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back to article Brian May stands up for Welsh badgers

Queen guitarist Brian May has mobilised against a proposed cull of badgers in Wales, something he describes as an "inhuman act of vandalism". The Welsh assembly will today debate a "legislative order that would allow a cull in north Pembrokeshire, and parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire", the BBC explains. Rural affairs …

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a concerned member of the British public

......................, whose primary profession happens to be playing rock music

perhaps if he was a concerned member of the British public who knew anything about farming he might talk more sense, but hey it must be a slow news day

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badgers badgers badgers

Not that it's directly applicable, but he is at least a scientist, with a Phd in Astrophysics.

And the 'science' behind the cull is massively shoddy. There's no proven link between badgers and bovine TB, and wiping out a ton of them in order to 'see if it makes a difference', which is what the 'plan' amounts to, is frankly fairly dumb.

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Badgers

Indeed, and if farmers new more about epidemiology

there would be fewer epidemics, better controls on transportation, fewer animals kept packed too close together, and fewer knee-jerk reactions to any wild animal that happens to share their land.

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Badgers

Meanwhile . . .

. . .in other parts of the world cattle are being given medication that is lethal to the vultures that are necessary to clear up dead animals.

But it's O.K. as it doesn't harm the ikkle cows.

Remove one vital link in the recycling chain and it all stops working.

When you keep cattle penned up all winter and drugged up to the big lovely eyeballs it's no surprise that other infections pass easily.

Still no real evidence that badgers actually cause the problems.

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WTF?

STFU!

I dislike you tone Martin 47 and the general tone of this article.

Mr May, one of my all time heroes, is one of the few musicians I would trust to have a sensible opinion on matters of scientific interest. Insisted on completing his astronomy degree studies before taking off on the rock-star life-style and then returning to complete his Phd when time allowed.

He did not just get his qualifications handed to him as an honourary anything just becuase he's famous ( yes you Bono and Elton freaking John! ), he like his peers worked to complete his studies and submitted his work for appraisal as required.

Not saying he has a perfect opinion on farming matters but he has at least proved he has the ability to research a subject and provide a reasoned argument, not just turn up, sign a few authographs and get the campaign in the media!

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Farmers

"perhaps if he was a concerned member of the British public who knew anything about farming he might talk more sense"

.

Perhaps if you knew anything about anything, you might know that Disease control isn't "farming".

What is clear is that the Irish government have been massacring badgers in various "research projects" for nearly 30 years without having jack-shit effect on the incidence of bovine TB.

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Perhaps a more sensible option

Would be a small cull in a controlled area, see whether it has any effects before expanding it on a larger scale.

If only El Reg had some sort of icon for issues involving black and white mammals.

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Anonymous Coward

Wouldn't work

This sort of thing has been tried before and it proves little. There are the matters of badgers moving about and the matter of cattle movements to cloud the issue. In order to measure the effectiveness of a cull you have to look at the results over several years, over that period of time new populations of badgers will enter your test are and cattle will be moved into the area which may bring bovine TB with them. Unless you can control the badger population in your test area for the period of the trial and also prevent any cattle movements into that area over the same period your test would be worthless.

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Small cull

@Thomas4 - a small cull in a controlled area is exactly what's proposed here.

I agree with Mr May, it's a pointless exercise to appease the farmers.

Maybe we should be culling all of the cows in the area to see what the effect on the badgers is?

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Cull queen not badgers!

And another one bites the dust - NOT!

Good on ya Brian - I'm with you on this one -

though I'd rather cull Queen broadcast in shopping malls and elevators.

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Badgers

Badgers

Sorry, I have nothing insightful to add, but wanted to use the icon...

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Freddie was the talented one...

"Meanwhile the tragedy rolls on: for farmers, for cattle, for taxpayers, and for all those sick badgers, condemned to a lingering death, only because humans became so blinded by sentimentality that they allowed badger numbers to explode to a level nature could no longer tolerate.."

'Muckspreader', Private Eye.

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Muckspreader

The clues in the name really; surprise surprise he is also a farmer... and known for spouting shit on occasion.

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Nyes...

...because the P.E. really knows its science. These are the Public School Toffs who went to bat in a big way for Wakefield. Really know their stuff, those Latin spouting P.E.-ers, oh my yes. :rolls-eyes:

The P.E. is OK for a bit of satire, politics and tasteless jokes, but for science? May as well read Fortean Times.

