Oct 09 2013
    The time is up - after a self-imposed six weeks the cull has failed to reach the required numnbers of badgers to be judged effective. So the government is going to extend it. Fair?

    The time is up – after a self-imposed six weeks the cull has failed to reach the required numnbers of badgers to be judged effective. So the government is going to extend it. Fair?

    The badger cull has officially ended. It has failed to meet its target.

    After six weeks of shooting the government has been unable to kill the number of badgers they said was needed to be sure the cull was effective in the time they said was required to be sure it was efficient.

    So they are applying to extend the period AND they are claiming they should lower their target.

    Hang on a minute…..

    Now I know how Alex Ferguson felt when the referee wouldn’t blow the whistle. If someone can explain to me why this isn’t making up the rules of a game as you play it please write to me.

    I have, as yet on this year, not felt as angry by politics as I have today. What a load of dunces.

    If you remember, the government wanted to kill 70% of the badgers in the Somerset cull zone, representing over 2000 badgers, to be sure they would wipe out enough of the supposed TB threat without killing the whole population (as that would not be nice).

    They have killed 850, around 40% of their target. This is terrible news but also good news. The protests have worked, the shooting has failed, many badgers have been saved.

    The reason for the six week limit was to stop the ‘peturbation effect’. If you kill over a long period the badgers flee and spread any bTB further, making the shooting counter-productive.

    Now they want another three weeks.

    This quote from the original DEFRA site :

    Defra has taken advice from a group of independent scientists and they advised that limiting culling to a period of up to 6 weeks would be likely to reduce any adverse effects of non-simultaneous culling.

    After culling in the pilot areas has finished, we will need to evaluate the results of the monitoring in order to take a decision on whether further licences can be considered.

    Sorry…. DEFRA have ‘taken advice’ from scientists?

    What about advice from the 10 year, £50 million independent scientific study that concluded  that  the cull would not work and that it was ‘crazy’ (Lord Krebs himself, the eminent scientist in charge)???

    DEFRA have now said – which is very handy for their shooters – that they think there are less badgers in the area than originally thought. Which means it will be easier to judge their cull a success.

    OK…so they have failed to judge the number of badgers, failed to kill the required amount in the required time and failed to listen to the science. Oh go on, have another try.

    This is like playing football with a mean older brother. He trips over his own shoe laces on the half way line, claims he should have a penalty, fails to score (depsite his younger brother being keeper and only 2 years old) and then demands another penalty because he saw a badger moving behind the goal.


    On top of this the government are refusing to declare how many of the dead badgers had bTB. It would be quite nice to know, and surely very informative to know,  that at least some of the badgers killed had the disease that was supposedly  causing the cattle problems.

    Amazingly, when Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was asked if he had “moved the goalposts” by claiming the cull was a success he responded:

    “The badgers moved the goalposts. We’re dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns.”

    Really? You didn’t know badgers were wild. You didn’t account for ‘weather’? Or even disease – when that is what you are trying to manage? How long can he avoid admitting he was told to do this by Uncle David and Uncle David was told to do this by the National Farmer’s Union and the National Farmer’s Union were told to do it by their farmers who want a knee-jerk reaction to a  problem that can be solved in FAR better ways.

    Don’t let this continue. Write to your MP to express your views. 

    Simply ask what they are going to do about it. And if they say it’s a fair cull, pass them on to me.

    Post divide

    Oct 08 2013
    The parliamentary process - more open than I thought, but also much more muddy than I hoped.

    The parliamentary process – more open than I thought, but also much more muddy than I hoped.

    This year has been a political awakening for me. Perhaps I should have stayed asleep.

    I have visited parliament to lobby poltiicians about badgers, I have visited to watch politicans debate badgers and to march outside the gates about badgers. From political virgin to political hoare.

    But parliament has both impressed and disappointed in equal measure. The spires are as tall and dreaming as the rooms inside dusty and cavernous.

    On the one hand the debates and the politicians are far more open than you might imagine. You really CAN go and badger your politician and they really will listen. After all you can tell your friends not to vote for them.

    On the other hand the political process surrounding the debate over the badger cull stinks of cow shit – good science is covered in a layer of political muck in which cynicism gorws and flies linger – and I wonder how much this reflects the wider political process, especially regarding animal welfare.

    How much can a person help animals by getting political?

    Yes – you can speak to your MPs, yes – you can go on marches but does it make any difference to a badger, cow or a pig awaiting a painful death?

    I have interviewed two MPs about the badger cull from both sides of the house to get a clearer view of what politicians can – and want to do – about animals.

    Huw Irranca-Davies MP

    Huw Irranca-Davies MP

    Huw Irranca Davies is the Labour minister who stood up to debate the case against the cull. He was impressive and eloquent but Labour were never going to win – the debate was triple whipped (people were advised to vote with their party).

    Tracey Crouch is the eminently brave Conservative MP who was one of the few lone voices on the other side of the chamber to also decry the cull. I imagine her triple whipping was particularly painful.

    Tracey Crouch MP - one of the few conservatives to stand up against the cull. She has since not been spoken to by some of her colleagues.

    Tracey Crouch MP – one of the few conservatives to stand up against the cull. She has since not been spoken to by some of her colleagues.

    It’s important to say that both MPs were suprisingly human. I don’t know what I expected of politicians but I vaguely thought most lived inside television boxes. They were full size persons, warm and straight forward. I could easily imagine either of them of tripping over a stick.

    But both painted a picture that was, for me, a fairly depressing portrayal of the parliamentary process.

