Sunday book review – Badgered to Death by Dominic Dyer

410CEl0qsHL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

I enjoyed reading this book and I strongly recommend it to you. This is a powerful and stimulating read and it’s bang up to date with the important issue it discusses.  It is written by a passionate insider with years of experience.  The narrative is pacey and exciting.  This book arrived with me on Thursday afternoon and I had read it completely by early yesterday morning.

This is a very political book – but then I like politics, and nature conservation comprises a very political set of issues.  If you are labouring under the misapprehension that everyone loves the natural world then read this book for a sharp jolt to your preconceptions.

I’ve known Dominic Dyer for quite a few years – he used to head up a disparate bunch of agrochemical companies and I always thought his heart wasn’t completely in it – and then he popped up in nature conservation (and it took me a while to realise it was the same bloke!).  He is a very good public speaker and that often, but not always, translates into good writing, and in this case it has.

The book is about the politics and people of the Badger cull – just as the subtitle says – and reading it almost made me nostalgic for the days when I was meeting the ministers and civil servants, and politicians and journalists, and other players who were involved in the issues about which Dominic writes.  As someone who has done similar work at a similar time then I can assure you that this book paints an accurate insider picture of how advocacy and campaigning is conducted and the obstacles thrown up by industry and government to block progress. You might be shocked by some of the revelations.  You might cringe at the power of the NFU and the tactics it employs.  You might take a different view of vets as a profession after reading this book.

I’m interested in politics, in the sense of how to change the world, and I enjoyed these aspects of the book, which make up a large part of it.  I think Dominic over-eggs the importance for David Cameron of getting the NFU and rural votes onside ahead of the 2010 general election as he almost seems to believe that it was the promise of Badger carnage that swept the Conservatives into power whereas the Iraq war, global financial meltdown, a Labour administration that had run out of steam and the British electorate’s desire for a change of inadequate politicians now and again probably had more to do with it. But that’s a minor quibble.

Dominic has a go at the environmental NGOs – as is customary these days (because they are a rather disappointing bunch) – but in a very strange way. It is Greenpeace, FoE and WWF that come in for criticism for failing to rise to the campaigning challenge but the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and RSPB don’t get a mention – neither positive nor negative.  This seems rather odd and I had been looking forward to seeing whether the part played by them (and partly in the time when I had something to do with it) would get a good kicking too but the wildlife NGOs are written out of the script (although the fact that the Wildlife Trusts have the Badger as their logo is mentioned).  There must be an interesting story, of some sort, behind this omission.

The book ends with a series of pen portraits of people who have helped Dominic in his battle, losing at the moment, to stop Badger culls. This was a good idea and was brought off well, with campaigning personalities like Brian May and Chris Packham, and journalists like Patrick Barkham and Jonathan Leake, as well as a whole bunch of individual campaigners, being given credit for their role in the actions. This was a very nice touch.

Coming back to the subtitle of the book – ‘the politics and people of the badger cull’ – it is notable that it is not ‘the science, politics and people of the badger cull’.  Now although I have paid a certain amount of attention to the arguments over the cull of Badgers, I found the book very useful in reminding me of pieces of evidence that I had read or heard of, or bringing new information to my attention, but nowhere is the science laid out and explained in any detail. Bits of the story crop up here and there in a tale of advocacy and politics but the science is never brought together in one place at all clearly.  I think this is a shame. And it is also a great shame that the book contains no ‘further reading’ or references – it’s as though one is supposed to take Dominic’s interpretation of the issues totally as gospel and there is no need for further study or thought.  I found that surprising and a touch disappointing.  I wanted to go away and read some of the important studies after reading the book and I expected them to be signposted.

And it isn’t completely clear what Dominic does think of the science. When I got to the end of Chapter 8 (page 77) I read that the Badger was an ‘innocent victim of political and economic failures’ and I thought, in passing, ‘Well, of course the Badger is innocent but am I meant to think that it plays no part in spreading bovine TB, even if it is only a minor part?’.  And then a few lines on I read ‘…we have no reliable evidence that they [Badgers] play any significant role in giving it [bovine TB] to cattle’.  Really? I suppose it depends on what you mean by ‘significant’.  But it seems to me that the best bit of science done on the subject is probably the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (which the author praises ) and that did show an impact of Badger culling on reducing bovine TB – but only a small one.  But also, it showed a ‘perturbation effect’ – which is an increase in bovine TB cases in areas near the cull zones. Badgers which escape the cull (some always will) disperse to new social groups and those that have TB (a small proportion) take the disease with them.  You can’t have a perturbation effect without Badgers spreading TB to cattle.  For me, science takes too much of a back seat for this book to be a completely satisfying guide to this hot topic, and that strikes me as being the main weakness in what is otherwise a fantastic book.

And don’t get me wrong, I oppose the Badger culls. I oppose them as being unjustified scientifically because they are dealing with a small part of the problem in a very expensive and inhumane way and would need to be carried out over vast areas and for long periods of time to have any impact at all – and that would only be a small impact. We should have invested more in vaccination years ago (and incidentally, that is what the RSPB said at the time) and we should invest more in it now. The book is short on solutions too – it is very much a story of opposition to something (the cull) – but that’s what the subtitle says.

If you liked my books Fighting for Birds (which covered a wider range of conservation subjects) and Inglorious (which could be described as the grouse moor and Hen Harrier equivalent of Dominic’s book), then you may well like this book. If you hated my books then please give Dominic’s book a chance anyway, it is a great read.

It’s a dull point, but there are far too many typos which ought to have been spotted by someone – let’s blame the publisher not the author! – but there are an awful lot of them, and that looks a bit shoddy.

