MADAM - I would like to respond to some of the inaccuracies in Martin Hancox's letter printed in your June 12 edition titled 'Blaming Brock is not answer': 1. Cattle TB may be found in the respiratory system of cattle but is also found in the alimentary system, liver, other organs and udder of a cow. Lesions in the udder take a long time to develop but it is these which resulted in infection being transmitted to many humans before milk was pasteurised and resulted in TB becoming a notifiable disease with an eradication programme starting in the 1950s.
Thanks to annual TB testing, it is rare to see cows with generalised TB, as they are usually identified and slaughtered before the disease reaches this stage but sadly this extreme generalised disease is the norm in infected badgers.
It seems to be that once badgers reach this extreme stage of infection they are thrown out of their sett by their 'family' and go looking for an easy source of food and shelter, which is sadly often cattle food and farms.
As these sick badgers feed on cattle food, they urinate, and this urine has been found to contain a very high density of M.bovis bacteria which the cattle then ingest or inhale and become infected.
It has been shown to take three to six weeks NOT six - 12 months for a cow to become a skin reactor to the TB test having come into contact with M.bovis in this way.
2. I think that sadly there is a huge reservoir of badgers with M.bovis in the Stroud area and much of the south west.
We are TB testing our cattle annually and every two months if TB is found, but cannot seem to eradicate it.
These are cattle which in many cases, especially in the Stroud Valleys, graze all year round and are not intensely farmed or intensely housed in the winter.
3. Cattle on the farms surrounding the endemic TB Woodchester study area are ALWAYS going down with TB Mr Hancox - I am not sure where you got your misinformation from.
4. I disagree with the statement 'culls do not work'.
They do need to be carefully planned with good boundaries but through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s where badgers were culled in England on farms where confirmed TB reactors in cattle were found, the incidence of TB was reduced to a very low and manageable level, it is only since badger culling was stopped in the 1980s that the disease level has risen to its current unacceptable level.
In Ireland, they have been culling badgers for several years and have reduced the incidence of TB in cattle by up to 50 per cent (reported on Countryfile).
In New Zealand where the wildlife reservoir of TB was the possum, once the possum was culled TB was virtually eradicated.
So culling does and has worked in the past.
5. The purpose of the imminent badger cull in Gloucestershire is to establish whether free shooting of badgers is a humane method of culling. Personally, I think gassing of badgers while they are asleep in their setts would be much more humane, and perhaps we could use carbon monoxide as hydrogen cyanide which was used in the past has been deemed non-humane.
The CVO Nigel Gibbens has said he is looking in to this but research is required and we need to act as soon as possible.
I am passionate about cattle and the small non-intense farms and farmers of this area.
If we do not do something about this disease they will all eventually die out and leave intense large farms with cattle housed all year round behind badger-proof barriers.
There will be no cows grazing our Commons and meadows, which I am sure bring as much pleasure to many as they do to me and there will just be more and more monotonous fields of oil-seed rape and arable crops.
Is that really what you want?
Mary Wood Brimscombe