The Farmers Guardian reported late last week that Defra is considering a large-scale trial next year of a TB vaccine in cattle. A group including an animal health advisory company and academics from Cambridge University are currently working on plans.
Any such trial would obviously be costly, so it appears that no decision has yet been taken. There are clearly still some obstacles in the way of this becoming a commercial possibility.
But the article goes on to say:
A series of small-scale experimental trials of the BCG vaccine on cattle have taken place at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency’s (AHVLA) Weybridge facility as precursors to a possible field trial.
The BCG vaccine is currently being used on a group of 23 two-year-old cattle which have been ‘challenged’ with the disease in an enclosed facility. In November, BCG was trialled on a group of 80 calves.
But in order to gauge the effectiveness of the vaccine to the level required for licensing, field trials involving large numbers of cattle across various sites will be required.
AHVLA chief executive Chris Hadkiss said:
“Defra is considering it. Money will be a question. It will take time and a lot of animals and will therefore be expensive.”
Vaccination will be one of the issues discussed at an international M.Bovis conference in Wales this week.
You can read the full article here.
Brian May, Queen guitarist, has won an ethical award for his campaigning against the badger culls.
The 2014 Observer Ethical Award for Campaigner of the Year was awarded to the rock legend for his tireless efforts to protect our badgers from the government's cull policies.
May took to Twitter to thank both the Observer for the award and all those who supported the anti-cull campaign.
The Badger Trust has joined forces with Naturewatch Foundation to help train police forces to deal with the issue of badger baiting. It has put out this press release about the initiative. Please spread the word!
It’s February, which means all across the UK badger cubs are being born in the warmth of their setts. By March and April, the cubs will be exploring the tunnels and chambers, gradually making their way out into the open world in late April. In April, our newsfeeds are flooded with wonderful pictures of young badgers playing and discovering their new world. But not all cubs will make it this far…
Cub season is also a favorite time for badger baiters.
When a sow is with her cubs she will fight ferociously to defend her babies and protect them from these vicious intruders. Baiters will dig down into the sett, exposing the cubs to the cold winter air, and force the new mother to leave her young as she is set upon by a pack of dogs.
Both the new mother and the dogs will face countless injuries. For the badger this is almost always a death sentence for both mum and her cubs. The fighting dogs rarely receive proper veterinary care and often succumb to their injuries or are killed inhumanely.Every single day in the UK a badger becomes a victim of wildlife crime. Last year alone, we received 624 reports relating to badger crimes across England and Wales. Despite the widespread nature of these crimes only seven cases were heard at court.
While progress has been made in recent years, many police forces are still ill-equipped to tackle the growing issues of badger cruelty and effectively investigate these cases.
It's not too late to help...
Accredited badger persecution police training
We have joined forces with Naturewatch Foundation to deliver our accredited training course to at least five police forces across the UK before the end of the year. We have worked with Naturewatch Foundation to identify forces that have high reports of badger cruelty allegations with low prosecution rates.
The one day course will cover:
* Badger ecology, behaviour and habitats to enable police to recognise unusual activity and identify active badger setts.
* How to best use legislation to protect badgers.
* How to act as an expert witness in court to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that an active badger sett was interfered with, or that a person had willfully killed, injured or taken, or attempted to kill, injure or take a badger.
* How to investigate a crime scene and properly gather, record, keep and present evidence that will stand up in court and lead to a successful prosecution.
* How to work with key partner organisations like Naturewatch Foundation and the Badger Trust.
Andy Swinburne, crime and intelligence co-ordinator for the Badger Trust, says:
“The Police have a statutory requirement to investigate wildlife crime including badger baiting and the digging of their setts. Unfortunately, wildlife crime training is not a compulsory subject on the national Police curriculum, and therefore too often it is not understood or dealt with in an efficient and effective manner. Problems can occur from the very beginning, when the call first comes in to the control room. When a member of the public phones to report the disturbance of a badger sett, some Control Room Officers have been known to dismiss the issue as not a police matter, instead referring callers to council dog wardens, or to the RSPCA. Past the control room to the Officer attending the crime, inexperience or a lack of knowledge has also at times failed the effective investigation. There has of course been some very good police work carried out across the wildlife crime arena, including badger crime, and the intention is to build upon that through education, and ultimately reach an improved level of response and investigation.”
