Saturday, 12 June 2010

‘Substantial Fall’ in Cattle TB in Wales

Victim of the Welsh Assembly Government

We have received the following excellent guest article which shows how useless and unscientific WAG's badger cull is, and how WAG has been misleading the public while wasting money on the useless cull.

"I have been looking into the stats for bTB in Wales and have noticed a substantial fall in the bTB figures starting around April2009. For example look at herds under TB restriction.

My sources are all DEFRA statistics and I have attached copies.

April 30th 2009 (Wales) Herds under TB restriction: 1,983
February 28th 2010 (Wales) Herds under TB restriction: 1,117.
These figures are actual and ‘on the day.’ They do include herds late with their tests.

Dyfed works out at about 36% reduction in herds under restriction in the last 10 months (April 30 2009-Feb28 2010) but if you subtract the ‘overdue test factor' you get about a 40% reduction.
In Wales, with the overdue tests factored out, you get a reduction of 58% over the same period.

I have attached Defra's own assessment for GB of CNI's. This the rate of Confirmed New Incidents (bTB) per 1000 tests on clean herds given as a percentage and although they are provisional, they show a 14% reduction Feb 2009 to Feb 2010. Again this is ‘substantial.’ If you take the actual GB figure for 2008 however, which stood at 5% ,and the figure for this February 2010, which is provisionally given as 3.8% the downward trend is indicated.

The yearly figures given below are ‘actual’, but somehow are marked as ‘provisional’. Can they still be working on figures for 2008/2009? After all, it is June 2010.

CNI's in Dyfed 2008 were 301
CNI's in Dyfed 2009 were 234

This represents a ‘substantial’ actual drop of over 22%, better than in the rest of Wales. They are finding a lot less bTB out there, how is this possible without any badgers having been removed? We are told that it is badgers who are infecting cattle yet incidence of the disease is in ‘substantial’ decline.

In 2009 there were 1,610 less cattle culled in Wales as a result of bTB in herds than there were in 2008. (As reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts.)

The disease is in decline because of the increase in cattle testing over the last two years along with the removal of infected cattle: the real vectors of this disease. If all the many recommendations for improvements regarding cattle control measures, given by the ISG in their Final Report, were implemented, the disease would rapidly disappear as it did in the 1960's without badger culling. (Note that W.D. Macrae the Chief Veterinary Officer at the time, in his final report to the government, does not mention badgers once).

However if we fail to get these figures out now as the cull starts, the decline in cattle TB will be acknowledged and attributed to the badger cull. It will be the excuse for extending the programme over the whole of the country!

WAG has been very quiet about the decline of bTB in Wales as it demonstrates convincingly that even their limited cattle measures are having some effect. There was never a reason to consider culling badgers. WAG's whole premise for culling badgers was that the disease was 'un-sustainable and out of control.' The estimated compensation bill given in 2008 by Elin Jones for 2014 was £80 million. That figure now looks absolutely ludicrous!! The only factor out of control was the industry itself, already we note that overdue TB cattle tests so proudly claimed by WAG to be down to near zero last year have risen dramatically to 702 this year.

Other countries' experiences (especially New Zealand and Australia) show that unless show that unless you take cattle movements seriously you will never eliminate/control this disease in cattle.

WAG tries to use these countries approach to eliminating bTB to try and justify badger culling in Wales. This is very misleading. Below is the evidence from the men in charge at the time which shows that wildlife control bore little relationship to the situation in Wales.

NewZealand , Bryce Buddle stated in London 3rd March 2006: "Even in the wake of an expansion of wildlife vector risks (40 million possums to 60 million) the number of cattle herds with TB had reduced by 80% over the past 12 years"

Australia. Paul Wood stated in London 3rd March2006: "Testing alone even with strict interpretation, was not the answer and not until strict movement controls were in place from 1970 on a national scale with roadside monitoring and enormous power invested in the inspectors was any real progress made."


