Standing up for badgers, again, at Westminster

Culling badgers does not and will not work in tackling the issue of bTB. PHOTO: © Libby Owen With all that happened in London last week it’s naturally very difficult to be in Westminster and focus on anything other than those who tragically lost their lives or were injured in an act designed to divide us. Whilst we can’t stop thinking about what happened, politicians, the Police and all Londoners agree that business as usual is the only way forward to show we cannot be defeated.

So, despite the sadness and despite the recognition that badgers naturally aren’t at the front of everyone’s minds right now, this week’s Parliamentary debate and peaceful demonstration on the badger cull proceeded as planned.

As with many similar events before it, we heard much the same in the speeches; much of the same science, many of the same questions and many of the same responses. MP Paul Flynn’s opening lines at the debate really summed up the issue, stating that the Government’s policy in this area is “evidence free and prejudice rich”. Paul Monaghan MP asked for evidence that badgers give cattle bTB, but no evidence was offered. But, the question that really needs answering is this: After four years of pointless badger killing, why oh why is the badger cull still happening?

If you're Defra (the Government department in charge of bTB management and the badger cull) then you'll still be pumping out the line that killing thousands and thousands of badgers is an essential part of the cure for bTB (the 'b' stands for bovine not badger for the record). 

You'll still be saying that tackling the reservoir of disease within these wild animals is an essential part of the strategy that's costing Britain millions per year and devastating farmers’ lives. 

If you're a farmer then you're probably saying something similar, but the truth is that you'll know the cull isn't working but you’ll be naturally desperate for something, in fact anything, to cling onto that gives hope.

But, if you’re the public, a conservation charity, an animal lover, or way more importantly, a leading expert or scientist in this field (even if you’re on the Government's very own Independent Expert Panel on the badger cull), then you're definitely saying that culling badgers does not and will not work in tackling the issue of bTB. 

Badgers are nothing more than a scapegoat in what is an obvious and embarrassingly politically motivated strategy to keep lobby groups like the National Farmers’ Union and their powerful members happy.

Badger culling will not stop bTB. Fact! I can say that with absolute confidence because if you kill every single badger in the UK then bTB will still exist widely in cattle. We've been here before, so why are we here again? 

From 1998 to 2006 a lengthy study called the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), which was conducted under far superior control conditions than the rather shamefully executed current cull, culled more than 10,000 badgers and cost almost £50m of taxpayers’ money. The summary conclusion: Badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control” and it also suggested that it could make things worse.

A Government consultation period on proposed new measures to 'keep badger numbers down' just closed. The proposal literally seemed to ignore all scientific protocols and stated thoughts as facts. Coupled with this year's cull being on the horizon once again (which will result in another 10,000 or more badgers being pointlessly killed), I guess these kinds of protest and debates still need to happen, even in difficult times like the present. We have no choice but to not stay silent, no choice to not stay visible and no choice to not say the same things in the hope that at some point soon, for the sake of farmers and badgers, someone actually listens and something actually changes for the better. 

--PM

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