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Derek Mead: Massive task ahead to rid country of bovine tuberculosis scourge

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 07, 2012

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Not surprisingly the badger-lovers can barely conceal their delight that the NFU's cull has been postponed.

But the reason for the delay should – if they have any true interest in the wellbeing of wildlife – make them stop and think very carefully about precisely where their obstructive policies have now led the country.

Given that the latest survey of the culling areas has now revealed badger populations at twice their previously believed levels, it is safe to extrapolate the figures and arrive at the probability that Britain has more than two million badgers running around.

And two million badgers, given that a large proportion of them will be carrying TB, is not a sustainable size of population by any stretch of the imagination.

It certainly sweeps away entirely any argument that the badger is an endangered species. In fact, it was only afforded legal protection originally because of the appalling activities of badger-baiters, who in any event only represented an almost immeasurably small risk to badgers generally.

But what we can confidently predict, with that many badgers at large, is that we have a massive task ahead of us to rid the countryside of a reservoir of TB infection – a far bigger one than was previously thought.

Had farmers been allowed to tackle this situation years ago – when it was obvious to all of us that badger numbers were exploding, to the detriment of hedgehogs and ground-nesting birds – we wouldn't be facing the nightmare today.

As it is, those who have campaigned to save the badger have succeeded in creating a huge colony of animals which will have neither sufficient food nor dry living quarters this winter – circumstances which could have been ideally designed to speed the rate at which TB spreads through their ranks.

I'm sure those members of the public who put money in the boxes that the badger "charities" shove under their noses will be delighted to know that their hard-earned and punitively-taxed cash will not be helping badgers in any way, shape or form, merely condemning thousands of them to painful, lingering and miserable deaths this winter from the effects of TB. How well their money is being spent.

If that isn't irresponsible enough, the badger-huggers are refusing to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue with those of us who believe there is an alternative to the half-baked cull the NFU hierarchy has come up with: a targeted operation relying on field craft to detect those setts most likely to be infected – and taking their occupants out quietly, quickly and humanely.

Those of us who have been advocating this approach have been doing so because we, at least, wish to see a healthy badger population. Clearly in opposing intervention of any kind to deal with the current threat, the RSPCA and its various hangers-on are creating quite the opposite.

Derek Mead is an entrepreneur dairy farmer from Weston-super-Mare

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  • bullocks400  |  November 09 2012, 6:46PM

    So, why has my comment/view been removed? I thought the idea was to share differing opinions?

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  • Clued-Up  |  November 07 2012, 8:24PM

    Like any tub-thumper in a pub, Derek Mead is entitled to voice his OPINIONS. What he's said, though, makes it quite clear he's got little regard for inconvenient facts and scientific method. Derek Mead says it's safe to extrapolate the (very limited but reasonably well verified data) on the badger population in two areas to arrive at a figure of two million badgers. That's obvious nonsense. To show how silly the suggestion is, imagine someone claiming you could use the human population figures for London and the Isle of Mull to predict the human population across the UK. Having made his GUESS that the badger population is around two million, Derek Mead says such a population is not sustainable. Badgers being territorial animals never get too crowded for the population to be unsustainable - the badgers of any one sett will fight any interlopers trying to muscle onto their territory. Human interference with badger numbers is not needed because wild animal populations shrink whenever insufficient food is available to them. Derek Mead also chooses to ignore the evidence available showing most badgers (around 85%) are free of TB infections and infectious badgers rarely infect other members of the same sett. Only 1% - 2% badgers are actually unwell with TB. They mostly don't suffer as they tolerate TB well and can recover from it.

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  • SuperTramp  |  November 07 2012, 7:07PM

    ******400 The Tory Party who know the countryside missed out on ash dieback disease. The Tories understad the countryside... Bang! Bang! Bang! For the Tories the countryside is a place of play.

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  • grannyonline1  |  November 07 2012, 5:14PM

    http://tinyurl.com/dyx8l7r if we accept the fact that badgers eat hedgehogs and ground nesting birds,, we must also accept the fact that SO DO Hedeghogs!! more HEDGEHOGS means LESS birds

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  • SuperTramp  |  November 07 2012, 2:26PM

    //"But what we can confidently predict, with that many badgers at large, is that we have a massive task ahead of us to rid the countryside of a reservoir of TB infection – a far bigger one than was previously thought."// But the British Hedgehog Prservation Society and the RSPB are not calling for a badger cull, Mr Mead. You would do well to call them and ask why, before writing any article. Opinion costs nothing; research takes effort.

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  • AtrixMan  |  November 07 2012, 2:15PM

    The blame for a cull that would kill countless numbers of healthy badgers should be laid at the door of the badger groups as much as that of the NFU. They have had countless opportunities to work with the farming industry to deal with a disease that blights both cattle and badgers. First pretending that badgers don't get TB, then pretending they don't pass it on to cattle. They really don't care about the suffering of TB infected badgers and have no interest in finding a solution that could safeguard the health of the badger population.

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  • Auntiecon  |  November 07 2012, 2:07PM

    What an extremely biassed article. Just for starters, the decline in hedgehogs is due mainly to the use of slug pellets and climate change, and the so-called game bird pheasant is part of the 35 to 40 million poults brought into this country which are then reared in cages by the shooting estates for the affluent to take pot shots for the price of £2-3,000 a day. The badgers' main diet is worms, insects and small mammals not ground nesting birds. If you have to write an article in favour of killing off this country's badger population, at least put up some honest and truthful facts to back up your desires.

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  • vulcan  |  November 07 2012, 9:58AM

    Them Badgers have been around considerably longer than the genetically modified cattle of today, which if left to fend for themselves would not survive. Agriculturists should look at the situation they have created rather than look for a dubious scapegoat.

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  • SuperTramp  |  November 07 2012, 9:51AM

    Lord Krebs might be wrong when he recently said a cull would do little. But as he oversaw the killing of 10,000(?) badgers in the RBCT he is hardly a "badger-hugger".

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  • SuperTramp  |  November 07 2012, 9:42AM

    //"And two million badgers, given that a large proportion of them will be carrying TB, is not a sustainable size of population by any stretch of the imagination."// So if it's not a sustainable population, why is it there? Oh, please! Do try to understand the use of the word "sustainable" im ecolgical terms. If you just mean there lots of badgers,say so. If they are eating ground nesting birds (pheasant, partridge, grouse) say so.

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