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Vet slams RSPCA's 'extremist' badger stance

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 26, 2012

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A former senior vet at the RSPCA has joined critics in the Westcountry in hitting out at the charity's "extremist" stance on the badger cull, which he claims is damaging its long-term credibility.

It is the latest attack on the organisation, which has been accused of veering into animal rights campaign territory, and follows claims by a Devon MP that the organisation is cynically trying to raise its profile in a bid to increase funding.

Last week, RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant was shown on national television warning that contractors and farmers involved in the planned autumn pilot cull would be "named and shamed". In September he called for consumers to boycott milk not labelled as "badger friendly'" if the culls went ahead, suggesting "those who care will not want to visit areas or buy milk from farms soaked in badgers' blood".

David McDowell, a former RSPCA acting chief veterinary adviser, said he feared Mr Grant's controversial approach was jeopardising the charity's ability to work with farmers on animal welfare issues.

"It does not sit well with me at all – it might get some nice headlines for a day or two, but it gets you nowhere in the long-term," he said. "If the RSPCA is going to be a credible welfare organisation, it has got to take a moderate stance and it has got to look at the science behind the issues."

Just over a week ago, Conservative MP Neil Parish told a meeting of farmers that their industry must unite against the unhealthy "attitude" of the RSPCA. And he claimed that the RSPCA's stance on TB had more to do with raising the organisation's profile, and precious public funds.

Speaking to 60 farmers at the annual open meeting of the Devon branch of the National Farmers' Union, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton said: "It is worth asking why the hierarchy of the RSPCA is taking this attitude."

Now, Mr McDowell, who worked for the charity between 1999 and 2007, specialising in equines, said there was a "reasonable scientific approach" within the farm animal department towards TB during his time at the charity.

But he claimed that members of the RSPCA council "did not want the hard scientific facts to upset their comfortable prejudices".

He said that under Mr Grant, the RSPCA has gone further, increasingly giving the impression of being an "extremist organisation".

"He is just stirring, playing to the gallery of badger lovers," Mr McDowell added.

"I got the best results by talking to people and trying to learn the facts and see things other people's way."

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  • Charlespk  |  November 26 2012, 7:20PM

    Mycobacterium bovis is not really 'The Cattle Strain'. It's time it was renamed. People often call M.bovis "The Cattle Strain". . That is now one of the major problems . . When the bacteria that was causing the TB in cattle was first identified, it was named Mycobacterium bovis, but as it first originated from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (The human strain); it most likely first appeared in other animals, vermin or the like that scavenged at mans' 'dustbins', latrines or graves; not the cattle. In a relatively recent report, researchers examined the ancient village of Atlit-Yam, which has been covered by water for the past several thousand years, and which has yielded skeletons and some of the earliest evidence for agriculture and for cattle domestication. According to one long-standing hypothesis, tuberculosis initially infected people who drank the milk of domesticated cattle that carried a unique strain of the TB bacterium. However, new DNA data from the two Atlit-Yam skeletons provides evidence that in a community with domesticated animals, but before dairying, the infecting strain of tuberculosis was actually the human pathogen. The researchers estimated that human tuberculosis first evolved around 10,000 years ago, when agriculture's emergence led to densely populated settlements that acted as petri dishes for infection. Tuberculosis may have infected small numbers of people before that, but the bacteria could not have spread widely in small bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers. One of the pleasures of science is that nothing remains certain forever. The report can be found at the link below. http://tinyurl.com/63cep23 (open in new window)

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  • AtrixMan  |  November 26 2012, 3:27PM

    There was a time in the past when the RSPCA employed a number of vets on their staff. Most of them made redundant in a cost cutting exercise. I met one of these vets working for DEFRA dealing with TB outbreaks on farm. This guy had a great deal of knowledge of animal health in general and bovine TB in particular. This expertise was obviously not valued by his former employers.

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