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Eustice: cancelled cull 'was still worthwhile'

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

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HAYLE MP and Farming Minister George Eustice has defended the Government's badger cull, despite a trial being called off amid jubilation from opponents.

The news will be welcomed by some in west Cornwall, where MP Andrew George has backed a trial badger inoculation programme designed both to counter the cull and to save Penwith's badgers from being subject to it.

The pilot cull in Gloucestershire was designed to prove the theory that shooting badgers would stop TB from spreading to valuable cattle in farming areas.

It will now end three weeks early after officials admitted they couldn't achieve its targets, even after they were significantly reduced.

Culling ended after contractors told Natural England that a significant reduction in badger numbers by December 18, when shooting was due to end, was "unlikely".

The controversial cull, along with another in Somerset, was initially scheduled to last six weeks and was aimed at reducing local badger populations by 70 per cent.

During that time just 30 per cent of badgers in Gloucestershire were killed, leading to an eight-week extension and a lowering of the culling target to 58 per cent.

But Mr Eustice, whose family farms near Hayle, said: "The extension to the cull has been worthwhile and has removed a significant number of badgers which will make a difference to disease control in the area. Now that the cull company is seeing fewer badgers on the ground, I agree with the decision to stop the pilot cull for this year and I pay tribute to all those who, in the face of provocation, have worked so hard."

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4 comments

  • Charlespk  |  December 07 2013, 10:30PM

    Even though it has shortcomings if the skin test hadn't been effective, there would have been thousands and thousands of cattle clinically sick with M.bovis right across the country during all the years prior to end of badger culling when reactors were reduced to just 400. Veterinary Surgeons know that. Any that are missed are soon picked up.

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  • Charlespk  |  December 07 2013, 5:29PM

    Very unfortunately The Badger Welfare Association and most badgerists do not have a proper upstanding of these bacteria, and believe if a badger looks healthy, it won't be spreading the disease. As demonstrated below. Whilst gassing rather than shooting would have been a far preferable method, their ideas are unlikely to help. . A return to clean ring culling of badgers, when any reactors have been dealt with; then using further reactor cattle as the 'canaries', is the only logical way of overcoming this problem. An appliable wildlife vaccine is nowhere on the horizon and may never happen. THE REASON WHY. Apart from obviously clinically sick badger, you can ONLY detect M.bovis at post mortem. The prevalence and distribution of Mycobacterium bovis infection in European badgers (Meles meles) as determined by enhanced post mortem examination and bacteriological culture. School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, College of Life Sciences, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland. denise.murphy@ucd.ie Authors: Murphy D, Gormley E, Costello E, O'Meara D, Corner LA The accurate diagnosis of Mycobacterium bovis infection in badgers is key to understanding the epidemiology of tuberculosis in this species and has significant implications for devising strategies to limit spread of the disease. In this study, badgers (n=215) in the Republic of Ireland were examined at post mortem and tissues were collected from a range of anatomical locations and pooled into groups for bacterial culture of M. bovis. By assessing confirmed gross visible lesions (VL) alone, infection was detected in 12.1% of badgers. However, by including the results of all culture positive pooled samples, the overall infection prevalence increased significantly to 36.3%. Two-thirds (66.7%) of infected animals had no visible lesions (NVL). While the thoracic cavity (lungs and pulmonary lymph nodes) was found to be the most common site of infection, in a proportion of animals infection was absent from the lungs and draining lymph nodes and was confined to the lymph nodes of the carcase or the head. This may indicate an early extrapulmonary dissemination of infection or alternatively, in the case of the head lymph nodes, a secondary pathogenic pathway involving the lymphoid tissues of the upper respiratory tract (URT). http://tinyurl.com/axrhms5

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  • Mikethepike  |  December 06 2013, 4:35PM

    Unlike you, Charles, I accept peer-revieed science. Unlike you I recognise some of the many failings of the farming industry, failings you never acknowledge. Do you defend the skin test, the absence of on-farm biosecurity (especially where farmers like to blame badgers for new outbreaks) and do you think it makes sense for farmers to buy stock from farms which have repeatedly in the past gone down with bTB? Even you must agree that latency--disease carried by cattle but not diagnosed--is a ticking timebomb. And perhaps you have an explanation for the huge number of cattle which are found to be heavily infected only at the slaughterhouse stage? Somehow the testing system has failed time and again. In your world those cattle --literally thousands of them every year--will have made no contribution to bTB spread. Wake up, Charles, your blind obsession with badgers (like Paterson's) does your farming friends only harm.

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  • Mikethepike  |  December 06 2013, 3:52PM

    George Eustice clearly has the same problem as Owen Paterson:the inability to recognise a shambolic flop. Despite twice downsizing the estimated number of badgers in the cull zones and despite lengthening the cull periods long beyond what scientists recommended the culls failed dismally. Failures of that magnitude threaten to make matters worse for farmers inside and on the edge of the cull zones. They also perpetuate the head-in-the-sand myth that slaughtering badgers is the way forward. So long as farmers rely on a skin test which is at best 80 per cent effective, so long as they bleat about badgers but ignore biosecurity, and as long as they buy "blind" no knowing or caring whether their new stock comes from clean farms or from farms with a long history of bTB outbreaks, this disease will not be beaten. Disease on the hoof is a much bigger threat than the supposed "infected setts".

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