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Science suggests a cull doesn't work, vaccination (funnily enough) does.

Worked for a Doctor of behaviour who took part in the last big research into bovine tb. Culls made no difference to number of cases, vaccination programs did. Heard the same thing from a lot of other scientists who'd worked on the project (or similar).

Farmers know about farming, that I can't disagree with. But they don't know about epidemiology, the folks that do, keep saying that killing badgers doesn't make a difference, vaccinations do.

On a slight aside, if badgers are anything like foxes (possible), small culls would make things worse. If you kill one fox, all the surrounding females breed faster since there's a lowered population, and so you end up with even more foxes (and more competition for food, and thus more going into the henhouse to try and get enough).

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Vaccintion

Vaccination does indeed work, but of course the farmers don't want that because it involves effort and expenditure on their part. The expenditure for a cull would come from the tax payer, the effort from government agencies.

Look at human TB it had been effectively erradicated in the UK until it was re-introduced from abroad. Inspite of what the redtops may suggest we will never get a massive outbreak of human TB in the UK again because any outbreak can be pretty much isolated and dealt with. A programme of cattle vaccination in the UK could achieve similar results.

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Badgers

... but we all know ....

That the only way to deal with badgers is using Snakes and Mushrooms ....

http://www.badgerbadgerbadger.com

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And

If Brian May were to do a cover of said song (with the proceeds going to save the badgers, of course), I'd buy it.

I feel that the 'Snake! It's a Snake!' sequence would be particularly well suited to Mr. May's distinctive guitar style.

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Boffin

The scientific evidence is AGAINST culling

See for example the ISG report:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/isg/report/final_report.pdf

from which, e.g.

"... careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better."

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Grenade

Red sky at night? barns on fire!!!

Oh dear; far too many farmers have only one response to problems; kill something. I grew up in the countryside, proper countryside that is, not some vaguely rural village, and now live in a big city; I saw far, far more casual violence and cruelty in the sticks.

But of course, those of us who live in cities know nothing; so when I got upset at seeing a cat kicked from one side of a barn to the other for being 'mangy'; I was being soft and sentimental. I mean FFS; it' s only an animal; it only exists to be exploited. Us city whiners need to learn this, right?

The correct response to the TB problem is to tell the fecking farmers that they will stop moving and mixing herds about on a near daily basis according to market whims; doing this will have more effect than any slaughter or vaccination regime. It's the constant cross- and re- infection that mostly propagates and promotes TB, not Badgers, Rats, or the invisible TB fairy.

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Anonymous Coward

It's not just farmers

"Oh dear; far too many farmers have only one response to problems; kill something."

I recall salmon fishermen wanting a seal cull on the east coast of England because they claimed, against all the available evidence, that seals were depleting stocks of salmon significantly. Even if seals were eating enough salmon to significantly effect the income of the fishermen where exactly was it written that humans had more right to the fish than the seals?

Even then this attitude is no different to various industries wanting governments to erect trade barriers to protect their business.

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Joke

Queen question..

...did Freddie ever where anything made from badgers? I know he didn't fancy beavers, but that's a different topic.

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FAIL

Indeed...

The little dig at Freddie Mercury being homosexual ( being gay and camp is soooo funny still, apparently ), when you learn to spell correctly or at least proof read what your write, then maybe your joke might come close to being funny!

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm...

There has been an increasing amount of borderline homophobic comments on the reg recently, including some out and out offensive ones (which have been duly moderated, off the board.) I'm getting sick of it, AC 1308 is right to point out comments like this for what they are.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Indeed

"at least proof read what your write"

Indeed.

Thanks for brightening my day!

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Why is it banned anyway??

The TB thing is a massive red herring. Maybe badgers have a role, maybe they don't.

What is odd is that they are afforded an unprecedented level of protection. If foxes are taking your lambs, you can shoot them. If rabbits reach epic populations and damage crops or strip your grazing land bare, you can cull.

If badgers tear your grassland to pieces, undermine buildings with their sets and reach nuisance population densities, you can't do anything.

The protection was brought in of course because overzealous corners of the farming community were trying to drive them to extinction with widespread culling and gassing.

We have now come too far the other way, offering the common badger a level of protection normally reserved for critically endangered species.

