Posts Tagged Cattle

Animal rights groups search Gloucestershire for wounded badgers as second phase of pilot badger cull begins


ANIMAL rights groups have started their search for wounded badgers across Gloucestershire as the second round of the pilot cull has begun.

The next phase of culling started last night in a bid to eradicate bovine TB in cattle by shooting 615 animals, Defra has announced.

Opponents say a vaccination programme would be more effective in tackling the disease.

Scott Passmore, from A Wildlife with Animals which is based in the Forest of Dean, said: “We started at Newent and at one point we were near Deerhurst and I have mammal handling equipment in the car and many badger setts can be seen from the roadside.

“We did not find any wounded badgers last night. But my view is this is totally wrong and if anything this is going to make TB worse.

“They should be addressing the real problem, which is cattle movement and bio-security on farms.

“We have been finding lamb carcasses left in fields, deer heads hanging on trees and we have been finding all sorts of undesirable things left in fields but unfortunately the wildlife is being used as a scapegoat.”

Activists operating for the Gloucestershire Badger Office patrolled most of the zone which lies between the M5, M50 and A40 to guard badger setts from cull marksmen.

Anti-cull campaigner Drew Pratten, from the Forest of Dean, said: “We had a phenomenal amount of support last night including people from Manchester and Derbyshire saying ‘we are here for one night, what can we do’?

“There are people actually guarding setts, people on lookout points and at crossroads where we can see what’s happening.”

NFU president Meurig Raymond said in the South West, where bovine TB is endemic and where herds are being reinfected despite farmers’ best efforts to protect the, controlling the disease in badgers has to be an essential part of any strategy to wipe the disease out.

He said: “Nobody would choose to kill badgers if there was an effective alternative in areas where TB is rife. But if we’re ever going to get on top of TB in areas where the disease is endemic there is no other choice.

“The chief vet has said culling over a four-year period in both pilot areas will have an impact on disease control. I am confident that these pilot culls will help deliver a reduction in bTB in cattle and it is vital that they are allowed to be successfully completed so they can deliver the maximum benefits.

Environmental secretary Elizabeth Truss said the Government is pursuing a comprehensive strategy supported by leading vets which includes cattle movement controls, vaccinating badgers in edge areas and culling badgers where the disease is rife. She said: “This is vital for the future of our beef and dairy industries, and our nation’s food security.

“At present we have the highest rates of bovine TB in Europe. Doing nothing is not an option which is why we are taking a responsible approach to dealing with bovine TB.”

The pilot cull will run for the next six weeks.

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Religious Slaughter II

John Blackwell, president-elect of the British Veterinary Association, is to be congratulated for his call to make religious slaughter more humane ( 

There is no scientific reason why an animal should have its throat cut while fully conscious. As Dr. Blackwell rightly points out a sheep with its throat cut will remain conscious for seven seconds while cattle, which have an extra blood vessel in their spinal column, can remain conscious for up to two minutes. This practice was presumably instigated many moons ago to ensure meat was fresh. In this modern age such a justification is no longer applicable, and animal welfare concerns should take precedent over religious superstitions. The Danish recently managed to ban the slaughter of animals without prior stunning and it would be wonderful if the British followed suit.

Unfortunately, as soon as anything is suggested that a religious group does not like, such as banning religious slaughter or circumcision, they conveniently ignore the scientific reasons and start screaming about religious freedom. Why superstitious beliefs should take precedent over animal welfare is beyond me.

See also my post, “Religious Slaughter” written in 2011 in response to the Dutch banning the practice.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.” Lao tzu

Dr. F Bunny

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What’s infecting England’s cows with TB? Is it badgers, or farmers and climate change?

Found at

Erica Rex, E&E Europe correspondent

ClimateWire: Friday, December 6, 2013

“There’s no security, or peace and tranquility, except underground.” — Badger, from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame

NEWENT, Gloucestershire, England — In a mist-shrouded parking lot, Will Ricks, a surveyor and landowner from Ross-on-Wye, stands in a circle of lamplight and briefs eight volunteers on the evening’s mission.

