Yes, I’m afraid with weary heart we return to the subject of the ongoing badger cull. Having pulled punches in most cases up to now, it’s time to start calling this for what it is: a National disgrace.
I generally try to avoid politics on this blog, because I want it to be here for anyone interested in nature. So if this at all seems to contain any such bias, please remember there are sensible Conservatives who don’t not agree with the policy, and there are people on the Labour side who support it. I’m not taking the side of a party, I’m taking the side of conservation, cattle, badgers, farmers. That’s my side.
Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a hideous disease, and it causes great hardship to many cattle farmers. It does get transmitted between cattle and badgers (in both directions) and causes suffering in both. But the current approach cannot, will not, address this.
- The cull is not methodologically robust enough to reduce bTB incidence, and in fact could raise the number of outbreaks
- The cull is more expensive than vaccination or dealing with outbreaks as they occur
- Badgers are a minority cause of bTB outbreaks
- No baseline data was established to judge numbers of badgers, or prevalence of bTB
- No independent monitoring is being carried out, after initial monitoring showed the cull failed on effectiveness and humaneness
- No testing of dead badgers is done to see if they were bTB carriers
But it gets worse.
Hard-fought freedom of information requests by determined campaigners have increasingly shown that the cull is neither targeted at the issue it claims, nor designed to address that issue even if it were. The vast majority of the farms in the cull zones have no issue or history with bTB, and a significant proportion have no cattle anyway. In fact the number of cattle farms with any issue from bTB is probably around 10%.
At the same time as saying this is such a priority, the government is weakening cattle movement controls (probably the single best way of reducing bTB incidence), and reducing funding for vaccination programmes (the single best way to eradicate the disease long-term). So this “priority” sees massively out-of-proportion spending on a relatively minor and ineffective approach, and reduced spend on measures that were actually having a positive effect. Hands up if you follow that logic?
In case this all seems baffling, let me try an analogy.
You decide to take a trip on a bus to the seaside. But the cost of a bus timetable is £1. You decide that is too expensive just to find a bus you need. So, instead, you spend £20 on a dartboard and three darts. Whatever number dart one hits, that’s the bus you’ll get. Dart two gives you the number of the bus-stop. Dart three gives you the hour the bus will depart at. What are the chances you end up at the right stop, at the right time, for the right bus?
I have huge sympathy for cattle farmers because, as many of them know all too well, their government and their union are letting them down massively. They are pursuing a policy that makes it look like they are tackling a problem, without any of the hardship that would come with actually tackling the problem.
- It’s bad for farmers.
- It’s bad for cattle.
- It’s bad for badgers.
- It’s bad economically.
It’s just plain and simply bad, by any sane measure. So again let me state plainly, this is a national disgrace. Our money is being wasted, we are being had. It’s time for a few brave voices in the national press and in Westminster to take this up vocally.