Wednesday, September 15, 2004

More Questions than Answers - Saltdean

A trawl through the Defra website, has come up with something that had escaped our attention.

Saltdean. This small community on the south coast has generated reams of papers concerning damage from badgers to houses and gardens, and the attempts to solve the problems which began in 1988!

We quote from the various papers, snippets which may be of interest to our readers:

"The sett is a large main sett in the grounds of four gardens which has caused significant problems for a considerable time. A thorough attempt was made at exclusion of badgers from the sett concerned in 1988; despite considerable efforts of the experienced staff involved over a three month period, this was not successful. The sett was surrounded with electric fencing, and one way gates to let badgers out of the sett but not back in. Despite the efforts of all those involved, including a 'badger consultant' the badgers could not be excluded from the sett."
And our Ben says farmers can fence badgers out? Using electric fences? When his "experienced staff " failed utterly in a virtual cabbage patch? We'll remember that little gem.

"Defra specialists visited the site again in summer 2002, after a request for a Section 10 license by four householders in October 2001 . After considering all other options, including the initial (failed) attempts at exclusion, a license for humane dispatch of the badgers was granted 7 October 2002"
"Both badgers which were taken under this license had lesions which may be indicative of Tb"
Well, well, well. Didn't our Ben tell parliament that "It is currently government policy NOT to issue licenses under Section 10 of the Protection of Badgers Act?"
And he refused Tony Yewdall one, despite 89 dead cattle. If cattle don't matter, maybe farmers should apply on the grounds of damage to a few cabbages instead.

"Work was suspended on 14 October (after 1 week) so that the local residents and 'interest groups' could have a further opportunity to come to a suitable agreement"
Do we assume from this, that after catching 2 " with lesions indicative of Tb ", the trapping was 'interupted?
Did the lovely Elaine of the voracious NFBG throw the teddies out of the pram?

"If Defra receives an application (for a Section 10 license) it is against the law to refuse it without good reason. The Protection of Badgers Act approved by Parliament explicitly provides that preventing serious damage to property provides grounds for issuing a license to kill badgers. In considering license applications, we are obliged to operate within the law which Parliament has made. This includes not witholding licenses unreasonably"

"There is currently a policy of no culling in relation to bovine Tb except for purposes of scientific research.....This will remain the case until the results of the trial in 2005 are published"
Keep treading that water Ben, this is contradictory.

"Animal Welfare Minister, Elliot Morley considered carefully the options of translocating the badgers in respect of which this license was issued. The overriding problem associated with translocation is the possible risk of spreading disease - in this case bovine Tb both to cattle and other badgers"
Yup - we agree. So why not stop translocation ?

"There is sufficient evidence to indicate that Tb is endemic in the local badger population. The entire group of badgers would have to be caught, held and accomodated while testing was carried out - a difficult and onerous undertaking, which causes stress on the animals. In the event. the triple Tb test used to determine whether badgers had Tb or not, would still result in 17 percent false negatives. The disease status of the badgers in question could not be reliablty ascertained."
Our Ben loves the live test. Somebody tell him that all this is on his website - please.

The Solution
"Defra arranged a forum, chaired by Derek Langslow on 27th. November 2002 to discuss alternative proposals for a way farward. Taking part were the NFBG, Brighton City Council and Defra".
Elliot Morley commented " I am disappointed however that despite requests for financial contributions to fund this solution, none have been forthcoming from either the council ofr the Badger groups"
What did Prof. Zuchermann say?
"The groups most hostile to the Ministry, costs the opposition little or nothing. Any price that is paid is exacted in time by officials, in pounds and pence by farmers (and in this case householders) and taxpayers and in health by the badger".
No prizes for guessing who footed the bill for this little lot.

"It is important for the work to proceed. However it is clear that the organisations involved in developing this solution are reluctant to meet the costs of carrying out the work"
All those collecting boxes with 'Old Stripey's' face on, and not a single penny? Where does the money go?

8th. August 2003 Saltdean Badgers - Work begins on Artificial setts.
"Defra will make a payment towards the work as part of a 'research project' to collect data and learn more about the implications of translocating badgers to artificial setts."
Yes, you did read that correctly. Defra (that's the taxpayer) will make a payment and call it 'research' (that's from Agriculture's Tb budget) to build an artificial 'ancestral home' for Tb infected badgers who've been digging up cabbages in Saltdean for the last 20 years.

"Trapping and eviction of badgers will be completed by the end of November 2003."
"Work on the sett is being undertaken by contractors suggested by the NFBG (low on cash, but high on ideas = rights without responsibility) Sett construction is being funded by Defra (taxpayers actually) as it provides an opportunity to monitor the potential of this technique to help solve future badger problems".
Farmers suffered£25.7 million worth of 'problems' to farm crops and buildings in 1997 - all applications for artificial setts / badger removals to Defra.

"Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, (change of hat - it's our Ben now) was delighted that a mutually agreeable approach had been found to a unique and difficlt problem".
Well he would say that wouldn't he. How many £thousands did all this cost? And it's not a 'unique' problem.

We titled this piece More Questions than Answers and from Mattthew 1 a list of his questions given the Minister's comments.

1. Why are we continuing with Krebs when Morley admits that (translocated) badgers transmit Tb to cattle and other badgers?
2. Why is Defra concentrating 'blame' on farmers for poor bio security when their own experienced team failed to keep a badger sett in a back garden secure?
3. If Defra can issue a Section 10 license to protect a garden, and comment that it is against the law for them to refuse it if grounds are reasonable, why have they refused Tony Yewdall? And why have they decided "it is currently not government policy to issue licenses under this section". Who decided that? Why?
4.Trapping at saltdean only took place for 1 week, and then was ' suspended'. Only 2 badgers were caught. Both had lesions. Were traps stolen? Were the rest of these badgers translocated? If so, where to? Have there been any outbreaks of bovine Tb around the area since 14th October 2002.
5. Was the 'translocation' to an artificial sett successful, or did the badgers return to their old sett?

Anyone from the Saltdean area reading this site - we'd love to hear from you.

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