* Naturewatch Foundation is a registered charity working to improve the lives of animals. Their Mission is to end animal cruelty and advance animal welfare standards around the world.
New figures from Defra show that outbreaks of bTB in cattle were at a decade-long low in March, at around 3.25%, the lowest figure since 2004, according to the Guardian website on 12 June. This follows another low figure in February, of around 3.5%. The figures also show a reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered because of bTB in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
These numbers demonstrate that the overall eradication strategy, including movement controls on cattle, is beginning to make a difference, which shows even more clearly that the culls being carried out in Somerset and Gloucestershire are not necessary to reducing incidence of the disease. The culls begun last year were not only inhumane, they also could not have affected these figures this quickly, animal welfare campaigners say.
The government faces fresh criticism over its culling policy in the light of these figures.
Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said: "These are pretty sensational figures and highly significant.
"There is no way that the badger culls from last year could have influenced these numbers at all, so the drop is purely because of the tighter farming controls that have come in over the last couple of years.
"If I was in the government I'd be shouting these numbers from the rooftops, but unfortunately they would rather keep quiet - because these figures don't justify a badger cull."
He suggested any farmer told that following a few rules could lead to the number of cattle being slaughtered for TB to be halved - as happened in Somerset in January to March this year, compared to the same period in 2013 - would take it.
"So let's now direct all our energy to ensuring that we repeat this success across the country, by doing what works, and not focusing on a badger cull which will achieve nothing." You can read the full article here.
The Badger Trust has today (23rd August 2016) issued the following press release in response to the government's announcement that it intends to extend the badger cull to five more areas from the autumn.
Badger Trust condemns decision to extend disastrous badger cull to 5 new areas of England
The Badger Trust has condemned a decision by the government to expand badger culling to 5 new areas of the country (South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall, South Herefordshire and West Dorset), despite the complete failure of the policy over the last 4 years.
Since 2013 the government has licensed the culling of 3,916 badgers in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset at a cost to the taxpayer in excess of £25 million. None of the badgers killed have been tested for TB and many have died as a result of an experimental 'free shooting' method, which has been condemned as inhumane by both the government's Independent Expert Panel and the British Veterinary Association.
DEFRA statistics show that despite killing thousands of badgers the number of cattle slaughtered for TB continues to rise both in and around the culling zones.
Responding to the government's decision to extend the badger cull the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:
"After 4 years of badger culling no one can now doubt that the policy has been a disastrous failure on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds. For the new DEFRA Secretary Andrea Leadsom to ignore the facts and extend this policy into 5 new areas of the country defies belief.
The badger cull is built on three pillars of sand, incompetence, negligence and deceit, and will ultimately collapse because it fails to address the key cause of bovine TB, which is cattle to cattle infection.
We could kill every badger in England but bovine TB would continue to spread in cattle herds, due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements and poor biosecurity controls."
The Chair of the Badger Trust, Peter Martin, said:
"The badger is being used as a scapegoat for failures in the modern intensive livestock industry that have led to a significant increase in bovine TB in cattle herds. Recent changes to the cull licencing regime have made it clear this policy is now just a 'numbers game' based on indiscriminate and untargeted killing of this protected wildlife species. They have abandoned any pretence of science or control.
We now have conclusive scientific evidence proving beyond doubt that badgers actively avoid cattle in pasture and farm yards, and that cattle avoid feeding on grass where badgers urinate or defecate. This effectively means that the likelihood of badgers passing TB to cattle within the farming environment is so low that it is impossible to distinguish it from any other potential environmental vector, including cattle themselves.
By extending the badger culls to 5 news areas of the country the taxpayer is now facing a bill in the region of £100 million by 2020 on a policy which will fail to deliver any significant reduction in bovine TB for livestock farmers.
The government in Westminster is using badgers as a political fig-leaf to mask its total failure to get to grips with bovine TB. They should be looking to Wales to see how they have waged a far more successful campaign against the disease, based on more rigorous TB testing, tighter cattle control and bio-security measures. New TB herd incidents in Wales are down by 14% in the last 12 months and all this has been achieved without culling badgers. And as Ireland is also about to abandon its cull policy in favour of vaccination it is way past the time for DEFRA to do the same."
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