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Badger cull protesters are missing the point of battle with TB

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 28, 2014

Badger cull protesters are missing the point of battle with TB

Comments (7)

I write this as an arable farmer who keeps no cattle but is passionate about the countryside, its wildlife and its people.

I am hugely concerned that the nation seems to be "losing the plot" where the badger cull is concerned, a fact which was graphically illustrated by the recent picture in the Western Daily Press on August 22 showing the protests against the badger cull outside the High Court.

The badger cull is not sport, it is no more and no less than an integral part of an essential disease control programme. Nigel Gibbens, the Government's chief vet, has eloquently explained why without a badger cull the disease control programme will fail. George Eustice, the Defra Minister – has confirmed that vaccination cannot cure TB-infected badgers and Joe Henson has articulated that if TB is not eradicated then our much-loved native breeds of cattle and their produce almost certainly face extinction.

And then there is the human health risk. The story of the teenage girl who had to have emergency surgery following contracting bovine TB from wildlife via her pet is very harrowing – who could possibly wish that on anybody's child let alone their own?

Antibiotic resistant TB across the world is a huge concern to all those seeking to combat the disease and bovine TB is very closely related to human TB. Should we really be playing games with this disease?

It is an unfortunate fact that due to its physiology the badger is one of the most infectious species when carrying TB which is why TB infected badgers can spread the disease so rapidly. All of these facts have recently been well reported in the Western Daily Press.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the enemy here is mycobacterium bovis and there should be no disagreement that we must take every possible step to exterminate it without delay. Every day's delay is more infected badgers, more culled cattle and potentially more infected children, all of us should be ashamed of that.

Opposition to this disease control programme is being whipped up by celebrity conservationists who illustrate from their radio interviews that they do not understand wildlife – Bill Oddie: Try telling the mother hedgehog whose family has just been eaten by a badger that the badger has sympathy for her, and yes, post mortemed badgers have been found with stomachs full of hedgehoglets – and lobbyists who are being paid large salaries to get the cull stopped. Many of the opponents of the cull come from urban areas miles from Gloucestershire, if they succeed they will then depart for the safety of their homes and leave us, our children, our wildlife and our cattle to continue to be ravaged by this horrible disease – that surely verges on immoral.

If this disease is not brought under control in our wildlife then eventually many of the much loved facets of Gloucestershire will disappear. It may take 20, 30 or 50 years but eventually it will happen. Cattle will disappear from the Gloucestershire landscape as it will become more and more impossible for farmers to keep them disease free, unless they are kept permanently inside and never let out to graze, and who wants to see that?

Cattle eat grass so the beautiful pastures of Gloucestershire will be either ploughed up or fall into disrepair as they cannot be maintained so the glorious landscape we all enjoy and love will be lost.

Close to where I live people have been gathering on top of May Hill at dawn on May Day for 300 years – initially the lads from the local villages met and beat hell out of each other to prove who was best. Now the morris dancers do similar!. This year there were lots of children and dogs rolling round in the grass.

Many badgers live on the hill, if we do not exterminate this disease from them then eventually it will become unsafe for children to play with their dogs on the hill, and the beautiful belted Galloway cattle which currently graze the hill will be long gone.

This is not to say anything about the huge emotional angst caused to farmers who are unable to protect their cattle from contracting TB from contact with infected badgers. If badgers forage in grazing fields it is impossible to keep them apart unless the cattle are housed 24/7. But then who cares about the farmers? There may be no need to care for their financial wellbeing but we should all care for the emotional wellbeing of everyone in our community.

Farmers love their animals, I have absolutely no time for the very small minority who do not, and many of them have helped them being born and have a strong emotional bond with them. To see them infected with a disease which they have no means of controlling can be heartbreaking, on top of which there is the added worry of how you are going to feed your family when your income has been cut off due to your farm being shut down with TB – I am not aware that Tesco's will take an IOU for groceries.

I personally know of at least one farmer suicide which can be directly traced back to TB. It has had a very deep effect on me knowing that two small children have had to grow up without a father, and all because of bovine TB.

David Barton has bravely opened his heart and written about the effects of bovine TB on his farm and his family in a blog – anyone doubting the horrors of dealing with this disease should have a quiet read , visit farmerdavidbarton.wordpress.com

No amount of cattle controls or changes to farming practice will address the threat from this disease now endemic within Gloucestershire wildlife.

There is no threat of extinction of badgers from the badger cull and the benefits to all will be huge ... and one of the biggest beneficiaries will be the badger species which will be saved from a huge amount of suffering by ridding its population of this horrible disease. This is why the badger cull should not be contentious, the tragedy is that those of us that know and love the countryside and understand this have failed to get this message across.

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  • Vinebo  |  August 31 2014, 7:19AM

    And not forgetting ...., earthworms where the disease lives in the digestive tract ... Interesting. Can you please give me a reference for that, I haven't picked up on that one.

  • moobag3  |  August 30 2014, 4:16PM

    We are missing the point? I think you are missing the point! Human health risk, are you having a laugh, wasn't milk consumed that were from dairy cows positive for Btb? And people rolling around on the same hill as badgers could be at risk!!! What total nonsense. Don't you realise, there are many other species who test positive for tb, the highest known category is alpacas. This young girl was more likely to have contracted it due to alpacas in the area than because of badgers. I know of a number of families in Devon who have caught tb from their alpacas - FACT. And not forgetting deers, earthworms where the disease lives in the digestive tract ... in fact not to mention the soil where it can live for up to 2 years, so what are you going do? eh? kill all alpacas, deers, earthworms and remove all the soil from everywhere there has been Btb????? I think you need to read the scientific evidence - all of it! Not just that claimed by our oh so honest government and the NFU and their advisors. I have never read such nonsense and don't get me started on hedgehogs, the biggest reason for their decline is roads and intensive farming!!!!!!!!!! Stop using the badger as a scapegoat - I am sorry but for using public safety as one of your reasons for this cull going ahead actually makes me think you are linked to the NFU in some way. Read all the proper facts before coming out with this utter nonsense!!!!

