environment & politics

Culling Science

I doubt many of you will be interested in this. Defra has announced that it has plans for a badger cull in an effort to combat Bovine TB:

Defra is consulting on a proposal to issue licences to farmers and landowners who wish to cull and/or vaccinate badgers at their own expense. These licences would be subject to strict licence criteria to ensure badger control is done effectively, humanely and with high regard for animal welfare.

The following misleading statement is brought to you by James Paice MP, a man comes from the farming industry, who has (just for a little context) voted against equal gay rights, for the Iraq war, and who has voted strongly against a hunting ban:

No single measure will be enough to tackle the disease on its own. But the science is clear: there is no doubt that badgers are a significant reservoir for the disease and without taking action to control the disease in them, it will continue to spread. No country in the world has eradicated bovine TB without dealing with the reservoir in wildlife. That’s why I’m today launching a consultation on how we can tackle the disease in badgers.

The science is clear is it? Like this science: badger culls failed to halt spread of TB, according to a large survey from Imperial College and the Zoological Society of London. And after a huge nine year survey, the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB concluded: “badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain.” Not to mention small facts such as Scotland is TB-free without resorting to any action against badgers.

The upshot of such reports were that for a cull to be successful, badgers would need to be exterminated completely, and The application of what the government proposes is hazy at best.

Farming is not nature, though it works with and sometimes against it. Modern agricultural processes are factories without walls or ceilings (this is a statement without agenda – countryside in the UK is mostly not natural). The spread of Bovine TB costs £63million and affects 25,000 cows. It is a problem and needs to be addressed, but preferably in a way that is shown to be effective, rather than wasting taxpayers’ money on something that science has shown to be ambiguous at best. Where will it stop – on deer, squirrels, or perhaps slaughtering the farm cats? Perhaps they plan more entertaining ways of dealing with the matter, such as using jam sandwiches.

Whether or not one cares about nature here isn’t quite the point. It comes as no surprise that a farming minster, one who is deeply conservative, seeks to start a war against nature, but to abuse the science to satisfy the whims of a particular lobby group is always a cause for concern.

Then again, Tories tried and still do use the logic of science when it comes to fox hunting, but are completely wrong, as any ecologist would tell you. Dear Tories: if you want to murder animals because you like the feel of blood on your hands, at least have the decency to be honest about it – don’t slaughter the science as well and mask it as some noble undertaking.

While I’m ranting about the environment, at least the Department for Energy and Climate Change is going about things correctly with respect to reducing carbon emissions. I like that Chris Huhne has essentially said no to building more nuclear power stations, by saying that it’s up to private companies to fund them. Not one nuclear power station in the world operates without government subsidies of some kind.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.