also been found in cattle water troughs, and the DNA indicated it’s NOT infection from badgers. This is all NEW EVIDENCE - ignored by George Eustace, who even suppressed the recent data from the culls until after the new licenses to cull had been issued, and the existing licenses renewed. Shameful behaviour.
BETWEEN BADGERS AND CATTLE : Badgers DO get infected - of course they do - by the cows. How? One cow pat (at 45 kilos) from a shedding cow (infected and infectiOUS) contains 500 times as many organisms as a badger excretion. And badgers are highly likely to encounter a cow pat on their wanderings, and eat the attendant slugs and snails, and so get infected. But, theoretically, how can a badger infect a cow ? Not so easy. A typical badger excretion is 599 times smaller, and the badger does not Poo all over a field. Badgers are very civilised animals and they only urinate and defecate in specified areas - their latrines. These are easily found, and any farmer worth his salt will know where they are and they will be fenced off outside the area where the cows graze. So how would the badgers infect the cows ? With difficulty. So now we are less surprised to find that culling badgers - OR EVEN VACCINATING them - makes no bloody difference to the health of a herd of cattle. The’Wildlife Reservoir’ - so often quoted by Owen Paterson as the main cause of the spread of bTB, is a myth. Or rather, it exists, but it is a Dead End reservoir … it cannot pass the disease back to Cows. TB is a one-way ticket.
8) The skin test, because it is so laughably inaccurate, leaves the infected cow in the herd. We have now proved this many times. Our more sensitive blood tests have found TB in cows that have passed multiple skin tests. It is this undetected infected and infectious animal which defecates in the shared areas and infects its neighbours with TB. Leading to a new breakdown in subsequent months. Stopping TB in its tracks is all about STOPPING THIS HAPPENING ON THE FARM.
9) Sir Ian Boyd (the retiring government Chief Scientific Advisor) has said if we carry on with the government strategy the way we are, we will never know whether it will works. We are condemned to TB misery for the next 25 years.
10) Lord John Krebs says it’s a crazy idea to cull when the science does not support it.
11) Prof Charles Godfrey, head of the latest review of TB policy delivered to Michael Gove, says categorically there is NO EVIDENCE that the badger cull is working. He acknowledges in his report that "it’s a mistake to place too much importance on transmission of TB by badgers”.
12) We are pouring money down the drain - and slaughtering wild animals in a pathetic attempt to avoid the truth. We need to get real and adopt a strategy which will actually solve the problem.
13) There is mass disinformation being put out there saying the cull is working. There is also pressure being put on farmers to cull and some of them are scared to pull out of the cull, because they don’t want to appear to be traitors to their community. So they support a scheme which they know will not save them. I feel for them.
14) Badgers have so little to do with the persistence of bTB it will be hard to quantify in future years.
15) I am shattered - disappointed – angry - and it’s personal now. The cullers have recently killed badgers illegally on my land - where I can assure you there are no cows. It’s murder. George Eustace has been standing up in Parliament for years now and lying - saying the badger cull is working. He has no statistically significant evidence to support that claim. If he has now granted these licences without proper consultation - and not even waiting for the DEFRA response to the Charles Godfrey report, then he is guilty of multiple crimes - a crime against badgers, many of whom are dying in agony as we speak, a crime against farmers for giving them false hope and selling them a pig in a poke - and the crime of lying to the public to justify his appalling decisions.
16) We believe the next step for any Government is stopping killing badgers, and trialling the Gatcombe method on a large scale with volunteer farmers.
17) Folks out there .... We have a petition to call for a public enquiry right now - on the Save Me website. You CAN help. I’m not going to ask you to sign. But you CAN help change history.