Ricks and his group belong to a volunteer organization, Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS). Since the badger cull, or killing, began in August in Somerset and Gloucestershire, GABS volunteers spend most nights trudging down the public footpaths that crisscross muddy fields to monitor badger habitat, searching for trapped and wounded animals.

Everyone in the group wears a high-visibility vest and tall rubber boots. Ricks instructs them on the rules of engagement. An older couple have driven from Cheshire, 150 miles away, to join the patrol.

Here in the fields and woods of rural England, a bizarre war rages for the country’s soul. Armies of marksmen paid by the National Farmers Union (NFU) hunt badgers by night in a controversial culling project that supporters insist will reduce the incidence of bovine tuberculosis, or bTB. Gunmen are not permitted to shoot at a badger if there’s a human in the field. And they’re not allowed to shoot badgers within 30 meters of a sett — the elaborate system of tunnels, paths and dens badgers call home.

Badgers are nocturnal, foraging for worms and insects in fields and cow pastures. And they are a known reservoir of Mycobacterium bovis, the bacterium that causes the chronic disease.

The assault on the badger, hero of the world-famous children’s novel “The Wind in the Willows” and since 1992 a protected species, is being driven by Owen Paterson. He has been the Conservative member of Parliament for North Shropshire since 1997, and is now secretary of state of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Bovine tuberculosis can spread either through ingestion or between animals through aerosols. To be sure, it is widespread in Britain. It was found in one of every 10 cattle herds tested in 2009. Last year, 28,000 head of cattle were slaughtered because of bTB at a cost to the taxpayer in compensatory payments to farmers of £100 million ($163 million).

Paterson insists culling badgers will reduce incidence of the disease. But scientific research has shown culling does the opposite. When badgers are shot, bTB infections skyrocket.

Why do badgers leave their homes?

Analyzing data from test culls carried out between 1975 and 1997 in the U.K. and Ireland, Imperial College biologist Christl Donnelly found that culling actually increased the incidence of bTB. Donnelly’s findings state that “the increased numbers of badgers culled … were associated with significantly increased bTB risk.”

Wildlife biologist Chris Cheeseman, former head of wildlife diseases at the government’s Central Science Laboratory, spent 35 years studying badgers.

“Badger setts are closely knit,” Cheeseman said. Badgers live within complex social groups with strict hierarchies, like elephants or meerkats. When their sett is perturbed by death of a member, they tend to disband. “Killing them causes them to travel farther and wider. They are more likely to find other places to live,” Cheeseman said.

“Cattle gave the disease to badgers, not the other way ’round,” he added. Badgers often rummage in infected cow pats for dung beetles and share watering troughs with infected cattle.

In the opinion of veterinarian Mark Jones, U.K. executive director of Humane Society International, crowding and herd movement cause the rapid spread of bTB.

“According to Defra’s own figures, there have been 127 million cattle movements between farms since 1998,” he said. “The numbers of movements more than quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294). Around 40 percent of the national herd is currently moved from one premises to another each year.”

Recent research shows that herd-to-herd transmission of bTB in cattle accounts for 94 percent of cases. Badger-to-bovine transmission accounts for about 6 percent.

Is climate change the real villain?

Retired farmer Steve Jones, who spent 40 years managing large-scale dairy farms, says the badger is being framed.

“The badger is a political scapegoat. Loads of farmers are not behind the cull. Just managing cows’ lungs would solve half of the problem. Managing slurry, nutrition, calving, mastitis would solve the rest of it. The one aspect that has no influence on bovine health is the badger.”

Complicating this battle is climate change. M. bovis can survive for several months in the environment, particularly in cold, dark and damp weather. Prolonged wet weather such as what the U.K. and Europe experienced this past spring and many of the last several years allows M. bovis to incubate for much longer periods in slurries, where liquid cow manure is stored until it can be spread on fields.

Cows remain inside barns for extended periods during inclement conditions, which leads to increased bedding contamination and greater spread of infection through aerosols. Herds pass the infection among themselves. In spring, calves drink their mothers’ infected milk. The illegal — but common — farming practice of disposing of infected milk by pouring it out on fields or into streams where badgers forage just makes matters worse.

Biologist Elaine King, former director of the Badger Trust, found that high rainfall, low temperatures and low levels of sunlight closely matched outbreaks of bTB in cattle.

