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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.
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!
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.
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