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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Government figures show badger cull case was exaggerated

The Independent reports that the UK Government’s highly controversial badger cull has suffered a further setback after it released figures which showed it had exaggerated the case for the cull.

The paper says that the Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra) has admitted that an IT glitch meant it had overstated the number of cattle herds infected by tuberculosis in Britain to such an extent that there had actually been a decline in the year preceding the badger cull in September 2013, rather than the rise it had previously announced:

Revised numbers, calculated after an error was found in the system last month, show that the number of herds infected by bovine TB fell by 3.4 per cent in the year to September 2013, rather than rising by 18 per cent, as it previously said.

Defra also disclosed that the rate of new infections had been slightly exaggerated in both 2012 and 2013 – again undermining the case for the cull of badgers, which most scientists believe help to spread the disease between cattle.

Further undermining Mr Paterson’s case for the cull, new figures showed that there was a 13 per cent reduction in the number of cattle – as opposed to herds – compulsorily slaughtered in England because of bovine TB between January to November in 2013, compared to the same period the year earlier.

Together, these figures demonstrate that Environment Secretary Owen Paterson unwittingly misled Parliament about the case for the cull when he said in September “the disease is getting worse and is spreading across the country”.

This farce really has turned into a fiasco.
And note that Wales's no-cull, biosecurity and vaccination policy led to a 24% drop in herd infections in Wales

While new herd incidences has been revised down from 5201 to 5154 for GB as a whole, in Wales the revised numbers are as follows..

New incidents of bTB in Wales..

2008 1,198 herds.
2009 1,186 herds.
2010 1,039 herds.
2011 1,044 herds.
2012 1,112 herds.

So, in fact, the number of new herds infected with bTB in Wales since the 'vaccination pilot' was introduced has not changed, in fact it has actually increased. As 'perturbation' is considered not a factor in the vaccination of badgers and the same cattle security regime is in place, the big question for Wales is...If vaccination is working, why is bTB breakdowns in Wales still increasing?
Firstly, I would point out that the vaccination pilot is a long term solution so will not see immediate results, secondly it does not cover the whole of Wales so all-Wales figures are not relevant to its evaluation and thirdly I would point out that most bTB in cattle is not caused by cross-species infection but by poor bio-security on the part of farmers.
Whereas I am happy to debate this issue I am not going to get involved in a technical argument with somebody hiding behind the label of anonymous. For the record the revised figure for herds with TB infections in Wales for September 2013 is 775 down from 1,034 in January 2013. The figures are here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/278969/bovinetb-revisions-12feb14.pdf
I'm disappointed that you are unable to enter into a perfectly valid discussion on the subject and that you have assumed that me raising issues under anonymity is 'hiding'. There are other reasons. It is an important issue, I have not been in any way libellous or abusive and you say "Anonymous comments with constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted.". I take it that statement not longer applies.May I point out that the 2013 figure of 775 is only the half year, the full total is not yet published. It is important for all you constituents that efficacy of Welsh Government policy is scrutinised, Peter. Your blog has previously been a valid media to do so.
In Wales the latest figures show that between December 2012 and November 2013 there were 880 new herd incidents compared to 1,145 new herd incidents in the previous year. This represents a 23 per cent reduction.

In the same period the number of cattle slaughtered for bovine TB control also reduced from 9,364 to 6,275 which is a reduction of 33 per cent.
Thankyou, Peter.

I suggest that 'new' herd incidents are a better measure of efficacy of disease control, not cumulative numbers of those herds not classed as bTB free. That is a measure of containment. Also, slaughter rates depends on farmers forced to dispose of animals in infected herds which may or may not have infection. It's distorted by latent identification, a failure of adequate testing. Points, if I remember, were correctly made by yourself to statistics previously presented by Elin "cull" Jones in the Senedd. You raise a very important point about the statistics representing the whole of Wales, even if drilled down to Dyfed, the Defra extract. It's a summary of what is happening and does not indicate trends specifically in the pilot area. Now that the base data is robust, do you think that it's now time to request the Minister responsible to make a statement on progress ? Whether you or I are correct, it could set a meaningful example for eradication policy in England.
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