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Despite opposition we must fight bovine TB on all fronts

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

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On the badger cull Adam Henson could be forgiven for being guarded.

As farmers have found ever since the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire were first announced, trying to explain the battle against bovine TB from the livestock farmers point of view is extremely difficult.

Not because they cannot make the case. The case against fighting the disease on all fronts is a sound one, accepted by a majority of scientists, but because of the vitriol stirred up by the anti-cull campaigners and their high profile leaders.

When Adam last spoke out on the cull, to an audience of farmers in 2011, he revealed he had received hate mail from the anti-cull campaigners, including threats directed at his children, for tackling the issue on Countryfile

Last week, however, he was adamant the disease still had to be fought on all fronts. "We must think of this as a disease of the countryside," he said. "It must not be seen – although sadly it has been – as conservationists versus farmers.

"The majority of farmers are conservationists. I love to see wildlife on the farm, including badgers. But TB is in wildlife, it's in cattle, it has been detected in sheep, it's in farm pets, it has even been detected in some children living on farms. It is causing financial misery and personal heartache and it has got to be tackled on all fronts."

He admitted he was not sure the cull would work. "Only time will tell. But it is a really difficult thing for the agricultural industry, especially when there is such virulent feeling . For 'brand agriculture' it has been a blow below the belt. For farmers it is a terrible distraction."

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4 comments

  • Mikethepike  |  December 11 2013, 4:50PM

    As the front man for most of Countryfile's many broadcasts about bovine TB Adam Henson was heavy on emotion when it came to describing the impact of bovine TB and the stress which each new herd test brought. What he always sidestepped, with the help and the encouragement of the Countryfile editorial team, was honesty when it came to describing farmers' and farming's contribution to bovine TB spread. I watched virtually every one of his televised appearances and not once did he admit to the viewers that the skin test was far from reliable. Not once did he admit that typically in a 200-strong herd it could miss as many as 30 to 40 infected cattle (which might then go on to infect others in the tested herd). Not once, as far as I can recall, did he talk about the importance of on-farm disease control (biosecurity) and only very reluctantly did he admit that he might well have imported disease on to his farm through buying cattle from a south-west bTB hotspot. Always the inference was that bTB would never be controlled until the Government "acted" and by that he meant culling badgers. That, too, has been the NFU approach and of course "The Badgers have moved the Goalposts" Owen Paterson. It's that sort of weighted commentary that encourages farmers to continually blame wildlife when in practice they should be taking a long hard look at their own industry and some of their farmer colleagues who operate illegally, ignoring bTB regulations and, foolishly, killing badgers --action which increases rather than decreasing the likelihood of bTB spread. Any suggestion that the disease is spreading to children via wildlife contamination is disgraceful scaremongering.

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  • dandypeople  |  December 11 2013, 1:02PM

    Where are all the reports about these farm children and how many farm children of dairy farms drink raw milk, probably most. So if farm children are getting TB it is probably from either the milk or from the cows, I don't suppose most get face to face with badgers. How many farms with a btb breakdown test their farm pets and sheep, I expect the answer is none, perhaps it should be standard practise.

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  • barryterry-2  |  December 11 2013, 10:33AM

    BTB Stands for BOVINE TB not BADGER TB so leave badgers alone and get on with the improvements to working practices that the EU recommend as these are already proven to work causing a reduction in cattle slaughtered due to BBTB over the last three years

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  • missmustoe  |  December 11 2013, 8:57AM

    The thing is, you cant just pick the wildlife you like on the farm, then shoot the rest willy nilly. Nature knows what it is doing far more than humans. You take a species out, or bring it to near extinction then you might just get to learn why it was there in the first place. In a grown up world, we KNOW that it is humans and intensive framing, that has messed up Badgers and other wildlife and flora and fauna, and that Bovine TB is a cattle disease, transferred to badgers by cattle. As few Badgers actually have the full blown disease, and only a few carry it, then shooting between 70% - 90% is NOT acceptable to the public. Vaccination of Badgers can work, and Wales have shown out of all the badgers on their programme of vaccination, NOT ONE had TB. Backing what objective scientists have said all along. Those who live in the country, and those who have learnt by being out in the field over the badger cull, know and have witnessed many bad farming practice, but more than this an obsessive and cruel attitude to badgers, which has nothing to do with science. As we patrolled at night, all we heard were the shots not just of badgers but other wildlife, classed as pests, screaming as they died. And noted how devoid the patured lands were of wildlife. The people have spoken. We don't trust farmers to care for the countryside against profit, and trade abroad. We want an independent panel, NOT infiltrated by politics, to step in and guide farmers back to the true path of conservation. STOP blaming badger for bees and sky larks and hedgehogs demise, and see it is them who have caused a decline in wildlife. 97% of he people out patrolling the welfare of badgers were decent law a biding people. So STOP tarring us all as terroists, in propaganda, just because it suits. We are not going away, and want the power taken from the NFU, and placed into the hands of expert science and conservationists. The 'Henderson's have a good farm and methods, I spent a huge amount of my childhood there, pony trekking and helping with the sheep shearing as a child, as I lived round the corner. And they are helping rare breeds, who suffered in the past from humans. So please don't add badgers to a future programme of rare breeds.

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