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Bovine TB - Throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater!

Bovine TB is a very emotive issue for both farmers and badger conservationists, especially when the word 'cull' is used. The view of badger conservationists is that the badger is being wrongly blamed for causig bovine TB, and the farmers' view is that bovine TB mainly represents a reduction in income due to loss of milk production. Both views are, on the surface, valid but can they both be right? Maybe it's time to stand back and take a fresh look at some empirical evidence and try to inject some common sense into the bovine TB discussion.

Rather than following the typical Western world's attitude to disease i.e. of treating it in isolation from other factors, why don't we try to look at the causes of bovine TB rather than the symptom. Speaking only of badgers and cows here, they have immune systems that react to invaders quite efficiently, with most diseases being overcome without the host body even being aware. This is the first stage of defence and is so dependant on the host being in a good state of health.

Should their diet be deficient in certain key nutrients or they be subject to stress, this will show in an under-performing immune system which will allow the invader to pass and trigger the 2nd stage defense, the whole-body response to an infection, resulting in all-out war against the invader . This is evident in visible signs of illness, resulting in either recovery or death.

An interesting piece of information was unearthed by Mr. Bob Huddleston of Cornwall who wrote in The Independant that an enquiry by MAFF in Cornwall, in 1971 declared that by 1960 all Britain was free of bovine TB. No mention at all of badgers. Why weren't badgers infecting cows back then, if they were the source of bovine TB, as is so readily claimed now?

The NFU claim that farming methods are not to blame for any claimed decline in animal health yet could they answer the question of why do farmers think it neccessary to feed their cattle supplements, if their feed is adequate? Farmers are not renowned for throwing money away!

Since the advent of chemical farming our soil has become increasingly devoid of natural nutrients and minerals (What isn't in our Soil?), which flies in the face of what the above NFU promouncement. Farmer Dick Roper of Broadfield Farms, Eastington did some digging into why one of his farms persistently showed bovine TB and came to the conclusion that the stape diet of maize, which badgers also loved, was deficient in selenium, a vital immune system booster, along with vitamin E.

Dick Roper's story is highlighted at Rubbish in, rubbish out!.

So, it seems the badger is not quite the villain of the piece that the NFU and DEFRA would like us to believe. Animals, both farmed and wild, are falling victim to the ever declining depletion of soil fertility and contamination by chemicals. When Dick Roper put out mineral licks high in selenium for his badgers and cows, he cured his problem while most of his neighbouring farmers are still plagued by bovine TB. There's a lesson there somewhere!

Bovine TB - Villain or Victim?

The interesting phenomenon of areas having been free of Bovine TB for many years, all of a sudden showing the disease, has been noted by other scientists too. Zoologist Martin Hancox, former member of the Badgers and Bovine TB Panel asks "..whether badgers just decided, one day, to suddenly infect cows with bovine TB". Highly unlikely!

After it became unviable for hundreds of small slaughter houses to continue in business, due to punitive regulations, cattle had to be transported many miles to larger slaughterers, resulting in increased animal stress, poorer quality meat and the spreading of bovine TB up, down and across the UK beyond the natural capability of any badger! Slaughter men and animal welfare people predicted this mass movement of cattle could only have one outcome and the chickens are now coming home to roost.


Well, well, well.... "If it's on The Archers it must be true"! Today (20th May 2007) the Archers had a dialogue between organic farmers Pat & Tony, and the doubts they had about the need for a badger cull (a much nicer word than 'kill'). They talked about a UK farmer who researched the effects of a low selenium intake on badger's immune systems through their love of maize, commonly used in cattle feed. Maize is low in selenium. This farmer put mineral licks high in selenium outside the badger setts on his land, resulting in the eventual elimination of TB among 'his' badgers and his cattle's health also improved when he went organic. It is said that where the Archers lead, the farming community eventually follows. In case anyone missed my original story from 2007, it can be found at Bovine TB. Deja vu, or what!

Incidentally, farmer Dick Roper's neighbours all laughed like drains at him actually feeding his badgers minerals, instead of poison and are probably still scratching their heads in puzzlement, wondering why they still get blasted TB on their farms. Ho hum...

Now that the topic has been aired, reluctantly, and not without a little glee, I can keep silent no longer and have to come clean that, yes, it was me who first offered this earth-shattering revelation about mineral depletion and poor nutrition, to the organ read by most East Anglian farmers, the Eastern Daily Press.

Alas and alack, my offering was spurned. Hard to to believe, isn't it, that so outrageous an idea that the soils we have grown our crops in for millennia, could be so depleted as to effect the immune systems of us and our animals, could be rejected. I couldn't believe it either.

However, instead of "I told you so", I would rather call upon the natural inquisitiveness of the EDP's agricultural reporters to ignore their farming advertising revenues and to investigate the smoking gun of animal welfare regarding TB, and possibly other farm animal diseases, that could be laid at the door of poor soil nutrition. If one keeps taking minerals and trace elements out of the soil for generations, without putting much of it back, the results can be predicted. In computer jargon "rubbish in, rubbish out".

Will some brave politician 'kiss & tell' us the real reasons why public testing of food mineral & vitamin content, started in 1940, was discontinued in 1991? As 1991 was such a long time ago, in political terms, I think we can safely ignore any possible 'embarrassment factor', in the interests of clarity. Anyone contemplating releasing their memoirs soon? The people who clamour for our votes surely have a responsibility to be honest with us into the bargain.

CONUNDRUM

Finally, I have always found it puzzling that if there are no badgers on the Isle of Man, why do they have bovine TB cases there? It is time someone spoke up for poor scapegoat Brock before he becomes extinct and we then find we still have rampant bovine TB. Whom will we blame then? I can't see farmers falling on their swords, can you?

Let's restart the bovine TB debate in a calm analytical manner, look at all the factors, and not jump to conclusions.

Bovine TB - the real Culprit.

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