Hounds Spreading Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB)
MAJOR BIOSECURITY THREAT TO OUR COUNTRYSIDE
Are hounds a major risk to biosecurity in our countryside? Can we trust DEFRA, whose leading ministers support hunts, to take appropriate non-biased action to restrict the threat? Can a truly independant government review be commissioned from investigators who do not have a conflict of interest or connection with hunts?
Independent Investigation Confirms Biosecurity Risk of Hunting Hounds
An independent investigation report, commissioned by LACS, into a bovine TB outbreak of hunting hounds at the Kimblewick Hunt kennels has raised alarms about the role hunts have in spreading disease and has confirmed that hunts are a major biosecurity risk to the countryside, farms and wild animals. The findings are shocking.
The report, carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, also contains information which suggests both the hunt and Defra kept quiet about key aspects of the outbreak, initially claiming that only 25 dogs were affected, yet the actual total was 97. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
This raises grave concerns about the way biosecurity is being poorly managed by Defra and their insistence on wrongly blaming the badger, ignoring scientific evidence and failing to restrict the real biosecurity threat in our countryside. Defra’s lack of transparency and reasoning is alarming.
Click on the link to download the full report
The Kimblewick Hunt, which covers parts of six counties from Hampshire up to Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire, had asked a local vet to investigate its pack in December 2016, leading to the euthanasia of a number of dogs.
Farmers and huntsmen have played down fears that packs of hounds could be contributing to the spread of bovine TB, following the publication of a study into an outbreak of the disease in kennels in Buckinghamshire.
The incident occurred at the Kimblewick Hunt kennels, when more than half the animals in the pack tested positive for a strain of bovine TB, while one in 10 was clinically sick.
A number of dogs were showing signs of the disease when officers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency were called in. A kennel worker had also contracted the disease, the report by researchers from the University of Edinburgh said.
The first set of figures released by the hunt claimed that 25 hounds had tested positive for bTB and had to be euthanised, but the investigation revealled that, in fact, 97 dogs had tested positive for the disease.
The ‘remarkable’ number of foxhounds reportedly killed because of bovine TB has just quadrupled
Ongoing investigations have yet to reveal the source of the infection and the report drew few conclusions about how the pack became infected with Mycobacterium bovis. The likelihood of the hounds being fed infected material from fallen stock was deemed “low” but it was noted that hound-to-hound transmission was “high”.
Transmission of the disease was exacerbated by the higher-than-recommended stocking rate and the poor condition of the hunt kennels, which are believed to be a major factor in the spread of hunting hound diseases.
Poor hunt kennel conditions could have made TB problem worse, report finds
Campaigners have called for an INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION into whether fox hounds spread tuberculosis after outbreaks doubled on farms near an infected pack of hounds.
There have been concerns that the hounds could have spread the disease into farms across the six counties covered by the Kimblewick hunt.
TB OUTBREAKS DOUBLED NEAR INFECTED HUNT KENNELS
Government figures have shown that the number of TB outbreaks in or near one of Britain’s biggest hunts, which covers countryside from Hampshire to Hertfordshire, doubled in four months after the disease was first detected in its hounds last year. Thirty-five outbreaks of bovine TB were recorded in and around the Kimblewick Hunt when the hounds were first confined to their kennels in December. By April, that figure had risen to 90.
SCOTISH SURVEY INTO DOG FOULING
A survey carried out in Scotland found that almost 40% of farmers had livestock that had contracted disease as a result of dog fouling on their grazing land.
Dog owners are requested, but not required, to clear up their dog’s faeces in rural areas.
HOUNDS FOULING PUBLIC PLACES
Hounds fouling in public open places has become a major risk for the spread of diseases not only to other animals but also to the public.
In public open spaces, dog owners are required to clean up their dog’s faeces. Yet, hunts do not clean up their dog’s faeces in any rural area or public open spaces.
Why should there be one rule for the public and another for hunts ?
WRONGLY BLAMING BADGERS
Farmers wrongly blame badgers for spreading bovine TB and have called for more badger culls to control the disease.
“We’ve currently got thousands of badgers being killed to try and stop bTB, even though there’s no real evidence that they have any major impact on the disease. Meanwhile hunting packs are riding roughshod from farm to farm.”