This isn't a blind killing activity either. If you have a shy fox that doesn't bother you, you let it alone - if you shoot it for the hell of it, neighbouring foxes will move in, and they may be less respectful of your chicken shed. Conversely if you've got an exceptionally bold animal breaking in on a regular basis and wreaking havoc, then have at it.

Badgers are the only pest species that farmers have no control over, and we must ask ourselves what justification there is for that - we can shoot foxes, deer and rabbit, but not badger?

@ Owen Carter - maybe farmers don't all have PhDs in epidemiology, but your theory that herds are mixing and matching on a daily basis is woefully misinformed. If you had any concept of the volume of paperwork that stock movements incur in 2011 you'd rethink that statement. Sheep for instance can only live on 3 farms in their lives. Once they've been sold twice, the only person their 3rd owner can sell them to is the butcher. Cattle are a bit different, but the idea they never stop moving is grossly inaccurate.

After FMD, and with the current crippling movement restrictions imposed if you get a TB reactor, most farmers are paranoid about bio-security.

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Anonymous Coward

Really?

"If badgers tear your grassland to pieces, undermine buildings with their sets and reach nuisance population densities, you can't do anything."

I live in the countryside in an area with a significant badger population and have seen no evidence of any of these things. The biggest red herring in your list is the idea of badgers undermining buildings. I once heard a farmer claim badgers had caused subsidence in one of his outbuildings, but when the builders came to effect repairs they could find no evidence of badgers undermining the foundations. They couldn't find any significant foundations to be undermined in the first place. What they found was a large blockwork building with no proper footings. It had been built on the cheap and a little natural movement in the ground had caused the walls to start to fall appart at one end. Telling the insurance company it was badgers was clearly preferable to telling them the building had no footings.

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Terminator

err...

Ok 'daily basis'' is an exaggeration, but the problem is not small farmers (who are disproportionately impacted by paperwork) but the big agribusiness 'farmers', who treat cattle as pure stock. To be moved and shuffled as they please, often according to an economic imperative at odds with the instincts of real stockmen (the paperwork is handled by a professional team who do it all day long). And the whole mess is encouraged by a haulage industry looking for business.

Foot'N'Mouth highlighted the problems, but I refuse to believe that the big agribusinesses have changed their spots that much. Regulation is only for the little people dontchaknow.

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Anonymous Coward

"The TB thing is a massive red herring."

The salmon thing is a massive red herring.

No, wait, I'm confused.

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Stop

Why?

Is this on an IT tech forum in the first place.

What part of a cull, or the discussion in the Welsh assembly has any vague relation to IT?

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re. Why?

It's an article about science; El Reg has always been an IT *AND* Science news site. If you only want IT news then go to "Computer Weakly"!

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Heart

Love you Long Time

After you've spent ~many~ years in the I.T. industry (find yourself suitably bored by technical news/gossip) you may find yourself visiting El Reg only for the Science and 'Odds & Sods' sections.

"Steve Jobs Vindicated: Google Android is not open" vs "Brian May stands up for Welsh badgers", I think I know where I'd prefer to click!

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Alert

Badgers are the main wildlife reservoir of bTB

OK, first a few facts about bovine TB. Firstly, it can be DNA typed, and there are about a dozen different pathotypes present in Britain. Secondly, although you can get a bit of immune system protection from a vaccine (which is actually a live but less infective form of the b TB bacterium), this doesn't last long and usually fails in the face of massive challenge to it. Thirdly, badgers are highly unusual in that they super-excrete bTB when infected (i.e. throw out huge volumes of it) but survive surprisingly long before succumbing to the disease. Fourthly, the term "bovine" is a misnomer; it infects most mammals to some degree.

So, if badgers were not a reservoir species for bTB and the spread was mostly due to cattle with undetected infections spreading it to other cattle, you would expect the UK to be an ever-changing mosaic of pathotypes of bTB; you'd expect that this mosaic would be highly fluid and to change over time to a very great degree.

If on the other hand cow to cow transmission was insignificant and badgers were reservoirs of the disease, then you'd expect the pathotypes to stay geographically quite static over periods of years.

It just so happens that people have been monitoring the pathotypes of bTB in culled cows and sampled road accident badgers, and have been doing so for over twenty years. Twenty years ago, a map of bTB pathotypes in the UK was drawn up from this sampling; recently this map was re-drawn with fresh data.

The two pathotype maps, drawn twenty years apart, were identical.

