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APHA Southern Edge RTA Study 2021 - 2023

The Animal and Plant Health Agency is conducting a research project to detect the presence and location of TB infection in badgers in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire and East Sussex - collectively known as the Southern Edge Area. The country has been divided into three bovine TB risk areas - High Risk, Low Risk and the Edge Area which lies between the two. These risk areas determine the disease control measures used in both cattle (currently not much) and wildlife (currently culling badgers) within each area. It follows that demonstrating low bTB infection rates in badgers in a county should inform future policy that culling can be brought to an end.

The APHA aims to collect badger carcasses for post-mortem examination and testing for the presence of TB infection. To do this it is looking for volunteers to help with the safe and timely retreival of badger carcasses. It intends to retrieve 100 fresh "found dead" badgers per county, so 500 in total, and once 100 satisfactory carcasses have been examined per county, collection will cease in that county.

In Hampshire to date 60 suitable carcasses have been recovered with only 6 testing positive so far for a bacteria in the same group as the one that causes bovine TB. Further investigations are ongoing in those 6 cases including genetic sequencing so a definitive answer in those cases may not be available until the end of the study period (April 2023). The APHA is particularly keen to recover suitable carcasses from the North Hampshire area and we have volunteered to help.

There is a very straightforward protocol to be followed for each carcass collection and we have been provided with a small number of collection kits and information about determining if a carcass is suitable and how to collect and store it in the short-term. The APHA collects each carcass by courier from either a residential or business address on the same day of retreival if notified before 10.30 am or the following day if notified after 3.30 pm.

We are keen to help provide as many suitable North Hampshire carcasses as we can to help inform the science. The average percentage of positive cases across all 5 Southern Edge counties to date is well below 10% and adds weight to the widely held view (outside Defra at least) that the badger cull is unneccessary and that the solution to bTB starts and ends with cattle. The APHA is also offering £25 to the Group for each suitable carcass collected and that funding would also be very welcome.

If you live in the North Hampshire area and would like to get involved by collecting suitable carcasses for the APHA on our behalf, please get let me know and I will let you have more information. Collections have been temporarily halted because of the current high temperatures and the difficulty keeping carcasses in cool conditions awaiting collection (they cannot be frozen) so we have a small window to get ourselves organised in time for collections resuming.

I regard this as a really important project at a time when all peer-reviewed science outside of Defra is screaming that the badger cull should not be continuing and only Defra scientists believe otherwise. The APHA is a Defra agency so informing its own scientific findings is a rare and valuable opportunity.

The collection process looks really straightforward, there is a training video available and everything needed is provided in the collection bag. Please let me know if you can help.

Thank you!

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