Further miscellanea

It's always nice to read a news story which finishes with such helpful information as "Scientologists believe humans are tainted by the remnants of aliens' souls who were dumped on Earth and blown up with nuclear bombs".

Also being reported, Killing badgers doesn't seem to work. Not when you're trying to stop the spread of Bovine TB, anyway. It seems they've had a big badger cull in Ireland and it hasn't helped at all. This fits nicely with earlier work suggesting that the spread of bovine TB correlates much better with movements of cattle (D'oh!) than with the presence or absence of badgers, so on the whole we can file this in the "No shit, Sherlock?" cabinet.

And in addition to yesterday's video-related japeries, you may wish to have a look or listen to Dan le Sac's "Thou shalt always kill".

And before anyone asks, no I didn't watch the Urovision song contest. I knew it was going to be dreadful. What were you all thinking? I had dinner with Lara and Seth and then we went to the pub with Dr Mr Paul Blair. Much more fun.
I had that though shalt not song going around in my head for ages.

I have also been suitably amused that almost every article I've read on the scientology fuss this morning also ends with a similar comment.


Scientology, founded in Phoenix, Arizona in 1952 by science fiction writer, L Ron Hubbard, asserts that 75 million years ago a galactic warlord called Xenu rounded up 13.5 trillion beings from an overcrowded corner of the universe, dumping them on Earth before killing them with nuclear bombs. Their tortured souls have now attached to human beings and are at the root of most of the planet's problems.

Why not kill badgers and hope it helps the bovine population? Killing cats to prevent Black Death worked out so well, after all. We kill wolves in the American west all the time to protect deer from predators so that there will be more for humans to hunt. This all makes perfect sense if you just have a strong drink or seven, squint your eyes and tilt your head a bit to the side.
There've been a number of contradictory studies about the badger/bovine TB issue. Most of the ones done by DEFRA and agriculture/public health vets seem to indicate that culling does have a measurable effect on the prevalence of TB in grazed herds. Most of the ones done by wildlife groups seem to indicate that it doesn't. You pays your money and takes your choice, basically. Personally I'd love to see the badgers exonerated, but I doubt that's going to happen.

The pathogen is spread through the badger's urine, and badgers urinate while walking, so it can be spread over a surprisingly large area.
The study DEFRA cite, the Krebs report, could only state that badgers were "a significant source", but couldn't say how significant. They weren't prepared to say that they were a major source, never mind </em>the</em> main source.

Nature and New Scientist have both reported that culling may well worsen the problem and that the major source is other cattle. This would imply that effort spent culling badgers would be better spent looking at cattle, and specifically cattle movements. AFAICT bovine TB in Ireland rose when premovement testing was abandoned and dropped again when other tests were brought in, despite a continuous culling campaign throughout the period.
As Zotz says, Nature and New Scientist have both reported that culling may well worsen the problem and that the major source is other cattle.

I've read all of the literature in depth for work, and as far as I can tell these edge effects (badgers being disturbed by the cull and going off to infect previously uninfected farms) make culling actively dangerous. In Ireland the edge effects were limited by geographical features, but in the West Country they're pronounced.
I utterly love that song. Shame the single is basically impossible to find for a reasonable price.