May 24 2013
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be helping badgers.
Or rather doing what I can to fight the government’s plans to kill thousands of badgers in a series of culls starting around the 1st of June in the west of England.
Rather than spend all my time in a badger costume on the tube I thought I ought to educate myself about the real facts.
Here’s my best shot. Excuse the pun.
If you don’t want to read this watch David Attenborugh instead:
WHY ARE THEY DOING IT?
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) – that’s the sole reason.
bTB in cattle is a big problem. Not only does it kill cows but it can, in theory, pass to humans meaning strict controls are leading farmers to have to destroy large numbers of their herds because they might be sick with bTB. bTB is on the rise and it’s costing the lives of cattle and effecting the livelihood of farmers and costing the tax-payer money.
There is evidence that badgers can carry and transmit bTB to cows. Therefore killing badgers seems a good way to control the problem. At least at first glance
WILL THE CULL WORK?
This is the controversial bit. Or to be more accurate – scary and insane bit.
An independent ten year-long government research study run by top scientists concluded that a cull would have no meaningful effect on the bTB problem in cows. In some cases it could make it worse by encouraging surviving badgers to flee the area and potentially infect new populations with TB. The greatest possible benefit to bTB control would be a 16% reduction but only after 9-10 years of repeated culling of multiple thousands of badgers.
The study cost around £49 million of tax payers money and led to 11,000 badger deaths as well as vast numbers of orphaned cubs left to die of starvation.
Lord Krebbs, the eminent scientist leading the survey, said a cull was ‘crazy’ and passionately argued against it as a solution to bTB. All this from a scientific, not an ethical, stance.
The results were conclusive: the governments very own research found that a cull would wipe out well over half of Britain’s badgers, it would cost a huge amount of time and money and it would not have a meaningful impact on bTB, in some cases it could make it worse.
IF IT GOES AGAINST ALL SCIENCE WHY ARE THE CULLS GOING AHEAD?
I’ve scoured the internet and spoken to many experts to get a reasoned argument for the cull and can not find a single one.
The ONLY logic I can understand is that farmers are desperate about bTB (which is understandable) and want something done NOW (which makes sense) but don’t care very much what it is (which is foolish).
It is no coincidence that the National Farmers Union has a strong hold over the government.
Badgers are being used as a scapegoat. Badgers are being used by the government to win over the NFU. Culling badgers is a political exercise and is a non-solution. To make matters worse, last autumn the government had a vote which showed that most MPs are against the cull. We also know that the public is overwhelmingly against it – and yet the government are still going ahead.
Professor John Bourne, Chair of the independent scientific group on bovine TB said this:
‘I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said ‘Fine John, we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers’
ARE THERE ANY OTHER SOLUTIONS TO BOVINE TB?
It’s all very well hating the badger cull but what do we do about Bovine TB?
Well, contrary to what you might have heard there are viable alternatives. The problem is the cost. But only in the short term. In the long term the solutions will be far cheaper.
Vaccinate badgers – the easiest solution is to vaccinate badgers against TB. The problem is we have to catch them and release them. Money. Except there is an oral vaccine that will soon be available to spread on the floor.
Vaccinate cows – we can easily stop TB in cows by vaccinating them.
The problem is we can’t sell beef oversees that has been vaccinated as there is no way to tell difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated cattle. Too complicated to explain now but a new ‘DIVA test’ is underway that can sort this out. It just needs time and money.
Stricter controls of transportation of cattle – yes, but money needed
Bio security – better cleanliness to stop the spread of bTB across cows. Time and money
THERE ARE LOTS OF SOLUTIONS IF WE TAKE THE TIME AND MONEY IN THE LONG TERM.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT BADGERS?
Badgers have lived in the UK for at least 250,000 years and are an iconic part of British wildlife. They are also a protected species under law (except when the government wants to shoot 70% of them). And also, I hate to say it, but badgers do feel pain and they are sentient. Let’s not give them the vote but let’s give them a life.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I AM AGAINST THE CULL?
1) Sign the government petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257
2) Come on a public march against the badger cull on 1st June in London. Read more here You can all join me and we can walk together.http://www.londonagainstthecull.org.uk/
3) Tell your friends about all of this!
4) Read my blog and spread the word further and wider on facebook and twitter. Subscribe above or click on the twitter/fb links