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NFU leader accuses BBC of bias over badger cull reports

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 28, 2012

NFU president Peter Kendall

NFU president Peter Kendall

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The BBC has been strongly criticised by farming leaders for “biased, inaccurate and misleading” coverage of badger culling set to take place in the South West.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall has written a letter of complaint to new BBC director general George Entwistle urging him to review its reporting of the controversial Government plan to combat tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.

In a furious attack, prompted by a lengthy feature on the planned culls on BBC2’s Newsnight on Tuesday, he said the corporation’s coverage was “clearly pitched against the cull” and is helping to “ramp up the hysteria” over the policy.

Last week, Natural England licensed a badger cull in west Gloucestershire, with a start date expected within weeks.

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A second in west Somerset likely to be given the go-ahead shortly.

If deemed safe, ten cull zones could be given the go-ahead each year for four years in bovine TB hotspots, with some likely to be further down the Westcountry peninsula.

In his letter, Mr Kendall points to a litany of complaints about the feature, and said the decision to grant anonymity to an anti-cull protester threatening direct action against the cull was “disgraceful”.

He said it suggested anti-cull protesters were being intimidated by farmers when, actually, farmers were feeling “harassed and intimidated”.

“This suggestion is disgusting and clearly biased,” he wrote. “The BBC’s clear partiality in protecting the identity of someone whose clear intent is to disrupt a lawful process by himself taking illegal action goes against your own editorial guidelines and is shameful for an organisation which purports to be impartial, accurate and trusted.”

Mr Kendall also accused the programme of giving a misleading impression that a farmer who spoke of the “intimidation and harassment” she had been subjected to was pulling out of the cull.

Mr Kendall said this had subsequently proved to be “simply not true”.

He criticised the suggestion that the cull involved the “mass slaughter” of badgers, claiming the phrase was lifted from the anti-cull lobby and intended to “raise alarm and ramp up the hysteria”.

The NFU president said the Newsnight feature was “symptomatic of the BBC’s general biased coverage of the cull” across its formats.

A BBC spokesman said: “The information supplied in this piece came from respected organisations involved in both sides of this story.

“We will deal with any complaint as and when it is received, responding directly to the NFU.”

She said the BBC considers all requests for anonymity very carefully.

“Due to the emotive nature of this story, it would be a plausible concern for both sides. Newsnight would have afforded anonymity to the other contributors had they requested it.

“Hearing from this individual, although anonymously, meant we could challenge their position and plans for direct action,” she said.

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  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 5:21PM

    Badgers have to be controlled. . They are a self-sustaining species for this bacteria. http://tinyurl.com/8a7bwy9

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  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 5:13PM

    Just accept you don't really know what you are talking about. . You just have opinions based on some deeply felt belief that it's wrong to cull badgers. . If we are faced with any pathogen like say rabies in foxes(a virus), there won't be any questions asked. . They'll just be taken out. These bacteria can effect ALL mammals, and are continually increasing and evolving through clonal expansion. . They cannot be ignored. http://tinyurl.com/dhxvbk

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  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 4:56PM

    When you've learnt to read and understand what's put before you. . I'll bother to reply. The science surrounding the Mycobacteria tuberculosis genus of TB causing bacteria probably better understood than almost any other. . It is the nautilus of the bacteria world, and has been around for at least 10,000 years but probably many more. People often call Mycobacterium.bovis "The Cattle Strain". . That is one of the major problems. . When the bacteria that was causing the TB in cattle was first identified, it was named M.bovis, but as it first originated from M.tuberculosis (The human strain); it most likely first appeared in other animals, vermin or the like that scavenged at mans' "dustbins", latrines or graves; not the cattle. In a relatively recent report, researchers examined the ancient village of Atlit-Yam, which has been covered by water for the past several thousand years, and which has yielded skeletons and some of the earliest evidence for agriculture and for cattle domestication. According to one long-standing hypothesis, tuberculosis initially infected people who drank the milk of domesticated cattle that carried a unique strain of the TB bacterium. However, new DNA data from the two Atlit-Yam skeletons provides evidence that in a community with domesticated animals, but before dairying, the infecting strain of tuberculosis was actually the human pathogen. The researchers estimate that human tuberculosis first evolved around 10,000 years ago, when agriculture's emergence led to densely populated settlements that acted as petri dishes for infection. Tuberculosis may have infected small numbers of people before that, but the bacteria could not have spread widely in small bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers. One of the pleasures of science is that nothing remains certain forever. The report can be found at the link here. http://tinyurl.com/63cep23 (open in new window)

