Bovine TB in France

Reading an article on bovine TB in the UK raised a question in my mind about the situation here. Our neighbour, a dairy farmer, has land next to our garden. And every evening one or more badgers stroll along the boundary.

But I have never heard anyone in France threatening to cull badgers, or even complaining about them (except when they attack dogs, but that’s another story). And in the UK every dairy farmer I know gets very heated about the subject, which always strikes me as an over-reaction but I’m not a dairy farmer trying to make a profit.

Are badgers here just supremely healthy? Or are the cows stuffed so full of antibiotics that TB never takes hold? Or do they get an EU subsidy to vaccinate the cows? Or do they just not worry too much about it since very few people now drink raw milk?

Curious? Another cultural difference to add to the list.

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Our Chasse kills badgers, but I am not sure if that is because they think that they are a TB risk or not.

The badger thing is very much overplayed…DEFRA, farmers etc., need a scapegoat IMO.

One theory put forward in the 1950’s was that it was spread by brock suckling directly from the cow itself.

Yes the outright culling seemed insane, and what I was reading today suggests that is the case as it can be transmitted from cow to cow - no badgers involved!

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I thought the cows were infecting the badgers, rather than the other way round.
Badgers have a tough time, people are horrible to them for no reason.
DEFRA stinks.

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Badges are indeed culled here in certain hunts, but no idea whether it is related to TB.

Lots of chasseurs kill badgers, generally those who do are a bunch of something that rhymes with hunts.


I was going to say that certain members of the hunts here would have no idea what bovine TB is…

Just to throw a spanner in the works, it has been proven that deer can carry TB as well

Just noticed this post. I worked for nearly 20 years as a livestock vet in SW England up to 2014. I have seen first hand the anguish and financial cost to farmers of this disease. Yes badgers are the main wildlife vector. Cows infect cows and badgers, badgers infect cows and other badgers. The high population of badgers in close contact with grazing cattle and also access to cattle feed in housing makes control difficult. Culling badgers does reduce the incidence but realistically needs to be done on a scale that would be unacceptable to the public. Vaccination of cattle (human BCG vaccine is not 100% effective and interferes with the test. It would also mean export to Europe would no longer be allowed. Vaccination of badgers is another possible answer but logistically difficult. Incidence in France of Bovine TB is very low- only 100 odd cases per annum compared to 32,500 cases in England last year. This low incidence means that the disease has probably not become established in wildlife. Other parts of the world have controlled bovine TB but only by rigorous culling of wildlife vectors, eg possums in NZ. This is horrible disease for both cattle and badgers. Badgers die a long slow death for over up to 18months and up to 25% of badgers in high incidence areas are infected. Here’s a reference for a good overview on this subject for those who are interested.

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That was interesting, thanks. I hadn’t realised that the vaccine for cows wasn’t licensed. Call me suspicious tho’, but how much is the low incidence of TB in cattle here down to it being diagnosed as ‘something else’ in the same way that France denied having any mad cow disease despite it being obvious that there were cases?

While your cynicism may have (possibly) been justified regarding BSE, I think it may be less so regarding bTB. From what I have read from the French equivalent of DEFRA there has actually been an increase in cases detected particularly in the SW. So much so they have improved the testing regime and adopted a similar intradermal test to the UK which will pick up more cases, also increased the testing regime in affected areas and started screening wildlife in breakdown areas too. Most cases used to be picked up at meat inspection in abattoirs but now the majority are being picked up by the routine skin test. Here is a copy of the French national action plan-

Out of interest I’ve found another paper of research carried out in the infected areas of the SW. This also screened badgers and showed a 11% incidence of bTB in over 400 badgers trapped. The paper compared incidence in neighbouring farms, cattle moved from infected farms and farms adjacent to infected setts. The conclusion reads
“In conclusion, this study supports the multifactorial nature of M. bovis transmission between cattle farms within the Pyrénées-Atlantiques–Landes area, France from 2007 to 2015. The largest part of bTB spread seemed to be due to badger-mediated contacts, however cattle trade played a significant role. Consequently, to be truly effective, control measures should not focus on a single type of contact but ought to act on the different mechanisms we raised.”

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These are interesting, and reassuring in a way to someone who lives next to a dairy farm, has already had TB and has a compromised immune system.

It was new to me that it has been detected in wild boar as well as deer and badgers, and I wonder how many local hunts are aware of the advice about careful disposal of carcasses?

What was less reassuring tho’ was the bit that changing the testing methodology in the SW to one that is more specific and sensitive has significantly increased the “non-negative” results (love that phrase!). If that were replicated all over France then I guess the official status of bovine TB having been eradicated would be at risk?

Given current levels in France, it would be unlikely that France would lose its status. The change in testing is more of interpretation of the skin test. Infected areas use a severe interpretation of the increase in skin thickness following intradermal injection of tuberculin.
Red deer and wild boar although they can be infected and spread the disease, they are not thought to be significant contributors to the situation in cattle. However I see in Spain wild boar seem to be the main wildlife host due to high numbers with up to 30% of boar infected.
So having seen local chasseurs skin, gut and prepare carcasses of boar and deer, I wonder what meat inspection training they have? Back in the UK, one of our vets had a cutaneous form of Tb contracted from a PM and a nicked finger. Nasty lesion and 6 mths on antibiotics. So it makes you think about home made wild boar paté from your neighbour if you live in the centre of Nouvelle Aquitaine… (or Spain)

And more specifically the fact that local hunt gives us lots of their off-cuts for our dog! We do always cook it well because of worms, and are careful about hand washing etc, but perhaps need to pay even more attention!

(Although not in SW, even if small risk best to avoid it)

Well cooked should be fine and I’ll still be eating sausages from next door…

Our Commune supports 3 separate Chasse. The one I know well, is run by a member of the National Chasse Police. He is fully trained in all aspects of health/hygiene/safety/animal welfare/butchery etc. You name it, and he has been trained in whatever it is… :upside_down_face: He is the one who does ensure the meat is not contaminated/whatever. Thus I am delighted to accept whatever goodies come my way from this particular source.

I know a second chasse, only vaguely. But have been impressed by their “abattoir”, cold room etc etc and presume that their headman/butcher has received similar training… but I do not know for certain.

The third chasse is run by a man of integrity. I do know that much… but can say no more on the subject of the chasse…

Our Commune is well supplied with a variety of nature’s bounty and I can confirm that venison, sanglier, jugged-hare … etc… are delicious.

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Interesting. I know there are many regulations concerning the Chasse and from what you say a suitably qualified person carries out the meat inspection. I’ve only seen a couple of guys outside a wooden shed skinning the sanglier! After I get back home from holidays in the UK, I must have this discussion with my neighbour who works assessing population numbers of game species.

Mmm… certainly not like that hereabouts. Sounds as if that chasse has never upgraded. Ours went through a major overhaul some years ago. The old-fashioned “butchery” area was just a part of an old barn. Now it is a purpose-built sterile suite of rooms located within that old barn… it was interesting to watch that lot being put in place. :upside_down_face: