Well, this is another fine mess you've got us into.
Didn't you learn a thing from BSE / FMD ? ( except how to decimate an industry)
With BSE you (not you personally Ben, but the faceless mandarins who run Ministries) allowed the UK to be ring fenced into a unique disease situation to protect the EU beef market. Meanwhile, mainland Europe did precisely nothing to prevent it ripping through their herds - except not report it. There wasn't enough cash in the pot for EU wide compensation you see, so it was 'don't seek and you won't find'.
Then there was FMD. Did you really need to kill 11 million animals in a 'carnage by computer' that the late Fred Brown's 'Smart Cycler' could have prevented? Was it because he'd developed it for the Yanks, and your 'egos' wanted to make and patent their own? Too late now to bleat 'we should have used it' . Yes, you should.
This trade clash with Russia (see From Russia with Love on this site) using our disgraceful and rising levels of bTb was predictable and totally avoidable. Its 'cascade' effect on other countries may not be. Old scores will need to be settled and deals will be done. Will we import Russian milk ?
But will you sort the problem in the wildlife that is the cause and maintenance of tb in the cattle?
You've been paid well enough not to. That £1 million from the Political Animal Lobby was not value, when it's led to a tb budget of £74 million per year - forecast to increase x 20 percent. But Mr. Hackett, the compensation accountant (see New Kid on Defra's Block) was imported to sort that out - at least the farmer Compulsory Purchase bit of it. Will he reduce the other £43 million that does not go to farmers Ben?
So what will you do now?
If I were in your shoes, I'd say bugger the 4,600 herds down with Tb. There are 80,00 herds who are OK, so just dump the diseased ones. Problem solved. Or is it?
You know as well as we do, that with a grossly infected wildlife reservoir in the over populated badgers, it is only until the next test on neighbours, that this will work. Short term fix. But hey - why test and look for it?
You have to Ben, it's an OIE prerequisite of trading. It isn't a case of 'don't look - won't find' with Tb.
And bear in mind what happened during your carnage with FMD. Badgers are totally dependant and parasitic on the 'habitat richness' created by ..... cattle! And when you (not you personally Ben, but your trigger happy employees) shot the cattle, that habitat disappeared. And so did Old Stripey'. Yup, he packed his bags and moved on. Badgers love short grass, dung pats, placentas and stillborn lambs, calves. (In fact, if mother isn't pretty sharp, they'll have a go at a new born live one )
So they moved on Ben, to where the cattle herds that had escaped your 007 squads were.
But these cattle herds already had a resident clan of badgers. In fact everywhere the travellers looked there were badgers, so they had to fight for territory. They were bitten, mauled and stressed out. And when 'their' territory was restocked a year or so later, and they (or some badgers) returned, what a battered, scarred sight they were - and full of Tb, leading to some of biggest and worst breakdowns farmers can remember.
So that will not work Ben, as 'badger set aside' did not.
To go forward Ben, you have to look back. To where your own people have directed you. To Thornbury and all the other 'trials', even Bourne's Pro active areas of Krebs will have results after 7 years. Look at what your vets are saying, not your mandarins.
Control and manage this saturated population of endemically infected badgers (your words Ben) - and you don't have to do anything else at all. In 2 x 60 day tests most farms would be clear - it could take up to 7 months to clear the worst affected. You kindly told us that in PQ's (archived on this site) and for that we are most grateful. The knock on effect of course would be vibrant, healthy badgers too.
But you are a clever politician Ben, and as you said to Mr. Sibley (as I believe did Elliot Morley) you hoped not to be in the hot seat when this decision had to be made. Well you are.
So what are you going to do? Short term fix, or long term solution?
We would remind you, (with the greatest respect of course) of the late Fred Brown's words about politicians, political scientists and disease control.
"As time goes on, scientists know more and more about less and less, but politicians know less and less about bugger all" .
We await the decision you now do have to make, with interest Ben.