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The above paper highlights some of the issues raised within the Irish bovine TB eradication scheme since its inception in 1955. It addresses them in the same manner by which they were addressed historically, ie, qualitative opinions of stakeholders' perceptions on the quality of testing. Such single-issue analysis had led to debates being more political than a scientific assessment of the scheme, which was what was required t...
The above paper highlights some of the issues raised within the Irish bovine TB eradication scheme since its inception in 1955. It addresses them in the same manner by which they were addressed historically, ie, qualitative opinions of stakeholders' perceptions on the quality of testing. Such single-issue analysis had led to debates being more political than a scientific assessment of the scheme, which was what was required to explain its function, current progress and future strategies.
Although tempting, it would be both counter-productive and falling into the same trap to offer a personal (private veterinarian) opinion on the opinions given in the article itself. The kernel of the debates centred on the failure to improve on the reduction from three per cent reactor prevalence in 1960 to 0.5 per cent in 1965 when political forces declared the country ‘TB free’ (1). Since then, reactor prevalence has undulated between 0.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent (2, 3), leading to the mistaken belief that the failure to eradicate TB was due to failings in the tuberculin testing methodology (4). Such variation is consistent with the use of an allergic test to monitor cattle exposed to TB from an (as yet) uncontrolled reservoir (wildlife).
While testing quality is of critical importance, the greatest reduction in real disease prevalence has been documented in the trials where wildlife transfer has been reduced or eliminated (5, 6, 7). The paper acknowledges that quality of testing by both established and new veterinary surgeons is (as is correct) addressed by objective analysis of their testing outcomes. Such data would underpin the identification of deviations from the norm and allow corrective action to be targeted or, if necessary, lead to exclusion from the scheme. This would have the double benefit of improving performance overall and assuring all participants that the scheme is even-handed.
Compulsory animal health schemes invariably generate opposition based on unnecessary cost, ineffectiveness or inequality. Published work has quantified the economic and animal health benefits of the Irish bTBE scheme (8). However, it is portrayed as a failure by those who are opposed to its presence or ignorant of its capabilities.
The authors' cautionary advice on the interpretation of the opinions they received inevitably reduced the conclusions and significance of their findings to general aspirations, all of which are laudable. However such aspirations are best realised by the implementation of science-based policies, which are monitored and updated by the analysis of relevant and measurable data. There is a danger that this paper will further inflame subjective misconceptions rather than promote the quantitative data analysis required for the scheme's progression.
1. Watchorn, R. C. (1965). Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme 1954-1965. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
2. Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (2013) TB Statistics www.agriculture.gov.ie/animalhealthwelfare/diseasecontrol/bovinetbbrucellosiseradicationschemes/statistics/tbstats/. Date accessed: September 16, 2013
3. Good, M. (2011) The Tuberculin Test and its role in the strategic management and eradication of tuberculosis in cattle. Dissertation. Utrecht University
4. Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas (2013) Ceisteanna – Questions. Oral Answers. - Bovine TB Testing: Tuesday, 20 June 1995. http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/1995/06/20/00013.asp. Date accessed: September 16, 2013
5. McAleer, P. D. (1990) The relationship between badger density and the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in county Galway. Irish Veterinary Journal 43, 77-80
6. Eves J. A. (1999) Impact of badger removal on bovine tuberculosis in east County Offaly. Irish Veterinary Journal 52, 199-203
7. Griffin, J. M., Williams, D. H., Kelly, G. E., Clegg, T. A. O’Boyle, I., Collins, J. D. & More, S. J. (2005) The impact of badger removal on the control of bovine tuberculosis in cattle herds in Ireland. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 67, 237-266.
8. Sheehy, S. J. & Christiansen, K. H. (1991) Cost/Benefit analysis of Irish Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication schemes. University College Dublin