This is Brian May. I’m writing this from my personal point of view, and please note that when I use the word “we”, it does not imply that I have anything other than humility and respect for the members of the Gatcombe team, all of whom understand many of these points better than I do.  I began researching bovine TB ten years ago, when I founded the Save-Me trust (with the object of giving wild animals a voice) with Anne Brummer, whose Harper Asprey Wildlife rescue had already given thousands of animals a second chance in the wild; together we embarked on a mission to find out the truth about cows and badgers and the scourge of bovine TB, in which the badgers stood accused of being a ‘wildlife reservoir’ of disease.  Five years ago, after an introduction by John Royal of the NFU, we set to work in collaboration with specialist farming vet Dick Sibley, to battle with the disease first-hand, at the dairy farm of Robert Reed at Gatcombe in South Devon. Since then, at least 40,000 badgers have been killed in the UK under licenses issued by Natural England. 

My aim here is to put the journey and insights of the Gatcombe project in a form which will be easily understandable to all.   And I am hoping that this will also pave the way for a better understanding between the various ‘stakeholders’ in the fight against Bovine TB, and will eventually lead to a better life for farmers, cows, and badgers in the UK.  You may question our logic in this summary, and we will readily admit that some of the evidence needs augmenting, but we ask only that you read what we have to say and form your own conclusions. We will welcome constructive feedback, and further discussion. 

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1) To DAIRY FARMERS EVERYWHERE – you should know we are on your side, because we, like you, are battling the deadly mycobacterium M Bovis - a highly intelligent organism.  And we’re winning, where current government policy is FAILING.
2) THE CURRENT Government STRATEGY is “test and remove infected cattle using the skin test - and kill badgers”. Badgers are accused of being the main vector - the main carrier of the disease.  It sounds plausible - it’s a model  - a theory - but it’s based on outdated beliefs, and in practice DOES NOT WORK.   We have the statistics to prove it.   Why doesn’t it work ?  I can tell you why later.  (The skin test is only 45 per cent effective - so the infected animal is left in the herd - and badgers are NOT the primary cause of reinfection) 
If killing badgers would solve the problem, we would be in a good situation right now.  But after 6 years of the current policy we actually have increases in incidence of bTB IN some of the ORIGINAL CULL ZONES - a 130 per cent rise in one zone - Gloucestershire. How do you feel ?  Still have faith in the government policy ? 
3) We have a developed a strategy which DOES WORK.  The Gatcombe method - developed by vet Dick Sibley - uses much more accurate testing to identify the organism itself in cows - rather that the indirect method of detecting antibodies in the infected animals, which is always TOO LATE anyway – because  by the time the cow has ‘reacted’ there’s a high probability it has already infected others in the herd.  Even more crucially, The Gatcombe strategy introduces ways to cut off routes of infection within the herd.  Dick has cleaned up the birthing of calves, cleaned up the excrement as soon as it it’s dropped - and stopped pumping the contents of the slurry out back on top of the feed fields.  Plus many other strategies — which have given our farmer ROBERT an officially TB free herd after 3 years. That’s a very happy farmer. But he had the courage to make the jump - and step out of the badger-cull-and-test-and-remove strategy.  

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Updated points to be considered in the Badger Cull debate. 

These are my preparation notes for my 5 minutes of fame on Good Morning Britain, 18th Sept.  With Piers Morgan, Susanna Reid, and a farmer from Herefordshire called Martin Williams, who gave up beef farming 10 years ago because, we were told, his herd was wiped out by bovine TB (when did he last see a dairy cow ?!) 

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It's in the herd not the clan

The Save Me Trust is calling for a Public Inquiry into the current badger cull

1. The government is allowing badger culling in 11 new areas. Licences have also been authorised in 29 existing areas, badger culling will take place in 40 zones. 

2. The government can’t identify the disease in cattle. Cattle-to-cattle transmission is responsible for the majority of TB incidents in the herd. The current test is around 45% effective in the field. The government is irresponsible to launch a cull on badgers without a bTB test that identifies the disease accurately.

3. The government called for a review of the policy in 2018 yet it  hasn’t responded to the Godfrey Review before issuing the new licences 

4. Badger culling is financially unsustainable and it's not helping farmers as it won’t stop herd breakdowns.

5. The Independent ISG report said the cull was inhumane. the report was held up by Owen Paterson and this issue was never addressed. It continues to be inhumane.