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  • Emwye  |  September 29 2012, 3:50PM

    ok you didnt actually call me stupid but I doubt you can honestly say you didnt think it!? Youre basically saying if we dont kill badgers then were all gonna die - children pets and all. If things are as close to total catastrophe as you think - given the mutiple disease vectors od btb (which I agree with) - and ability for mass cross-species infection ( which is speculative and you not being scientific) then killing badgers wont make much difference. Your profoundly pessmistic outlook and scaremongering tactic defeats your own case for a cull. Science is never cut and dried as you would have it, and it is always changing anyway, but this is not just about science - it is also about ethics. Science without ethics is dangerous - as the history of the 20th century shows all too clearly. This is about whether it is ethically right for us as a species with access to powerful weapons to go around slaughtering another species, so that we gain a small advantage in the protection of our own food supply (which consists of yet another species in the form of cattle). And all this in the context of livestock farming as a highly inefficient use of land for food production in a global context of environmental degradation and increasing food resource scarcity. If you want to afraid for the future this is where you should be looking - at the big picture

  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 3:10PM

    Emwye; there WILL be a badger cull. . There is no alternative. What will convince you? . When your children and pets start getting TB and Scrofula? Apart from the obviously now very urgent imperative to end the slaughter of thousands of reactor cattle that's causing endless misery for farming families; those of us who care about children, way above their own self-promotion, know that there has to be a badger cull or eventually we'll just have more and more of this. EMAIL SENT/RECEIVED April 2nd. 2006 County Times. Powys, Mid Wales. "Dear Mary, This is winding up into something very nasty. We were told about the problem last autumn, but the newspapers / media had very little on it. Local vets and farmers knew and fed us bits. This (below) was published 30th. March, and our source has now had another conversation with SVS vets and private vets in the area. In the late 1990's just a couple of farms were under bTb restriction, but that has now surged to become 30/40. Dead badgers have been found in the area, including one on school playing fields. This carcass was taken to test for 'poison'. but HSE stepped in and stopped the postmortem - inadequate Group 3 pathogen facilities (?). . It was riddled. SVS sent letters to Welsh Assembly / Page St. and they were lost stolen or strayed. The whole episode was buried. Page St. wanted absolutely no positive Tb badgers. In the last 3/4 years eight or nine children, not including this little one, have had treatment for enlarged neck glands. This involved either a 6 month course of antibiotics, or operations to remove. Classic m.bovis lesions I'm told (by a vet) but referred euphemistically by doctors as "Atypical tuberculosis from a non human source". They are telling these kids, that they picked it up from the ground. The badgers use the school playing fields as latrines, and a newish housing estate borders the same farmland too. We're ignoring those canaries again. (reactor cows)" http://tinyurl.com/9r6ennv (open in a new window) It's time to wake up and smell the coffee. Don't you have any children or pets?

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  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 3:03PM

    I have not called you stupid!!! You are just ill-informed and will not accept any scientific facts. Whether two farmer friend oppose the cull or not is irrelevant. If a Doctor told you that you would die if you didn't have your leg amputated, would you have a poll of Jehovah's Witnesses first?

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  • Emwye  |  September 29 2012, 2:09PM

    Of course I dont think Scottish farmers are intrisically better than South west farmers - two of my closest friends are south west farmers! ( both incidentally opposed to the cull) But I do think - along with probably every conservationist in the country, and some farmers, that it is farming practices have damaged wildlife, more than the other way round. It is all very well for you to 'give up on me' - and I have persisted with this - despite your repeated suggestion that I am stupid and ignorant. In the end people like you and me, with differing perspectives are going to have talk and work together to find out a way forward.

  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 1:49PM

    Do you really believe Scottish farmers are better than South West farmers? The UK is now the only developed country with this problem!! WHY? Because a Conservative government protected them just to secure a few more votes. John Major should be held to account, and so should many ministers from the Labour Party.

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  • Charlespk  |  September 29 2012, 1:42PM

    I give up with you. There is no other known way of dealing with this bacteria in animals at the moment. . Just letting M.bovis go on increasing exponentially in any self-sustaining species is NOT an option. Badgers should not have been protected. They were never at any risk. These bacteria are constantly mutating finding new ways to avoid any hosts immune responses. 75% of their 4000+ genes are now believed to have developed just to avoid any hosts immune responses. . The difference between all the strains of bacteria in the M.tuberculosis genus is less than 0.01%

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  • Emwye  |  September 29 2012, 1:29PM

    Well my quote on the vaccination was lifted from DEFRA - so it seems from waht you say that you think DEFRA have got it all wrong in any case, and are acting much too late and that the bTB horse has already bolted. In which case how will killing large numbers of badgers really help or be justified? There was an article by a farmer yesterday in the guardian at http://tinyurl.com/ccarzd9, who feels that we need to radically change the way we farm - to improve cattle health, and thus their raise their immunity, he believes this approach has been successful - perhaps we should be doing trials to see whether this can be replicated?

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