£MILLIONS HAVE BEEN WASTED BY THE GOVERNMENT ON THE BADGER CULL . IS IT NOT ABOUT TIME THEY STOP COVERING FOR THE REAL CULPRITS AND START DEALING WITH THE TRUTH ?
DOG MESS WARNING OVER ABORTED CALVES
Dog owners are being asked to pick up after their pets amid fears cows are losing unborn calves due to infections from dog mess.
Neospora caninum is a parasite which can be carried by dogs and is harmful to unborn calves.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) said picking up dog mess was vital to stop the spread of disease.
|Along with many other diseases, it has been found that dog faeces carries the parasite Neospora Caninum which causes cows to abort their calves.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) are asking that people are careful to pick up their dog’s faeces. We are asking why this is not extended to hunting hounds.
HOUNDS ON VISITS
The risks of disease transmission by hunts are heightened by public visits (ie County Shows), whereby hunts take horses, hounds, vehicles and followers to hunt in different parts of the country, often traveling long distances.
Many of these sporting visits are made when the local pack of hounds is ill and unable to operate. Kennel cough is often the cause, but more significant diseases can also be involved.
Hunts were making sporting visits to the Kimblewick Hunt’s country when their hounds were quarantined due to the most extensive outbreak of bovine tuberculosis ever recorded in dogs in Britain.
“Agricultural and country shows are a long-standing tradition and a part of country life, but research shows that they are a melting pot of disease which is leading to disaster for farmers and animal welfare.”
Hounds are displayed at several hundred events per year (ie County Shows and even taken to Children’s schools) where they have direct and indirect contact with other packs of hounds, livestock, and members of the public. While strict biosecurity rules apply to livestock displayed at shows and farmers are advised to quarantine stock returning from a show, no such regulations apply to packs of hounds.
HOUNDS BEING FED FALLEN STOCK
The number of hunts that collect fallen stock is unclear, but most hunts are registered with Defra as approved animal by-product plants. The number of fallen stock collected by hunts and fed to hounds as raw flesh is likely to be several hundred-thousand; some hunts obtain most of the fallen stock in their area.
Fallen stock is either collected by hunts or delivered by local farmers. The charges for delivering fallen stock to hunt kennels are lower than asking for the hunt to make the collection. EU Regulations specify how fallen stock must be collected and transported to minimise the risk of disease transfer. It is unclear how well these rules are observed by hunt staff, or the guidance given to hunts on how to minimise the risks of disease transmission. Nor is it clear whether farmers who deliver their own fallen stock to kennels observe the biosecurity rules.
HOUNDS POSE A PARTICULAR RISK
Unlike pet dogs, packs of hounds pose a particular risk to livestock farmers because:
- They can be fed on fallen stock (raw meat, offal and bone) that could have contracted a number of parasites and diseases.
- Their poor veterinary care and inadequate vaccination and worming programmes.
- Fouling : Hounds are out of sight of, and often a long way from, the huntsman when hunting. It is therefore impossible to collect their faeces, to keep them away from livestock and vegetable crops, or to prevent them drinking from water troughs. Fouling of water supplies is a particular concern for minkhounds, which routinely hunt in streams, rivers and lakes. Fouling is also of great concern in public areas as hunts do not pick up their hounds faeces.
- Over crowded and poor hunt kennel conditions lead to the spread of disease between hounds.
- Hunting hounds roam all over the countryside often through farms which contain TB thus potenially spreading diseases from farm to farm.
Hounds used for hunting carry numerous infectious diseases which can be spread to livestock, other hounds, and even humans. The dogs often contract the diseases after being fed the carcasses of diseased livestock.
Diseases spread by hunting hounds contribute to a substantial number of infections each year, costing the livestock and farming industries millions, as hunts regularly ignore biosecurity measures which are designed to prevent the spread of disease.
While there is potential to catch these diseases from all dogs, including pets, the risk from hunting hounds is much higher because of what they are fed, the lack of veterinary care/inspection, and the freedom hunts have to move across farmland without biosecurity scrutiny.