This book is timely in that this government has just extended badger culls to more places and so if you sign up to the main message of the book, that these culls are a waste of money, a waste of Badgers and at best a partial and inefficient way to reduce bovine TB then you will be hopping mad right now – and reading this book won’t calm you down, it will energise you.  One outlet for your energy is to sign the e-petition that started a few days ago and has already reached 34,000 signatures that calls for an end to the cull.

 

Badgered to Death by Dominic Dyer is published by Canbury Press.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.  Updated paperback edition now out.

Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson.

By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

www.blackwells.co.uk

Likes(39)Dislikes(1)
Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

36 Comments

  1. Wendé Anne Maunder says:

    Thank you, Mark Avery, for this thoughtful, well-considered and intelligent review.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
  2. Lyn Ebbs says:

    I remember reading a letter in the Guardian supporting the first cull because of the damage badgers do to maize crops. I wonder if the TB cull is really being used to justify killing badgers in a way that is more acceptable. 'Kill badgers or kill cattle' would get more people onside than 'it's either the badgers or the corn cobs!'

    Likes(7)Dislikes(0)
    • Les Wallace says:

      I've heard comment that badgers are being 'culled' on some lowland pheasant shoots -bovine TB is being used as a cover to get rid of something that might chomp on pheasant eggs and young. Wouldn't be surprised.

      Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
      • Ernest Moss says:

        I'd be amazed if keepers were concerned about badgers eating pheasant eggs or young as nearly all pheasant shoots are based on releasing thousands of reared poults. I believe there is the odd 'wild pheasant' shoot in East Anglia and in the SE, but not in any of the current badger cull zones.

        Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
        • Les Wallace says:

          Bert Burnett has shared a video of a badger snacking on a clutch of what he said were pheasant eggs in a wood, but as far as we know could have been chicken eggs in a set up as 'evidence' of their effect on ground nesting birds. Badgers may not have much or any effect on pheasant numbers, but when have facts had anything to do with hatred of predators from the keeper fraternity? I imagine there is some wild/feral breeding in most areas where they are released, that will be as much excuse as they need.

          Likes(7)Dislikes(0)
    • Amelea Teckel says:

      That may well shed some light on why so many farms with no cattle on them have signed up for the badger culls! and badgers love maize. It promotes soil erosion as well as attracting badgers. I imagine the 'disease control' circumvention of the Protected Species legislation which the NFU and government are utilising wouldn't apply to corn cobs!

      Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  3. Ernest Moss says:

    'You can’t have a perturbation effect without Badgers spreading TB to cattle.'

    Precisely. I presume this book doesn't cover the recent ZSL study which shows that although there is little contact between badgers and cattle, and therefore very little chance of direct aerosol transmission, badgers appear to seek out earthworm rich pasture land where they can infect cattle via Mycobacterium bovis spread through their faeces and urine.

    Culling won't solve that problem in the long-term, but I'd suggest that claiming that: 'we have no reliable evidence that they [Badgers] play any significant role in giving it [bovine TB] to cattle’ isn't a very helpful contribution to the debate.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(5)
    • Earnest, you talk about perturbation and spreading TB to cattle but let's not forget that the mode of transmission remains unknown. To assume that it is known is putting the cart before the horse. So in truth, we have not got a so-called 'infectious' disease until we have the science that can prove that, but as the mode of transmission is unknown and assumed, then it is pointless talking about any animal spreading anything. John Wantling, Rochdale

      Likes(3)Dislikes(1)
      • Filbert Cobb says:

        "mode of transmission is unknown"

        TB is spread by miasmas and foul humours as every fule kno

        Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
        • Filbert, your miasmas theory is all very good but the mode of transmission remains unknown as Professor David Macdonald has stated. Any so-called science that is based on infectious TB including miasmas theory is theoretical, not factual.

          Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
      • Ernest Moss says:

        Yes the mode of transmission is not known, but to state that because of that bTB is not 'infectious' is quite a bold statement. There is some fairly robust science which suggests badger-to-cattle transmission, such as: http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to-cattle-tb-incidence-in-high-cattle-incidence-areas/
        Whilst we may not understand the mode of transmission, thanks to the recent report by ZSL we now have stronger evidence that the transmission is likely to be be happening through the environment.

        And for the record I'm not in favour of culling.

        Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
        • Ernest, once again you use words such as 'likely' and 'not understand' and then the academics use similar words which is an endless stream of theoretical language. I will read that link you sent in due course, but it is unlikely to change my thoughts, as Professor Macdonald has stated clearly that the mode of transmission is unknown. Because it is unknown, then any infectious 'science' is based on theory, not fact. This is rational thought. If it is unknown, then we cannot say that TB is infectious. Moreover, how do we know if an animal has TB if the testing regime is deeply flawed. A 'reactor cow' does not necessarily have TB, or then again it might, and then again, it might not. and so what kind of science is that. That is non-science. The only way to detect TB is through a post mortem by seeing TB in a physical sense. Even then, this does prove that TB is infectious! John Wantling, Rochdale

          Likes(0)Dislikes(1)
  4. Thanks Mark, this is timely, given the extension. I appreciate it's a complicated situation, as so many wildlife and conservation issues are, but surely if there is no hard evidence that killing badgers (please let's not use the euphemism - see my own blog post) significantly reduces levels of bovine TB, then I just don't get why we are doing it...

    I'm still not a vegetarian (though almost there) and wouldn't define myself as an animal rights activist. I wouldn't even say I have a belief in animal rights since I'm not that sure about the concept of 'rights' at all (or at least, not without concurrent 'responsibilities') even for humans - but I just don't want to kill any wild animal unnecessarily. Or have anyone else kill them. It's taking life... there have to be massive reasons for that to be right... For me, it seems to be that taking 'wild' life is far worse than taking 'farmed' life... I have some thinking to do...

