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.