Examples of diseases that can be spread from hunting hounds to humans include Salmonella, Toxoplasmosis, which can lead to serious problems for pregnant women, and Campylobacteriosis, a common cause of diarrhoea, fever and stomach pain, which can be carried by dogs without them showing any signs.
Hounds can be a particularly risk to children or older people, because of their immature or weaker immune systems.
HOW IS BOVINE TUBERCULOSIS (bTB) SPREAD?
The UK’s foremost experts say that the badger cull is a “monstrous waste of time and money” and “flies in the face of scientific evidence.” Recent research indicates that bTB is not passed on by direct contact between badgers and cattle. In fact, their interactions are exceptionally rare. Transmission is most likely occuring through infected environments, i.e. contaminated pasture, dung and slurry, with potentially serious implications for farm practices such as slurry spreading.
QUOTE: “There is this mass of measures that farmers are supposed to do [to stop the spread of disease], but no-one knows if they really work” – Prof. Rosie Woodroffe, Zoological Society of London.
There are requirements for farmers to follow pasture biosecurity measures, such as keeping cattle, wildlife and other animals off land previously used by infected herds for 2 months. This should include hunts. However, hunts continue to take place in bTB-infected areas, with hounds running unrestricted all over the countryside. This increases the likelihood of TB-infected hounds re-infecting the pasture and spreading the disease even further. Clearly, the current biosecurity measures are not effective.
QUOTE: “It is much more likely that contamination by cattle of fields and yards by [TB bacteria] is the cause of repeated TB herd breakdowns.” – Prof Alistair MacMillan, veterinary adviser for Humane Society International/ UK and former Defra scientist
It is also believed that the existing measures are not sufficient and it is uncertain that farmers are following biosecurity requirements for the quarantine of contaminated pasture. The scientist who commissioned the £50m trial, Lord John Krebs, heavily criticised the cull. “Badger culling is a sideshow,” he said. “The only effective way to stop TB is stopping the spread from cattle to cattle by more testing and a much better test.” Krebs also said: “The government has not produced any figures to show the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have worked, so how can they justify rolling out the cull to more areas?”
QUOTE: “It is clear that the government must divert the substantial resources being used needlessly to cull badgers and instead improve farmer education and biosecurity on farms.” – Prof Alistair MacMillan
FARMERS COMPENSATION FOR bTB-INFECTED CATTLE
The compensation payable to keepers of cattle slaughtered for bTB is the average full market price for the age, gender, sector and pedigree of the animal. Full compensation is still awarded if the test is up to 2 months late. After that, compensation is reduced to
- 75% if the test is 2-3 months late
- 50% if 3-6 months late and
- 5% if more than 6 months late.
Even when the basic specified biosecurity procedures are not followed, farmers can still be fully compensated for the cost of slaughtered diseased cattle.
If any other business infected and polluted their land and surroundings, failing to follow even basic biosecurity measures, they would be fined, not compensated.
– link to compensation amounts for bTB-infected cattle by category https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/729640/bovine-comp-aug-2018.pdf
– link to The Cattle Compensation (England) Order 2012: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/1379/contents/made
A number of veterinary organisations have issued advice urging people not to feed raw meat to dogs because of the health risks to the dogs and the risks of disease transmission to humans.
Raw meat can carry a number of life-threatening pathogens for humans, and feeding raw meat diets to working and other dogs in contact with livestock perpetuates a number of costly diseases in livestock populations.
The majority of hunt kennels lack independent unannounced inspections. If hunt kennels are inspected at all, this is usually by their own paid vets.
There is a lack of transparency on the veterinary care of British hounds, and hounds tend to be culled from the pack rather than receiving veterinary treatment.
Thousands of healthy hunt hounds are shot every year if they don’t live up to hunt standards or meet the required killer instinct. Thousands more are then bred to replace them. Its a continuous conveyer belt.
Thus, all aspects of hunting with hounds pose a significant risk of disease transmission to livestock, wildlife and humans.
There is growing concern and questions are being raised about whether DEFRA is lacking transparency and covering the real reason TB is spreading.
- Should hunts be better regulated with independent vets and unannouced inspections to confirm hounds are disease free, in good health, microchipped and fully wormed and vacinated?
- Should a full and truly independent report into the spread of TB by hunting hounds be commissioned?
