Posts Tagged ‘Bovine TB’

Let’s face it, the Government are in a complete shambles. The Brexit debacle continues to rumble on with the mop topped bag of meat paste we call a Prime Minister trying to lie his way out of the biggest crises in British politics I can remember in my life time. I think this is one of the problems behind the lack of coverage of the Badger Cull this year. Defra have attempted to quietly slip in vast new swathes of our countryside where badgers can now legally be killed by those who are stupid enough to believe it will help solve the bTB problem in cattle or those who just have some pathological hatred for out wildlife, probably because they are unable to make some kind of profit from it.

I’m not going to go into all the science (of lack of) behind it all as I feel that has been covered plenty of times from lots of different sources already but what I will do is highlight just the sort of numbers we’re talking about here.

Take a look at the image below. It’s of the Emirates stadium, home to Arsenal Football Club.

emirates

It holds just over 60,000 people. That’s a lot right?

The Government are allowing the NFU to kill up to 64,000 badgers. That’s 4000 more than the number of people in this picture. Just imagine that.

There have been 11 new cull zones added to those previously licensed bringing the number to 43 in total, an area bigger than Israel! (Guardian article)

Of course this makes it a very busy time for all those standing against it. Sabs and patrollers up and down the country are doing their very best to save the lives they can at a time when the hunts are also involved in their grubby little business of training their hounds to kill, better known as the cubbing season. Late nights and early mornings are the order of the day and now more than ever we need your help and support. Go to innocentbadger.com for more info and on how to get involved. You can also donate to our efforts by clicking the donate link in the header.

Of course we all hoped that with the introduction of a new head man at the helm of Natural England there would be some light at the end of the tunnel. Tony Juniper had previously came out as strongly against the cull on social media so it seemed we had, for once, someone who was prepared to stand up for wildlife and give Natural England the teeth it was so desperately lacking.

TJ1

However it now seems that an official position and a no doubt significant pay cheque is all that’s needed to subvert that opinion and become another lap dog for Defra and their masters at the NFU. Tony wrote a blog on his decision (see here) which has since been roundly criticised by both the general public and the scientific community alike but probably best done by Dominic Woodfield in his guest blog on Mark Avery’s site. (see here).

There is of course great work being done in the fields but it’s impossible to save them all.

Cages are being neutralised, a selection above from Devon, Cornwall and Staffordshire. Shooters are being sent packing and we’re using the best technology available to find and stop the killing, both in the air and on the ground but funds are limited and vast areas need to be covered so now, more than ever is the time to get involved. There’s a job for everyone so please, don’t sit there getting angry, get out there and help make a difference. When all other options have failed, direct action is all you are left with.

I think most people will be aware by now that the Kimblewick Hunt had to destroy a large number of their hounds due to being infected with bTB. The original story broken by our friends over at Hounds Off can be read here. There is, justifiably a significant amount of concern from all sides regarding this news. Defra have always maintained that the risk of contracting bTB for pets and dogs in particular is very low but when you consider that hunting hounds are far from pets and live in conditions few would let their own companion animals live in you’ll start to get closer to the point.

Hounds are kept in a pack, they eat, sleep and live in close proximity. Most importantly they are fed on “fallen Stock”. These are animals which have died on surrounding farms for various and probably untested reasons, that the hunt will collect as a service to the farmers, which are in turn given to the hounds as food. In this instance it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the infection has come from. Another important point is the hunting country of the Kimblewick. Although based at their kennels just outside Aylesbury they cover parts of the counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Hertforshire. An area which in total is roughly the size of Cornwall. Now consider that some of these counties are considered as part of the edge zones in the fight against bTB and the potential for the hounds to be spreading the disease over a vast area including those considered free from TB. I took the current TB outbreak map from the Defra website and overlaid the Kimblewick hunt country (see below).

Kimblwick_bTB

Kimblewick Hunt Country and TB Outbreaks.

