Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Wales To Push Ahead With Badger Cull

The following article is from Farmers Guardian. The article can be found here

Wales to push ahead with badger cull
20 September 2010 By Alistair Driver

THE Welsh assembly Government is to push ahead with plans for a badger cull, Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones has announced.

She is publishing a new draft Order that will pave the way for a cull over five years in west Wales. The new Order has been drafted to overcome the flaws that saw the original Tuberculosis Eradication (Wales) Order 2009, which would have permitted culling to begin this summer, thrown out in July after the Court of Appeal ruled it was unlawful.

While the original Order applied to the whole of Wales, the new draft order is specific to the proposed Intensive Action Area, covering north Pembrokeshire and including areas of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. This part of Wales has one of the highest bovine TB rates in Europe.

WAG has also increased its estimate of the likely benefits of a cull. It said it expected to have reduced bovine TB in cattle in the area by approximately 22 per cent, preventing an estimated 83 confirmed herd breakdowns that would otherwise have occurred.

It stressed that was a ‘conservative estimate’. The additional surveillance and controls on cattle that the Assembly Government has already put in place in the Intensive Action Area are designed to generate further reductions, Ms Jones said.

There are 321 cattle farms in the Intensive Action Area and nearly 70 per cent of them have been affected by bovine TB in the past seven years. Under the proposals, there would be an annual cull of badgers over a five year period.

The Assembly Government’s ‘comprehensive package’ also includes enhanced cattle surveillance and controls, as well as improved biosecurity on farms.

Announcing the development on a farm: Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones said: “I remain committed to tackling the bovine TB crisis in Wales. It is a situation that I cannot and will not allow to continue.

“I will state again that the cost of this disease in the last ten years, when nearly 100,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Wales, is more than £120 million. This is tax payer’s money the Assembly Government has paid out to farmers in compensation.

“Most experts agree that badgers play an important role in the transmission of bovine TB and that we will not eradicate TB if we do not tackle the disease in both wildlife and cattle.”

She added that the evidence shows, through a number of trials that reducing the numbers of badgers in TB endemic areas can reduce TB in cattle.

Ms Jones said: “Our critics claim that vaccination of badgers is the answer. Vaccination of badgers has not yet been proved to reduce cattle TB and does not cure badgers that already have TB. It does not provide complete protection; rather it reduces the progress of the disease in a vaccinated badger, and the risk of onward spread of infection to other badgers and cattle. Vaccination cannot resolve this problem on its own.

“I am satisfied that in the Intensive Action Area there is no reasonably practicable or satisfactory alternative to culling badgers as a means of reducing TB in cattle. This is because it is the only proven method currently available to me.”

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Badger Cull Proposal

This is a report from earlier in the week.

Badger cull: Government plans will allow farmers to shoot badgers

15 September 2010 By Alistair Driver

FARMERS in TB hotspot areas of England will be permitted to shoot badgers on their land, under plans unveiled by Farming Minister Jim Paice this morning.
Mr Paice has published a three-month consultation on Government proposals to permit the licensed culling of badgers in England, possibly from next May.
Under the proposals, groups of farmers and landowners will come together in areas covering at least 150sq.km to apply collectively for licences to cull badgers on their land.
Two culling methods will be permitted, cage trapping and shooting and shooting free running badgers . The licence will also allow for badgers to be vaccinated in the designated area.
Farmers will cover the entire cost of the badger controls, with Defra's financial contribution limited to issuing the licences through Natural England and monitoring activities on the ground.
The decision to potentially allow free shooting is therefore highly significant as it represents a more affordable option for farmers who, as long as they possess the appropriate firearms licence, would be entitled to do it themselves.
To deploy cage traps, farmers would either have to be specially trained or rely on the services of trained contractors.
Free shooting was not used in the 10-year Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT), which exclusively deployed cage trapping and shooting. This proved to be expensive, however, due to the cost of the cages, exacerbated by regular vandalism, and the manpower required.
Gassing and snaring have both been ruled out as options by Defra on animal welfare grounds.
Under the proposals, badger control licences would be subject to strict criteria to ensure, Mr Paice said, that measures are carried out effectively, humanely and with high regard to animal welfare (click here to see the licence criteria).
The earliest that culling could begin where licences have been approved is next May, when the closed season for badger culling ends.
The three-month consultation closes on December 8. Mr Paice is planning to announce a final decision on the badger culling policy next spring as part of a comprehensive and balanced bTB eradication programme.
He also announced today some changes to cattle measures, including greater use of gamma interferon blood testing and an extension of two-year testing areas to provide a greater buffer between hotspots and clean areas. He confirmed that pre-movement testing will remain in place, following a review.
But he insisted that it require more than cattle controls to tackle bTB.
"Bovine TB is having a devastating effect on many farm businesses and families, he said. The situation is steadily getting worse the number of animals slaughtered each year is unacceptable and more farms are affected as the disease spreads across the country.
We cannot go on like this. It is clear the current approach has failed to stop the spread of this terrible disease. We need to take urgent action to halt its spread.
There is no single solution to tackling bovine TB. Cattle measures will remain the foundation of our bovine TB control programme but we will not succeed in eliminating the disease in cattle unless we also tackle the disease in badgers.
The science is clear, there is no doubt that badgers are a reservoir of the disease and transmit bovine TB to cattle. No other country in the world with a similar reservoir in wildlife has eradicated TB from cattle without stringent wildlife control measures. in eliminating the disease in cattle unless we also tackle the disease in badgers."

