Sunday, July 29, 2012

I hate to badger you, but...

I am increasingly concerned about genocide, and we, quite rightly, are worried about TB.

Not (for once) TB the old warmonger, our ex-ex-Prime Minister, but tuberculosis, the scourge of Victorian England.

The disease has been on the increase recently, and the government has charged DEFRA with the task of doing something about it. The worry is that there is a reservoir of TB in the badger population. Badgers can pass it onto cows (if you let them have access to the cow's feed), and then the cows can theoretically pass it onto people via their milk.

Although all UK milk is pasteurised before distribution and this kills the TB bacteria, rendering it harmless. And TB in the UK is spread from person to person.

There are about 9,000 cases of human TB diagnosed in the UK each year.  Last year just 36 of these were due to the animal form. "The majority of cases are in people over 65 years old (and who drank infected unpasteurised milk in the past) or in those of any age who picked up the infection abroad." (HPA 2009)

So what is DEFRA's plan?

Let's kill the UK's badgers.

Never mind the basic biology. Badgers live in relatively small communities and don't travel much. There are those that have TB and those that don't. If you go in and slaughter all the badgers in one area, you create an ecological vacuum, into which the local males that do travel will go. If these guys come from a non-TB infected population with little natural immunity, they are highly likely to contract the disease.

Research clearly shows that where badgers have been culled or slaughtered, the incidence of TB around the edge of that area actually increases.

So DEFRA's proposed culling of badgers will kill off a population of our natural wildlife to reduce the chance of spread of a disease that is not spread to humans by pasteurised milk, and where the slaughter is likely to increase the disease incidence.

What on earth is the matter with these people?

And while we're at it, can anyone explain to me our national obsession with milk: - haven't any of you lot been weaned yet?

PS you can check the science directly from DEFRA and the Health Protection Agency

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