A version of this piece was published in The Guardian today. This is what I wrote:
It was a very sad day for our wild animals today. The announcement that the badger cull will not only go ahead in England, but be extended into 5 new areas, is a tragic development, born of a deliberate distortion of the real facts of the case, supported by false promises and propaganda heaped onto the farming community.
The fact is that there are no grounds whatsoever for believing that badger killing has made the slightest impact on bovine TB, but the Government are pressing ahead, clinging to an idea which is already dead, in cahoots with the National Farmers Union. People close to this machinery will tell you that it’s hard to see a clear line between the Government and the NFU, and this, in itself has a bad smell. No thought whatsoever is given to the suffering of the badgers, even though the Government’s own Independent Expert Panel delivered a verdict that the cull was neither humane nor effective (Cameron’s Government’s shameful response was to sack the IEP). We now know enough to be sure that bovine TB can be, and MUST be conquered within the herd. The overwhelming evidence is that the policy of skin-testing and removal of individual reactive cows leaves infected and infectious animals in the herd, and so it’s a no-brainer that the problem recurs time after time. Blaming this on re-infection from a wildlife reservoir is a glib piece of manoeuvring by the NFU, but it’s not supported by any evidence. Quite the reverse. It’s worth mentioning also that even within the so-called Hotspot areas for bovine TB there a many farms that have NEVER come down with the disease. If the badgers were to blame for spreading the disease, would they be so choosy ? The closer you get to the whole Bovine TB scenario the more you realise that what the farmers are being put through is NONSENSE. It’s literally bullshit. Culling badgers is a pill that is being offered as a consolation prize to farmers who are desperate for ‘something’ to be done. It’s a placebo. What the farmers need is a proper testing regime that actually DOES clean up their herd. I sincerely hope some of the farmers who are considering signing up for this continued culling farce will read this. I don’t say it lightly. I’ve been immersed in this stuff for 7 years now, searching for the true solution. I have no ulterior motive but the solution of the problem. I believe we have now seen the beginnings of new evidence that recurrence of bTB on farms can be eradicated by more refined testing and, crucially, without interference to wildlife. Surprised ? We’re not. But continued culling will wreck it all. With the badger cull, NOBODY benefits – except possibly a couple of Government officials who are frightened of losing face. It’s a sad tale.
History will tell that, in clinging to this ridiculous cull, the Government has:
1) wasted millions of pounds of the public’s money.
2) disastrously let down the cattle farmers.
3) inflicted massive unnecessary suffering on thousands of mostly healthy native badger families.
4) lied to the public about the effectiveness of what they are doing.
5) delayed the resolution of the bTB problem by possibly 20 years.
6) in the process, allowed tens of thousands of cattle to be avoidably infected, and prematurely slaughtered.
In short, the casualties resulting from today’s decision, clinging to an already completely discredited culling scheme are not just the badgers. The other casualties are cattle, farmers … and truth.
It’s a disgrace.
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