Wind in the Gallows: Study Shows Badgers Suffer Merciless Stress & Torment from Wind Turbine Noise & Vibration

badger_profile

The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) has been a childhood favourite for more than a century.  The exploits of Toad, Rat, Mole and the elusive but respected Mr Badger, stand as an allegory of what is deemed worthy in the British concept of character, and their understanding of what constitutes good and bad manners.

Toad, as master of Toad Hall, entertains a number of self-destructive but fleeting obsessions, including boating and caravanning, which brings him into conflict with his long-suffering friends, Rat and Mole; and, eventually, the law.

It is the sober Mr Badger who is enlisted to help rein in Toad’s natural excesses: Mr Badger is horrified to learn that Toad has crashed no less than seven motorcars, has been hospitalised three times and has racked up a fortune in fines for his reckless motoring escapades.

Leading the charge, Mr Badger attempts to instill some commonsense and moral responsibility in Toad; but Toad’s inherent recalcitrance and resistance to authority brings Badger, Mole and Rat to place Toad under house arrest.

Toad slips the yoke and escapes, leaving his erstwhile friends in charge of Toad Hall (for them a not unwelcome duty).  From there, the plot becomes high farce – an exhilarating ride for young readers: Toad dons a frock to escape prison and the clutches of police; a high-speed pursuit ends with Toad lobbing his motorcar into a horse pond (prescient of the antics of The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon); and Toad Hall is overrun by weasels and stoats from the Wild Wood.

badger attacks toad hall

In the recapture of Toad Hall it is the fearless and stoic Mr Badger that leads the underground charge on the feckless and unsuspecting squatters: armed to the teeth, Badger’s stealthy nerve and cool wit must surely have been on Ian Fleming’s mind when he conjured up James Bond.

In the result, the spoiled, conceited and impulsive Toad learns his lesson: he immediately throws a banquet during which he (uncharacteristically) behaves quietly and humbly.

Thereafter, Toad rewards his friends and treats them with a whole lot more respect than he was hitherto capable of.

Toad’s redemption is not least due to Mr Badger’s character: a wise hermit with little tolerance for his friend’s bratty rock-star-like excesses, but with ample goodwill to believe that, with time and helpful guidance, Toad’s better nature would, eventually, prevail.

That classic tale is, no doubt, partly responsible for the fact that the British hold badgers dear.

The nocturnal underground dwellers are revered and protected, with many passionate supporters and groups ready to defend them to the end.

So, it is unsurprising that their human benefactors have sided with them, against these things; and the suffering and torment caused by the incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound they generate.

What’s brought Mr Badger back into vogue for STT is a study which, once and for all, crushes the wind industry’s nonsense ‘nocebo’ story. But first, by way of background, we’ll take a look at a story from April 2014.

What do whales, dolphins and porpoises have in common with badgers?
WDC In Action
Nicola Hodgins
9 April 2014

For those of you not familiar with the humble badger – do you remember the Harry Potter books and the school house of Hufflepuff? Well … the badger is the emblem of the Hufflepuff house in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

There are eight different species of badger found in a variety of places around the world including Europe and the USA, yet none are quite as striking as the European badger with their distinctive black and white striped faces.

The badger is considered an iconic species of the British countryside and has been in the news a lot of late, given the UK Government’s controversial decision to trial a cull of badgers in the belief that this will have an impact on the spread of bovine TB (bTB).

Opponents of the cull claim the cull has been and will be not only costly to the UK tax-payer but also completely ineffective in controlling bTB and instead of blaming badgers for the spread of bTB cite poor cattle management, inadequate disease-prevention measures on farms, and massive movements of cattle from farm to farm as the real culprit.

If we’ve learnt one thing about badgers in the past months, it’s that the science isn’t there to support a cull and the British public feel very strongly about protecting the little furry black and white mammals that scurry about at night.

So, back to the point of the blog … what do whales, dolphins and porpoises have in common with these terrestrial dwelling mammals? Answer: They’re all being affected by wind-farms.

Humans living in the vicinity of wind farms have over the years reported ill health including headaches and nausea yet despite the first onshore wind-farm having been constructed in the UK back in 1951 minimal research has been undertaken on the effects of these turbines on humans and/or terrestrial animals.

Researchers recently decided to investigate by trying to find out if animals living near wind turbines were exhibiting any kind of stress and decided that by measuring the levels of cortisol (a hormone released in times of stress) in badgers (it could have been any species but badgers were the chosen species) they would get a valid picture of their stress levels over time.