    Both admitted that the National Farmers Union (the NFU) had a powerful influence in government (of course they do) both admitted that science was often secondary to politicans and both admitted, most shockingly of all, that many, many politicians were simply ignorant of the facts.

    This angered me. But it rang true. At one point in an early debate a conservative MP claimed that bTB would not be spread by badgers in the cull zone because it was bounded by a river and a motorway. No one told him that badgers can swim and corss roads.

    It only took me 20 minutes to get my head round the basic science of the matter. Surely a politician could spare that? Especially since they spent £50 million and 10 years on the Krebs trial to assess the viability of the badger cull

    Boris Johnson.

    Boris Johnson.

    Tracey said that often that MPs couldn’t spare the time. ‘This place churns out information. The sheer number of emails we get means we don’t’ have time to go into everything in depth. Your’e fed a line and you vote on that and you have to make a decision very quickly’

    Huw concurred:  ‘If there was competing demands on a Monday morning for  an urgent discussion about something – then I suspect the turtles in the Cayman islands would fall behind the  question about the HS2 railway’

    Understandable if unacceptable. The power to make decisions that affects the lives of thousands of animals rests in the hand of MPs some of whom haven’t the time – or inclination – to find out the basic facts.

    But what made Tracey different?

    ‘I’m lucky. I don’t have a family, so I have time to read through those documents late on a Sunday night. Other people don’t.’

    Owen Paterson - the minister in charge of the cull

    Owen Paterson – the minister in charge of the cull

    But surely Owen Patterson, the man in charge of the cull, understands the science?

    Yes, he does, admitted Tracey, but he was simply not ‘open minded enough’ to see the full argument. ‘You see what you want to see’. A fairly damning comment from within the same party.

    And what influence does that leave the member of the public with?

    Both MP’s were suprisingly positive about this. Apparently the lowly act of writing to your MP really does make a difference.

    ‘If a hundred people write to their MP’ said Tracey ‘that will make them look up. Since that vote [on the badger cull] I’ve spoken to a number of colleagues who have changed their mind. They’ve been asked questions by their consituents and then they ask their minister and if they get an unsastifactory answer they think again’

    So there you have it. Parliament is a busy, inefficient place that sometimes fails good science because of those that are too busy to care. But YOU can make a difference.  Write to your MP, especially if they are Conservative,  and kick up a fuss.

    Click here to find your local MP.

    Speak to your MP.

    Speak to your MP.

    Post divide

    Jun 06 2013

    Here is the only fun thing I saw yesterday. A video by my friends, The Artful Badger. Please share it.

    I went to the debate yesterday at the House of Commons. I was so hoping to report back about how uplifting the parliamentary process really was…

    But no. 

    My MP never showed up, the debate – watched from behind thick glass – was hollow and we lost the vote against the cull by 299 v 250.

    Does this mean the majority or politicians are in favour of the cull? Does it, my arse.



    As I cycled in to parliament a large van swerved across my path and knocked me into the gutter. As it drove off I read the sign on its back ‘AMBULANCE – Caring for you’.  When I arrived at Parliament square I found myself in a haze of marijuana smoke – some brave person was enjoying themselves nearby.

    We live in a confusing world of conflicting values. The badger cull is no different.

    The grand spires of parliament promise a certain authenticity: upright, powerful, historical.  Barriers and police guard the debating halls as if they hold treasure . And yet, at the heart of all this is a government that appears to both be ignoring science, public opinion and the majority of MP’s (see last october’s vote).

    What is going on?


    Child politician

    As I sat inside the main lobby waiting to get into the debate, a badger-type person (black and white clothing, leftish looking) sighed  ‘it’s a triple-whip, we’ll never win’.

    If, like me, you think ‘triple whip’ is something they do at expensive private schools then you will tend to ask the person next to you what it means – who happened to be a twelve year old, wearing brogues and a tweed jacket and glasses. He looked way more intelligent than me and I bet he’ll be prime minister next

    ‘It means that the party whip puts three lines underneath the debate on the paper – which basically means that everyone has to vote according to  the party line or they lose their jobs’




    House of commons


    Debate hall

    I watched the debate from up on high, seated behind glass walls to stop me throwing eggs and flower at people. I was not allowed to take my phone so could not play tetris and I was told off for clapping when an anti-cullist spoke. The conservatives were on one side – slightly heavier, better suits, posher voices – the labour on the right – scragglier, more women, northern. All terribly true to type.

    God, it was depressing. The debate was like a ping-pong match where an invisible sheet of glass is inserted into the centre of the table.  Neither sides ball got through to the other side. The labour lot ALL thought the cull was inhumane, too expensive and against science. The conservatives all thought not doing the cull was inhumane, too expensive and against science. (amazingly, Daniel Kawczynski, another Tory from a mainly rural constituancy, thought that killing badgers would be good for badgers and that no one more than him wanted to see a healthy badger population. What?)

    How can both sides have science on their side? The MPs were smart, articulate, seemingly logical people – so why did they disagree so neatly?

    This was not about science. This was about politics and politics won the day.

    Tracy Crouch MP - blue badger. Tory MP who had the strength to vote against the cull.

    Tracy Crouch MP – blue badger. Tory MP who had the strength to vote against the cull.


    The person who impressed me most was Tracy Crouch – a conservative MP who stood up and said how daunting it was to go against party policy but that she simply could not vote in favour of the cull. A brave brave woman that got a rapturous, if illegal, applause from the public.

    But now?

    The only ones who will get a proper triple whipping are the badgers. Let’s hope that ten year old grows up quick to lead the country some place new.

    Sad, sad day.


    Post divide