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Scapegoat in the making for next year's badger culling trials

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 08, 2012

  • Derek Mead is not sure that Farming Minister David Heath, pictured top, has provided clarity over the Government's position on badger culling, while NFU president Peter Kendall also comes in for criticism from the Somerset farmer

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It's always nice to hear a minister delivering a positive message to farmers, but sometimes you have to examine what they are saying in detail.

For example, Farming Minister David Heath told Somerset NFU's annual meeting this week: "I promise you it is our very clear intention to do these trials next summer."

Hold it up to the light and all he is doing in reality is promising his listeners the Government intends to do something – not that it will actually be done. There is, you will notice, a world of difference.

And as far as I am concerned it would be better if those trials didn't go ahead because, as currently planned, they risk alienating the public even more and diminishing what little respect farmers currently command.

Peter Kendall may have blustered and coerced his membership into accepting the trials with his claim that they represented the only deal on the table. But the only deal isn't necessarily the best deal – and this once certainly isn't.

Farmers are going to be painted as the people who shoot healthy badgers. They are going to be sitting duck targets for every lunatic who has ever described himself as an animal rights activist. Public opinion will be easily whipped up.

The ground is already being prepared. Was it mere coincidence that a picture of a badger was selected as the front cover for the BBC Countryfile calendar? I am inclined to think not – and so are the dozens of farmers angered by the use of this image.

It lacks a caption, which should read: "A diseased badger strolls along a quiet country lane on his way to infect another cattle herd with TB and drive another hard-working farmer to the brink of suicide." But no. All the public gets is another pretty picture of an innocent badger with the tacit message that the animal is trotting to an appointment with the marksman's bullet.

The NFU's culling trials represent a very blunt weapon indeed and can only have been championed by an arable farmer with fourth-hand knowledge of the true situation, since arable fields are not exactly wildlife havens themselves.

There are other, more finely-tuned methods of tackling the badger menace. There are techniques available which would result in a targeted cull to remove only those badgers most likely to be diseased – with which the public could hardly argue.

Such an operation will never satisfy the badger-huggers, of course, because they do not accept that any badger, diseased or otherwise, needs to be killed.

But I trust we shall hear no more from their high priest, Brian May, on the subject now that his own bit of previous with culling deer on his estate has been revealed.

Unless, of course, he is able to stand up in public and explain the difference between shooting deer and shooting badgers, particularly when one is a perfectly healthy animal while the other faces a painful, lingering death from the effects of TB.

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  • Hareymary  |  December 09 2012, 9:03PM

    Well now! That's a very intelligent balanced article isn't it? NOT! Let us just take a look at some of the content: "Was it mere coincidence that a picture of a badger was selected as the front cover for the BBC Countryfile calendar?" Actually, the answer is 'yes, of course it was.' But whoever wrote this rubbish doesn't agree and is "inclined to think not". Is that so! But next comes the egregious; "– and so are the dozens of farmers angered by the use of this image." Well, they would wouldn't they? Since they have somehow managed to delude themselves that shooting badgers, irrespective of whether they are diseased or not, in the dark is a VERY GOOD THING: Which it is NOT. Continuing with his ridiculous statement, the anonymous author of this biased story states: "It lacks a caption, which should read: "A diseased badger strolls along a quiet country lane on his way to infect another cattle herd with TB and drive another hard-working farmer to the brink of suicide." Hang on a minute there; isn't it the anti-cull people who are commonly accused of putting maudlin sentimentality before science? Having reduced his readers (he hopes), to tears with that outrageous statement he heaps insult upon injury by averring: "But no. All the public gets is another pretty picture of an innocent badger with the tacit message that the animal is trotting to an appointment with the marksman's bullet." Actually, no! What the public gets is a picture of a pretty, tree-lined country lane which is enhanced by the fact that a much-loved, native wild animal is going about its business, blissfully unaware that stupid people want to shoot it.

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  • mrsbrock22  |  December 09 2012, 7:33AM

    It is not going to happen, it won't work, there is no money and no reason . Sort out farming methods, sort out cattle health - THAT is the reason for the increase in BTB. The badger on the Countryfile calendar was chosen by the British public . Brian May has more credibility than the NFU or DEFRA. Farmers have been used and manipulated - GO ORGANIC and the public will support you !

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  • Jude177  |  December 08 2012, 11:27PM

    Such colourful and biased choice of language-"the caption..diseased badger..."-so that must be one of the 6% of infected badgers as opposed to the 94%healthy?..."the badger menace.."-the menace is how cattle are treated and managed-intensive farming/pumped full of antibiotics/cramped living space=depressed immune system. As with humans TB is a disease of poverty-most cattle are sick-far more cattle die as a result of lameness and mastitis than bTB. We could "bear down on and take out" all wildlife and there would still be bTB-what a legacy for future generations. Put your own houses in order-the public will never allow nor forgive the slaughter of badgers-and we are your customers!

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  • alan_key  |  December 08 2012, 7:56PM

    @Clued-Up - absolutely spot on. Now that we have a test that distinguish between vaccinated and infected cattle, vaccination is by far the most sensible option. Aside from the animal rights issue and public opinion, there's also there hard cold facts that a cull will barely make a dent in the TB issue - a 16% decrease -at best - in the annual increase. Vaccination has been estimated around 60%. For any farmer that is serious about controlling TB, its a no-brainer - fight for EU approval for the vaccine.

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  • Clued-Up  |  December 08 2012, 7:19PM

    It is the public's "very clear intention" the badger cull will NOT take place. They're very ably supported by the scientists (who say cattle bTB is a cattle disease best controlled by the tighter management of cattle movement belatedly introduced and already reducing the incidence of cattle bTB); by the economists (who say a cull would cost far, far more than it would ever save, with most of the costs being picked up by the tax-payer); and nationally respected wildlife and anti-cruelty organisations (who say this cull would cause immense and unnecessary suffering to badgers). Peter Kendall and co should be lobbying government to hurry up with the UK testing of the cattle bTB vaccine. It works in other countries, it'll almost certainly work here. They also need to push government to get on with negotiating approval from the EU to use the vaccine.

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