Although the paper has not yet been published initial results were presented at the recent Mammal Society student conference in Birmingham. In brief, researchers tested the amount of cortisol in the badgers hair (as hair maintains a record of cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time allowing researchers to ascertain an average cortisol level as opposed to spikes that may have happened after a particular stressful event) and their findings were alarming.

Badgers living within 1km of a wind turbine suffered a staggering 264% increase in their cortisol level compared to control badgers who lived nowhere near a wind-turbine.To add to this, evidence was found suggesting that no matter how long the turbines have been within their territory, badgers never got used to them implying long-term stress reactions.

Proof if ever there was some that badgers are not living in harmony with the wind-turbines erected in and around their setts.

Given these initial findings on the effect on badgers from on-shore wind-turbines, we have to wonder about the effect of off-shore wind-turbines on marine mammals.

Although we are able to monitor the visible disturbance of whales, dolphins and porpoises around turbines, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t being physiologically impacted by the turbines as are the badgers.

Worryingly, increased cortisol levels have been linked to reduced reproductive rates and compromised immune systems making further investigation of the physiological impacts of wind-turbines on terrestrial and marine species absolutely necessary – and sooner rather than later as more and more wind-farms (both on and off-shore) are being planned and built every day. Everyone wants clean energy but at what cost?
WDC In Action

Badger cubs

Now, here’s the final results.

Wind turbines cause chronic stress in badgers (Meles Meles) in Great Britain
Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Roseanna Agnew, Valerie Smith and Robert Fowkes
May 2016

[The full paper is available here in PDF: Wind turbines cause chronic stress in badgers (Meles Meles) in Great Britain and we set out key extracts below]

Abstract

A paucity of data exists with which to assess the effects of wind turbines noise on terrestrial wildlife, despite growing concern about the impact of infrasound from wind farms on human health and well-being.

In 2013, we assessed whether the presence of turbines in Great Britain impacted the stress levels of badgers (Meles meles) in nearby setts. Hair cortisol levels were used to determine if the badgers were physiologically stressed.

Hair of badgers living <1 km of a wind farm had a 264% higher cortisol level than badgers >10 km from a wind farm. This demonstrates that affected badgers suffer from enhanced hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal activity and are physiologically stressed.

No differences were found between the cortisol levels of badgers living near wind farms operational since 2009 and 2012, indicating that the animals do not become habituated to turbine disturbance. Cortisol levels in the affected badgers did not vary in relation to the distance from turbines within 1 km, wind farm annual power output, or number of turbines.

We suggest that the higher cortisol levels in affected badgers is caused by the turbines’ sound and that these high levels may affect badgers’ immune systems, which could result in increased risk of infection and disease in the badger population.

Introduction

Humans living within 2 km of a wind farm frequently report suffering from ill health (Shepherd et al. 2011), with symptoms ranging from headaches and sleep disturbance to increased stress (Pedersen 2009). Such symptoms are referred to as wind turbine syndrome (WTS; Colby et al. 2009), and it is widely attributed to audible or infrasound (sound with a frequency below 20 Hz; Salt and Kaltenbach 2011). Although the first UK public wind turbine became functional in 1951 (Price 2004), the effects of wind farms on human health remain poorly understood.

The impact of turbines on terrestrial wildlife is also not well understood. Research by Rabin et al. (2006) has demonstrated that wind turbines can have a negative impact on wildlife: squirrels living near turbines exhibit increased behavioral stress. Badgers (Meles meles) are suitable mammals to further assess physiologic changes as a result of wind farm developments because they often reside in habitats in which turbines are constructed. Importantly, badgers also have a similar hearing range to humans (Heptner 2002).

To ascertain if ‘‘affected’’ badgers show physiologic stress (hereafter referred to as stress), cortisol levels in badgers chronically exposed to turbine disturbance were compared with the cortisol level of badgers in comparable areas without turbines. Cortisol is a steroid hormone assembled from cholesterol in the adrenal gland (Werbin and Chaikoff 1961), and this pathway is controlled by the hypothalamus in response to stress (Lundberg 2005). This same relationship exists for lower vertebrates: Kikuchi (2010) reported that fish develop raised cortisol levels when subjected to conditions of an offshore wind farm reconstructed in the laboratory.

The function of cortisol is to increase the sugar level in the blood through gluconeogenesis and to redirect energy (Kirschbaun et al. 1997) toward parts of the body, such as the brain and muscles, which would help the individual escape an immediate threat. In turn, this starves the immune and reproductive systems and may hinder their vital function (Mostl and Palme 2002; Maeda and Tsukamura 2006).