Pembrokeshire Against the Cull added: "Please spread the word that bovine TB rates are already coming down - people need to know the facts now. We don't want anyone to claim that this substantial reduction in bovine TB is as a result of culling - if it goes ahead. CLICK HERE to have a look at the DEFRA website for the source data. Write to your local papers, Assembly Members and MPs - find a way to publicise these figures."

CIN has contacted Elin Jones and the Pembrokeshire Assembly Members listed here and here asking for their comments on this. Our experience in the past has either been no response, or a standard form letter, but if any genuinely reply we will add details here.

Update 18 June 2010: Alun Davies took the time to reply, which is appreciated. He did question one of our points by saying:

"Most of the statistics that have been published on this matter are actually collected by the Welsh Govt. It seems somewhat curious to then accuse them of 'keeping this quiet'."

We explained that by 'keeping it quiet' we are referring to the fact that Elin Jones and her department have made announcements about the increase in BtB cases as a justification for killing badgers, even though they knew from their own statistics that cases were actually falling. They did not refer to those statistics because it would completely undermine the case for the unpopular slaughter.

He responded by saying: "I cannot think of any instance whether the minister has sought to mislead either through omission or through misuse of the statistical evidence base."

To which we refer to Elin Jones' Written Statement on the TB Eradication Programme (and every other speech and announcement she has made): "Bovine TB is out of control and unsustainable." That is pretty misleading when she knew figures were actually dropping.

Angela Burns' office refused to reply, first saying she was "unable to respond to residences outside her constituency due to Assembly protocol" even though it was an issue about Pembrokeshire for which she is an AM, and therefore the correct person to contact. Would she ignore an email from the Queen or the Prime Minister in that way? Both of those have residences outside her constituency too. It is ridiculous that AMs can choose whether to reply or not, or insist on postal addresses even though the postal system is not being used for correspondance. Her office also started their emails with 'Dear Cofion' - not realising that the 'Cofion' at the end of our emails is the Welsh word for 'Regards'...

None of the others contacted have bothered to reply: Nicholas Bourne, Nerys Evans, Joyce Watson, Paul Davies.

Cofion, CIN...

Update 11 July 2010: Elin Jones' office finally replied after a month. She said of the fall in TB rates that "Statistics need to be treated with caution". It is interesting that when the statistics seem to favour WAG ministers they announce them everywhere as 'evidence', but when they contradict WAG policy they 'should be treated with caution'... Hypocrisy again.

Update 8 August 2010: From a Badger Trust press release:
"Only half as many cattle were slaughtered in Dyfed because of bovine TB in the first four months of this year than in the same period last year with no badgers killed. This is the county where up to 1,500 badgers were under threat of extermination until the Appeal Court quashed the plan in June. The number of herds infected in Dyfed also fell by a healthy 14 percent between the same periods.

[...] the reductions were far from marginal. They were in line with longer-term statistics showing a consistent downward trend of about seven percent over the last two and a half years both in Wales and Great Britain as a whole.

The stringent controls in Wales on the movement and sale of live cattle are designed to achieve results such as those above. The Trust says they should also be implemented across England and without the wasteful distraction of killing badgers. Elsewhere, Scotland has now been given TB-free status by the EU, and Northern Ireland has announced it has no plans to kill badgers.

Despite bovine tuberculosis figures continuing to fall without any badgers being killed, not just in Wales but in Great Britain overall, the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) makes new claims that culling could be effective. The Badger Trust says the FUW should be wholeheartedly encouraging its members to back cattle-based measures in the light of the improving figures. The FUW has now asserted (in a statement it did not see fit to have independently validated) an assumed drop in bTB of 30 percent if badgers were killed for over five years in North Pembrokeshire and 32 percent for a further two and a half years. But even the Welsh Assembly Government has calculated only a supposed nine percent reduction in bTB.

The Court of Appeal recently found that a nine percent reduction would not be sufficiently “substantial” under the Animal Health Act to justify killing wildlife [...]. the diminishing level of bTB over the last two and a half years with no badgers killed confirms the pointlessness of culling."

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