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Read and comment on the discussion document by the new RethinkbTB group
Human parallels
We are interested in learning more about the parallels that may be drawn to the human form of TB (bearing in mind that the bovine form accounts for less than 0.5% of human TB cases in the UK) as this may indicate the true risks of bovine TB – which may be far less than the current policy implies. Humans are tested using one of the existing skin tests (eg the Heaf or Mantoux test) which is very similar to the skin test used for cattle.

Up until a few years ago there was a regular testing and vaccination programme for teenagers but this is no longer done routinely, although testing is still available privately and for high-risk people. It must be noted that all skin tests are only capable of attempting to determine whether or not there has been any exposure to the Mycobacteria that cause TB. As with the cattle test, in humans tuberculin is injected into the skin and the results are read 48 - 72 hours later, by measuring any indurations. If there is no swelling or it is under a certain depth the person is vaccinated. Over the stipulated measurement and the person is classed as a reactor and not vaccinated. If there are any clinical symptoms (very rare) further medical investigation and treatment, if applicable, is initiated.

Interestingly, human cases 'reactors' are not culled as cattle are and these people continue to live among us as there is presumably so little risk of them spreading TB. Very few go on to develop the disease. So one would assume the same would apply to cattle? However, with cattle ALL reactors are assumed to be infected or potentially infectious, so are slaughtered 'just in case'. Most cattle that are declared reactors by the skin test are likely to have remained healthy if they were not prematurely culled to comply with the existing test and cull policy. They are culled as a precaution.

We need to justify why we kill so many cattle just because they are deemed to be 'reactors'? Most milk is pasteurised and meat is cooked - heat destroys any mycobacteria, so risk to human health is very minimal.

For more information on this subject see http://www.bovinetb.co.uk/article.php?article_id=106. It does seem we are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut with the policy that has become increasingly rigid and increasingly fails. It seems clear to me that the existing regime has got to a point where the policy is worse than the disease itself.
Introducing Team Badger
'Team Badger Picture We are getting an increasing number of farmers who are becoming more and more concerned regarding the proposals to cull badgers.

They are concerned regarding the growing public opposition and lack of credible scientific evidence.

Whilst the badger continues to be the main focus of attention it distracts from a proper, sustainable way forward for farmers, based on cattle vaccination. The growing number of groups that are opposing the badger cull are now calling for cattle vaccination. Team Badger is a coalition of these groups. Team Badger

They have also set up a new website to encourage the vaccination of cattle and badgers against bovine TB. Funding is available to help with the latter.
The badger and cattle vaccination initiative

The Government e-petition , 'Stop the Badger Cull', exceeded 304,157 signatures - this petition has received the highest number of signatures of any government petition. It is now closed but a new e-petition was started up soon after and already has almost 7,000 signatures. Another petition is the 38 Degrees petition, 'Rethink the badger cull' which is heading towards 100,000.
Campaigning for the right to vaccinate cattle against TB
'Who's killing my cow?
Bovine TB is a very low health risk
The Food Standards Agency says 'there had not been a single documented case of someone developing human TB after eating infected meat.' In fact, so low is the risk that they go on to say 'Where a carcass shows evidence of localised TB, the lesions are cut out and the rest of the carcass is passed as fit for human consumption.' July 2009

Fundamentals  Latest
Is the costly and controversial existing bTB policy really about protecting human health and, if not, is there an alternative way forward? These are the main questions that politicians and those involved with policy making should be asking, particularly in this current era of financial crisis as public expenditure in the UK on bTB control continues to escalate  read more...read more...
Is the existing costly and disruptive programme that aims to eradicate bTB in the UK good value for money and is it really working? NO. Is the existing policy now having more of an adverse impact on human and cattle welfare than the risks from the disease it is aiming to control/eradicate? YES. Over the last few years there have been at least two human deaths - not from bovine TB but as a result of the skin test. In April 2010 an Irish farmer died and in January 2013 a Carmarthenshire farmer died. Many farmers and vets are injured during the testing process. Cattle too are frequently injured or killed. Would it be more sensible instead to have a control policy, rather than one that aims for the impossible - eradication? YES

