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WMN opinion: Storm of emotions show badger cull issue needs addressing

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 02, 2012

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"Shock, disbelief and horror, frustration, anger and desperation".

"Staggered... disgustingly irresponsible... shame on you."

Two examples of the emotive language used in the last two days in discussions around the postponement of the badger cull pilots.

The first set of words were those used by NFU president Peter Kendall describing, in the Western Morning News, the reaction of farmers who have been told their cattle are infected with TB, and their desperate need of a solution.

The second are those of Queen guitarist Brian May, a leading campaigner against the cull, who was "tweeting" in response to comments made by WMN columnist Antony Gibson.

If ever there was evidence that an issue needed addressing – the Twitter storm that has broken out around Mr Gibson's column is it.

Emotions are running high and the recent postponement of the culls planned to start this autumn have left people on both sides of the argument frustrated.

Those against have seen both the Government and the NFU reaffirm their commitment to the cull, and argue again that the delay was necessary in order to make sure the pilots were carried out effectively and efficiently.

Meanwhile Westcountry farmers, already battered and bruised by the disease which has caused enormous heartache and the loss of valuable breeding stock, face another eight to ten months haunted by TB.

And that delay is just for the farmers in the pilot cull areas.

For those in other TB-affected areas, a solution could be even further away.

The decision to postpone was taken with the best interest of the farmers and badgers in mind.

But, however torrid the storms on Twitter, or on the letters pages of the Western Morning News, the Government must restore its credibility on this issue by sticking with the cull and ensuring it is brought forward as quickly and efficiently as possible next summer.

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Meanwhile some good news at last for struggling farmers who yesterday welcomed Waitrose's decision to increase the amount it pays for milk.

The supermarket chain is now paying farmers just over 32 pence per litre.

It is a significant step in the right direction for the small number of farmers who supply the supermarket, but on an industry-wide level there is plenty more scope for improvement.

Ian Johnson, regional spokesman for the NFU in the South West told us: "There are lots of farmers and any number of outlets they supply. We now need other leading processors to come knocking on the door."

We urge those processors to do so. Farmers cannot be expected to continue producing milk at a loss, and with prices of fuel high, and the appalling summer weather driving up the cost of feed, loss-making production is reality for many.

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  • stormkettle  |  November 08 2012, 7:53PM

    WMN ; You're editorial seems to be muddled. The cull should not happen , the science does not support such action. The govt can only restore credibility on this issue by calling off the cull. Oh, and badgers need legal protection from people who seem intent on persecuting them.

  • eyeopener  |  November 03 2012, 10:18AM

    That will be one to watch!

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  • grannyonline1  |  November 03 2012, 9:47AM

    Panorama... reporting on the badger cull. around 12th Nov i believe!

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  • eyeopener  |  November 02 2012, 8:32PM

    by SuperTramp Friday, November 02 2012, 5:36PM "I do not condone it, but it is happening. Some of the road kills on our lanes—in Somerset, there is a dead badger on practically every lane—were not hit by cars, but were put there having been otherwise destroyed." Are there not criminals in every walk of life?

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  • grannyonline1  |  November 02 2012, 7:53PM

    Could& DEFRA be pushing harder Michael Ritchie, spokesman for Rethink Bovine TB: The only significant obstacle to a cattle TB vaccine is EU law, which forbids vaccination against BTB because it may interfere with the (woefully inaccurate) skin test. For this reason DEFRA has developed a test able to differentiate between vaccinated and infected cattle - the DIVA test. In 2010, DEFRA stated that it aimed to have BCG and the DIVA test licensed by 2012 but that "due to the need to change EU legislation, which is a lengthy process, we anticipate that a cattle vaccine and DIVA test could not be used in the field before 2015". It is now 2012 and both BCG and the DIVA test are ready to license, but DEFRA is vaguely stating that use is "many years away". Why the change from 2015? It is because DEFRA is hoping that proposed new EU animal health legislation will allow vaccination. It is not clear what steps, if any, DEFRA has taken to change the law or get a derogation during the years it has been developing the vaccine. It is equally perplexing that DEFRA is hoping a major redraft of EU law will provide the solution, rather than demanding that existing law is changed urgently to allow cattle farmers to protect their stock. Earlier this year, DEFRA asked the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to license the DIVA test. DEFRA was caught unawares when the OIE demanded UK field trials, trials that DEFRA claims it cannot do because use of the vaccine in the UK is illegal. There the matter is stuck - the vaccine is ready to license but illegal to use. The DIVA test removes the reason vaccination is illegal, making the law pointless. But the DIVA test cannot be licensed until the vaccine is legal. What is now needed is nothing more than a strong DEFRA minister who will put an end to this farce and order officials to find solutions - not create more bureaucratic muddles - so as to deploy cattle vaccination without delay. ✱ Rethink Bovine TB is an independent research group funded by people with an interest in public policy as it affects agriculture, animal diseases and welfare and the financial viability of farming.

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  • SuperTramp  |  November 02 2012, 7:30PM

    //An opinion piece shouldn't merely represent the views of one party to the conflict without mentioning the reasons why the other party holds the views they do.// An opinion piece is just what it says - it is an opinion.

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  • SuperTramp  |  November 02 2012, 6:42PM

    conundrum I disagree with what you say about this newspaaper. The newspaper is clear that the editor supports a cull. However, it does seem to me that it gives equal space to both sides.

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  • grannyonline1  |  November 02 2012, 6:29PM

    If farmers have been killing badgers illegally all this time, and knowing what we know about perturbation,no wonder bovine TB has spread. They seem to be thier own worst enemy. Its time to stop blamming badgers, and get on with a proper vaccination programme for both cattle and badgers.

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  • conundrum  |  November 02 2012, 6:28PM

    In response to the question below from Clued-Up as to ' why is this newspaper allowing such underhanded behaviour?' Well, it's actually quite simple. When I first started looking at this site, I was also struck by the fact that it often carries such simplistic, unbalanced and uncritical articles parroting the current government spin that they could easily be mistaken for press releases direct from Conservative Part HQ or even that bastion of bigotry The Daily Mail. And guess what? ......yes that's right: It is actually owned by The Daily Mail. So I'm afraid if, like me you want to keep up with local news, you just need to bear that rather unpleasant fact in mind and filter out what's actually impartial reporting and opinion, because there is some from time to time. Try The People's Republic of South Devon site as well.

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  • SuperTramp  |  November 02 2012, 5:36PM

    In a Westminster Hall debate on bovine TB on the 6th December 2005 I found this contribution. David Heath is now the new agrriculture minister. Mr. Heath [Somerton and Frome, Liberal Democrat] : I have outlined the economic and social effects [of bTB] on the farming population. I now return to the question of welfare and the disease that is endemic in the badger population. As the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon said, it affects badgers far more than cattle. Another knock-on effect, which I shall not dwell on, is the illegal cull of badgers that is undoubtedly going on all the time. I do not condone it, but it is happening. Some of the road kills on our lanes—in Somerset, there is a dead badger on practically every lane—were not hit by cars, but were put there having been otherwise destroyed. Those are the lengths to which people will go if they feel that their concerns are not being properly addressed.

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