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Stackyard News Jun 07

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Badger Trust Warns Vet's Evidence Based on Anecdote

State vets' claims about the causes of bovine TB are based on anecdote rather than sound scientific evidence, the Badger Trust warned Secretary of State David Miliband today.


In an open letter, accompanied by a short but detailed report, the Badger Trust reveals that:

(i) State vets do not collect sufficient evidence to explain the causes of bovine TB events. Furthermore, the limited data that is gathered is held on paper, not data-processed and never statistically analysed.

(ii) State vets rely on unreliable farmer evidence about where livestock have been held on farms with multiple land parcels. Consequently, state vets cannot say with any authority where a TB outbreak was acquired. This, in turn, means that it would be impossible for state vets to determine where badgers should be killed, in the unlikely event of the Government approving such a policy.

(iii) Animal Health (formerly the State Veterinary Service) does not hold records on badgers collected by state vets from farms for post mortem examination.

(iv) A wide range of failings in the bovine TB testing programme was identified by the European Union in 2005. Many of these allow the possibility of undetected cattle-to-cattle, herd-to-herd transmission of TB.

(v) State vets have not been kept up-to-date with new scientific research on bovine TB. We show that even the Introduction to the online bovine TB practise manual has not
been updated for a decade.

Trevor Lawson, public affairs advisor to the Badger Trust, commented: "We were astonished to discover that state vets base critical TB management decisions on little more than guesswork. They lack the fundamental data needed to understand the spread of bovine TB amongst local cattle, their IT systems are archaic and there appears to have been no attempt to keep staff up to date with scientific research on bovine TB.

"Now called Animal Health, the state veterinary service is finally starting to reform its systems and training. But the benefits will not be seen for some years. Until then, claims by state vets that they can explain any bovine TB outbreak or that they know how the disease is best controlled should be treated with a great deal of caution.

"The Secretary of State's advisors are often state vets who have spent years in this over-confident but under-resourced guesswork culture. It is vital that Mr Miliband understands the impact that this could have on the quality of their advice, compared to the advice he receives from independent scientists."

link Badgers as Common as Foxes - Defra survey
link CLA Wants WAG to Make Badger Culling a Priority
link Badger study reveals TB upsurge

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