The badger sett vs. the Paterson set

Paterson seems unmoved by either the science or public opinion on the badger cull. In September, after being briefed on the most recent findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Paterson stated that climate change would mostly be beneficial because “it would lead to longer growing seasons,” especially in northern areas.

In a 2012 referendum, members of Parliament overwhelmingly voted to abandon plans for the badger cull: 147 voted in favor of canceling it, 28 against. Paterson walked out of the chamber, saying, “I can’t stand any more of this.”

And he didn’t have to. Despite the advice of Natural England’s science adviser, Oxford University zoologist David Macdonald, Paterson declared the cull a go. Natural England is a nondepartmental public body responsible for advising the environment secretary on policy matters related to conserving and enhancing England’s natural environment.

Scientists, veterinarians and animal rights groups such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Humane Society International oppose the cull. More than 304,000 members of the public signed a petition condemning it. Renowned conservationist and wildlife documentarian Ian Redmond joined a GABS patrol. In a statement, he said: “If the cull is carried out as planned, the sub-population of badgers in the pilot sites will, in 6 weeks, meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria for ‘Endangered.’ If this were being reported in a developing country, conservationists would be outraged.”

Farmers who oppose the cull feel they are being misrepresented.

Although it claims to be the voice for the entire English farming community, the NFU counts a meager 55,000 as members — 18 percent of the 307,000-strong national agricultural workforce. And the NFU never bothered to ballot its own membership on the issue, according to a Twitter post by Adam Quinney, the union’s vice president.

In Wales, at least, political objections have registered. In 2010, after the Badger Trust launched a judicial review against the Welsh Assembly, plans for a cull were jettisoned. Welsh badgers are trapped and vaccinated at a cost of about £600 per animal. Paying contractors to shoot badgers costs about £2,000 per animal.

So what is the badger cull really about?

“This is really about who owns the countryside,” Cheeseman said. “The fox hunting ban went through under Labour. Now Conservatives want to repeal it. [Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron] doesn’t have the political guts to do that. Farmers and landowners feel they’ve been deprived of the right to manage their property as they see fit.”

Unlike the U.S., the U.K. has little land that can be considered part of the public trust. A full third of the country remains under the ownership of the aristocracy, a set to which both Paterson and Cameron belong. Over the centuries of feudal ownership, landlords have exterminated native populations of boars, bears, wolves and lynxes.

Professor John Bourne, chairman of the Independent Scientific Group on bovine tuberculosis who advised against the planned cull, wrote: “I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said, ‘Fine John we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers.'”

The bottom line of all this for badgers is that they are safe — at least, for now.

Natural England has called off the badger cull in Gloucestershire because of failure to meet its 58 percent eradication target.

In a statement, Natural England said, “Although the cull in Gloucestershire has finished early, this does not have any impact on the original licensing, which remains in place for four years.”

Culling may resume next year, but first there will be another independent review.

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Mountain Cattlemen Care For The High Country

But mountain cattle don’t. I am surprised that people are still driving around with this misguided sticker attached to their cars. Mind you most of the cars I see them on look like the closest they have come to the high country are the Mt. Buller ski fields. Equally misguided and erroneous is the sticker that states, “Alpine Grazing Reduces Blazing,” especially in light of a CSIRO study that found grazed areas are just as likely to burn as non-grazed ones (

It’s about time people faced the facts that cattle do nothing but damage to the high country, with their cloven hooves trampling the delicate sphagnum moss, and their huge mounds of wet steaming faeces that take months or even years to decompose (Australian dung beetles can’t cope with cattle faeces, having adapted to dealing with smaller, drier marsupial faecal pellets. See

The government is to be congratulated for finally banning cattle grazing in the high country. It’s not as if the area is an indispensable part of Australia’s beef production, as it is only used by a handful of families anyway. Surely we can set aside a few acres of national park to support an endangered species or two, and leave cattle grazing for more suitable regions? We don’t need to turn the entire country into a cattle pasture, especially when 30 million km2 (an area the size of Africa) have already been turned over to livestock production worldwide.

Dr. F. Bunny

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