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Letters, March 17: Vaccination is cheaper than badger cull; development plans for housing; and a smarter approach for Yeovil

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 17, 2014

Comments (14)

Badger cull has proved costly flop

Last year, several thousand badgers were killed in Somerset and Gloucestershire in an attempt to show that culling them by free-shooting would be a cost-effective way of reducing bovine TB. This exercise was an utter flop as it failed to reach its targeted objective in numbers killed and the cost worked out at more than £4,000 per badger, most of which fell on taxpayers. In comparison, vaccination by trained volunteers costs only about £300. It is likely that the Government is considering even more inhumane methods including gassing.

The poor badger has been a scapegoat for years of lax and ineffective cattle testing by government and poor controls on cattle movement around the country. By 1990, the country had reduced TB to minimal levels by many years of thorough testing and removal of infected stock.

The problem surged particularly after the foot and mouth disaster of 2001 when all controls were abandoned in the rush to restock farms.

The policy of killing badgers is deeply flawed and flies in the face of reputable scientific opinion. The ten-year randomised badger culling trial which ran until 2007 showed that only one per cent of badgers were infectious.

Badger vaccination projects are springing up across the country, organised by county wildlife trusts and badger groups – including the Somerset Badger Group. It is time to ask local councils to step up to protect our badgers. They have the power to ban culling on their land, as have Brighton, Sheffield, Oxford and Hampshire for instance, and contribute to vaccination projects.

Operation Badger is a national campaign of petitions to councils across England and Wales. There are more than 120 such petitions in a network stretching from Cumbria to Kent and from Cornwall to Northumberland.

You can find your nearest petition by going to www.b-r-a-v-e.co.uk/operationbadger/ and using the drop-down menu. In the south Somerset area the petition is at www.ipetitions.com/petition/protect-south-somersets-remaining-badgers-by.

Operation Badger can really make a difference, I hope readers will sign their local petition today and ask the council to reject culling in favour of vaccination. Our wildlife should not be sacrificed in the name of shoddy politics.

If you require further information, please contact the Badger Trust on 0845 8287878, or at enquiries@badgertrust.org.uk.

Paul Cullen-James

Yeovil, Somerset

Let sheep graze under solar farms

As we have an increasing number of solar farms why don't they think of erecting them eight to ten feet off the ground, then animals could graze under them and use them for shelter.

Caroline Barry

Butleigh, Somerset

Still time to stand up for our county

Driving the proposals in the controversial Joint Core Strategy is an assertion by our councils that they need to identify sufficient land to provide more than 33,000 new homes by 2031.

They say that government planning rules in the National Planning Policy Framework require them to meet objective-assessed housing needs. They do, but the same rules importantly go on to say "unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this framework taken as a whole; or specific policies in this framework indicate development should be restricted".

A number of local authorities have recently been allowed by government to adopt plans which provide for less than their objectively assessed housing needs. They include a diverse range of areas such as Eastbourne, Mid Suffolk, Reigate and Banstead, Wealden, and West Berkshire, but all include protected land such as green belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Land locally valued by the community must be protected against development. It is not too late to revise the JCS to make it more acceptable. There is still time for the planners and members of the three local authorities to stand up for our county. Gloucestershire CPRE will happily tell them how.

Richard Lloyd

Gloucestershire branch, Campaign to Protect Rural England

Eastern approach hardly welcoming

I frequently travel to Yeovil for shopping and I am always impressed by how much care and trouble so many individuals and groups go to making the area attractive.

However, I wonder if any other readers would agree that the eastern approach to the town, from Babylon Hill onwards is developing an almost post-apocalyptic feel?

It does not encourage visitors to venture in. It seems a great shame when the Pen Mill Hotel makes such an effort to look attractive.

I have written to South Somerset District Council and Yeovil Town Council which have explained that there is a county border near the roundabout and that negotiations to improve that area, including the roundabout itself, have not been successful. However, I'm sure we can do better to encourage visitors to the town, and to help residents enjoy their surroundings more.

If anyone would like to help, they can either write to the councils, or try adding their name to a petition at www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/somerset-county-council-make-babylon-hill-beautiful.

Lizzie Clasby

Caundle, Dorset

Miliband's EU vow is meaningless

Ed Miliband has ruled out a referendum over the EU unless there are to be any "major transfer of powers" from the UK to the EU. Perhaps Mr Miliband doesn't know that the Lisbon Treaty is self-amending meaning that there need be no more transfers. Basically the EU can now do as it pleases and we can do nothing about it.

