Beleagured Badgers in Somerset & Gloucestershire still, but no roll out elsewhere ….

At long last …. the Government, through Defra have published the Independent Expert Panel’s Report on the Pilot Badger Culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire.  The Report  was presented to the Secretary of State Owen Paterson in March 2014.  It was apparently leaked ahead of the Parliamentary debate by the Backbench Business Committee through the Commons Select Committee on 13 March.  Pro-badger cull MPs boycott vote as Government loses 219 to 1, so will those who provaricated citing the need to read the findings now act to bring the debate back to Parliament and a free vote on whether or not more public money should be wasted on an inhumane and ineffective, unscientific cull?  Consider also the cost of the cull, per badger, and in times of cuts in public services – can we afford it when there are alternatives?

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By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Panel were appointed in 2012 and despite the findings of the Panel it appears that Owen Paterson still intends to continue the two pilot culls, only this time they will not be monitored.  This from a Minister who is reported to seek evidence based science.  This despite the cost per animal, this despite the IEP findings that the cull was inhumane and ineffective.  Perhaps a glimmer of hope on the horizon is the announcement that there is some £24.6m to be invested over the course of this parliament in the development of effective TB vaccines for both cattle and badgers.

The NFU are reported to be ‘bitterley disappointed’.  Surely they can appreciate the predicament that they are placing farmers who have ‘closed herds’ in, as well as those who practice good biosecurity?   Perhaps it is the role of such Unions generally to represent the masses rather than promote effective best practice?  This continued persecution of a much loved icon of the British countryside will not help the public perception of farmers who prefer to work with rather than persecute nature.  The agricultural welfare scheme (aka CAP) is not just there to subsidise monoculture across the countryside but to fund good environmental practice, and surely it is not beyond the wit of man as a scientist to develop and achieve an effective compromise?

What is perhaps aseonishing is the fact that the Minister does not deem it appropriate or necessary that there is a need for monitoring of the culls.  Prof Rosie Woodroffe of the  Institute of Zoology commented on that aspect: “I’m disappointed that this year’s culls will lack the independent oversight needed to provide confidence”.  A case could be made that this is a Goverment lacking in evidence based policy from a Minister and Department where such scince ought to be at the forefront of decisions? 

Another potential negative spin off consequential of the continuing cull  in Somerset and Gloucestershire, might be a drop in tourism – might the public think twice about visiting an area where its farmers do not value its wildlife?  Somerset Brie is delicious, it is a quality product that deserves our support, but for me at the moment at any rate there is a principle based on sound science and at the moment the Minister appears rather muddled?

bTB can be devastating, no one doubts that and there is understanding and sympathy for farmers who have lost herds to the disease. Generations of breeding over years whiped out in an instant.

Together, a collaborative coalition can achieve compromise, but continued culling is only likely to cause more problems than it resolves?

 

 

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