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I began writing this in response to comments in ‘cull or not to cull’, but decided to publish it as a post in its own right. I have researched, read about and discussed the problem of bTB at length – with vets, farmers, scientists, ecologists, conservationists, people living, but not working in the countryside and those that do, city dwellers and politicians. I could give facts, figures, excellent examples and analogies for and against both sides of the argument. Personally I am, of course, subjective…I have a herd of cattle I care about hugely and are at risk; I also have a passion for wildlife. And I have to make a living from my work.
The question of whether or not to cull badgers is a complex one. It ain’t half as easy as many people make out. Quite simply, it’s not black and white. The science is uncertain, the risks are large, and we are dealing with emotions as well as facts. If we are going to find away forward, it will depend on us being open-minded, listening to each other and respecting each others’ values. Above all, we must be prepared to move our positions, to get off our high horses, to let our eyeballs settle back into their sockets. Far too many of us are entrenched: a position, for or against, has been taken, and that’s the end of it. If we are to get on top of this disease, for the benefit of all – people, cattle and badgers – we must start to pull together, use what evidence there is, consider the practicality of the various options open to us, and reach consensus on the way forward. It won’t be perfect and certainly won’t be easy, but it’ll be the best we can do.
I’ve had over a week to let Hilary Benn’s decision on a ‘no badger cull’ sink in. It’s coming around to my own herd’s bTB testing time again and I can feel the anxiety and worry beginning to build. This year there’s the added unknown of bluetongue vaccination and concerns that this could throw up more inconclusives or possible false positives. Oh happy times.
Maybe I’m a very simple soul or perhaps I’m missing the point altogether. But surely it’s staring us in the eyes – there is no perfect solution. There isn’t a ‘given success’ or some nice, easy erradicatrion programme. And there isn’t a course to be taken that will make everyone happy
bTB is out of control. A suitable vaccine is still years away (and only now they decide to throw extra money at it?), so forget that as an immediate solution. 28,000 cattle were killed last year, 14,000 have already been killed this year with the figure thought to rise to around 40,000 by the end of the year at an expected cost of £80 million to the taxpayer. Will the escalating killing and ever-increasing restrictions on cattle movements have an effect if it’s just one sided? Well of course it will, eventually, when all cattle have been culled. And yes, I am being facetious.
We need to do something.
‘Reducing the density of badgers over large areas (>100km2) where there are high levels of TB in cattle reduces the incidence’. ‘Removal of badgers is the best option at the moment to cut the reservoir of infection in wildlife, but vaccination will be vital in the longer term’. Sir David King’s main conclusions as reported by the Farmers Weekly.
Surely it’s high time all interested parties worked together and stopped this childish posturing? Here we are looking into the jaws of a recession, worried about food security, an energy crisis, possible wars and climate change. So, for pities sake, let’s get together; work out how we change certain farming behaviour and practises to minimise risk of bTB spread and have a sensible cull that will be effective at reducing bTB without causing nugatory destruction of badgers or unnecessary cruelty.