Letter to Farmers Guardian


Dear Editor

I will make this as brief as I can … not wishing to presume on your time.

We, in the land of tree-huggers, have noticed the ruffled feathers that publication of my interview with your man Alistair has caused. The cartoon was well-judged.

I knew of course that what I was saying would be viewed as contentious, but in the conversation, I tempered it with my concerns about farmers who had spent their whole lives farming the land of their fathers and grandfathers. Of course the interview was about half an hour long, and only about two minutes of it were printed. I really wasn’t being flippant. I am much more informed than when I first tried to step in on behalf of the wild animals who have no voice in the corridors of power in Wales. Since I first met with Stephen James (for whom I have the utmost respect) about a year ago, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many in the community – and I have listened carefully to all sides. It’s important that you know that my comment about “who would raise their children in a place where it was almost certain they will get sick? ” was not a stab in the dark from an English ‘townie’. No – this was pointed out to me by a farmer, who is opposed to the badger cull, and has chosen to raise sheep on his land instead. So, pardon me – I did not mean to be offensive, and, though I am getting used to being called stupid by many who insist on their right to kill wild animals, this is by no means a ridiculous idea, but one which is abroad in your own community.

We have seen in recent days revelations of the scandalous abuses by rogue farmers who have been swapping ear tags for short term gain, at the risk of their own herds and those of their neighbours; there is no knowing how prevalent these very worrying practices are, and there is certainly suspicion that the fact that this has been happening at all makes all the current statistics on bTB meaningless. But I have also been informed, again by farmers who have dared to talk to me, that, added to this, there are individuals who directly profit from the existence of bovine TB; they are apparently deliberately inseminating cows in TB hotspots, testing them positive for TB, killing them off and collecting the compensation. Yes, this is a shocking and serious claim, but again, it’s an accusation not from me, but from the very fields that Elin Jones claims to be protecting.

It’s all too easy for me to be portrayed as a foreign interferer … but I am really not the enemy. I’m just as anxious to rid the British Isles of bTB as you are. This disease causes suffering to all concerned (except perhaps some vets and others, who make a tidy living out of it). It’s just that we support different approaches to solving the problem. We believe that proper movement controls, better pre-movement testing, fencing, sensible choice of grazing places, and the promotion of healthy immune systems in cows – plus vaccination – is the only way to truly lick the disease. Elin Jones’s cobbled-together package, including the slaughter of a whole world of predominantly healthy badgers, is inhumane, scientifically unsound, and WILL NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM. This makes me very sad. Sad for the badgers, for the farmers, and for us all. In the end, it’s all about what kind of a world we want our grandchildren to grow up in.