Since the 1950's, when the testing of cattle for bovine TB (bTB) in the UK became compulsory following its initial introduction on a voluntary basis in the 1930's, many millions of pounds have been spent on trying to eradicate the disease using an imperfect skin test. However, despite some 60 years of testing and all this expenditure, and many thousands of slaughtered cattle, little progress has been made, and the financial costs continue to escalate year on year. Perhaps more importantly, the government has done little to determine the true costs of the existing testing policy; the consequences of the enormous pressures on cattle and alpaca owners; business failures as a result of herd breakdowns, health and safety risks from cattle handling and the actual consequences of culling indigenous wildlife species ... the existing policy is a bureaucratic nightmare. It is starting too to involve an even greater number of people and animals as legislation is being brought in to test/cull wildlife and other domestic animals.

What is clear is that after 60 years of using the same old test (which is not reliable enough to be anything other than a herd test), culling thousands of cattle, and millions of pounds of public expenditure spent on compensation payments, research etc, the existing eradication (elimination!) policy is impossible to achieve and sustain whilst the bacteria that causes bovine TB is so endemic around the world and globalisation continues to increase. As this website clearly reveals, the current insistence on striving for eradication is undoubtedly causing more suffering to farmers and their animals than the risks of the actual disease itself. The Government persistently fails to adequately justify the need for such an expensive and draconian policy, either on the grounds of human or animal health or even on economic grounds. As the skin test is not used as a herd test in the UK it will be impossible to eradicate the disease and we should be learning, instead, to live with it. Countries that have used the skin test as a herd test, destroy the whole herd if any animals fail. This has enabled countries to maintain the coveted bTB free status. However, most people would probably agree that this is not an appropriate option for the UK. Instead we should be vaccinating cattle.

Are too many people now being adversely affected by the current policy? With the recent decision by WAG to bring in compulsory testing for other domestic animals, an even greater number of people will be affected. It would seem that the main reason for trying to eradicate bTB is so the UK can maintain its 'TB free status', thereby protecting the agricultural industry's dwindling cattle exports. Is it now time for a radical re-think? Bovine TB appears to be yet another area that has become 'big business'. Is it now being driven by vested interests?

The current pre-occupation with bTB may sound particularly surprising when you consider that the risk to humans these days from bovine TB is negligible - pasteurisation and cooking destroys any TB bacteria in milk and meat. In fact the risk to humans is so minimal that even the unaffected parts of carcasses of cattle slaughtered as TB reactors and found to have TB lesions are sold back into the food chain for human consumption.

Those countries which claim to have eradicated bovine TB using the skin test have achieved this by using very stringent measures, such as complete depopulation of herds, delays on re-stocking and even the removal and sterilization of soil! It is interesting to note that no country with so called wildlife reservoirs, has been able to achieve this coveted status to date.

Despite the massive costs over the last few decades, the exact details of the transmission and epidemiology of bovine TB are still not known with complete certainty and there are a number of important, unanswered questions which are fundamental in justifying the existing test and cull policy. Have we got to the stage when the huge costs and negative effects on cattle owners as a result of the existing policy outweigh any perceived benefits of the existing policy and should there be a radical re-think on the whole issue? Perhaps lessons can be learned from countries such as Ethiopia, where they just cannot afford to persistently test and kill cattle needlessly. Neither can they afford to spend millions of pounds on investigating so-called wildlife reservoirs. Instead, they are opting for control and are trialling vaccination of cattle. The results are encouraging, as have been previous cattle vaccination trials in other areas.

The Aims of this Website
We aim to:
  1. Question whether the existing policy really is the most appropriate way forward.

  2. Explore other options.

  3. Highlight the problems and indirect consequences of the existing policy.

  4. Provide an open, easy to us forum to encourage debate on all the issues involved.

  5. Provide case studies that reveal the negative consequences of the existing eradication programme for those involved and flaws of the existing tests.

We are also campaigning for the right to vaccinate cattle against bovine TB as soon as the vaccination becomes available (DEFRA had predicted this to be 2012 but are now backtracking).

