– The news is not good.
Anne and I met with Adam Quinney, vice president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) last Wednesday 16th Jan, 2013
Peter Kendal, the current president, also looked in.
For those of us who care about wild animals, who have no voice in these matters, and have no representation at government level whatsoever, this has been, and still is, a long and relentlessly draining battle to try to save our badgers, and at the same time, give the farmers the solution they need to their Bovine TB problem.
Over the last 3 years or so, Anne and I have met pretty much all the protagonists on both sides of the argument. Some of them I have crossed swords within public or on TV, and Adam Quinney is one of those. (Peter Kendall also) Adam is a decent man – family man, who does care about ethics, but, as his colleague in our meeting last week so deftly put it, to some people, ‘’ethics are a matter of opinion”.
Indeed, although everything seems to point to this imminent killing of badgers being a hopeless failure, these people – the NFU, in direct partnership with the Government, are convinced that they are knights in shining armour, protecting their cows from disease.
While one can perhaps doubt the underlying motives of the Government, some of whom are rabidly pro-killing for sport, and therefore have an interest in desensitising people to cruelty to wild animals, it’s hard to doubt that these guys from the NFU are sincere. It’s just that they operate from a different moral position from the rest of us. If, purely hypothetically, we had a problem in Astronomy or Music, or perhaps the supply of water, or electricity, and somebody told us we could solve it by slaughtering thousands of mostly healthy wild animals, it would take us just a moment to rule out such a solution as absurd – inhumane – morally indefensible. But because the farming industry is so influential on our present government, this absurdity, this monstrously cruel and unjust action, is not only taken seriously, but millions of the taxpayers pounds – our money – have already been poured into making it happen.
Yes, I regard Quinney and Kendall as decent people – but there is no doubt in my mind that what is about to happen is indecent – a tragic mistake which will benefit no-one and produce vast suffering to a unique community of intelligent animals which will never be able to be undone – animals who have just as much right to a decent family life as humans.
In our meeting, we discussed the new evidence available on the effectiveness of culling as a strategy, and basically, opinions differ on how the evidence can be interpreted. The mantra of pro-cull blokes is “No country has ever solved the bTB issue without tackling it in the wildlife reservoir”. But it’s actually closer to the truth say that no country that has used culling of wildlife as a strategy has ever wiped out bTB. t’s possible to massage statistics in many ways, of course, and their arguments can be made to sound very convincing. Nevertheless, the whole weight of scientific opinion outside the walls of DEFRA maintains that culling simply will not work. If the cull goes ahead, badgers will suffer appallingly, their families destroyed, their rate of infection increased, and in some areas they are bound to become extinct. And the cost to farmers may, in addition to a possible increase in reactors among their cattle, will be alienation from the British public, damage which, again, cannot be undone. Plus possibly a backlash which will turn the man in the street away from meat and dairy products, permanently damaging British industry who think they know best. All through our campaign we have been accused of interference, in an area in which ‘the farmer knows best’. Well, British farming, left to make its own decisions, and hugely subsidised by us, over many years, has manoeuvred itself into a very bad situation over Bovine TB – a disaster. I am not alone in believing that what they are about to do will make things much, much worse.
Only this week we have seen a report that confirms that one in ten farmers are already culling badgers, and at the same time we are seeing confirmation that Bovine TB is spreading, perhaps faster than ever. It’s highly likely that these two facts are linked. We have for a long time been already in a badger-cull situation, and it’s absolutely established that small-scale spontaneous killing of badgers spreads disease because the badgers’ social structure is destroyed and they scatter. Perturbation. IF they are sick, they will carry disease to the neighbouring farm. Yet the Farming Press has actually encouraged such appalling foolishness. It is truly a disaster.
In the meeting, over tea and biscuits, we discussed various ways in which Bovine TB can be attacked by means of vaccination, of badgers and of cows, and looked at the obstacles in the way, and also at the positive things that can be done right now. We, as the Team Badger consortium, are now actually able to offer quite a bit of help to farmers in various vaccination schemes, which will benefit both cows and badgers, and we are offering as much as we can, in schemes which will begin this Summer. But there is no help being offered in the other direction – not a grain of compassion or compromise towards us or the badgers for whom we speak. It is now clear that no matter how good the prospects are for non-lethal solutions to bTB in the next year look, the Government and the NFU will not – it seems cannot – let the cull go. What we were told is that there is no way they will take their foot off the pedal, towards beginning the massacre this Summer.
In spite of the fact that it is ethically unjustifiable, the majority of the British oppose it, Parliament has voted against it, and the weight of scientific opinion says it will not work, THERE IS NO WAY FARMERS AND GOVERNMENT ARE GOING TO VOLUNTARILY ABANDON THE MASSACRE OF BADGERS THIS SUMMER.
What will Britain’s response be? I think it will soon be out of our hands.