Today the Bow Group, a powerful and highly respected group inside the Parliamentary Conservative Party, published a paper, which will dramatically increase pressure on the Government to change its mind on its method of controlling bovine TB in the nation’s cattle. The Bow Group’s damning conclusion states:
“The proposed culls are likely to be more expensive than the Government would hope, when additional policing, the resulting spread in bTB and the delay to other, more effective methods of reducing the disease are taken into account.”
This, from scientists and thinkers deep in the heart of David Cameron’s own party, is a powerful blow against Cameron’s current policy of culling badgers this Autumn in two ‘Pilot’ areas, adding to pressure from other quarters in recent days. It comes at a time when powerful pressure has come from other quarters to cancel the proposed cull.
Last week, John Griffiths, leader of the Welsh Government, scrapped existing plans for a badger cull in Wales, in favour of a policy of Vaccination.
Amid aggressive responses from the Welsh NFU, accusing Griffiths of failing to address the bTB problem, Christianne Glossop, the Chief Vet of Wales, who has been a staunch advocate of culling, gave the decision clear credence. She said “Vaccinating the Badger Population in parts of Wales is a valid contribution to the aim of eradicating bovine TB” – and – “Badger TB vaccinations must be tried.”
Polls indicate that 81 per cent of the British public is against the slaughter of badgers.
So Cameron, along with his farming-oriented DEFRA Ministers, Caroline Spelman and Jim Paice, now face opposition from neighbouring governments, from public opinion, and from the entire scientific community, and now a severe lack of confidence from within their own ranks as shown by the Bow Report. They will soon also be facing a Judicial Review brought by the Badger Trust, challenging their right to cull this ancient, protected species, and a growing number of prominent public figures are condemning the cull as morally unjustifiable.
HOW LONG CAN DAVID CAMERON HOLD OUT A gracious withdrawal at this point would save the Government from future embarrassment, and would save the country huge amounts of taxpayers’ money, already being wasted in justifying, promoting and implementing this doomed policy.
We must SCRAP THE BADGER CULLS. Vaccinate – and improve controls on movement of Cattle – fight TB with science, not blind vengeance wrought on an innocent species.
See pdf file: The Bow Group: Common Sense and Bovine TB – Why the Government should abandon badger culling trials in favour of vaccination [ no longer available]
FOREWORD TO THE ABOVE PAPER
Dr Brian May CBE
This carefully researched paper, for perhaps the first time, clearly explains the reasons why current Government policy to cull badgers in an attempt to control bovine TB in cattle is based on false assumptions and faulty reasoning.
The fact that the Bow Group is firmly housed within the body of the Conservative Party debars any suggestion that there might be political reasons for the arguments that are so forcefully made here. It becomes clear that the current determination of the Government to adopt a policy of violence against the very creatures that farming has infected with disease has been strongly influenced by perceived loyalties to certain sections of farming and business interests in the countryside. It is equally clear that claims that this is an issue that only affects farmers are also false. The future of our countryside and the wild animals that inhabit it affects every one of us who live in these islands – everyone who cares what kind of a Britain our grandchildren will inherit.
The arguments laid out in this paper have nothing to do with sentiment. They reveal the simply shocking misrepresentation of the facts that have been laid before the farmers of this country by union representatives and the Government they elected. The truth is that, despite all the appealing exclamations that ‘something has to be done’, the current thing that is being done, which will require farmers to dig deep in their pockets, will probably fail to improve the bovine TB problem, and may well make it worse.
This is based on the available empirical evidence being offered by the entire scientific community, except some those employed by the Government at this time.
In the two years I have been involved in seeking the truth about cattle, badgers and bovine Tuberculosis, I was at one time almost convinced that I was wrong. I too was, for a moment, taken in by the picture painted by those who have been ‘itching to go out and kil badgers’ since long before the present Parliament was elected. It was a picture of badgers coughing and sneezing and falling down dead in front of cows, who were bound to be infected by the festering carcasses of small wild animals. “All we want is healthy cows and healthy badgers”, was the argument, which has been used even by David Cameron himself as recently as last month. But nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that badgers deal very well with the disease that they have caught from cows. They live normal lives for the most part, and can even have healthy offspring while their bodies are fighting the infection. And claims that most badgers in TB hotspots are infected are completely unsupported by evidence and are in blatant conflict with the conclusions of the RBCT report, which noted that most badgers, even in areas with the highest rates of infection by cows, were NOT infected by the disease.
The Government is heading towards licensing the shooting, with high-powered rifles, in the dark, thousands of healthy wild animals, in a scheme that cannot succeed in helping the farmer. This paper details the path towards the only course of action that can succeed in eradicating bovine TB: vaccination.
This is a battle that must be won, to save our wild animals, and to equip Britain with an evolving, humane and viable farming industry in the coming years. The decision to cull must be reversed before irreparable damage is done.
Dr Brian May CBE