There are many websites that discuss bovine TB but most of these are dominated by the cattle/badger link. On this site we aim to include the other issues involved, many of which are just as important yet have received little attention to date. We believe that the existing TB policy and testing system is not sustainable, is too costly and is creating more problems than the disease it is supposed to be controlling/eradicating. We are concerned too that it is now more about achieving political targets and meeting deadlines than safeguarding animal and human health. There are many fundamental questions that we consider are not being considered or properly addressed. We have strived to provide accurate information, which is fully referenced. However, if you consider any of the information given is misleading or not accurate please contact us with full details (email address is in the 'About Us' section) or use the open forum. The site is updated regularly. Please note that some of the DEFRA references may prove difficult to access as pages have been withdrawn. DEFRA explains that it is creating a new website reflecting the latest government policies and priorities, so presumably pages are being selectively removed if they are not in line with current Coalition Government's thinking!
Fundamentals  Top-viewed
Is the current, rigid implementation of the bovine TB policy by DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly well grounded or is it mainly based on scaremongering by vested interest groups and the meeting of targets by bureaucrats? Time and time again it has been proven that politicians and decision makers in both the public and private sector do not always get it right, and in some cases even provide inaccurate information and attempt to mislead, often as a result of pressures from influential, vested interest groups. Can we therefore trust the policy makers, consultants and alleged ‚'experts'‚ in this instance? There is plenty of evidence that reveals we probably should not. History tells us that when it comes to health issues, there are always knee jerk reactions by politicians, often fueled by vested pharmaceutical interests. read more...read more...

Bacteria which causes TB is always in the environment and all animals are susceptible – not just cattle and, so it is highly unlikely it will ever be eradicated. The TB policy and the nightmare of testing is becoming increasingly difficult for those who keep cattle therefore vaccination would seem to be the most logical course of action. read more...read more...

How reliable and workable is the existing intradermal tuberculin (skin) test (currently the only approved test under EU regulations)? The current skin test has been used for over 50 years. read more...read more...

The government's primary objectives (Ref. 1), which form the basis of the existing bovine TB (bTB) control/eradication policy, are:

1. To protect public health 2. To prevent bovine TB spreading to other animals 3. To make sure that cattle do not suffer because of bTB

There are many fundamental questions associated with each, plus related questions, as set out below. If these cannot be adequately answered then the policy is suspect and a radical re-think is needed. read more...read more...

Boxster's Story: The truth behind the Bull
It is extremely rare for cattle owners to challenge the powers that be. Despite the significant personal and financial costs one family did just that to save their beloved bull, Boxster. This is their story. It tells of their long battle with bureaucrats; exposing blunders, cover ups and lies. The risks were high but they persevered because they were convinced they were right. Against all the odds they won their case in the courts but still had to suffer further harassment from officials. And the financial costs were high for despite being awarded most of their legal fees they ended up having to settle for significantly less. The treatment they and their animals received at the hands of officials, intent only on following policy, regardless of the health and welfare of the family or their cattle, will be familiar to any of us that have been embroiled in herd breakdowns because of bTB testing. However, few dare complain as they did. This is an excellent read and we thoroughly recommend it. It is very good value at just £10, plus £2 postage and packaging. To order you own copy click on the picture below.

'Boxster's Story: The truth behind the Bull
Links  Top-viewed
DEFRA's report, 'Options for vaccinating cattle against bovine tuberculosis', by the Veterinary Team bTB Programme, Food and Farming Group (last updated 12 July 2007), said that cattle vaccination has potential benefits to reduce prevalence, incidence and spread of bTB in the cattle population. The BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin, the human TB vaccine) was suggested as the lead vaccine candidate in the short to medium term.

