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Friday, September 17, 2010

Madness and the English badger cull

I have already blogged here on the prospect of the Coalition Government going ahead with a cull of badgers in England. Their proposals though verge on madness.

As I understand it they are suggesting that farmers are licensed to kill badgers either on their own land or collectively within a defined area. This is about the worst option scientifically that they could have chosen. It will lead to massive perturbation due to the piecemeal and uncoordinated approach inherent in the plan, and that will lead to an increase in bTB amongst cattle and other animals.

Dr Rosie Woodroffe, a badger ecologist at the Institute of Zoology in London, who worked for a decade on the largest ever UK study of badger culling, agrees:

The government culling study, which ran from 1998-2007 and was conducted by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG), specifically considered licensing farmers in its final report, she said, and concluded: "We consider it likely that licensing farmers to cull badgers would not only fail to achieve a beneficial effect, but would entail a substantial risk of increasing the incidence of cattle TB and spreading the disease."

This would be because previous scientific studies have found culling is only effective if carried out over large areas and several years in a consistent and co-ordinated way, because small culls drive badgers into neighbouring areas and increase TB infections. "But there doesn't seem to be any way [in the proposals] to stop farmers dropping out and I think this is very likely," she said. The proposal document itself notes that in the scenarios examined by the government, farmers who carry out culling would be worse off financially than if they had done nothing and accepted some losses to TB. It also acknowledges the risk of farmers dropping out.

The proposal also conjures up some unpleasant and rather scary images as summed up in one e-mail I received this morning:

I personally will be terrified as we would quite literally be living with the possiblility of shooting at free ranging badgers just yards from our house. Not to mention what it will do to divide communities - as many of us who are opposed to culling are surrounded by farmland - and the public safety aspect of being able to walk the many footpaths and roam the countryside.

I would urge the UK Government to think again. Vaccination is the only way forward in reducing incidences of bTB. It may be expensive but in the long run it will prove to be effective, humane and reduce the cost of compensation for farmers.
This, this, a thousand times this.
Not even the Welsh Government that Peter lambasted over this would allow farmers to undertake the work themselves. At least, I suppose, the Tory-Lib Dem plan is as far as you can get from the "police state" Peter alleged that the Welsh Government was creating in parts of Pembrokeshire! A very libertarian way of killing badgers, perhaps showing clearly how the Lib Dems are influencing the policy agenda?
Farmers should not get any compensation, what is this a kleptocracy? English M.P.'s helping out their own landed class,
We also have a Badger Protection Act in place or do the governemnt think they are above the law?
Hi Peter

Agree completely, but why are your party in England backing this lunacy (and for that matter the vicious and unprecedented public sector cuts - people can see this is now ideological not rational). The Lib Dems are going to be wiped out electorally if they don't get out of this mess soon - because the popular perception is that at least with the Tories, you know they are the Nasty Party and you can vote accordingly. The Lib Dems are like the weak little friend of the school bully, standing behind him as somebody else gets a kicking. And unlike the Tories, the Lib Dems don't have a dyed in the wool "never voted for anyone else" bedrock of support. If I were you, I'd defect to a resurgent Labour while you can, Peter - you're wasted in the Lib Dems.
The only bit of good news in this consultation document is that a Cattle vaccine plus a Diva test will be licenced in 2012.(see par61-63)Defra then claim it will take a further 3 years to clear all the E U hurdles.
However if we had a derogation from these EU rules then it could be deployed in 2 years time. Bearing in mind that it will take several decades to obtain TB free status 2 years wait is insignificant. In fact tighter cattle controls alone will see TB substantially reduced by 2012.
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Mick, I have no idea. It does not sound like she is any respecter of the democratic process. Presumably she is wary of scrutiny.

Dr. Stallwood, I have already said that the coalition government are wrong on this and need to think again. I am unequivocal in that.

The rest of your comment is off-topic but I will allow it and answer it on a one-off basis. These cuts may be unprecedented but I dispute that they are vicious. A lot of care is being taken to minimise their impact, as far that is is possible when they are on this scale.

The idea that they are ideological is absolute nonsense. They are necessary because of Labour's mismanagement which has left us with a £155 billion deficit and a £500 billion debt. If we do not get public finances under control then the economy will not recover.

As for electoral consequences, these are difficult but necessary decisions and need to be sold but if the strategy work then we hope to reap dividends.

I can see no reason why I should join Labour, they are an illiberal, reactionary party who got us into this mess in the first place. And I dont see that changing under any of the five dwarfs.
Nick Clegg supported this disgusting badger slaughter policy before the election and still does. Has your part no shame? You are rolling back this country to a very dark place by allowing these thugs to wage war on our wildlife.
Yes he did and I have said he is wrong. However do not include me or the vast majority of Liberal Democrat activists in this as we do not support it and nor is it official party policy, defined as voted for by Conference representatives and appearing in our manifesto. It was not voted for by Conference nor did it appear in the manifesto.
Hey Guys lets not slag off one of our best allies. We may not agree with all of each others views but at least we can all fight together to stop this culling madness
"Agree completely, but why are your party in England backing this lunacy (and for that matter the vicious and unprecedented public sector cuts - people can see this is now ideological not rational)."

Dr. Stallwood, it is worth noting their Assembly Group in Wales also backed the proposed badger cull here.
That of course is untrue. Two of the six Lib Dem Assembly Members voted against the cull on a free vote. Neither the Welsh Party or the Assembly Group have a policy on the cull.
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