While vaccination will be an option under the proposals, Mr Paice said veterinary advice and available scientific evidence suggested that on its own it would not reduce disease as quickly culling.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

PCR - Could this be a way forward for detecting TB in Alpacas

UK scientists devise one-hour test for TB

This story originally appeared on BBC News.

Click here to view.

By Neil Bowdler Science reporter, BBC News Scientists in the UK say they have devised a new ultra-sensitive test which can diagnose the presence of the tuberculosis bacterium in one hour

The test has been developed by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). Its developers claim the test can spot all strains of the disease and could reduce both the incidence and the consequences of the disease worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2008, an estimated 1.3 million people died from TB worldwide.

Genetic signature

The standard identification test for TB involves taking mucus coughed up from the lungs and
growing a bacterial culture in the laboratory. But it can take up to eight weeks to reach a diagnosis, by which time the individual might have infected many more people.

Other more rapid tests exist which scan for an antigen found in many TB strains, but they
may not detect all infections, say the HPA.

The new test focuses on a particular DNA region within the bacterium which the researchers
says is present in all strains of the disease.

Once a sample is taken, a scientific technique know as a "polymerase chain reaction" is
used to amplify the volume of DNA available so that the genetic signature can be identified.
In the UK, around 9,000 cases of TB are reported each year, mainly in big cities like London .

Source: World Health Organization/HPA

This is a new test, says the HPA's Dr Cath Arnold, who led the study. "We're looking for a genetic marker which is present in all strains of TB we've seen so far. We're confident that it will pick up very small amounts and tests so far have show that it seems to be as sensitive as the gold standard of using culture, but there are various aspects which we need to develop further before we can offer it as an off-the-shelf product."

Details of the work are being presented at the HPA's annual conference at the University of

The HPA test comes just weeks after details of a rival project were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The rival test is called Xpert MTB/RIF and its developers claim it can deliver a diagnosis in under two hours. They say their automated cartridge machine can also identify resistance to drugs used to treat TB.

The diagnoses of TB is extremely difficult today. If you had a test which rapidly and at the point of care could detect TB immediately you would gain weeks or months in treating that person and avoid them going around for another five to eight weeks infecting others.

The WHO estimates that a third of the world's population carry TB bacteria. Only 5-10% of
people who are infected become sick or infectious at some time during their life.

People with HIV and who carry TB bacteria are much more likely to develop the disease.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in TB infections in developed countries, and have seen
the rise of strains resistant to medication.

Last year in the UK, the number of cases rose by more than 5% to 9,153, according to
provisional figures from the HPA. More than a third of the cases were in London.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Survey on Alpacas

We have been asked to put the following letter and Survey on the blog. Ysella Wood is a Nottingham University student and her letter is self-explanatory. It can be found here and in the useful links under "Alpaca Questionnaire"

She had asked the B.A.S. if they would kindly email her survey to all its members. She also told B.A S. that she would give them the results of the survey. B.A.S. declined to send it out stating:

Dear Ysella Wood

Further to your request of 21st July for the BAS to circulate your 'research questionnaire'. My apologies for the prolonged delay. Your request was discussed at the board meeting held this week. The board were of the opinion that they had sent out rather a lot of 'research questionnaires'recently and did not wish to over burden the membership with another at this time.

I regret therefore that we are not able to circulate this for you.

One would think the B.A.S. would welcome this study which is being carried out independently at no cost to the B.A.S and surely the B.A.S would benefit to find out how the members feel. This would have taken no time at all to send out by email to the members - same time as it takes to send out emails about shows.

Ysella had to resort to posting her survey just to members in the South West but we can appreciate this is very costly and her student budget couldn't stretch to posting her survey to the entire country.

We are glad to help and we urge everyone to download the survey and either email or post it back to Ysella. The summary of her findings will be posted on this blog in the future.

We wish you luck Ysella and sorry the B.A.S. Board didn't help.