DEFRA revealed, several times, in the 2010 consultation document, Bovine Tuberculosis: the Government's approach to tackling the disease and consultation on a badger control policy' (September 2010, para 62), that a vaccination (BCG) for cattle would be licensed in 2012 (with the DIVA test). Professor Glyn Hewinson of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency at Weybridge also confirmed this during the BBC's On the Farm broadcast on 19th December 2010 and again in September 2012 when Hewinson indicated the license had been applied for but we are apparently still years away from cattle vaccination being legalised and actual field trials can't start because of current EU regulations. . This is just not good enough and if the political will existed we could get a derogation. The BCG vaccine will not give 100% protection (estimates range from 50 -70%) and is not perfect – but then neither is the existing skin (or blood) test (estimates range from 70%). Vaccination does not give absolute immunity but it significantly increases natural resistance to the disease and can provide herd immunity. Bearing in mind the average lifespan of cattle, it could therefore be used as the basis for a successful control, rather than eradication, policy. It will be easier for farmers and cheaper in the long term too as cattle would no longer have to be slaughtered needlessly (with subsequent compensation costs) just because they are reactors or unconfirmed reactors to an unreliable skin or blood test.

The stumbling block, we are told, is the EU and procedures involved, which, according to Defra could not be completed until 2015 but more recently this date has changed yet again even further into the distant future. This is not good enough and derogation should be sought NOW so a vaccination programme can be started for cattle as a matter of urgency.

Vaccination has been successful in trials in Ethiopia and Mexico (New Zealand and Argentina too are considering vaccination) where the BCG vaccination can still be used. Countries like Ethiopia insist they cannot afford to keep culling cattle needlessly - can we here in the UK? Interestingly, the BCG vaccination was only made illegal here in the 50's when the skin test became compulsory. This was because vaccinated cattle showed up as reactors to the test.

If cattle are vaccinated there may then be no need to tackle wildlife reservoirs, thereby saving these costs too. In these times of severe financial restraint and public cuts affecting so many people, the onus is on our politicians to choose affordable options. The Government has persistently failed to adequately justify the need for the existing expensive, archaic and draconian bovine TB policy, either on the grounds of human or animal health or even on economic grounds. Change is needed - and now! read more...read more...

Since this website was started back in 2009 there has been little real progress made regarding bovine TB control. Every year we are told cattle vaccination is a decade away. The cattle vaccine trials were supposed to commence in 2014. These have been delayed. Regardless of the massive public opposition, significant costs and doubts regarding efficacy and humaneness badgers have been culled in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Why can't we vaccinate our cattle?


The Institute of Zoology held a workshop on 3 Oct 2013 to discuss cattle vaccination for bovine TB (and also badger vaccination). All the papers are now available to download/read at: http://www.zsl.org/science/events/vaccination-in-the-control-of-bovine-tb,773,EV.html

Programmes for controlling Bovine TB in the UK and abroad have inevitably led to increased interest in vaccines for cattle and wildlife. The renewed interest has been accompanied by myths and misunderstanding about the efficacy and practical application of vaccination at a population level.

Principal topics included:
How vaccines work at the individual and population levels.
Recent uses of vaccination for disease control and elimination in wild and domestic animals.
Practical low cost deployment of injected badger vaccination.
Development of oral badger vaccines.
Current status and prospects for cattle vaccination against Bovine TB.

A discussion and debate followed with a panel drawn from the main speakers and other experts.


Bovine TB is said to be a devastating disease; chronic and debilitating, a disease that is crippling the farming industry. Defra Minister, Owen Paterson, recently described it as 'the most pressing animal health problem facing the UK today', and he described the incidence of bovine TB as an 'epidemic'(1). However, such alarmist statements are actually very misleading. In reality it is Defra's 'test and cull' policy that is causing the most problems - not disease. Defra's own figures reflect this. The statistics published in December 2012 confirm that the number the number of cattle slaughtered each year for bTB control has actually remained stable for the last ten years at just half of one percent of the national herd, year on year (2). Despite Defra attempting to present their bTB ‘Key Facts & Figures’ for 2011 negatively, it is still clear from the statistics that 88.5% of herds in England and 76.4% of herds in the so called bTB hot-spots went about their business completely unaffected by bTB for the whole of that year and the majority of the remaining herds were only restricted for a short time (3). The maps included are very misleading and do not reflect the actual situation.