This therefore proves conclusively that cow to cow transmission is a very minor route at most and that badger to cow transmission is the primary way cows get infected with bTB. It also isn't just cows that get infected; sheep and deer are susceptible, camelids like llamas and alpacas are extremely susceptible, and cats are quite susceptible too. Humans are susceptible to bTB as well; the BCG vaccine that many of us were innoculated with confers protection for a few years at best. Expect much more bTB infections in domestic animals and in people in the coming years.

The way to control bovine tuberculosis is to aggressively cull the reservoir host over a wide geographical area, with a view to locally rendering it extinct in areas with the highest incidence of bTB. No other control treatment is going to work; removing all cows from an area for a few years will do absolutely nothing save uselessly burn taxpayers' money to disprove an already dis-proven hypothesis. Brian May is basically a gibbering idiot, leader of a chorus line of gibbering idiots who really need to grow the hell up, read up on some epidemiology and switch their brains back on.

One final note: prior to 1997 and the cessation of badger culling, bovine TB incidence was very very low indeed. The policy of gassing all setts suspected of harbouring infected badgers had reduced the number of infected individuals to perhaps as few as a couple of thousand, and had the policy been kept on with, Britain would now be free of bovine TB and no badger culling would be necessary. It is the rampant stupidity of ceasing a known-effective control method which has led us to this state of affairs, where tens of thousands of infected badgers need to be culled to get us back to where we were 15 years ago.

Next time anyone feels like playing the do-gooder, try investigating the consequences first.

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This is interesting information

Could you give a link to articles or reports on that?

As a scientist I would be most willing to change my opinion (based on other reports, not gut feeling) given good evidence. What your arguments do suggest is that the culling would be directed to those sets clearly suspected as being infected, not just blanket killing of all badgers, which is not always made clear.

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What I would expect

Is not necessarily what you would expect from the facts you cite. I would say your general problem is to explain why there are both cows and badgers after millions of years of evolution. Your more specific problem is explaining why the global incidence of TB has increased as a result of cessation of badger culling in the UK. You need to recognize the specific attribute of the pathogen, namely its pleomorphism, which make the general problem of health in people as well as animals quite a lot more intractable than you deduce to be the case from a couple of maps.

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IT Angle

IT angle

Dead badgers means cheap shaving brushes. Time to wipe out the neckbeards and get laid!

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FAIL

No IT angle

It's filed under "Entertainment".

Do try reading, most people find it a pleasurable activity. Especially on a text-heavy website.

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Free cigarettes will fix it

Provide free cigarettes for the cows, badgers, alpacas, farmers, rocks stars, and all the other mammals. That'll shorten the time they've got to spread the disease. Except cats. The cats can buy their own cigarettes.

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Nice idea...

...but cows, badgers etc are not dumb enough to smoke.

It takes a real moron to deliberately inhale carcinogens for "pleasure".

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It makes more sense to cull cats than badgers

The incidence of toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy in the UK appears to be somewhere between one and two per thousand. Particularly during the first trimester this can be very damaging to the foetus with results including still-birth, deformities, blindness in later life, and possibly reduced IQ, schizophrenia and autism.

Given that cats are a critical vector in the life-cycle of this parasite, and that rates of death and damage seem rather higher than from tuberculosis, it's curious that there hasn't been a call to cull them; or at the least to introduce compulsory testing, vaccinations and chipping.

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MPs, AM's farmers.... all thick or just plain unwilling to listen?

It appears farmers want to kill absolutely anything anywhere that doesn't obviously show them a profit - whether thats trees, badgers, foxes or birds. The AM's and MP's are too busy looking to their expense sheets and next tax payer funded golf trip to bother to research or look into anything at all (whether thats slaughtering wild life or fixing the economic woes of the country).

Its just a shame they are all so stupid that evidence presented to them means nothing at all, they just carry on without thought.

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Thomas - a small cull

"Would be a small cull in a controlled area, see whether it has any effects before expanding it on a larger scale."

Culls of badgers have been done before...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/feb/10/badger-culls-fail-spread-cattle-tuberculosis

http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/abouttb/atbreview.htm

http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_10-2-2010-10-44-17

http://www.gwentwildlife.org/badgercull/Jenkins%20et%20al.%202008.InternatJournalofInfecDiseases.pdf

The last one is particularly detailed.

They all show that to have any effect (and this is not a complete cure) you have to slaughter every badger in the country.

If you want to see no wildlife then fine.

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