    Likes(6)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark says:

      Daphne - that's what I said. And it depends what you mean (or one means) by 'significantly'.

      If by 'significantly' you mean, or someone means, 'by a lot' then that's different from 'at all'. Culling Badgers does reduce TB 'at all' but it doesn't seem to reduce it 'by a lot'. However, if you are trying to eradicate a disease of domestic animals then any real wildlife reservoir is a big problem because it may act as a never-ending source of reinfection.

      Vaccination seems to be the long term and very obvious solution - we need to get on with that.

      Likes(6)Dislikes(0)
      • Thanks, Mark, though again I'm at a loss to understand why "if vaccination seems to be the long term and very obvious solution" - and I believe you (and others) are not saying that from an uninformed or extreme position - then why AREN'T we getting on with it? Is it financial reasons only, or is there something else I don't know? I read one thing and the next contradicts it. I will get hold of Dominic Dyer's book. Yours certainly informed me about the driven grouse situation, so hopefully this will be as informative.

        Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
        • Daphne, you have fallen into the vaccination hole but let's take into consideration that the mode of transmission from badger to cow remains unknown. This is what Professor David Macdonald and Professor Krebs have said. They are perfectly correct. Read my 'Open Letter to Network for Animals' which covers the vaccination issue. Maybe then you will think again before jumping on the vaccine bandwagon. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

          Likes(0)Dislikes(7)
    • Marian says:

      Taking any life is appalling and often completely unnecessary.

      As for what is 'worse', one could argue that slaughtering farmed animals is worse, in that we have imposed a miserable existence on them all their lives. almost all confined in factory 'farms', whereas a wild creature might possibly have had some natural enjoyment in his or her life.

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  5. Nimby says:

    It was one of the books I came away from the Birdfair with after hearing Dominic speak about it in the authors forum and also alongside Charlie Moores (BAWC) in the events marquee. It took me a little longer than you to read, but less than a week of my evening reading sessions.

    The obvious omission was indeed the missing references or further reading. It would have been very useful as the issue has to be underpinned by science and the ever spiraling out of control costs to the public purse of the slaughter. Its appearance couldn't have been more timely given the expansion of the cull.

    So, perhaps we accept warts and all if it acts as a call to arms by reminding us that it was the NFUs influencing Tony Blair and Nick Brown back in 2001 to restock without bTB tests on cattle and the other shameful failures that followed by all political parties involved then it has achieved a useful purpose?

    Labour did commission the Randomised Badger Culling Trials, David Miliband realised science was needed to underpin an incredibly unpopular (with the general public) cull.

    Readers might like to hear Dyer's talk from the Birdfair via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdllCGFn5gM it's worth spending twenty minutes listening to, it explains how he believes it (poor brock) became demonised. He provides an interpretation how badgers came to get bovine TB from cattle and how bad biosecurity resulted in farmers livelihoods being destroyed through incompetence of others.

    Another interesting revelation to many is made in Chapter 14, when we meet 'Spartacus' ... read page 168 where it details the Minister who claimed there was a need to cull badgers to protect human health, but his own department had a sideline selling meat from TB-infected cows without traceability or labelling. Unbelievable?

    I would love to see a follow up companion volume which provides the science behind the debacle, but I doubt it will be as easy a read as 'Badgered to Death'. Like you, I wonder why the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and the RSPB appear to have escaped criticism. The BBC also come in for criticism, sound familiar?

    In Dyer's own words, "it tells the story of politics, it tells the story of power, of greed and money, incompetence, negligence and deceit over the last 40 years"!

    Like you I recommend readers of this blog read it, there are facts we need reminding of, there are facts we may not have known but it is timely as Leadsom has authorised the expansion of the slaughter.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  6. andrew says:

    Re Vaccination I thought I read some area had given it up as it is so expensive the cost of the time taken.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark says:

      Andrew - the coalition government gave it up! Another mistake on their part.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
      • Mark, why should we vaccinate a badger is we dont yet know if there is a mode of transmission or not. This is making a grand assumption that TB is infectious. I really can't see that it is infectious. OK then, it is infectious in theory, but theory is not a fact. Read my 'Open Letter to Network for Animals'. This covers the vaccine issue. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

        Likes(0)Dislikes(2)
  7. Messi says:

    This is a great book! I purchased it on my Kindle and found it instantly gratifying and compelling - I read it in two days. I agree, Mark, that it's disappointing that it doesn't include a fuller account of the science. Hopefully an updated (and better edited) edition will include a science chapter.

    I'm against the badger cull because it flies in the face of the science around disease management. It's a politically-expedient exercise more designed to bolster marginal rural seats or help make stronger ones unassailable. Keep farming folk onside as a stopgap until a better solution comes along; throw some crumbs at the NFU and Countryside Alliance types; diffuse criticism.

    But do we have 'too many' badgers? Has the 'carrying capacity' of the countryside for badgers been increased by all that maize and squashed carrion (dead pheasants along highways; wounded pheasants on shooting estates)? I recall a paper by an Exeter University team which claimed a negative correlation between badger density and hedgehog presence - i.e. that high density of badgers = absence of hedgehogs. Will we see hedgehogs increase in badger cull zones?

    Likes(5)Dislikes(1)
  8. Roderick Leslie says:

    Thinking about the failure to produce a vaccine, one of the things that has concerned me from the beginning and is rarely recognised is the opportunity cost of taking a particular action: ultimately, the real tragedy of the Badger cull may be that it stopped or slowed alternative - and probably viable solutions. Badgers aren't the only victims; ironically, it is the farmers themselves who are suffering alongside the Badgers. The difference is they had a choice, the Badgers didn't.

