[A discussion had been going on the Save-Me Forum – Brian answering a user named Newt….. – no longer available]
Many thanks, Newt. I agree entirely. And I appreciate both your candour and your generosity.
I know I have been portrayed as a pariah by the Farming Press – but of course that is an easy option for them. Actually I did make a commitment to the farming community right back at the beginning of my involvement with this issue – to Stephen James, when I visited his home at his kind invitation, so I could better understand the issues from a dairy farmer’s point of view. I remain very respectful of his position, and I feel morally obliged to work towards the elimination of bTB. To be honest, there was never any doubt about this. I’m sure some of my comments, taken out of context, can be used to discredit my position – and it’s hard not to occasionally slip up when everything you say is held up to public scrutiny. But, since I first read all the evidence on bTB, I have been absolutely convinced that culling badgers, if it’s allowed to go ahead, will not only fail utterly to solve the farmers’ problems, but very probably make them worse. I’ve actually emphasised, in many of the interviews that I’ve done, that my advocacy of vaccination as a solution is not just a human and ethical solution to the problem. As a scientist, it’s actually blindingly obvious to me that vaccination is the ONLY solution available. If we want to have a countryside free of tuberculosis in 20 years time, vaccination is the only way. And it must be done in combination with better testing and better movement controls of livestock. Vaccination accompanied by pockets of slaughter of wildlife is NOT an option supported by any scientific evidence whatsoever … and it amazes me that it still appeals. I can only think that the extremists among farming leadership have managed to appeal to that intuitive ‘Wild-West’ mind-set, of ‘let’s go out and kill the damn things’ – as a kind of sop. It’s the old principle of pinning misfortunes on a scapegoat, and then whipping all the guys up to go out and lynch him. This seems to be the bone that’s been thrown to ordinary decent the farmers, to make them feel ‘something is being done’.
I’m now hearing from more and more farmers who are no longer convinced.
I take this very seriously, Newt, and I’m serious about being willing to discuss it openly. I’m in this for the long haul, and I believe the benefits will be for all our grandchildren.
If the humane solution is adopted, and the path of vaccination is adopted, I give you my word I will stand shoulder to shoulder with the farming community to eradicate our common enemy. And I will be right with you in improving the eco-friendliness of all industries. Right in the forefront of my mind will be that every creature matters.