6. Btb remains latent in the herd and is spread in the slurry to other cattle and no system has been put in place to reduce the spread through this. Thousands of tons of slurry are produced by cattle every hour of every day. Anaerobic macerators should be fitted on every farm to neutralise the slurry by killing bTB. 

7. Leading government Scientist Lord John Krebs called it a ‘crazy scheme’ and said that  ‘the government is embarking on a scheme that isn’t backed up by science.’

8. The government has embarked on a costly eradication program with no proven transmission route for the disease and no proven track record for success 

9. TB in cattle soared by 130% in one of the longest running cull zones this year, showing the policy is failing. Government data from the Gloucestershire pilot cull zone for 2018 show a 130% increase in confirmed bTB cases in cattle after 6 years. (OTFW)

10. Only a public inquiry can answer these questions.

Sign the Petition here:



BTB always has been and always will remain in the herd until improved cattle testing is used on the farm. It is available and must be used now. The current test is cruel to farmers, cattle, badgers and the public. We cannot get on top of a disease when we cannot test for it reliably. #WakeupDefra  

Bovine TB, or Mycobacterium bovis, or bovine tubercle bacillus, is part of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. The organism is carried by many animals including deer, cats, dogs, pigs, alpacas, sheep and, of course, cattle. Mycobacterium bovis is an aerobic bacterium and the cause of TB in cattle. Bovine TB can jump the species barrier and cause tuberculosis in humans, and this is where the problem has historically been. In the 1930s and 40s, it was responsible for over 50,000 cases a year and 2500 deaths annually. By 1960, all herds had been tested twice for TB, and all animals which had tested positive, or 'reactors', were slaughtered and it became a notifiable disease.

The government introduced compulsory cattle testing and devised a compensation programme for all destroyed cattle. 

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Bovine TB Overview and Badger Cull Timeline

Bovine TB and Badger persecution, including culls has a long horrible history in Britain. Since 1971, when a Badger was found in Gloucestershire with TB, England and Wales have been killing badgers in an attempt to stop Bovine TB in cattle. Now, even to those, unfamiliar with pathogen diseases, something is obviously and immediately wrong with the destruction of a wild native (non-bovine) to 'save' domesticated bovine animals - Cattle. We have researched and recorded a timeline of Bovine TB in Britain over the last century and the Badger culls since William Haigh first announced that a Conservative Government would licence Badger culls and repeal the Hunting Act back in 2009.

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The Welsh Government are working to eliminate bovine TB from an area of west Wales by targeting every possible source of infection. The area has the highest bTB herd breakdown in the country and is important for beef and dairy production. Their comprehensive approach, with strict attention to every detail, provides a comprehensive solution that is already showing improvements in bTB throughout the country. In an area of west Wales, they have put extra measures in place with the aim of eradicating the disease in the local cattle population. This area is called the Intensive Action Area (IAA). They established the IAA to tackle all sources of bovine TB infection in domestic and wild animal species. This is a similar approach to that used in New Zealand, where they have successfully eradicated the disease from large areas of the country.

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The logical way forward is to vaccinate the cattle and this is the one area where both sides agree. The reason we don't vaccinate cattle at this time is we couldn't sell them in Europe due to regulations. This was proposed in 1997 by Lord Krebs in his report. We are waiting for a DIVA test to be accepted to differentiate between vaccinated and wild strains. We are supporting the campaign to vaccinate badgers. Badger BCG can protect a badger from infection. We don't think  that btb is self-sustaining in the badger population. However vaccinating badgers should help protect them from cattle-to-badger infection.

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The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) was the first robust scientific evaluation of the effect of badger culling on cattle TB. It lasted 10 years and cost in excess of £50 million. It was overseen by an Independent Scientific Group (ISG). 

Two culling treatments were undertaken: reactive culling where localised culls were carried out on farms that had recently experienced a TB outbreak in cattle, and proactive culling where larger scale areas were culled. Both these treatments were restricted to regions where the historical incidence of TB in cattle was high. In addition to culling, there were matched "control" areas where no culling was carried out. The principle is the same as we see in medical trials, where one segment of the population receives a treatment drug and another receives a placebo, the idea being that, at the end of the trial, any significant effects can be reliably ascribed to the treatment.

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One thing we all know and agree on is that Lord Krebs' and the RBCT Trial states that culling badgers in small areas increases the spread of bovine Tb and increases the frequency of bTB within badgers.


No one can deny that bTB has spread across the country over the last decade yet controversy rages as to the reason for the spread.

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