    This issue extends into a wider and now critical problem: post 1947 technology and ethics in farming seem to have parted company. As new technology developed, if you could do it, you should do it. The same happened in forestry: the rolling Sitka covered hillsides of Galloway are testament to the new, powerful ploughs let rip, and by the time of the Flow country wide tracked crawlers could almost walk on water. The difference is that forestry pulled back, effectively recognising that there is an ethical dimension. That simply hasn't happened in farming - or food for that matter - and things continue to happen which would come nowhere near passing a medical ethics committee. That is why our right to kill Badgers hasn't been questioned by the decision makers. But as human power increases so does the risk of a backlash over which we lose control - the irresponsible use of antibiotics as a feed supplement looks seriously dangerous, as more and more microbes evolve resistance. As a scientist I can see the potential in GM, and it could be revolutionary - but currently I am strongly opposed to it because GM developed with the main criterion being biotech company profits is not generating a high risk of a serious disaster - it is a near certainty, and it won't do anyone much good when the perpetrator turns round and says 'our duty is solely to our shareholders'.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(0)
  9. Nimby says:

    Roderick, sadly I fear the general public care very little about how an item (be it food or be it the latest 'must have' gadget) arrives with them. Simon King's talk at the Birdfair 'Enough' encouraged us all to consider the most powerful tool we all had in our pockets (the slide image showed a pond coin, to signify spending power). So, extrapolate that through the various sectors and even though we care, billions don't? The majority of wealth lies with a small minority. Dilemma or opportunity?

    But back to B2D, its publication (like Inglorious) is to be welcomed. It offers people hope, it provides 'evidence' that 'business' does not always get an easy ride as it works with its political servants and it should act as a call to arms?

    Simon King's petition set off at a blazing pace, if memory serves me it past the required 10,000 after its first day. It currently stands at around 35k but that shows a marked slow down so whilst it will undoubtedly reach the 100k it isn't promoted as well as it could be by those who purport to be nature's champions?

    What it needs, as with BDGS is those supporting it to write letters, to lobby and to work with those who had the determination to raise the public profile and the network to ensure that challenge could not be shut down and silenced. But sustained endeavour is tiring and thankless and Dyer is to be congratulated (despite B2D warts) on his efforts, likewise the Badger Trust for their efforts. Compare the income of the BT to some other NGOs (WTs, NT, RSPB et. al.) and then ponder why it was they who challenged the Govt. through the legal process (JR)? The BT has a CEO and three part time staff, otherwise it is supported by volunteers. How many staff do the usual suspects have? So, it might be that the BT were punching above weight in terms of the cull issue, as Dyer says - shame on others?

    Like the RSPB has its super-critics through YFTB and their celebrity spin bowler remember too that the BT has also been investigated by the Charity Commission because it campaigns for change to benefit wildlife. Read their Annual Report 2014.

    We have difficult, challenging and interesting times ahead if we are to make a positive impact for nature?

    [PS I am not a member of the BT, I just observe with interest the actions of effective conservationist campaigns. All too often the glossy media spin of some groups falls short of what is actually delivered?]

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  10. Nick Bee says:

    Just to add that, as I understand it, a few wildlife trusts, Gloucestershire and Derbyshire among them, have had successful badger vaccination projects running for several years until the global supply of vaccine ran out some months ago, putting an end to the work for now anyway.
    In Derbyshire the project has been a collaboration between the wildlife trust, the NFU, individual farmers, the county council and, where relevant, The National Trust.
    To read more see http://www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/what-we-do/badgers-and-bovine-tb .
    Nick

    Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
    • Nick, like I repeat, we need a mode of transmission before a vaccine, not a mode of transmission that is unknown. This is like putting the cart before the horse, it is irrational and unscientific. To be brutally honest, I do not see any evidence that TB is infectious, even the so-called 'science' is full of self doubt. The 'science' is based on the germ theory of disease, but this was always wrong, and so by default we translate a skin test (immune response) into infectious language but the skin tests dont say that. There is a human making this translation, which is based on theoretical thinking, not on a reality. Read my article 'TB not infectious'. I have another more in-depth article due in a couple of weeks time titled 'Badger Cull Explained'. This will be posted in the whale.to folder. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

      Likes(0)Dislikes(5)
      • AlanTwo says:

        John - I am strongly opposed to the killing of badgers. There are many reasons why people want to kill badgers, none of which are strongly supported by the science. However, I can't let some of your statements pass without comment.
        It is true that the exact means by which bTB passes from badgers to cattle is unknown, but it is a huge, and in my view unwarranted, leap to then claim that TB is not infectious. You say that 'the science is based on the germ theory of disease, but this was always wrong.' Unless I have misunderstood you, this strikes me as flying in the face of mountains of evidence gathered over many years. Could I ask that you clarify your claim and provide some evidence for it?

        Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
        • Alan, I suggest that you research Professor Bechamp going back 100 years in time as his research pointed to the cellular theory of disease, which means that disease isnt coming in (unless trauma or poison) but that it is coming out. TB manifests for a reason, and the reason is a protective mechanism. This means that something in the cow's environment (inner or outer) has caused TB to manifest. This manifestation is a metamorphosis, meaning it is coming from within, not from without. TB means that the immune system of a cow is in good shape, and so TB should not be discouraged as it is keeping the cow healthy through homeostasis. This is radically different to TB infectious, which as I claim is theoretical, not factual. Professor Bechamp explained the story of TB over a hundred years ago, but the cellular theory of disease was not popular in a political sense. The germ theory made the headlines, but the germ theory was always a fraud. I explain all this in my next article working titled 'Badger Cull Explained'. Most folk find this hard to stomach as we are so heavily conditioned to think of infectious causation. We translate into germ even when we dont have it, it is a bad habit. I don't think that infectious TB is possible. Try this article by Tim Green. John Wantling, Rochdale Bovine TB, Badgers and a Permaculture Perspective
          https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/1608111008/bovine-tb-badgers-and-permaculture-perspective

          Likes(0)Dislikes(2)
          • AlanTwo says:

            Sorry, John, you've just blown the whistle on yourself. I am very familiar with the Pasteur/Bechamp controversy. There have been numerous controversies in science, but few have been resolved as convincingly and comprehensively as this one. Let's just say that Pasteur (and the thousands of scientists who came after who confirmed his work) won the day. Bechamp's cellular theory of disease now has about as much scientific credibility as the Earth being flat.
            That's not to say that the state of one's immune system doesn't have an important effect on disease outcome, but this does not mean that the 'germ theory' was or is a fraud.
            Shame - the article you link to makes some good points, and you and I are on the same side regarding the badger cull. But let's not bring long-discredited old theories into it.

            Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  11. Alan, the problem here is that Bechamp explained the tuberculosis story and pasteur produced a political theory of the story. The theory won the day, but these are pieces of paper. I also base my writings on personal observation, critical thinking, rational thought. The Bechamp puzzle fits together, the infectious puzzle is based on a failed scientific experiment where the mode of transmission remains unknown. We need to appreciate that this is a failed experiment, it was in no way a success. If it was a success, then Professor Woodroffe would not be still searching for the mode of transmission. She has never found it and she never will because we cannot find something that does not exist. Bechamp explained that TB was an inside-out process, not outside in. I think that he was right.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
    • AlanTwo says:

      John - science isn't always easy, and some things take a lot of time and work to sort out! But that doesn't mean we should chuck out a vast body of well-founded knowledge because some issues are still uncertain.
      I'm not going to prolong this exchange, but I will just say that when we're making the case against the badger cull, we probably should not be offering the other side any easy opportunities to dismiss us as 'crackpots'.

      Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
      • Filbert Cobb says:

        'crackpots'

        Rosemary Clooney to Jerry Lee Loony

        Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
      • Alan, I am saying that the mode of transmission remains unknown. Until that can be explained, then the notion of infectious TB is only a notion, an assumption. You must realise that infectious science is based on theoretical concepts because the academics are basically theoreticians. This theoretical land is where they live. Computer generated models, grand assumptions, mathematical models, endless theories, possibilities, but even after all that, no mode of transmission can be found. I claim that the idea of infectious disease is theory driven, and this is why TB cannot be infectious. I have reality on my side as no mode of transmission can be found. You have not found it, no one living on the planet earth has found it. We might not like this fact, but this is the raw reality. We are all heavily conditioned, and we have been heavily conditioned from the day that we were born. By default we defend that condition, we cannot comprehend that it is a manufactured process. As soon as you have found the mode of transmission, and I dont mean based on a theory, then get back to me and I will pack it in, but meanwhile, I will continue on. My article 'Badger Cull Explained' isnt far off. I explain why TB is not infectious. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

        Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  12. […] so on to the badger debate (where Dominic Dyer was sitting near me, taking lots of notes – read his excellent book on the badger cull).  You can read the transcript so here are a few thoughts from […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Trackbacks

  1. Wendé Anne Maunder says:

    Thank you, Mark Avery, for this thoughtful, well-considered and intelligent review.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
  2. Lyn Ebbs says:

    I remember reading a letter in the Guardian supporting the first cull because of the damage badgers do to maize crops. I wonder if the TB cull is really being used to justify killing badgers in a way that is more acceptable. 'Kill badgers or kill cattle' would get more people onside than 'it's either the badgers or the corn cobs!'

    Likes(7)Dislikes(0)
    • Les Wallace says:

      I've heard comment that badgers are being 'culled' on some lowland pheasant shoots -bovine TB is being used as a cover to get rid of something that might chomp on pheasant eggs and young. Wouldn't be surprised.

      Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
      • Ernest Moss says:

        I'd be amazed if keepers were concerned about badgers eating pheasant eggs or young as nearly all pheasant shoots are based on releasing thousands of reared poults. I believe there is the odd 'wild pheasant' shoot in East Anglia and in the SE, but not in any of the current badger cull zones.

        Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
        • Les Wallace says:

          Bert Burnett has shared a video of a badger snacking on a clutch of what he said were pheasant eggs in a wood, but as far as we know could have been chicken eggs in a set up as 'evidence' of their effect on ground nesting birds. Badgers may not have much or any effect on pheasant numbers, but when have facts had anything to do with hatred of predators from the keeper fraternity? I imagine there is some wild/feral breeding in most areas where they are released, that will be as much excuse as they need.

          Likes(7)Dislikes(0)
    • Amelea Teckel says:

      That may well shed some light on why so many farms with no cattle on them have signed up for the badger culls! and badgers love maize. It promotes soil erosion as well as attracting badgers. I imagine the 'disease control' circumvention of the Protected Species legislation which the NFU and government are utilising wouldn't apply to corn cobs!

      Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  3. Ernest Moss says:

    'You can’t have a perturbation effect without Badgers spreading TB to cattle.'

    Precisely. I presume this book doesn't cover the recent ZSL study which shows that although there is little contact between badgers and cattle, and therefore very little chance of direct aerosol transmission, badgers appear to seek out earthworm rich pasture land where they can infect cattle via Mycobacterium bovis spread through their faeces and urine.

