Even though, as William Oddie has pointed out, “under this Government, no wild animal is safe”, today is truly is a special day for British Wildlife. It’s the day that the petition on the Government’s e-petition website to ‘Stop the Badger Cull’ became the largest in History.
The fact that this represents the voice of an unprecedented 258,300 British voters on the Government’s own website makes it a little hard for Government ministers to ignore, though ignoring the wishes of the public is something they have recently become rather good at (viz the dismantling of the NHS, attempts to sell forests, destruction of nests of birds of prey, erosion of benefits to the disabled and infirm, etc).
I wrote the first draft of the petition last August, in consultation with the member groups of Team Badger, as a channel for the man in the street to express the outrage that was already growing as a result of the declared intent of Cameron’s Coalition Government to embark on a massacre of British Badgers. The administrators of the website insisted on some elements of the text being altered, and a rewrite was done (including the typo’s and grammatical errors which huge numbers of twitterers still like to point out!) over which I had no control. Apparently the rules do not allow text corrections to be made after a petition is active.
Why did we protest ?
The policy was, and is, a clear violation of the principles of scientific truth, outrageously quoting a massively comprehensive (and expensive) ten year study by a top British scientific team (the RBCT) as justification for their actions, even though the conclusion of the experiment was that the culling of badgers “can make no meaningful contribution to the control of Bovine TB in cattle in the UK.” The authors of this report, along with essentially the whole of the scientific community in the UK, have repeatedly condemned this policy, and labelled the Government’s claim that it is ‘science-based’ as dishonest. They have also warned that badger culling will very probably make the problem in cows worse.
The fact that bTB is a very serious problem for beef and dairy farmers is undeniable. But amongst the emotional outbursts from farmers who have been forced by DEFRA to destroy animals prematurely, there have been exaggerations in many areas, as to the risk to humans, the relative importance of TB compared with other reasons for the enforced killing of livestock, and, above all, the contribution made by badgers to the spread of the disease. This last exaggeration has somehow managed to make a ‘possible 16 improvement over 10 years’ seem like something worth randomly slaughtering wild animals to achieve. The irony is that culling is not a solution at all – since it cannot be combined with vaccination, and hence cannot bring about eradication of the disease. In the end this has to be a moral decision. The current plan to destroy thousands of mostly healthy intelligent families of native mammals places the value if these creatures at zero, even if one believed that there was a benefit to be obtained, which is highly doubtful. We believe that this decision is a crime against Nature – utterly unjustifiable morally – and one for which our grandchildren will hold us accountable.
One of the justifications all along, for culling rather than vaccinating badgers, has been the cost. But it now emerges that in the long term, the relative costs of both courses of action are very comparable, the vaccination path having the massive advantage that it is in harmony with the public’s wishes and therefore does not need policing. Indeed, as has already been shown in Wales and elsewhere, the public are actually willing to contribute to vaccination schemes to benefit farmers as well as wildlife. So really the last piece of justification for this ill-advised killing spree has evaporated. W
e believe that, as this petition continues to grow, the position of the Government and the NFU become less and less supportable.
If and when there is a switch to a policy which abandons the use of this demonstrably ineffective ‘tool in the box’, the farming community will have an army of vaccinators on their side. And hopefully we will see an abandonment also of the defeatist attitude that has prevailed in Britain towards the vastly more important need for vaccination of cattle. It is time.
Editor: Keep signing – make this HUGE!! http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257
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