Obviously the risk off spreading the disease by hounds regardless of the what Defra claim is going to be high. The M.Bovis bacterium can survive for a significant time in the excrement left behind by the hounds, and they do leave a lot of it all over the place during a days hunting and is obviously never cleaned up by the hunt staff. So what is being done? Well obviously the kennels were put under quarantine and the poor affected hounds were shot. However that didn’t stop them from hunting. Visiting packs were used and hunted on the Kimblewick’s ground. Further revelations came to light when once again Hounds Off were sent a note which they in turn passed on to me. See below.

kimblewick

There are only two listed vets in Berkhamstead I can find. St Johns and Clarke & Marshall. One would have to assume that is it one of these vets that are involved (feel free to contact them and find out which one). With all due respect to the practices shown you would have expected an organisation which specialised in bTB to be more appropriate. The equine vet in question, Bob Baskerville was originally a partner in the Baskerville Horgan & Partners practice which is now part of Hampden Vets. Although he is not currently listed as one of their equine staff,  a quick Google search picks out several links between Baskerville and the Kimblewick so it’s safe to assume he is indeed a member of the hunt.

Lord Garnider of Kimble is as described in the note, he was also chief spin doctor for the Countryside Alliance and is still an executive director. Clearly the hunting fraternity were so deeply concerned about the implications of a hunt having bTB infected hounds they brought out their big guns in collaboration with the CA in order to suppress the information for as long as they could (thank heavens for loose lipped hunt followers) and then be seen to be dealing with it properly once it became public knowledge. Of course the real problem with this is a complete lack of impartiality. Any and all information which could have a negative effect on hunting in relation to bTB will be witheld once again. Hunting simply cannot afford to have this sort of negative publicity and potentially lose much of the ground they hunt over as concerned land owners withdraw their permission to hunt on their land. Many land owners have already banned the Kimblewick from using their land and rightly so.

kimblewick2

How many hounds around the country are spreading bTB?

Perhaps it’s now time for all hunts to have their hounds tested, especially those in the high risk areas and all hunting suspended until each and every pack is given a clean bill of health. Considering it is now the hunting closed season you would expect this to be the perfect time.  The only previous data relating to TB in hounds came from a FOI request by Keep the Ban and published by TB Free England and he summed up the response thus:

In the last 7 years, only 50 hunt hounds have been tested for Bovine TB, 5 of those were positive of infection (10%). 45 samples from hounds were taken over the same period, of which 7 were potentially infected (16%).

The sample sizes are too small to determine the statistical significance, but it does call Defra’s line that “M.bovis infection in dogs is extremely rare” into question… If they haven’t looked, how do they know it’s rare? And when they did look and found more than 10% to be infected, doesn’t this suggest it might be more of a problem than they thought?”

It’s fairly clear to me that this rabbit hole goes a lot deeper than those at Defra will admit, but while they’re so thoroughly within the sphere of influence of the CA then we will probably never know the full extent of the problem and hunts will continue to spread the disease over our countryside and badgers will continue to get the blame and die in their thousands.

So, I’m sitting here at my desk at work, it’s Thursday the 22nd and the office is half empty. Anyone with any sense and holiday remaining has either buggered off to do the last of their Christmas shopping or even better stayed in and avoided the crowds. I’ve just finished my last job, the deadline has been met so I’m not going to start anything new. This of course give me time to reflect on the year and of course plan for Boxing Day, the biggest day in the hunting calendar.

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Looking back it would seem not a lot has changed, the Government are still ignoring the science of killing thousands of badgers for no reason at all other than the NFU want it and Defra are fudging the figures in order to claim success. Their success of course has nothing to do with the reduction of TB but just the numbers of badgers killed. They even had to massage the kill numbers down only a couple of weeks before the end of the culls as they knew they wouldn’t hit their own minimum targets. They’ve also stated that farmers will be able to continue killing and create badger free zones around beef and dairy farms. This wildlife eradication program could cause the local extinctions of the species which have been there for thousands of years and will have zero effect on TB rates, but then we all know this has nothing to do with TB. The small numbers who went out there and challenged this did an amazing job in keeping the numbers killed down as low as Defra claimed although to be honest with you I wouldn’t believe anything they published.

Hunts are still hunting illegally.

The change I’ve seen personally and from updates around the country is now they seem to feel even more immune from prosecution and pay only minor lip service to covering their own arses in the form of laying trails (or appearing to). The Government will probably try and sneak through a free vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act in the new year just to fulfil their manifesto pledge however even the most staunch supporter of hunting will recognise there’s very little chance of success. Maybe this is why the hunts are getting more blatant? One can hope that with the failure of a repeal the legislation can be changed, Scotland has just gone through a review and with public pressure perhaps something similar can happen here? Of course while we have loathsome Leadsome as Environment Secretary there would seem to be little chance of that but we can live in hope.