The effect of a short-term increase in cortisol is insignificant, but a prolonged increase in cortisol can lead to serious suppression of the immune system (Mostl and Palme 2002); in humans, it has been recorded to exacerbate an individual’s susceptibility to infection (Agarwal et al. 2002; Cohen et al. 2012). Chronic raised cortisol may also affect reproduction (Tilbrook et al. 2000; Mostl and Palme 2002), as demonstrated in meerkats, where elevated stress increases abortion rates (Young et al. 2006).

In mammals, cortisol levels are usually determined from blood, urine, saliva, or feces (Morton et al. 1995; Creel et al. 2002) but obtaining such samples from badgers poses significant problems of capture, restraint, and handling, all of which cause stress. Hair samples can be collected noninvasively, and cortisol from hair has been shown to give a reliable measure of chronic stress in animals, including wildlife (Davenport et al. 2006).

The use of hair further avoids the problem of diurnal fluctuations of cortisol level in body fluids (Edwards et al. 2001), as it gives a measure of the average cortisol level over a prolonged period (Davenport et al. 2006). Assaying hair is further justified in that saliva and feces need to be fresh (Washburn and Millspaugh 2002; Descovich et al. 2012), which is challenging with wild animals in remote sites.

Summary of methods

They went to 6 different wind farms to conduct this research, comparing the cortisol levels from badgers living closest to turbines to those living distant from turbines. Cortisol was measured in hair samples that had been collected around badger homes (setts) and using hair traps along badger paths over a 6 week period. Badger hair samples are good way to assess cortisol as they give a representation of cortisol levels over a 3-5 month period.

Table 1

Results

Badger hair from the affected and control setts had a mean cortisol level of 3.16 lg/dL per milligram (SD=2.41) and 0.87 lg/dL per milligram (SD=0.79), respectively (Fig. 2a), an increase of 264% in cortisol levels in turbine impacted animals (P=0.001; n=25, df=23). There was no significant difference between cortisol levels in hair collected opportunistically or from traps (paired t-test; P=0.236, n=32, df=15).

A second independent t-test, again with equal variance assumed, showed no differences between mean cortisol levels of badgers with setts were near wind farms operational since 2009 and those near turbines operational since 2012 (P=0.583, n=9, df=7; Fig. 2b). This indicates that badgers do not become habituated to the turbines and that the stress is a result of functioning turbines and not only turbine construction.

figure 2

To test if cortisol levels were affected by the wind farm size or the proximity of setts to turbines, additional regression analyses were performed to assess the relationship of cortisol with 1) the number of turbines in the array; 2) the distance from the sett to the closest turbine, and 3) the average distance of the sett to all the turbines within the wind farm.

We found no significant differences: 1) P=0.472, r2=0.076, n=9;  2) P=0.217, r2=0.208, n=9;  3) P=0.976, r2=0.00, n=9. There was no significant correlation between badger hair cortisol levels and power output of the wind farms (P=0.460, r2=0.08, n=9).

Discussion

The very high levels of cortisol detected in hair from badgers living near wind farms compared with turbine-free sites strongly indicates that turbine-impacted badgers were suffering from a chronic increase in their hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis activity and thus can be described as stressed (Mostl and Palme 2002).

Cortisol is incorporated into hair throughout its growth (anagen) phase, which can last 3–5 mo in badgers (Maurel et al. 1986); thus, the badgers had experienced stress for several months and were chronically affected. …

Chronic stress with persistently high cortisol levels can have serious detrimental physiologic effects, including suppression of immunity and impaired reproduction (Mostl and Palme 2002). This could render badgers more susceptible to infection and disease. The prolonged presence of elevated cortisol levels suppresses the differentiation and function of macrophages (Baybutt and Holsboer 1990). …

Because the major factor distinguishing the badgers from the two categories of sampling sites was the presence of wind turbines, it is reasonable to suggest that the increased cortisol levels in the hair is the result of disturbance from these installations, with vibration, noise, and especially infrasound, the most likely reasons. Mikolajczak et al. (2013) similarly reported an increase in cortisol of farmed (captive) geese near wind farms and attributed the cause to infrasound from turbines. …

Our findings are preliminary, but may have wider implications that relate to the wildlife and human WTS controversy. A report written for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recognized that wind turbines generate low-frequency noise, and low-frequency sound has negative implications for humans, such as nausea (Casella Stanger 2001). Reduced immune functioning and reproductive success could have impacts on wild animals already challenged with habitat loss and other anthropogenic disturbances.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases

The stress levels measured among Mr Badger and his ilk puts paid to the lie – invented on behalf of the wind industry by a former tobacco advertising guru – that the health effects caused by incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound is all the result of the victims’ climate change denying imaginations.

The ‘nocebo’ story has it that the sleep deprivation, nausea and vertigo like symptoms experienced by wind farm neighbours is being caused by ‘runaway anxiety’; the product of their dislike of the hideous look of these things and/or “scaremongering”.