- Should hunting be suspended until the risks can be further investigated?
The figures reported have caused veterinary scientists and animal welfare charities to raise the issue with Defra. However, freedom of information requests have been stonewalled, leading to concerns that information is being withheld.
The League Against Cruel Sports has tried to get to the bottom of this but to no avail. Defra have refused to release information about the Kimblewick outbreak, and other outbreaks in hound packs elsewhere in England. Defra also refused to reveal details of communication with the Kimblewick Hunt, citing privacy laws, even though bovine TB is a notifiable disease, not a private matter. Conversations with the local vet in charge of the outbreak suggests that it was hunting authorities who prevented publication of the data, fearing a “PR disaster” for hunting with hounds. Surely, the UK’s farmers would prefer a PR disaster for hunts rather than further devastation of their herds.
It has to be questioned whether Defra is trying to cover up for hunts.
Eduardo Goncalves, CEO of the LACS, said: “If the government doesn’t set up an independent inquiry into the potential spread of bTB by hunting hounds as a matter of urgency, they are playing fast and loose with the lives of animals and the livelihoods of farmers.
Causality may be difficult to prove, but can Defra prove that they have done the research to rule out the possibility that the entire bTB epidemic in cattle is being spread and amplified by hunting hounds? Conversely, I have evidence that research on diseases of hunting hounds has been suppressed and not pursued by the Government for 27 years.”
Chris Pitt, Deputy Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:
“We’ve been saying for a long time that hunting is a major biosecurity threat to our countryside and this report confirms it. The 97 dogs which were destroyed because of bTB are just the tip of a diseased iceberg. This story isn’t about one kennel infected with bTB, it’s about the way hunts routinely avoid even basic biosecurity and animal welfare measures, meaning their poor dogs are often living disease carriers.”
“There’s a simple truth here. When livestock dies, potentially of disease, it is given to hunts to feed raw to their hounds. These hounds are often in poor health due to kennelling conditions and lack of care, and pick up the disease. They then spread the disease back into the countryside – and the cycle continues. The government knows this is a huge risk but is either turning a blind eye or not giving people the full picture, both of which are unacceptable.”
The key concerns are:
- The number of dogs put down was 97, not 25 as originally admitted by the hunt, which suggests a deliberate attempt to play down the outbreak. The number of recorded bTB outbreaks in the Kimblewick Hunt’s territory almost doubled to 90 in the four months after the disease was discovered in the kennels.
- Government statements about the outbreak gave the impression that there was no real threat of disease spread by hunting hounds – while at the same time they amended regulations to restrict the feeding of offal to hunting hounds. If there was no threat – why change the regulations?
- The condition of the Kimblewick kennels – a typical hunt – is described as ‘suboptimal’, with dogs being kept in dirty, unhygienic conditions which are a breeding ground for disease.
- Some biosecurity measures were introduced at the kennels once the infection had been confirmed. However this backs up evidence that basic biosecurity measures at hunting kennels are generally low or non-existent.
At least 4,000 hunt hounds are euthanised by hunts each year, many around 6-10 years old, often because:
- They do not show the killer instinct.
- They are too ill or diseased to keep up with the rest of the pack. Studies suggest many of these will have diseases but post mortems are rarely done.
- They are deemed as otherwise unsuitable for hunting.
- Thousands more will be bred to replace them and the process starts all over again.
HUNTING SHOULD BE SUSPENDED
Along with veterinarian Dr Iain McGill (Director of the Prion Interest Group and former MAFF and ZSL scientist), animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports, are calling for all hunting to be suspended until an independent inquiry has taken place to discover if hunting hounds are spreading bTB.
Dr McGill said: “As a vet and a scientist, I’m extremely concerned that the government is ignoring significant evidence that this disease is being carried by hunting hounds.
Article Series : The Truth about Hunting
This series of articles has been written for public awareness and designed to give members of the public basic information regarding “The Truth About Hunting”.
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· The Truth about Hunts Causing Chaos
· The Truth about Hounds Spreading Disease
· The Truth about Cub Hunting
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· The Truth about Terrier Men
· The Truth about Policing
· The Truth about Hounds Running Riot
· How do the get away with Cub Hunting
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