BBC radio 4 farming today
I was very interested to hear the vet Dick Sibley on radio 4’s farming today, I met him at a WI meeting with one of MAF’s so called main TB experts 20 years ago. The scientist that was with him, to my amazement claimed that he didn’t know if there were any more badgers then, than there were 20 years before. He also stated that they didn’t know how it was passed, cattle to cattle or badger to cattle, I was infuriated, knowing that badgers spread the disease to cattle, so me being as blunt as usual stated that I was surprised that he hadn’t been sacked, and what was he doing in that position, if he’d been in the job for 20 years and was still clueless.
Obviously, they weren’t best pleased with my comments, so this morning after another wasted 20 years, in which the wildlife has been free to transmit the disease through our uncontrolled wildlife population I hear the same Dick Sibley has joined forces with Brian May and is still trying to validate the cattle to cattle spread of TB.
I have to state that I have a special interest in this particular farm as I was asked to do a farm visit and assessment on the badger activity and contact with the cattle. I did the assessment, mapped all badger activity on the farm in the summer of 2015 (this activity will vary over the seasons) especially in connection with the cattle sheds and the contact the badgers were having with the cattle. One very significant thing I found, badgers laying over ground in nests , which is a clear sign that this badger or badgers were suffering from breathing problems. A clear sign of a TB break down. I found a number of these nests, in close proximity, well hidden from view.
Before we discussed exactly where the problems were on the farm, to my surprise I was told that that there was going to be an experiment, funded (I think by universities) costing a substantial amount. Had I been told before, I wouldn’t have even considered going to the place. Without going into any more detail, knowing the infection I found in some of the badger population on the farm I’m not at all surprised to hear that he has an ongoing problem in his herd, if no targeted action was taken against the infected wildlife.
What Dick Sibley & Brian May are proposing in their joint venture is vaccinating badgers where there is already infection, on Dick Sibleys estimation 30% of the badger faeces was infected with TB. I have a lot of experience of the aftermath of the vaccination of badgers, where it’s been trialled to train the vaccinators, and where its been put into a vaccination programme and to quote Prof John Bourne & Dr Rosie Woodruff using their favourite word ,perturbation! Cage trapping badgers for vaccination is responsible for the biggest perturbation (movement of badgers) that I have experienced 1st hand
In one particular area after the abandonment of the programme (don’t worry it still cost 100’s of thousands) due to lack of serum, I was given maps supposedly showing active setts and where the badgers were being fed with peanuts over a 4-month period, then vaccinated over a 4-day period, when I assessed the areas not one badger was presiding in any of the setts. And I had to explain to the farmers where the badgers had perturbated to and why they and their neighbours were now experiencing TB. Each farmer blaming the other for the participation in this pie in the sky hope that vaccinations might be the answer. The same result has been on every up to date vaccination programme that I’ve had experience of.
One thing that Dick Sibley and Brian May will have to be accountable for, is that there will be consequences not just for that herd that’s in their programme but for all neighbouring herds. That through their TB testing will show that it doesn’t matter how many cattle you slaughter if the infected wildlife isn’t removed the problem will evolve further. There you go boys, that’s the conclusion you will end up, I’ve just saved you thousands!
So I am pleased that Dick Sibley and Brian May have nailed their cattle to cattle colours to the mast and I hope they will take full responsibility for the consequences to the farmer and all his neighbours.