Mr Cameron persists in the myth that he can renegotiate and then put it to a referendum but did not Mrs Merkell, Viv Redding and several other EU bosses tell him "renegotiation is impossible"?

Currently (to 2013) the UK is subject to 8,937 Regulations, 1,953 Directives, 15,561 "decisions", 2,948 "legal acts" and literally 73,000 other pieces of legislation imposed by Brussels and none of them have been agreed by the people of the UK, only our "leaders".

Once again we see that the only way to change any of this is to get out of the EU and the only clear choice for this is to support Ukip. Again and again Labour, Tory and Lib Dems say they are looking for ways to gain "power" for themselves; only Ukip is looking for ways to free us from this nightmare.

Greg Heathcliffe

Swindon, Wiltshire

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  • danreed_3  |  March 20 2014, 11:01AM

    @mmjames - Bulldozing cleared setts? You're crazy! This would be completely impractical in all but a few situations, rendering such an idea completely pointless. Have you ever seen a badger sett? The majority occur on steep wooded banks - apart from the issue of access what about the EPS surveys etc that would be required to undertake and mitigate before you start clearing banks of ancient woodland/hedgerow to get at them. Of the hundreds of setts I have visited/surveyed/monitored I can only think of a handful that could be physically dismantled in the manner you advocate. I surveyed a sett in Dorset last year that was so extensive it stretched for over 60m along a steep woodland bank and I lost count at about 30 entrance holes. Signs of activity alluded to no more than a small group of badgers in residence so the effort to block all of the holes, gas it and then destroy it would far outweigh the benefit of four or five dead badgers - especially when this would have to be undertaken across huge areas to make it effective.

  • barney2  |  March 20 2014, 12:20AM

    I see somebody didn't like the ratings so decided to change them. severe lack of integrity.

  • barney2  |  March 19 2014, 2:57PM

    mmjames It may help your cause if you people got together so that your propaganda did not conflict. You are telling us that the sick badgers would not go into the traps and Bill Harper, chairman of the National Beef association TB committee tells us that the first badgers into the traps during the cull were visually covered in TB lesions, of course he could not back that up with evidence. So who do we believe him or you.

  • mmjames  |  March 19 2014, 2:45PM

    Defra says lots of things, doesn't make them all true!

  • barney2  |  March 19 2014, 1:39PM

    mmjames If you did your research you would find that Defra say that at the moment PCR cannot be used for this purpose but may be usable in the future.

  • mmjames  |  March 19 2014, 9:49AM

    danreed_3 | March 18 2014, 11:36PM Personally I support the use of PCR to ID infected setts and then the use of SUE followed by bulldozing the sett to avoid it being inhabited in the NEAR future. As only ONE CFU of zTB is necessary to infect a cow, merely reducing the load in wildlife is not going to have much if any effect for cattle.

  • danreed_3  |  March 18 2014, 11:36PM

    @mmjames - Whilst m.tuberculosis and m.bovis are very closely related pathogens they are still formed of distinct bacilli. Why not reference relevant information instead of articles regarding the ineffectiveness of the BCG vaccine (m.bovis) in humans. The current (relevant) research shows that when applied to badgers it is quite successful at reducing prevalence in un-vaccinated offspring. Contrary to your opinion, of course reducing the prevalence is beneficial - reducing the prevalence consequently reduces the probability of the infection being passed on by reducing the number of hosts. If you see a reduction in the prevalence as a 'waste of time' then why do you support removing badgers? Surely this is the purpose of culling - to reduce the number of hosts? "Sick badgers would NOT be first into traps - they would crawl away to die or die underground." - Sounds rational if severely infected but how does free shooting deal with this problem if all the sick badgers are indeed hiding underground?

  • mmjames  |  March 17 2014, 11:36PM

    Clued-Up | March 17 2014, 8:25PM Sick badgers would NOT be first into traps - they would crawl away to die or die underground.

  • Clued-Up  |  March 17 2014, 8:30PM

    @mmjames You repeatedly refer to a site which does not respect normal web conventions and appears to misrepresent research done by reputable researchers.

  • Clued-Up  |  March 17 2014, 8:25PM

    @mmjames There's good reason to believe you're scare-mongering. If significant numbers of the UK's badger population were "sick [with TB] and starved to death", then the vaccinators (and the vets helping them) would have identified these animals during the Welsh badger vaccination programme. Of the 1200 animals checked NONE were visibly ill. What you're saying appears to be mere parroting of NFU propaganda.