The guru also claims that the symptoms disappear when the complainant receives a few dollars for their troubles, which doesn’t seem to capture the situation of Clive and Trina Gare, cattle graziers paid $200,000 a year to host 19 2.1MW Suzlon S88s on their property who, in their evidence to the Federal Senate, detailed constant sleep deprivation, due to turbine noise they described as “unbearable” and the host agreement with AGL as “the worst decision of their lives” (see our post here).

On the guru’s story the well-known health effects are a “communicated disease”, exclusive to English speaking countries.  That Germans, Poles, Danes and the French are also driven to the point of insanity by wind turbine noise emissions doesn’t quite sit with the guru’s theory, either.

Now, while it is possible that Mr Badger and his kin have taken an aesthetic dislike to these whirling wonders (apart from fictional exploits at Toad Hall) badgers aren’t known for their prowess in any language, save ‘Badger’.

Moreover, badgers haven’t yet been branded with the most serious charge of our time: “global warming deniers” (although, after this study, that can’t be far off).  And further, while possible, it is unlikely that there is much “scaremongering” going on in Britain’s badger setts.

Which all tends to suggest that the unrelenting stress they suffer – exhibited as cortisol levels 264% above their geographically distant relatives – is being driven by turbine generated noise and vibration (whether conveyed by air or by ground or both).

True to his noble character, with this result, Mr Badger has thrown some timely and welcome light on wind industry hypocrisy and bombast, of the kind exhibited by Toad.  However, in this case, unlike Toad, the offender has no hope of redemption.

As with Toad Hall’s courageous liberator, all that most of us yearn for is peace, quiet, rest and repose in our, however humble, abodes. An inalienable right, which the wind industry is ever ready to deny, to Badgers and Humans, alike.

badger_w-in-w

A Badger’s home should be his ‘Castle’. Just like yours!

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. The stock phrase “clean energy” does not in any case apply to any energy resource dependent upon recent weather. Not if it is connected to the electric grid. Because generation that cannot be depended upon to answer when called upon, or to continue for the next half hour at the level it happens to be producing, is not “energy capacity” of the sort that an idling gas turbine or lightly loaded spinning hydro turbine provides. Nor is it of the steady sort that dirty coal, or zero gaseous emissions nuclear, provide.
    The Gen IV nuclear, experimentally well demonstrated long before the Chernobyl disgrace, is even as agile as gas turbines.
    Water modulated reactors with ceramic pellets of uranium oxide tend to trap the gaseous neutron-capturing isotopes 135 of iodine and xenon. The xenon is a decay product of the iodine, and behaves like a control rod that disappears at first when the neutron flux is increased. This makes adjustment to fast changing load difficult. But the both the metal fueled reactor and those with the fuel dissolved in molten salt can get rid of these gases at the surface of the coolant.
    In both cases, the output is from a high temperature gas turbine, even if it is gaseous H2O.

  2. Reblogged this on Patti Kellar.

  3. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Gradually and surely the fraudulent claims are being unfurled ensuring truth is allowed to fly high without constraint.
    No longer can the industry or its helpers keep the truth from being exposed by using lies and manipulated information and research to shore up their reign.
    Some media may for a while continue to help them hide the truth from the general public, but the existence of research such as this is now seeping out of dark dungeons into the light exposing the lie that these things do no harm and are benign. Instead more scientific research being undertaken is proving these turbines are not benign but actively cause harm to all that inhabit our world.

  4. It’s obvious that the scientists conducting this research have poorly selected their badger subjects. It’s quite clear that the badgers selected were of the “Dick Brain” variety afflicted with the very same disease as those recalcitrant humans who refuse to declare their undying love for wind farms. The researchers should have consulted the ABC’s Annabel Crabb, that well known authority on noise exposure, no doubt she would have set them straight.

  5. E Griffiths says:

    My wife’s situation also disproves the “Guru’s” nocebo theory. We can’t see a single turbine from where we live, yet my wife still get’s headaches, nausea and vertigo symptoms when she is chronically bombarded by infrasonic noise pollution emitted by distant wind farms – nearest 13km away … the nocebo theory in relation to wind turbine noise pollution is pure bunkum.

    On a side note, when impoverished soils are remineralised with trace elements, TB ceases to become a problem:
    http://www.fieldscience.co.uk/tb_prevention_soil_minerals.html

  6. Reblogged this on windfarmaction and commented:
    Simplest logic defies the wind developers and their political supporters.

  7. Awesome awesome awesome, ,,,, to the ” guru ” how smart do you feel now..? Crawl back under your city rock and stay there..

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