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  • ks009746  |  August 30 2014, 1:53PM

    Oh really? We're "missing the point" are we? Do you seriously think that everyone who is against this crazy cull doesn't understand that this is a serious disease? Why on earth then, are our views PURELY BASED on the opinions of disease and wildlife experts who have spent years studying this for PRECISELY THAT REASON? As you will be aware (but are deciding to ignore) Lord Krebs' in 1997 decided to set up a trial that looked at the effectiveness of badger culling to reduce bovine TB, because at that time, the scientific evidence was sparse (yes, that includes Thornbury, because there were no controls used, and the method was different, so it cannot strictly be regarded as scientific evidence). In 2007, 7 years later, they produced the following report that specifically said cattle-based measures alone would reduce disease incidence and that culling would make no meaningful contribution to controlling the disease. Don't believe me? Here's the report http://tinyurl.com/3jy456j But it doesn't stop there. A study was set up to look at the duration of the "beneficial" (that is, a measly 16% reduction, at the very most, that is possible) effects after culling ceased. I quote "The financial costs of culling an idealized 150 km2 area would exceed the savings achieved through reduced cattle TB, by factors of 2 to 3.5." followed by "Our findings show that the reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results, combined with evaluation of alternative culling methods, suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain." http://tinyurl.com/ydu9ek2 What this essentially means is that you're spending a ridiculous amount of money (£1-4000 per badger) to shoot the poor things, and aren't even getting anywhere near your target percentage. Even if you do get your percentage, you will have prevented at most 2 out of every 10 cases of cattle TB after 9 years, when you could have achieved far more, as the ISG suggested, by implementing cattle-based measures alone. But hey, as long as it makes you feel better to shoot a load of probably perfectly healthy badgers then who cares about the science, right? Surely the people who have spent years studying this must have some hidden agenda, right? So ignore the facts all you want, but don't you dare say that we're missing the point when it is you who is showing a staggering display of arrogance and ignorance towards people who are equally as concerned about this disease as you. You don't have to be a farmer to care about animal welfare, and it is you and your ilk who are stalling progress on this very serious issue by attacking a bunch of well-meaning people who have read the evidence and like you, don't want to see a bunch of healthy animals killed for no reason. But if you want to be taken seriously, then stop treating us like idiots and do some of your own research.

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  • lovelylizzy  |  August 30 2014, 10:33AM

    Very well said clued up. But please, don't confuse them with the ACTUAL facts.

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  • JuliaMichell  |  August 30 2014, 8:26AM

    Has this person ever actually read the scientific evidence that proves badger culling is a bad idea?? The government paid for it!!

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  • Clued-Up  |  August 28 2014, 3:56PM

    A dishonest article, from start to finish. It sounds as if it's been written by the PR professionals now writing for the NFU. Where to start in nailing the mis-information? "The badger cull is not sport, it is no more and no less than an integral part of an essential disease control programme". Untrue, every independent scientist says cattle measures alone will stop cattle bTB, killing badgers doesn't reduce cattle BTB. "George Eustice, the Defra Minister – has confirmed that vaccination cannot cure TB-infected badgers". Vaccinations are used to prevent disease, not cure it - as George Eustice must know well but doesn't care to admit. When explaining how tragic it is for a hedgehog to lose her young, is the author suggesting all mammals (including us) should turn vegan? Badgers - like us - are omnivores. If the author eats beef and lamb then he's got no right to attack a badger for its diet (mainly earthworms but rats, mice, rabbits and hedgehogs are occasionally included in it). Large farmers' enthusiasm for mega-dairies (where cattle never see grass) is driven by the huge profits they can make from these blots on the landscape, not by fear of bTB disease. The health risks to cattle from all diseases and the use of antibiotics are said to be higher in the mega-dairies than amongst grazed cattle - however, to my knowledge no research has been done to prove the case either way. Farmer suicides are regrettably common but bTB breakdowns are only one of the many pressures isolated, financially-struggling small farmers face. The teenager who had to have surgery because of catching TB from her kitten almost certainly was an indirect victim of her pet's battles with other cats or local rats and mice. There was a farm in the locality with a bTB breakdown amongst the cattle - rats, mice and cats can all become infected with TB. If the kitten had had close contact with a TB infectious badger it would not have survived the encounter and would never have had the opportunity to infect its young owner.

  • barney2  |  August 28 2014, 1:38PM

    NO it is you who are missing the point. Our top scientist and animal disease experts that are not employed by the government have told you and us that killing badgers will not help and may even make the situation worst, but you know better. Take your blinkers off and look towards Wales, they have achieve a 18% drop in the last year and a 50% drop in the last 5 years without killing badgers. Or look at the ROI and do some research and you will find that killing badgers is not the reason for their reduction in Btb, it was if fact their farm based measures and they are very careful not to make a definitive claim that killing badgers helped........The science is clear killing badgers will not help but you want them killed anyway, you need a scapegoat and you see the badger as a worthless creature, a nuisance that you want removed.......The whole business is based on lies, deceit and cherry picked bits of data. The government the NFU and some farmers are responsible for this mess but people like you are not going to admit that so you find a scapegoat.