Image with permission, courtesy of Tim Melling.
I wrote recently about the informative and inspirational talks at the Birdfair last weekend. After hearing Dominic Dyer‘s passionate presentation about the history and ongoing politics which lie behind the Badger Cull I bought the book and would thoroughly recommend anyone wanting a ‘potted history’ of the politics behind the issue to consider doing the same. Well written, readable and informative, my only slight grumble is that there is no list of reference sources or further reading. Readable – if you can cope with being irritated and astonished by the utter incompetence detailed in its pages?
Whilst I’d not claim to be an expert on the subject matter nor the politics behind the issue I do consider myself to be a reasonably informed member of the public observing the astonishing debacle which is costing taxpayers monopoly figures and where frustratingly there appears to be no winners. The losers are both the farmer and the badger.
I suspect amidst all the managed media reporting of the cull, the public forget that after the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001. Six million cows, sheep and pigs were slaughtered to halt the spread of the disease, whose epicentre was in Cumbria. The crisis was estimated to have cost the UK taxpayer more than £8 billion. But that is only part of the picture because the restocking of cattle to replace the huge numbers that had been slaughtered as a result of F&M, brought a new problem in the form of a wave of bovine TB that was sprayed across the country. Dyer informs us, and it is on public record, at Maff’s Chief Vet made it clear to Nick Brown and Tony Blair that key steps should be put in place before any cattle restocking. It included a rigid testing and movement control system for cattle. The NFU priority was to get the farming industry back on its feet as soon as possible, that is understandabale as farmers lives and businesses had been devastated by the crisis. Their President put huge pressure on Tony Blair and Nick Brown to override the concerns of the Chief Vet and to allow rapid restocking, including many from the south west of England (a TB hotspot). As a result over the next 12 months hundreds of thousands of cattle were moved across the country, many from TB hotspot areas in the south west, particularly Devon and Cornwall, without any TB testing or movement controls. Many were moved through markets with poor biosecurity, many of which according to the Chief Vet should have been closed down to prevent further disease outbreaks.
This resulted in the largest increase in boveine TB in cattle ever recorded in the UK. From 2001 – 2002 the number of cattle slaughtered for TB increased by 300%. By the time TB testing had been restored in 2003, the figure slaughtered was 25,000.
So, have the politicians learned anything since then? It would seem not as the Minister has recently announced an extension to the cull zones.
Since the culls commenced no badgers have been tested by Defra for bTB after being shot, why is this?
I recall a politician recently asserting that there would be evidence based policies? One might ponder accountability for ‘breach of promise’ in such situations?
Will readers consider supporting Simon King’s petition:
Only into its second day it has already doubled the required signatures to receive a reply from Defra, let’s help it get to …. 100,000 signatures, when the Parliament website tells us…. “this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament”.
Wildlife (abuse) is well and truly on the political agenda? Please, consider writing to your MPs about the mis-management of upland moor land and the illegal persecution of raptors, the lack of science behind the expanded badger cull as well as the significant cost for no gain to either farmers or badgers.