Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tim Farron and the badgers

Tim Farron has a press release on the Liberal Democrat site saying that "the culling of badgers in TB hotspots with 'hard' boundaries would be welcome".

Who says?

The natural supporters of the Lib Dems these days are not Lakeland farmers but town dwellers who feel rather warm towards badgers. I imagine they would find a cull very unwelcome indeed.

For arguments against a cull see The Badger Trust.

Tim also says that
Until Bovine TB can be eradicated, the Government must pay farmers a fair level of compensation for compulsorily slaughtered cattle.
Granted the state is playing a role by insisting on the slaughter, but why can't the farming industry insure itself against such risks? Other industries manage to do it without demanding public money.


dreamingspire said...

And why can't the farming industry do something to improve the ability of cattle to resist infection by TB? Several times I have heard the report of a large farm in the Cotswolds where the farmer has used the results of work in the USA - he supplements the food of not just his cattle but also the local badger population in a way that boosts their immune systems - and he doesn't have any TB. Sometimes our public sector is very stupid...

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, cattle are far more responsible for the spread of TB than badgers, so a cull will not even get close to solving the problem.

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

In answer to your point:

Farmers can't insure against this risk because no insurance company will offer them cover in the worst reasons, except at impossible prices.

To answer dreaming spire - they'd love to, but unfortunately under EU rules a TB vaccine is an illegal substance, so while you can use it, it is then an offence to export the meat (and more than a grey area to sell it in this country). This is largely because the EU is scientifically illiterate, but if idiots make the law, then the law will look like an idiot.

And to Letters from a Tory - you understand wrong, beware of falling for RSPCA propaganda. In Gloucestershire there are herds that have been closed (i.e. have had no new members brought in from outside) for nearly 50 years that have gone down to TB. Curiously, in most cases (note the most) this happened just after a badger sett appeared nearby. This suggests a probable link, a link confirmed by several studies both here (especially Krebs) and in Ireland.

The next question is this a coincidence, or are badgers most responsible, rather than foxes or rats (or dormice)? Krebs suggests that probably, yes, they are, with foxes and illegal cattle movements (so LFAT, you're not completely wrong, just wrong in the proportions) next most to blame. All cattle in a TB infected herd are meant to be quarantined. Sadly, I know far too many farmers to think they are all sensible and reasonable about this, and I am aware that their arrogance and greed often lead them to break this important public health rule.

Krebs' next point is the one that's being missed by this move - that selective culls are worse than useless, because they scare off all the badgers and cause them to spread the disease more widely. Only a blanket cull in infected areas is any use.

If only we could marry up solutions 1 and 2 and vaccinate the badgers...

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

Sorry, line 3 should read "regions," not "reasons"...