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Friday, 16 December 2011

Can we stop another unscientific cull of badgers?

I'm a naturalist so sorry if this annoys anyone but this is serious.


It was a black day on Tuesday for animals, for Science and for humanity.

Caroline Spelman made the speech which all of us knew she would eventually make, confirming this Government’s decision to instigate ‘pilot culls’ of badgers. It is typical of the way this administration has operated, that the announcement was made at a time apparently deliberately unspecified, on almost the last day of this Parliamentary session, making it as difficult as possible for a response to be made.

The whole conduct of this business has been shady and shameful. DEFRA have gone through the motions of a consultation, but they made the questions almost impossible to answer in a critical way, and then they ignored the findings anyway. It has become more and more apparent that this Government is determined to kill badgers, no matter what. In going down this road they have totally ignored a large majority of public opinion, the advice of all independent scientific commentators, and any moral considerations whatsoever. The decision panders to the extreme end of the farming community, the very element that helped put this Government in power. Although legions of other, well informed farmers are also against this cull and in favour of pursuing the vaccination route, together with strict adherence to stringent cattle controls, their voices are likewise being ignored.

From a scientist’s point of view, this is painful to watch. The whole meaning of the word Science has been trampled upon by these people. They keep talking about a “science-led cull” and saying “the Science tells us …” It’s a travesty. The essence of Science is impartiality, and conscientious scientists offer opinions only when they are directly based on hard evidence. It is glaringly obvious that the only scientists, who have come out in favour of this cobbled together killing plan, are those in the pocket of the Government. It is depressing to see some of the country’s best-educated researchers apparently being told to find evidence to support a decision which has in effect already been made.

This announcement will plunge the country into conflict.

It would be my preference to direct our anger at the Government, and not at the farmers, many of whom will suffer from this decision through no fault of their own. But to the public it will become obvious that the price of their bottle of milk will now be the blood of thousands of mostly healthy badgers; badgers who have been slaughtered in a desperately misguided attempt to solve a farming problem, which has spread into our countryside, infecting whole populations of our wild animals with an unpleasant disease. You have to remember that this is not a government that has any respect whatever for animals … they are also intent on bringing back the abhorrent 'sports' of fox-hunting, stag hunting with dogs, and hare coursing. So it's hardly surprising that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of badgers simply to solve a financial issue in an already hugely subsidised industry.

But most of all, even if this desperate and ill-informed decision actually COULD lead to the eradication of Bovine TB in cattle – and nobody really believes it will – this is a morally unsupportable course of action. It is time that the laws protecting all animals were tightened up and given teeth. How long can we carry on devastating the Natural World and ignoring the fact that, if we as animals matter, then all sentient creatures do too, and have a right to life and health and fair treatment?

If we allow this slaughter to happen, the blood of these

beautiful and innocent animals is on ALL our hands

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