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Speaking of public pressure it’s been heartening to seem what the general public can achieve when they put their minds to it and shown the right course of action. PCC’s and police forces are coming under increased scrutiny regarding the policing of hunts and we are starting to see some positive results. Hunting officers have been outed and their actions called into question (see here and here). The problem however still remains a large one but steps are being made in the right direction and with the use of social media the pressure will always be on the police to be seen to be upholding the laws of the land regardless of the crime.

Speaking of crimes the Fitzwillaim hunt should have been in court by now. The original date for the proceedings was supposed to be the 5th December however further pre-trial hearings were required and now I shall have to wait until April for my day in court. The offence took place almost a year ago now and the time it’s taken is somewhat frustrating however it’s still a major achievement just getting these animal abusers to court regardless of the outcome. I have no doubt they are guilty but as you probably know proving intent can be very difficult indeed. I’ll be sure to update you when the time comes.

As usual I’ll be out on Boxing Day and chucking some sab sized spanners in one of our local hunts attempts at killing foxes. Behind all that pomp and ceremony there is a truly insidious side, something the Countryside Alliance will attempt to hide with a concerted PR campaign. You’ll no doubt see plenty of articles in the media claiming hunting is alive and well with thousands turning out to support the Boxing Day tradition. The simple fact is most of those turning out on Boxing Day won’t see a hunt on any other day. The turn outs we see every week throughout the season are without doubt dropping. Hunts like the Atherston (thanks to great work from West Mids Hunt Sabs) are literally on their knees. the Puckeridge (Tim Boneheads hunt) would appear to have only £767 in the bank and I have no doubt many others are suffering similarly. If you fancy walking off some of the Christmas dinner why not pop along to your local hunt and voice your displeasure. The details can be found here.

Well that’s about it from me. Have a good break and thanks for tagging along.

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As of midday 19th October 2016 all culls had finished. I took a very short break from writing this blog to just gather my thoughts and this will only be a short update.

It was quite an odd feeling getting the message on my phone while being at work, looking round for people to tell and then realising my badger protecting brothers and sisters were all elsewhere, some still in the fields. Only those people would understand how I felt and the impact it had had on our lives for the last few months.

After some calculations it was estimated that our group alone had covered over 7500 km on foot, up hill and down dale, through all sorts of undergrowth and in all weathers. Our drivers covered much, much more. Surviving on bread, humus and energy drinks, we’d hunted badger killers through the night, we’d responded to calls from the Wounded Badger Patrollers, we’d rescued animals, seen the gory remains of what some people call fun and witnessed the brutality of mans dominion over the wildlife that surrounds us. This isn’t such a green and pleasant when to delve deeper and away from prying eyes. It’s fucking hostile enough just surviving without the constant pressure of man.

I have no doubt in my mind we’ve made a pretty big dent in the intentions of the killers but the feeling was perfectly summed up by someone who operated in the Gloucestershire zone and then moved over to North Cots where I met and spoke to them.

Resistance

Average Joe.

Now it’s all over the cullers will be patting themselves on the back and telling tales like the Plymouth Herald article about outwitting us “sabs” but let me just remind them.

You killed badgers you fucking morons, not terrorists with guns and bombs but little badgers. You didn’t outwit trained professionals you occasionally got the better of a rag tag bunch of average joes with enough compassion in their hearts to go out day and night unpaid to put a dent in your efforts. As for your so called success. I’m going to take a guess here based on what we have been given number wise. In 6 weeks you averaged less than three badgers each in Gloucs. 3 !! If it were 30 I’d be less than impressed. If I had the will I could manage a dozen a night with a fucking pea shooter and a candle. So go and get hard at your little achievement when really you should be holding your heads in shame. You got sold a lie by the NFU .

Sabs, Average Joe’s and all the rest of you that did your bit to slow the killing down I salute you.

We will of course be back next year and every year after that for as long as it takes.

Now I’m going to move on as the main fox hunting season draws near and the last few cubbing meets have to be dealt with.