    Culling won't solve that problem in the long-term, but I'd suggest that claiming that: 'we have no reliable evidence that they [Badgers] play any significant role in giving it [bovine TB] to cattle’ isn't a very helpful contribution to the debate.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(5)
    • Earnest, you talk about perturbation and spreading TB to cattle but let's not forget that the mode of transmission remains unknown. To assume that it is known is putting the cart before the horse. So in truth, we have not got a so-called 'infectious' disease until we have the science that can prove that, but as the mode of transmission is unknown and assumed, then it is pointless talking about any animal spreading anything. John Wantling, Rochdale

      Likes(3)Dislikes(1)
      • Filbert Cobb says:

        "mode of transmission is unknown"

        TB is spread by miasmas and foul humours as every fule kno

        Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
        • Filbert, your miasmas theory is all very good but the mode of transmission remains unknown as Professor David Macdonald has stated. Any so-called science that is based on infectious TB including miasmas theory is theoretical, not factual.

          Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
      • Ernest Moss says:

        Yes the mode of transmission is not known, but to state that because of that bTB is not 'infectious' is quite a bold statement. There is some fairly robust science which suggests badger-to-cattle transmission, such as: http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to-cattle-tb-incidence-in-high-cattle-incidence-areas/
        Whilst we may not understand the mode of transmission, thanks to the recent report by ZSL we now have stronger evidence that the transmission is likely to be be happening through the environment.

        And for the record I'm not in favour of culling.

        Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
        • Ernest, once again you use words such as 'likely' and 'not understand' and then the academics use similar words which is an endless stream of theoretical language. I will read that link you sent in due course, but it is unlikely to change my thoughts, as Professor Macdonald has stated clearly that the mode of transmission is unknown. Because it is unknown, then any infectious 'science' is based on theory, not fact. This is rational thought. If it is unknown, then we cannot say that TB is infectious. Moreover, how do we know if an animal has TB if the testing regime is deeply flawed. A 'reactor cow' does not necessarily have TB, or then again it might, and then again, it might not. and so what kind of science is that. That is non-science. The only way to detect TB is through a post mortem by seeing TB in a physical sense. Even then, this does prove that TB is infectious! John Wantling, Rochdale

          Likes(0)Dislikes(1)
  4. Thanks Mark, this is timely, given the extension. I appreciate it's a complicated situation, as so many wildlife and conservation issues are, but surely if there is no hard evidence that killing badgers (please let's not use the euphemism - see my own blog post) significantly reduces levels of bovine TB, then I just don't get why we are doing it...

    I'm still not a vegetarian (though almost there) and wouldn't define myself as an animal rights activist. I wouldn't even say I have a belief in animal rights since I'm not that sure about the concept of 'rights' at all (or at least, not without concurrent 'responsibilities') even for humans - but I just don't want to kill any wild animal unnecessarily. Or have anyone else kill them. It's taking life... there have to be massive reasons for that to be right... For me, it seems to be that taking 'wild' life is far worse than taking 'farmed' life... I have some thinking to do...

    Likes(6)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark says:

      Daphne - that's what I said. And it depends what you mean (or one means) by 'significantly'.

      If by 'significantly' you mean, or someone means, 'by a lot' then that's different from 'at all'. Culling Badgers does reduce TB 'at all' but it doesn't seem to reduce it 'by a lot'. However, if you are trying to eradicate a disease of domestic animals then any real wildlife reservoir is a big problem because it may act as a never-ending source of reinfection.

      Vaccination seems to be the long term and very obvious solution - we need to get on with that.

      Likes(6)Dislikes(0)
      • Thanks, Mark, though again I'm at a loss to understand why "if vaccination seems to be the long term and very obvious solution" - and I believe you (and others) are not saying that from an uninformed or extreme position - then why AREN'T we getting on with it? Is it financial reasons only, or is there something else I don't know? I read one thing and the next contradicts it. I will get hold of Dominic Dyer's book. Yours certainly informed me about the driven grouse situation, so hopefully this will be as informative.

        Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
        • Daphne, you have fallen into the vaccination hole but let's take into consideration that the mode of transmission from badger to cow remains unknown. This is what Professor David Macdonald and Professor Krebs have said. They are perfectly correct. Read my 'Open Letter to Network for Animals' which covers the vaccination issue. Maybe then you will think again before jumping on the vaccine bandwagon. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

          Likes(0)Dislikes(7)
    • Marian says:

      Taking any life is appalling and often completely unnecessary.

      As for what is 'worse', one could argue that slaughtering farmed animals is worse, in that we have imposed a miserable existence on them all their lives. almost all confined in factory 'farms', whereas a wild creature might possibly have had some natural enjoyment in his or her life.

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  5. Nimby says:

    It was one of the books I came away from the Birdfair with after hearing Dominic speak about it in the authors forum and also alongside Charlie Moores (BAWC) in the events marquee. It took me a little longer than you to read, but less than a week of my evening reading sessions.

    The obvious omission was indeed the missing references or further reading. It would have been very useful as the issue has to be underpinned by science and the ever spiraling out of control costs to the public purse of the slaughter. Its appearance couldn't have been more timely given the expansion of the cull.

    So, perhaps we accept warts and all if it acts as a call to arms by reminding us that it was the NFUs influencing Tony Blair and Nick Brown back in 2001 to restock without bTB tests on cattle and the other shameful failures that followed by all political parties involved then it has achieved a useful purpose?

    Labour did commission the Randomised Badger Culling Trials, David Miliband realised science was needed to underpin an incredibly unpopular (with the general public) cull.

    Readers might like to hear Dyer's talk from the Birdfair via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdllCGFn5gM it's worth spending twenty minutes listening to, it explains how he believes it (poor brock) became demonised. He provides an interpretation how badgers came to get bovine TB from cattle and how bad biosecurity resulted in farmers livelihoods being destroyed through incompetence of others.

    Another interesting revelation to many is made in Chapter 14, when we meet 'Spartacus' ... read page 168 where it details the Minister who claimed there was a need to cull badgers to protect human health, but his own department had a sideline selling meat from TB-infected cows without traceability or labelling. Unbelievable?

