The Coalition’s decision to authorise the slaughter of badgers is a frank admission of failure on their part, says the Badger Trust. Environment ministers and their departmental aides are quick to cherry pick bits of science that appear to support their case. But the public is being deliberately misled. The Coalition remains silent and evasive on the real issue: cattle management, and their own continuing abject failure to impose, through DEFRA, the kind of tough, effective, long-term remedial measures spelt out by independent scientists, following 10 years of peer-reviewed research [1].

If—and it’s a big if—says the Trust, the proposed night-time rifle-fire slaughter of tens of thousands of an iconic and protected animal goes ahead, the Government forecasts only a 12-16 per cent drop over NINE years in bovine TB in cattle. Self-evidently that means bTB won’t be solved. Self evidently that can only mean that cattle are the main vectors and that the bulk of the problem—that untouched 84 per cent—is being ignored or unreasonably delayed.

Ministers protest loud and long that something must be done to control this highly infectious respiratory disease, says Badger Trust. But the blame for inaction lies squarely with them. They appeal for calm; they protest that culling is unavoidable. But when it comes to tackling the root causes of the disease they fail the farming community, the public—who are forced to pay farmers a huge annual compensation bill—and of, course, wildlife.

The EU’s recently published audit of UK measures to control bovine TB highlighted a catalogue of failings, all of them the responsibility of DEFRA and the farming industry: they ranged from inadequate disease prevention measures, numerous cattle movement derogations, test exemptions, and failures to remove reactors (diseased cattle) quickly enough.

The ISG for its part emphasised the dangers of disease spread centred on the buying and selling of cattle from farms in TB hotspots but the Government—confronted by massive lobbying from politically supportive farming interests—have barely reacted. Very belatedly they recently introduced long overdue pre-movement test controls over linked holdings. Until then farmers had been able to freely move cattle from one area to another, sometimes hundreds of miles.

There’s a hint that in the New Year more might be done. But why the delay? Why the dithering? Why the rush to slaughter badgers? It’s time the Government was honest with its voters and the tens of thousands of committed conservationists who have actively voiced their horror and disgust at the proposed slaughter of the badger, a slaughter which the Government admits could worsen bovine TB spread.

The time for weasel words and departmental spin is long gone, says Badger Trust. Britain’s farmers are being let down by a Government that weakly refuses to tackle the root causes of bovine TB. And that weakness has also put the health and future of an iconic animal at stake.

[1] Defra, Bourne, J. et al (2007), Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence – A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle; An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis, Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB.

Jack Reedy


Source: Badger Trust – 10 O`ctober 2012