Blog Archives

‘The badgers moved the goalposts’

I dare not normally speak of badgers and the cull, because my sister is in country ways and has strong, and very valid, views on the whole issue of the spread of TB and the impact on farmers. I sit in the town and have my own views and perhaps they are not quite so valid as I don’t know anyone at all who is affected and neither am I, so it is easy enough to say that my heart bleeds for all the badges being shot. I would also add that the science seemed to suggest a cull would not fix the problem. Equally, I would say, that it hardly seems fair that cows should be slaughtered when they carry TB either, but they are, and no-one appears to be particularly up in arms about that. Or maybe they are, and I missed it, for which I apologise.

However, it is not a laughing matter. It is not funny that a disease is blighting the lives of badgers and cattle. But what really puts the tin lid on it is when a government minister comes on the tv to say the length of the cull needs to be extended because ‘the badgers moved the goalposts.’

Really? Really?

And we trust this lot with a lot more besides the TB and badgers issue.

Saints preserve us. Or, if you are a badger, and you’ve survived the brutal and stupid cull, stand for parliament in my constituency in 2015 and you are guaranteed my vote.

Badgers in charge all the way baby.

Badger from Fantastic Mr Fox

Who’d be a badger?

Well I am a bit of one to be thoroughly truthful re the greying that seems to be going on at the front of my hair. I was thinking “Ok maybe I can get away with a George Lamb” but it really is more of a Tommy Brock.

But more seriously I’ve been listening to the latest news that says the Government have decided to let badger culls commence (reversing the decision of the previous Government) in attempt to prevent transmission of TB to cows – badgers being the No.1 Suspect. Tories do want Farmers Want is hardly a shocker though is it? What’s more interesting is that the Labour Government concluded that there was not a strong enough scientific case to allow a cull.

The method (s) of transmission are not entirely clear . In the past it was thought that cows and badgers weren’t having close proximity contact, rather that badgers were doing their business round feed troughs and presumably leaving TB calling cards that way, therefore badger proofing needed to be carried out by farmers. Not an easy job in itself. Then there was a small study done that showed that whilst cows and badgers weren’t exactly partying on down on an all-nighter in a field somewhere, there was a little case of curiosity perhaps killing the cow as a badger passed through the field on his trail. This allowed for the possibility of a cow and a badger breathing on each other to transmit the disease. It’s probably both: respiratory and alimentary routes of transmission.

But what to do? And why would you care? Well if you aren’t bothered on an animal welfare basis consider the fact that the Government is paying compensation to farmers who lose cattle to TB. Consider the fact that although many farmers fancy a cull, they don’t want to pay (or can’t afford) for it. Oh yes, blog reader, it will be costing us. So getting TB in your herd is a disaster for a dairy or beef farmer and the Public Purse, but will culling the badger (a protected species) reduce infection rates?

Well yes, but no. This report shows the short-term efficacy of a cull in the area affected, but that the increase of TB in areas surrounding the cull due to displacement of surviving badgers and the cost of culling means that unless you are culling regularly everywhere (all over the land) it is not a long-term solution. And that the cost of all this exceeds that of compensating farmers for the cattle lost to TB.

So round and round we go. Thankfully there may be another way, due to real science in the form of a vaccine. There is an injectable form that is used on badgers but it is naturally pretty time consuming and expensive trapping badgers individually to be jabbed. However, the very clever Dr Eamonn Gormley from University College in Dublin has developed, with a team of colleagues, an oral BCG vaccine that crucially is not destroyed by the super-strong acids present in a badger stomach.

I know I’m not being asked but I vote for that. If these culls go ahead we are going to make a few farmers happier, some more farmers sad and give a whole load of badgers a dose of cognitive dissonance.

“What you mean we are protected, but we are going to be killed to protect the cash cows?”

Watch out Tommy Brock