    I would love to see a follow up companion volume which provides the science behind the debacle, but I doubt it will be as easy a read as 'Badgered to Death'. Like you, I wonder why the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and the RSPB appear to have escaped criticism. The BBC also come in for criticism, sound familiar?

    In Dyer's own words, "it tells the story of politics, it tells the story of power, of greed and money, incompetence, negligence and deceit over the last 40 years"!

    Like you I recommend readers of this blog read it, there are facts we need reminding of, there are facts we may not have known but it is timely as Leadsom has authorised the expansion of the slaughter.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  6. andrew says:

    Re Vaccination I thought I read some area had given it up as it is so expensive the cost of the time taken.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark says:

      Andrew - the coalition government gave it up! Another mistake on their part.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
      • Mark, why should we vaccinate a badger is we dont yet know if there is a mode of transmission or not. This is making a grand assumption that TB is infectious. I really can't see that it is infectious. OK then, it is infectious in theory, but theory is not a fact. Read my 'Open Letter to Network for Animals'. This covers the vaccine issue. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

        Likes(0)Dislikes(2)
  7. Messi says:

    This is a great book! I purchased it on my Kindle and found it instantly gratifying and compelling - I read it in two days. I agree, Mark, that it's disappointing that it doesn't include a fuller account of the science. Hopefully an updated (and better edited) edition will include a science chapter.

    I'm against the badger cull because it flies in the face of the science around disease management. It's a politically-expedient exercise more designed to bolster marginal rural seats or help make stronger ones unassailable. Keep farming folk onside as a stopgap until a better solution comes along; throw some crumbs at the NFU and Countryside Alliance types; diffuse criticism.

    But do we have 'too many' badgers? Has the 'carrying capacity' of the countryside for badgers been increased by all that maize and squashed carrion (dead pheasants along highways; wounded pheasants on shooting estates)? I recall a paper by an Exeter University team which claimed a negative correlation between badger density and hedgehog presence - i.e. that high density of badgers = absence of hedgehogs. Will we see hedgehogs increase in badger cull zones?

    Likes(5)Dislikes(1)
  8. Roderick Leslie says:

    Thinking about the failure to produce a vaccine, one of the things that has concerned me from the beginning and is rarely recognised is the opportunity cost of taking a particular action: ultimately, the real tragedy of the Badger cull may be that it stopped or slowed alternative - and probably viable solutions. Badgers aren't the only victims; ironically, it is the farmers themselves who are suffering alongside the Badgers. The difference is they had a choice, the Badgers didn't.

    This issue extends into a wider and now critical problem: post 1947 technology and ethics in farming seem to have parted company. As new technology developed, if you could do it, you should do it. The same happened in forestry: the rolling Sitka covered hillsides of Galloway are testament to the new, powerful ploughs let rip, and by the time of the Flow country wide tracked crawlers could almost walk on water. The difference is that forestry pulled back, effectively recognising that there is an ethical dimension. That simply hasn't happened in farming - or food for that matter - and things continue to happen which would come nowhere near passing a medical ethics committee. That is why our right to kill Badgers hasn't been questioned by the decision makers. But as human power increases so does the risk of a backlash over which we lose control - the irresponsible use of antibiotics as a feed supplement looks seriously dangerous, as more and more microbes evolve resistance. As a scientist I can see the potential in GM, and it could be revolutionary - but currently I am strongly opposed to it because GM developed with the main criterion being biotech company profits is not generating a high risk of a serious disaster - it is a near certainty, and it won't do anyone much good when the perpetrator turns round and says 'our duty is solely to our shareholders'.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(0)
  9. Nimby says:

    Roderick, sadly I fear the general public care very little about how an item (be it food or be it the latest 'must have' gadget) arrives with them. Simon King's talk at the Birdfair 'Enough' encouraged us all to consider the most powerful tool we all had in our pockets (the slide image showed a pond coin, to signify spending power). So, extrapolate that through the various sectors and even though we care, billions don't? The majority of wealth lies with a small minority. Dilemma or opportunity?

    But back to B2D, its publication (like Inglorious) is to be welcomed. It offers people hope, it provides 'evidence' that 'business' does not always get an easy ride as it works with its political servants and it should act as a call to arms?

    Simon King's petition set off at a blazing pace, if memory serves me it past the required 10,000 after its first day. It currently stands at around 35k but that shows a marked slow down so whilst it will undoubtedly reach the 100k it isn't promoted as well as it could be by those who purport to be nature's champions?

    What it needs, as with BDGS is those supporting it to write letters, to lobby and to work with those who had the determination to raise the public profile and the network to ensure that challenge could not be shut down and silenced. But sustained endeavour is tiring and thankless and Dyer is to be congratulated (despite B2D warts) on his efforts, likewise the Badger Trust for their efforts. Compare the income of the BT to some other NGOs (WTs, NT, RSPB et. al.) and then ponder why it was they who challenged the Govt. through the legal process (JR)? The BT has a CEO and three part time staff, otherwise it is supported by volunteers. How many staff do the usual suspects have? So, it might be that the BT were punching above weight in terms of the cull issue, as Dyer says - shame on others?

    Like the RSPB has its super-critics through YFTB and their celebrity spin bowler remember too that the BT has also been investigated by the Charity Commission because it campaigns for change to benefit wildlife. Read their Annual Report 2014.

    We have difficult, challenging and interesting times ahead if we are to make a positive impact for nature?

    [PS I am not a member of the BT, I just observe with interest the actions of effective conservationist campaigns. All too often the glossy media spin of some groups falls short of what is actually delivered?]

