LABOUR MEPs JOIN GUITARIST BRIAN MAY TO STOP "UNNECESSARY BADGER CULL" - 2012-10-11
"The British government is ignoring the best scientific advice to stop badgers spreading TB to cattle," said Glenis Willmott, Leader of the Labour MEPs.
Dr Brian May, guitarist from Queen, joined up with a group of Labour MEPs today on his visit to the European Parliament as part of his campaign to stop the British government's badger cull.
Brian May, campaigning alongside the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups, came toBrusselsto get support for a ban on British farmers killing badgers, and to press for measures towards an EU approved vaccination.
A British government pilot scheme allowing certain farmers to "free shoot" badgers in prescribed areas was set up on Monday 17th September
Glenis added "I fully understand the desperation of farmers affected by this devastating disease. TB in cows is a terrible disease that needs to be controlled, but this cull isn't the way to do it.
"Vaccination rather than shooting has already been shown to significantly reduce the disease in the badger population. It's more sustainable and humane. Even the former coalition government Defra minister said that vaccination is the best long term approach to tackle the disease.
"There's been recent British research on cattle vaccines and Labour MEPs will work hard to put pressure on the European Commission to speed up the process to allow the use of new vaccines.
Lord Krebs, theOxfordscientist who instigated the previous Labour government's scientific trial, has described the government's cull as "a crazy scheme."
"If the cull wipes out whole badger populations, this would put theUK in breach of the Berne Convention on wildlife protection as it is a protected species under both European andUKlaw," continued Glenis Willmott
"I completely support the campaigners on this issue and ask friends to join our campaign with Brian May online," Glenis Willmott concluded.
Notes to Editors -Vaccination and the EU
TB vaccination of cattle has been prohibited across the EU since 1978. This is because the current diagnostic test cannot differentiate between cattle which actually have the disease and those that have been vaccinated so it is impossible to differentiate which herds are officially TB free. But this could soon be changed. British scientists have made a breakthrough by developing a test that can differentiate. If this test is used, in conjunction with a new cattle TB vaccine which is being developed simultaneously, it could bring the much-awaited solution. Both scientific advances will first have to be however validated for efficacy and safety. If they pass as fit for purpose, the EU will then be able to lift the vaccination ban.
At the moment BCG is the most suitable cattle TB vaccine candidate in the short term. Small-scale field studies carried out inEthiopiaandMexicoshowed that the protective effect of vaccination was between 56% and 68%. Although the vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing TB, it could be a valuable tool when used alongside other TB control measures. TB vaccination of cattle has been however prohibited across the EU since 1978. This is because some vaccines (such as above mentioned BCG) sensitise the animal to TB and this produces a positive reaction in an uninfected, vaccinated animal. The current tuberculin skin test, which is the only test approved by the EU, cannot therefore differentiate between cattle which actually have the disease and those that have been vaccinated so it is impossible to differentiate which herds are officially TB free. However this could soon be changed as British scientists have made a breakthrough by developing a DIVA (Differentiate Infected from Vaccinated Animals) test. This test can be used alongside the tuberculin skin test in vaccinated animals where necessary, to confirm whether a skin test positive result is caused by vaccination or TB infection.
Both will have to be however validated for efficacy and safety - the vaccine at EU level and the test on international level (it has to be validated and certified by the OIE). If they pass as fit for purpose, the EU will be able to lift the vaccination ban.
The previous Labour government policy to TB and badgers
The previous Labour government used a scientific method to restrain TB in cattle. It set up the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT) which concluded that badger culling would make no meaningful contribution to controlling TB in cattle.
Localised culling significantly increases the TB risk in neighbouring herds due to what is called the "perturbation" effect, when traumatised badgers move out of cull areas and spread the disease, particularly in the first two years.
Labour MEPs believe this cull could actually make TB worse. Although the new cull will use "hard boundaries", such as roads and rivers that badgers find hard to cross, the RBCT found that the perturbation effect still occurred when hard boundaries were in place.
Labour believes there is no proper mechanism in place to measure whether the culling makes things worse or better, and that the "pilot scheme" in Gloucestershire which got the go-ahead last month is in no sense a scientific test of policy.
The RBCT used cage trapping and shooting, but the new cull will use 'free shooting' as it is cheaper. Labour believes free shooting has therefore never been tested and is not supported by the science.
Useful links for further background and how to join the campaign
- http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaigns/wildlife/stop-the-cull gives further background, and advice for any readers how to join the campaign
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/18/badger-cull-shot-in-the-dark gives further background on Labour's policy
- http://archive.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/tb-control-measures/100915-tb-control-measures-annexe.pdf The government's report referred to above
- http://www.badger.org.uk/content/home.asp The Badger Trust web-site
- http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/vaccine-breakthrough-may-mean-no-more-badger-culls-8201315.html the most recent scientific research on vaccinations
For further enquiries, please contact David Poyser on 0032 479 790053