We are constantly being told that bovine TB is THE disease crippling the industry and causing so many problems for farmers. However, this does not appear to be the case if one reads the First Annual Report of the Government's new 'GB Cattle Health & Welfare Group'. (www.eblex.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Cattle-Health-and-Welfare-Report.pdf). The group asked a number of GB cattle sector organisations to come up with their lists of the top UK's ten cattle health and welfare issues, to obtain an understanding of what the industry itself feels are its main problems. The list shows there is a remarkable degree of similarity between the dairy and beef sectors - yet bovine TB is not even mentioned under the beef section and it is way down the list in the dairy section (after fertility, mastitis, lameness, bovine viral diarrhoea and Johne’s disease.

WHAT ABOUT CATTLE VACCINATION Cattle vaccination is the long-term solution. It would seem that it is only the EU legislative requirements that are preventing it.

We know vaccination is not 100% effective (figures vary from 50-70%). However, none of the vaccines used for livestock give 100% protection but, as stated on the Defra website (4), a vaccine against bTB can reduce the prevalence, incidence and spread of TB in the cattle population and also reduce the severity of a herd breakdown, regardless of whether infection is introduced by wildlife or cattle.

Defra's 2008 report; "Options for Vaccinating Cattle Against Bovine Tuberculosis" (endorsed by many key stakeholders, including the NFU, set about modelling various vaccination programmes, including the lead option of compulsory vaccination of high risk herds in annual testing parishes.

The model showed that this option, funded by the govt, would save up to one fifth of the costs of the current 'test and cull' policy, as follows:

"The model predicts vaccinating cattle in yearly tested parishes would cost around £170 million to £180 million over the period from introduction in 2012 to the end of the modelled period in 2026. It predicts benefits from fewer breakdowns and less routine testing of between £150 million and £250 million, potentially saving up to one fifth of the costs of the current policy measures. The benefits from vaccinating cattle in yearly tested parishes are likely to justify its costs over this period." (Para 1.2 'Economic Assessment of Lead Option').

The report also suggested that certifying vaccinated cattle would save on resources in terms of the Diva test (Para E14, E15).


In December 2012 experts gathered in Cardiff to progress cattle vaccination for TB. Those attended included many international experts who met to consider how cattle vaccination could contribute to TB eradication in Wales and beyond.

The Welsh Government hosted thea two day workshop for some of the world’s leading experts in cattle vaccination to advance current thinking on the role that a cattle vaccine should play in TB eradication. The workshop also looked at how Wales could ensure it is ready to utilise a BCG vaccination as and when such a vaccine is approved for use by the EU. The next stage is to gain field experience with the BCG vaccine and DIVA test in the UK and to work with disease modellers to establish which scenarios should be trialed first.

The workshop was be opened by Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, John Griffiths. Speaking before the event, Griffiths said:

“Here in Wales we already have a comprehensive range of measures in place to tackle bovine TB, however we are always looking at how we can improve our approach and are keen to keep pace with scientific advances.

“I am very pleased to welcome some of the world’s leading experts in cattle vaccination to Wales for what I am confident will be a valuable event, and one that will move us closer to our goal of a cattle vaccination strategy for Wales.

“Such a strategy really is a high priority for the Welsh Government. We know it is going to take time to get there, and that there are technical and legislative hurdles to be overcome but we are keen to do all we can to accelerate the process and make cattle vaccination a reality in Wales.”

The workshop was attended by over 40 leading figures in the field. These included Dr Paul Livingstone, Research Manager at New Zealand’s Animal Health Board, and Chair of the TB Control Programme Technical Advisory Group, Professor Glyn Hewinson, the AHVLA’s Chief Scientific Advisor and Professor Peter Roeder, veterinary consultant and Secretary of the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme at FAO.


The Welsh Assembly is also leading the field re badger vaccination. The 'Bovine TB Eradication Programme IAA Badger Vaccination Project Year 1 Report' by the Welsh Assembly has just been published and can be read in full at: http://wales.gov.uk/docs/drah/publications/130129iaareport2012en.pdf

Of course many will ask the question - 'If badgers can be vaccinated, why can't we vaccinate our cattle?'


(1) http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/10/23/badger-cull

(2) http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/files/defra-stats-foodfarm-landuselivestock-tb-statsnotice-121212a.pdf page 6

(3) http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/bovine-tb Key Facts & Figures

(4) http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/bovine-tb/vaccination/cattle-vaccination (5) http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/vaccine_cattle.pdf
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