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  10. Nick Bee says:

    Just to add that, as I understand it, a few wildlife trusts, Gloucestershire and Derbyshire among them, have had successful badger vaccination projects running for several years until the global supply of vaccine ran out some months ago, putting an end to the work for now anyway.
    In Derbyshire the project has been a collaboration between the wildlife trust, the NFU, individual farmers, the county council and, where relevant, The National Trust.
    To read more see http://www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/what-we-do/badgers-and-bovine-tb .
    Nick

    Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
    • Nick, like I repeat, we need a mode of transmission before a vaccine, not a mode of transmission that is unknown. This is like putting the cart before the horse, it is irrational and unscientific. To be brutally honest, I do not see any evidence that TB is infectious, even the so-called 'science' is full of self doubt. The 'science' is based on the germ theory of disease, but this was always wrong, and so by default we translate a skin test (immune response) into infectious language but the skin tests dont say that. There is a human making this translation, which is based on theoretical thinking, not on a reality. Read my article 'TB not infectious'. I have another more in-depth article due in a couple of weeks time titled 'Badger Cull Explained'. This will be posted in the whale.to folder. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

      Likes(0)Dislikes(5)
      • AlanTwo says:

        John - I am strongly opposed to the killing of badgers. There are many reasons why people want to kill badgers, none of which are strongly supported by the science. However, I can't let some of your statements pass without comment.
        It is true that the exact means by which bTB passes from badgers to cattle is unknown, but it is a huge, and in my view unwarranted, leap to then claim that TB is not infectious. You say that 'the science is based on the germ theory of disease, but this was always wrong.' Unless I have misunderstood you, this strikes me as flying in the face of mountains of evidence gathered over many years. Could I ask that you clarify your claim and provide some evidence for it?

        Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
        • Alan, I suggest that you research Professor Bechamp going back 100 years in time as his research pointed to the cellular theory of disease, which means that disease isnt coming in (unless trauma or poison) but that it is coming out. TB manifests for a reason, and the reason is a protective mechanism. This means that something in the cow's environment (inner or outer) has caused TB to manifest. This manifestation is a metamorphosis, meaning it is coming from within, not from without. TB means that the immune system of a cow is in good shape, and so TB should not be discouraged as it is keeping the cow healthy through homeostasis. This is radically different to TB infectious, which as I claim is theoretical, not factual. Professor Bechamp explained the story of TB over a hundred years ago, but the cellular theory of disease was not popular in a political sense. The germ theory made the headlines, but the germ theory was always a fraud. I explain all this in my next article working titled 'Badger Cull Explained'. Most folk find this hard to stomach as we are so heavily conditioned to think of infectious causation. We translate into germ even when we dont have it, it is a bad habit. I don't think that infectious TB is possible. Try this article by Tim Green. John Wantling, Rochdale Bovine TB, Badgers and a Permaculture Perspective
          https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/1608111008/bovine-tb-badgers-and-permaculture-perspective

          Likes(0)Dislikes(2)
          • AlanTwo says:

            Sorry, John, you've just blown the whistle on yourself. I am very familiar with the Pasteur/Bechamp controversy. There have been numerous controversies in science, but few have been resolved as convincingly and comprehensively as this one. Let's just say that Pasteur (and the thousands of scientists who came after who confirmed his work) won the day. Bechamp's cellular theory of disease now has about as much scientific credibility as the Earth being flat.
            That's not to say that the state of one's immune system doesn't have an important effect on disease outcome, but this does not mean that the 'germ theory' was or is a fraud.
            Shame - the article you link to makes some good points, and you and I are on the same side regarding the badger cull. But let's not bring long-discredited old theories into it.

            Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  11. Alan, the problem here is that Bechamp explained the tuberculosis story and pasteur produced a political theory of the story. The theory won the day, but these are pieces of paper. I also base my writings on personal observation, critical thinking, rational thought. The Bechamp puzzle fits together, the infectious puzzle is based on a failed scientific experiment where the mode of transmission remains unknown. We need to appreciate that this is a failed experiment, it was in no way a success. If it was a success, then Professor Woodroffe would not be still searching for the mode of transmission. She has never found it and she never will because we cannot find something that does not exist. Bechamp explained that TB was an inside-out process, not outside in. I think that he was right.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
    • AlanTwo says:

      John - science isn't always easy, and some things take a lot of time and work to sort out! But that doesn't mean we should chuck out a vast body of well-founded knowledge because some issues are still uncertain.
      I'm not going to prolong this exchange, but I will just say that when we're making the case against the badger cull, we probably should not be offering the other side any easy opportunities to dismiss us as 'crackpots'.

      Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
      • Filbert Cobb says:

        'crackpots'

        Rosemary Clooney to Jerry Lee Loony

        Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
      • Alan, I am saying that the mode of transmission remains unknown. Until that can be explained, then the notion of infectious TB is only a notion, an assumption. You must realise that infectious science is based on theoretical concepts because the academics are basically theoreticians. This theoretical land is where they live. Computer generated models, grand assumptions, mathematical models, endless theories, possibilities, but even after all that, no mode of transmission can be found. I claim that the idea of infectious disease is theory driven, and this is why TB cannot be infectious. I have reality on my side as no mode of transmission can be found. You have not found it, no one living on the planet earth has found it. We might not like this fact, but this is the raw reality. We are all heavily conditioned, and we have been heavily conditioned from the day that we were born. By default we defend that condition, we cannot comprehend that it is a manufactured process. As soon as you have found the mode of transmission, and I dont mean based on a theory, then get back to me and I will pack it in, but meanwhile, I will continue on. My article 'Badger Cull Explained' isnt far off. I explain why TB is not infectious. John Wantling, Rochdale http://whale.to/a/wantling_h.html

        Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  12. […] so on to the badger debate (where Dominic Dyer was sitting near me, taking lots of notes – read his excellent book on the badger cull).  You can read the transcript so here are a few thoughts from […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Leave Your Comment

Your email will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*