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WMN opinion: Debate is good, but pilot badger cull must be tried

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 11, 2012

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There is little doubt that as we move towards a pilot cull of badgers as part of efforts to reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle, the animal welfare lobby will be stepping up its campaign of opposition. Political Animal Lobby (PAL) – the group founded by Brian Davies, who as a leading light in the International Fund for Animal Welfare campaigned against the culling of seal pups in the 1970s – yesterday launched "Badgering Dave". A billboard sized cartoon of the Prime Minister is being driven around London and his Oxford constituency in a clear attempt to personalise the argument and persuade the Prime Minister to reverse his decision on the cull.

It won't work, of course. Mr Cameron may be susceptible to U-turns but on the culling of badgers he had clearly made up his mind before the coalition even took power that a cull, denied to farmers for years by a prevaricating Labour Government, should be tried. Only the Court of Appeal, which will hear the last ditch attempt by the Badger Trust to overturn the cull next month, can stop the two pilots, one in Somerset and one in Gloucestershire, from going ahead. Our belief is it will decide, having weighed all the evidence, that the culls should proceed.

It is, of course, right that we have a debate about the best way to combat the growing menace of bovine TB on farms and in the countryside. Right too that, in a democracy, organisations can protest and direct their views towards politicians who must stand or fall by the decisions they take. PAL believes Mr Cameron will, in its words, "pay the price for his insensitivity" at the polling booths if he presses ahead with a cull.

Our view is that he would have paid an even higher price among farmers and many taxpayers – who are currently bankrolling the £100m cost of bovine TB – if he had done nothing. A cull may be a long way from the perfect solution. No one will take any pleasure in the deaths of such a well-loved wild animal. But the perfect solution doesn't exist. Used alongside other measures it is worthwhile exploring whether cutting the badger population can help reduce the incidence of the disease. That's precisely what is about to happen in a small part of the Westcountry. It deserves to be given a chance.

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The ten-point plan produced by the Dairy Coalition yesterday keeps up the pressure for a long-term solution to the milk crisis which boiled over last month with blockades of processors' plants. That action earned dairy farmers an extra few pence on the farm gate price of milk and a stay of execution from a damaging price cut. Thus far, the deal has held – but it was never going to be the end of the story. Yesterday's plan has the merit of being backed by a broad coalition in the industry. There is still work to be done, for sure. But it is possible now to see a brighter future for dairying. It just has to be realised. That'll be the hard bit.

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  • freeda_brocks  |  August 18 2012, 9:25AM

    the organisers of the cull, in there so called "secret" syndicate have now been exposed http://tinyurl.com/c89yhqw a complete list of their addresses, landline, mobile and email for all of the three organisers. the only "secret" left to this cull is when?

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  • badgerhugger  |  August 16 2012, 10:42PM

    The above article misunderstands the whole point, stating that "it is worthwhile exploring whether cutting the badger population can help reduce the incidence of the disease. That's precisely what is about to happen in a small part of the Westcountry. It deserves to be given a chance." Defra clearly admit that the trials will only examine the safety and practicality of the cull. No attempt will be made to assess the success in terms of reducing TB. This is because the government have already decided, contrary to the results of extensive trials, that they want to cull badgers.

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  • Baby_boomer  |  August 15 2012, 1:43PM

    I have to ask the question – who is the more obsessed? Is it the "Western Moaning Farmers" newspaper which seems absolutely desperate to fill column inches every single day with a badger related story, or is it the stuck gramophone record which goes by the name of Charlespk whose incessant rants are regularly accompanied by puerile hyperlinks? Answer : They're probably equally obsessed to an abnormal degree and arguably provide enough ammunition between them for a shrink to write a text-book!

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  • docrichie  |  August 15 2012, 10:06AM

    As someone with a doctorate in animal science who worked on badgers and bovine TB for the World Wildlife Fund (as was) back in the 1980s, then served on the Government's Consultative Panel for three years, I wrote the book "The Fate of the Badger" as a consequence because I was so shocked at the way science was being misapplied; it has now been politicised to an incredible degree. Tragically, little has changed since the 80s and even some ex Ministry scientists are aghast at what is happening. Little or nothing is heard about all the other wildlife which can carry the bacillus, or the infamous "kissing cows" scenario, not to mention lax biosecurity on farms. Farmers have been fed the notion that it is badgers, badgers, badgers for so long now many never even question it. At the start there were top politicians and MAFF personnel who staked the reputations on the belief that they had found the solution to a persistent low level prevalence of TB in the national herd in SW England. Since the badger became the sole focus of that attention TB has steadily increased. No-one has ever shown how a badger can give respiratory TB to a cow. Transmission the other way is all too obvious, with badgers preference for snuffling under cow pats. Indeed a scientist I know did a lot of work on how cows avoid badger products on pasture complete with night sight video evidence - work funded by MAFF, which was suppressed because it didn't give the results they needed. The badger is a classic scapegoat, and their slaughter a travesty of rational science.

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  • MimiGallagher  |  August 13 2012, 9:02PM

    The worst editorial I think I have ever read anywhere! What a load of nonsense. Yes bTB is a problem but killing badgers will not solve it. This cull is simply a cruel, barbarous attack on wildlife, a diversion away from investment in cattle based measures which will help.

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  • freeda_brocks  |  August 13 2012, 7:27PM

    they won't say where the cull zones are but the people campaigning to stop the cull will tell you: http://tinyurl.com/c9an3l3 Arable farmers have already been identified as "the weakest link" by animal rights activists, I wonder how happy they are going to be as the front line of a 4 year campaign by activists from all over the UK? Arable farmers still have to pay for the cull on their land, the NFU sent people round to bully farmers into taking up this cull, obviously some farmers are only to keen to kill badgers, others however needed to be "persuaded" by the NFU with the zones needing 70% takeup its obvious that the arable farmers will be the ones that have most of the culling on their land as their method of farming uses more land than a dairy or beef farmer. Also farmers have to pay the same fee's they paid to join up as they do to leave, a dairy farmer with 400 acres and 200 head of cattle will pay £1,500 for the four year cull and an equal amount if they decide to leave, whereas an arable farmer with 1,400 acres only pays £300 for a four year cull and another £300 if they want to leave. their are already rumours of 1 large landowner pulling out and one of the zones now going below 70% the police are also now approaching Defra for the policing costs, as it is farmers who are going to pay for the cull are they ready for a massive increase in the cost of the cull? it could well be that farmers will pay the money and the cull will never happen because of policing costs or another land owner pulling out, will they be refunded???

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  • Mikethepike  |  August 13 2012, 6:05PM

    Give badger culling a chance? Over 11,000 were killed in a 10-year research study and the conclusion (by the Independent Scientific Group) was that killing baders would make no meaningful contribution to controlling bTB. Before that (in the 80s ?) MAFF happily killed thousands of badgers in the south west--and bTB continued to rise. This latest politically motivated scheme was heralded as a well managed science-led solution: what we have instead is a crackpot, dangerous scheme which has abandoned science on the assumption that slaughtering badgers at night with rifles and shotguns will be effective, safe and efficient. The justification for assuming that it will be all those things is because deer and foxes are killed that way. Different tougher, low-slung target; much more difficult shooting conditions at night; but still the Government airily suggests it will work and to prove it they want to kill around 40,000 badgers, most of them disease free, in two pilot trials. How many monitors will there be? They won't say. Where will the shooting taking place? They won't say. So careful where you go for late evening walks in Somerset and the Forest of Dean!

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